Lauren Singer: “Say No to Trash”

published Aug 28, 2015
4 min read

Acknowledging the importance of sustainable recycling

Lately, the subject of environmental sustainability has gained an increased popularity within the academic and business circles as well as among the local and regional communities who are very much concerned about their ecological footprints. Nowadays, there is so much talk about the importance of preserving our world’s natural resources and of endorsing a more sustainable approach towards the way we deal with waste products resulting from human activities, that one can’t help but wonder what he/she can do in order to positively contribute to this growing trend.

A greater number of people are becoming more eco-conscious in terms of acknowledging the impact their daily activities inflict on the environment. Still, just a few have the will and determination to commit themselves to measures and initiatives that are aimed at reducing the often negative consequences resulting from our actions. One of these, whom we can rightfully credit the role of a pioneer in the field of waste management, is Lauren Singer – a recent graduate from New York University, with a degree in Environmental Studies.


Leading a lifestyle free of trash

We were impressed to learn about Lauren’s devotion in confronting the challenge of smart waste management and promoting the cause for sustainable recycling. Therefore, we decided that such initiatives deserve a proper acknowledgment, so others can learn from her experience and further contribute to a better and more sustainable world.

Lauren has come up with a simple yet a far reaching idea of living without producing trash, by finding ways to replace the usual household chemicals with natural cleaning products, avoiding the use of plastic packages for storing purposes and opting instead for glass jars, reusable bags, and organic cotton drawstring bags. She was able to keep up with the “trash-free” lifestyle for two years and during this time managed to produce so little waste that it fitted into a small glass jar.

It is worth mentioning that Lauren did not come up with this unique idea on her own, rather she got inspired by the teachings of Jeffrey Hollender (her college professor), which encouraged Lauren and the students alike to live up to their own values, of whom ‘environmental sustainability’ received a special attention. Besides this, there were small things like: learning about a Californian family that were producing little or no garbage and that devoted themselves to ‘zero waste at home’; noticing a fellow major at the college she was studying, bringing single use plastic bag, a disposable water bottle, and a plastic takeout container, that further persuaded Lauren to endorse a similar direction.

In addition to just embracing a garbage-free lifestyle and living up to its commitments, Lauren decided to document her endeavors into the trash-free world, by starting a blog that she labeled as “trash is for tossers”. In so doing, she was not only keeping records of what she was going through at a particular moment, but tried to spread the word of sustainable recycling and promote the cause for a waste free lifestyle, inspiring others to do the same.

The blog proved to be quite an insightful tool for delivering a handful of tips on how one can endorse a similar approach in dealing with waste products. It turned out that being trash-free is not as expensive as it was initially deemed, challenging the often unfounded social stereotypes, that a life free of waste is not possible and that it requires too much of one’s time and financial resources. With little perseverance and ingenuity one can be surprised how easily the products we used to consider irreplaceable can be substituted with natural and trash-free alternatives like unwrapped bulk soaps, reusable water bottles, bulk castile soaps, glass jars, reusable towels to name a few.

Embracing a trash-free approach

To make it easier for people who decided to follow her footsteps, Lauren has outlined two simple guidelines to be aware of when engaging into the adventure of ‘Zero-Waste’.

HUntitledow much garbage am I currently producing and what types? Ex: food packaging- this can help you determine the places you can start reducing and looking for alternatives.  

UntitledWhy am I even interested in decreasing my impact? Is it for the environment, is it to decrease toxins in my life, is it to decrease clutter, is it because i’m totally broke and want to save money? Really understand your motivators and use them as a starting point.

What do I actually use on a daily basis (what iUntitleds in my daily routine) and what do I not use/need? This can help you determine the things that you can donate and reduce.

UntitledWhat products do I use that I can get more sustainable alternatives to? Ex: exchanging plastic Tupperware for glass or mason jars.

UntitledThe most important one straight from Yoda’s lips: How much and what do I really need to be happy? Really assess why you own and hold on to certain things, and determine if you really need that giant foam finger in the back of your closet to be happy.


Bring a reusable bag and water bottle with you everywhere!


UntitledGet rid of the plastic. From Tupperware to take away bags plastic is toxic. For items that are lightly used, donate to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. For products that are recyclable, like plastic, do so.

UntitledReplace these products with sustainable, long-lasting alternatives. Such as Organic cotton, stainless steel, wood, and glass. Donate your crappy college plastic kitchenware for some nice glass, stainless steel, or cast iron. It is sexy.

UntitledBe creative. Figure out what you can use in different ways. Organic cotton napkins can also be used as a drying rack, to store leafy greens in the fridge, or to bring lunch to work. Mason jars can be used for coffee, takeout, leftovers, toothbrush…

UntitledMake your home your sanctuary. For me that means having a few things that are really important to me. Most of mine were either handed down to me or obtained on craigslist. Secondhand!

UntitledMinimize. Ask yourself, what do I not need? What do I wear every day? What did I buy last year that still has tags on it? Whatever it is, it most likely has a value of some sort. Whether it is donating or selling your products at a consignment store, you can always get a return.

UntitledThink Organic, think Local, think Sustainable and BUY IN BULK.


In the matter of fact, Lauren Singer has proved herself and to many waste-free non believers that a trash-free or a little trash lifestyle is possible, cost-effective, fun and simple, and that anyone who cares for the environment can endorse a similar way of living. Another thing is that changing our mindset towards the way we perceive the subject of sustainable waste management might prove a more difficult task than actually living up to it, something we as a society have to think about and work on if we want to preserve and ensure a world free of trash for future generations.


Source: Lauren Singer, “trash is for tossers”