Picture all of the trash you’ve thrown away this week. How much do you think you could reduce that amount if you really tried? By half?
Lauren Singer thinks you can take it all the way to zero, and she has the total lack of garbage to prove it.
Well, not total: Singer has a glass mason jar that holds five years of her garbage — every last piece of it.
If you’re thinking there’s some sort of trick here, she’s used to hearing it. People think she’s making it up. Others get defensive, like her lifestyle is a judgment on theirs. But the most common reaction is that people think it sounds painful.
“People instantly think when you say ‘zero waste’ that it's a really difficult, intimidating, overwhelming process,” said Singer. “For me, it was something that took at least four months and was a gradual thing that integrated lots of really small, simple changes.”
She started making her own toothpaste and found that it was really easy. She began taking reusable bags shopping, and it quickly became second-nature. Step by step, she made small changes until several pounds of trash a day became zero, almost every day.
“It was a process. And it's not something that can happen overnight. It's unrealistic to think that,” said Singer.
People often compare going zero waste to going on a diet, thinking you have to give up things you love. But who loves trash?
“The concept of zero waste means producing less garbage, so it almost sounds like you're lacking something,” said Singer. “But for me, every time I reduce my waste, I'm gaining something: freedom from packaged products, independence knowing that the products that I'm using or ones that I'm making don't have toxic ingredients.”
Today, Singer’s mission is to show everyone that reducing your waste is both possible and painless through her blog, Trash is For Tossers, and her company The Simply Co. All it takes, says Singer, is for someone to help break it down and show how it can be done.
“People realize, oh, this isn't so hard. This isn't so isolating. This is something simple,” she said.
Watch more with Lauren Singer in this episode of Climate Lab:
The University of California is committed to going zero waste by 2020. Across the UC system, we’ve already diverted 69 percent of our solid waste from landfills.
To learn more about UC’s zero waste initiative and how you can help, visit zerowaste2020.universityofcalifornia.edu.