As part of the human race, we are the biggest threat to the health of our planet. From the types of energy we use and the pollution we cause, to the waste we make and the food we eat, our very existence is usually really unsustainable.
Over the years I’ve taken the time to learn a lot about sustainability and the effects even one person can make with their daily choices, both good and bad. I’ll save discussions about food for another page, but for all of the other things we can do, here are some people that have inspired me to live a more sustainable and low-impact life. Additionally, I’ll share some tips or items I use to make “greener” choices every day.
My Biggest Source of Zero-Waste Inspiration: I don’t know where I first heard about Lauren Singer… but at this point I think I’ve probably watched every Ted Talk, every interview, read every article that she’s done…. what can I say. I’m a Trash is for Tossers fan girl. She lives a zero waste lifestyle and has used her voice and her story to help inspire others to reduce their waste as well. What was once just a blog has turned into the inspiration for multiple businesses and a continuing commitment to activism about this issue. Here are just some of the places that I follow her, as well as some of the talks & discussions that have helped me learn more about zero waste.
Her Website: Trash is for Tossers - This is a great resources for inspiration on how to go zero waste, and also how to make some of your own products if you’re fed up with plastic packaging on EVERYTHING.
Her Instagram: @trashisfortossers
Her store in Brooklyn: Package Free Shop - Ever wondered where you can find some great plastic & package free items to help you ditch the single use stuff? Check this out.
They also stock her other business, clean laundry detergent under the brand The Simply Co. It comes in a reusable glass container, and you can refill it at her shop, or use it for other stuff.
Her Youtube channel: Trash is for Tossers - Check out how-to videos on lots of zero-waste things like how to shop without packaging, to how to make certain products at home like cleaning solution, body lotion, and even toothpaste.
May 2015 - The TED Talk that started it all. This is a great intro to Lauren and her philosophy. Along with her trash jar!
Feb 2018 - An interview with Lewis Howes for the “School of Greatness” podcast.
April 2017 - An interview with conservation scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan for Vox discussing a lot of the effects of waste & pollution.
Jan 2015 - An example of one of Lauren’s DIY videos: How to make your own toothpaste. Others include body lotion, deoderant, and cleaning solution.
Before Lauren, there was: Bea Johnson of the Zero Waste Home
Bea was the original inspiration for Lauren Singer to go zero waste. Bea is a working mom of two in California, founder of a great website, an author, and a speaker. She’s traveled all over the world to help educate people on the benefits of zero waste and provides resources to help others reduce their waste. Check her out in the following places:
July 2016 - a TED Talk focusing on how her family has really embraced zero waste.
Dec 2016 - Another TED Talk, focused on the 5R's (In order: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot)
6 Easy & sustainable swaps for “single-use” items you probably use every day
Plastic Bags -> Trade for any other reusable bag (this one is from the Package Free Shop)
You already own them, trust me: Ever gotten a free bag from a store, an event, a cause, a show, or just generally anywhere? Make a pile and use them at the grocery store, the farmers market, or even at target! I keep a set in my car for whenever I might need one.
Plastic Produce Bags at the grocery store -> Trade in for reusable mesh or cotton ones
Bonus uses: These are great for organizing when traveling (store dirty shoes, power cords, socks, and anything else you want to categorize). Also fill them up with to-go snacks like dried fruit & nuts… or maybe even a cookie.
Single-Use Water Bottles or Boxes -> Trade in for a reusable glass or stainless steel one, and look for water fountains or re-filling stations.
Fav brand: Klean Kanteen - I love these because they come in a variety of sizes, top types, and colors. I use the “cafe top” on my wide-mouth bottle as a combined water bottle and travel coffee/tea mug.
For the traveler who worries about filtration: Grayl
Also: If you want to keep plastic but go reusable: Nalgene & Camelbak have BPA options (some stadiums or other event venues don’t allow metal bottles, here’s looking at you Yankee Stadium, so having another option can be helpful for those specific trips).
Plastic Cutlery -> Trade out for bamboo or stainless steel utensils for eating on the go. (You can even take the bamboo knife on the plane!)
Another option: Just wrap some cutlery from home in a fabric napkin or get a pouch from Vicbay on Amazon and take anywhere (just leave the knife at home for plane travel!)
Single-Use Coffee Cups -> Trade out for reusable glass, stainless steel…. or even sturdy plastic ones. Or better yet, just bring your favorite ceramic mug to your local coffee shop or the office!
Fav brand: I use my Klean Kanteen wide-mouth bottle as a dual-purpose hot beverage holder.
Plastic Straws -> Trade for a reusable one… or better yet ditch the straw altogether.
We don’t really need straws…. but if you love to save your lipstick or just like using one, check out these alternatives from Package Free Shop & Amazon: stainless steel, glass, silicone, or bamboo (and don’t forget the cleaning brush… most sets come with one and you need it!)
Where to find some zero-waste essential items
Basics & Containers
Mason Jars - You can store everything in here. Panty dry goods, fridge items, your water or other beverage to go, even lunch to heat up later since they’re glass. The all-around zero-waste holy grail item - Check Christmas Tree Shops, Target, Walmart, the Container Store, or even most large supermarkets like Whole Foods or Wegmans
Silicone Baking Mats - Ditch aluminum foil, wax paper, and the lot. This is your new best friend for the oven that you can just keep re-using.
Cleaning Solution - Make your own non-toxic and effective solution in a multi-use, pre-labeled spray bottle. There are recipes for all types of material like tile, glass, even veggie washing. Basic ingredients include things like water, vinegar, castile soap, and alcohol (think rubbing).
Cleaning Cloths & Dish Towels - Ditch the paper towels and start rags or cloths (cutting up old tshirts works just fine) for cleaning and dish towels for drying. Just throw them in the wash when you’re done!
Self Care & Bathroom Items
Find a local bulk store and get shampoo, body wash, soap, and more in your own jars & containers.
Lush Cosmetics - Package free shampoo & conditioner bars
Plaine Products - Refillable shampoo & conditioner + subscription service
Meow Meow Tweet - All reusable / compostable packaging for deodorant, face washes, soaps, shampoo bars, etc.
Menstrual Cups - a great way to ditch the all of wasteful period products!
Myro Deodorant - Not perfectly zero waste, but a reusable container with recyclable filler pod system all rolled into a subscription service. I’d rather go fully plastic free, but this is a good starting compromise if you have issues with ones that come in a jar.
Stainless Steel Razor - Just change out the blades & recycle
Bamboo Toothbrushes - While I love my sonicare… all of that plastic just doesn’t go away. These aren’t a perfect zero-waste solution (you still have to toss the bristles) but the packaging is compostable and the main component is just bamboo which you can re-purpose or compost.
Clothing is wasteful… but sometimes we just want to have the least impact when we shop, even if something is new.
Start at to check out thrift & vintage stores for your everyday items.
When you want your own undies… check out Pact: undergarments & basics - 100% organic cotton + fair trade…. all around great. And they carry them at most Whole Foods.
For those times you really just want to go new… use the Good On You app - a great resource for seeing the environmental, ethical, and labor practices of various brands