The year was 2012. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth had been released six years prior, raising awareness around climate change; “Gangnam Style” was taking over the U.S.; and Lauren Singer was on the precipice of receiving her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. Inspired by Bea Johnson, another zero-waste pioneer, Singer embarked on a journey to live a zero-waste life. Since then, she’s gained notoriety for producing a single Mason jar of trash for several years running and has dedicated her career to finding sustainable and biodegradable alternatives to common single-use items. In 2017, she opened Package Free Shop to amplify her impact.
Here, the young environmental activist–turned–entrepreneur takes us through a typical day in her life, and the tactics she uses to keep her carbon footprint—and subsequent guilt—so low.
The more our business grows, the more there is zero routine, but Saturday for me is when I find the most structure.
I wake up and the first thing I do is walk my dog, Rose, and it’s really amazing because I start my day by going outside. Then I’ll give Rose food, which is either an Organix canned food from Whole Foods (100 percent recyclable) or a homemade meal, which consists of meat from my local butcher mixed with rice or leftovers.
Then I make coffee. I buy bulk coffee at Whole Foods, make it in a French press, and compost the grounds at the farmers’ market.
I start getting ready. I brush my teeth with my bamboo toothbrush and a toothpaste that I make myself. I wash my face using our charcoal bar soap and facial moisturizer that we sell at Package Free. I’m also usually testing one or two new products for the store.
I kind of laze around and look at emails. Saturday is farmers’ market day, so I take my compost, which I keep in a bowl in my freezer, and go down to our recycling room to grab a paper bag, and I put my frozen compost in that, then in a tote bag. I’ll walk to the market in McCarren Park. I’ll do some grocery shopping, drop off my compost, and if I have any textile recycling—clothes or shoes—I’ll head to the Grow NYC booth.
I walk around, take Rose to the dog park, call my mom, listen to music. Then I like browsing at New York reseller Beacon’s Closet—it’s one of the relaxation things that I like to do. Saturdays are weird because I try to do as little as possible and be outside as much as I can.
I come home, clean any produce I’ve purchased, and make a late lunch. When I’m shopping, I make sure to bring my own containers and shop almost exclusively at farmers’ markets and co-ops to avoid any waste. If I’m cooking, I make batch meals. I’ll cook a big pot of rice and make a bunch of different types of vegetables—whatever is in season. Fresh pasta is one of my favorite things to whip up. I also love big salads and tacos.
In terms of my home, I’m really simple. I like to decorate with Craigslist. Chairish is really cool. My friends make me a lot of stuff. For birthdays, I always get plants or ceramics that they make. My friend Caroline paints these boobs, and I have two of those.
I have a trainer who comes twice a week. It’s a recent gift to myself, because I hadn’t exercised for a year and a half when I started my company and I was feeling my self-care slip away. It’s some of the best money I could spend, because I always feel better afterward and I wake up feeling great the next day.
I go to a lot of dinners at night. I’m a creature of habit and go to the same three restaurants: Marlow & Sons, Diner, or Cafe Mogador, all of which operate with similar sustainability goals as mine.
I usually find something to do until midnight. Before I get in bed, I’ll shower and brush my hair. I like watching TV before bed and creating a buffer between work and real life. I’m watching the new season of Shameless right now; it’s really good.
There you have it. Simply repeat 364 more times and you’ve lived a year trash-free!