Burn it or bury it. In most places around the world, that’s what we do with our garbage. Pretty grim choices. Burning garbage releases dangerous gasses and dust, which contribute to pollution of the air, land, and water, not to mention global warming. While burying it leads to more pollution of the ground and water. And to make matters worse, tons of garbage – most of it plastic – ends up in the ocean.
For one young woman in New York, this giant garbage problem was simply too much to take. So she decided to do something about it. Meet Lauren Singer: a 23-year-old who, for the last two years, has lived a completely zero-waste lifestyle. That’s right. No trash, no garbage, no waste. Nada. She saw that the garbage problem was a symptom of our consumerist lifestyles. And she realized that with just a few simple changes in her daily habits, she could reduce her waste output to zero.
How did she do it? Well, it all started two years ago in the college classroom at NYU, where she was an environmental studies major. Every day, she watched one of her classmates come in with a plastic bag containing her lunch, all of which was wrapped in plastic containers. Even her water bottle was plastic . And all of it went right into the trash after she used it – every day. This made Lauren angry. Yet, one evening after class, Lauren opened her own refrigerator and saw nothing but plastic everywhere. She felt like such a hypocrite. It was at that moment that she decided she would cut out all plastic from her life.
She began to start saying no – a lot. No to straws in her cocktails in bars, no to plastic bags, and no to plastic toothbrushes.
She started saying yes to putting a little elbow grease into making her own products. She created her own packaging and made her own personal care products, like toothpaste and deodorant using common, natural ingredients. She also started recycling her packaging and taking it with her to the store.
Once she became completely plastic-free, she decided to take the leap and go 100% waste-free. Lauren says that 80% of her waste reduction came from two simple things: recycling and composting.
The personal benefits for Lauren include saving money, eating better, and being happier. She has even recently started her own company, where she makes and sells the kind of products she has learned to make over the past two years.
The Native American Chief Seattle once said, “Take only memories, leave only footprints.” What do you think? Could you recycle and compost your way to leaving only footprints?