The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution: Living a Zero Waste Life
An achievable resolution that could change your life, and have an impact on your community, and our planet.
By Daniela Salazar
Lauren Singer’s resolution is to live a zero waste life in New York City. This will be her fourth year living a zero waste life — yes, for the last four years, all the trash and waste Lauren produced could fit in one Mason jar.
Like her, many people, businesses and families have adopted lifestyles and practices like this. How hard is it? Like everything in life, there is a process — and if you believe in your purpose and are willing to learn throughout your journey, then the process can be simple and life changing.
It all started in school
Lauren is a blogger, CEO of The Simply Co., and a sustainability influencer — but her story begins in class, when she was studying at NYU. She was an environmental studies major, passionate about conservation, and looking to support big causes that have a big impact on our environment.
One day, Lauren found herself staring at one of her fellow environmental studies majors; every day, this classmate would bring lunch in a plastic bag, plastic water bottle, and plastic takeout container. After this, Lauren went back home to realize that, like her classmate, her fridge and apartment were full of disposable things.
Her search and desire to learn more about reducing waste led her to a blog about a zero waste family in California. If an entire family could do it, Lauren was definitely going to try. She explains that her journey reflected her decision to not only love the environment, but to actually live like it. One of her secrets to a successful and happy zero waste journey was doing things that gave her gratification and motivation, and let her “forget about the things that create frustration; a zero waste life is nothing like a diet,” Lauren explains.
Evaluate and transition
For Lauren, her blog ‘Trash is for Tossers’ is an attempt to share her journey with us — an outlet where we can learn that living a zero waste life can be simple, cost-effective, timely, fun, and entirely possible.
It all starts with two steps: evaluate and transition. When you are ready to embrace zero waste, or any other change in your life that is intended to reduce your carbon footprint, you must start by evaluating your daily life; study your routines and take note of the products that you use on a regularly bases. Once you have your evaluation ready, start transitioning to downsizing and properly disposing of the unnecessary things. “You don’t want to throw everything away, you need to properly dispose as you find solutions and replacements,” Lauren explains.
Lauren advises that if you can make any changes to reduce your impact, you need to go for it — try what works for you, what makes you happy, what makes your life less complicated. Once you feel happy about your new discoveries and changes, let your family and friends know. Sharing is caring and, in this case, you are sharing your caring for the environment and for yourself — you are sparking action.
Sure, using a reusable bottle of water might not exactly end waste in our cities and stop climate change; after all, landfills are one of the biggest emitters of methane, a greenhouse gas that has has up to 25 times the impact of carbon dioxide.
One person doing it alone might not make a big difference, but what you do and what you share inspires others. This is what works.
“Lowering your trash is under your control and it is a big impact.”
Your life, your values, your impact
“You can’t change people, you can only change yourself,” says Lauren, and this is why she believes it is important to live your life in alignment with your values. This is the best way to have an impact and inspire action. You are probably picturing Lauren as a hippie and a tree-hugger, living an impossible, impractical life in a city that never sleeps; but the truth is that we can all relate to her story and her experience. It is all about discipline, changing our habits, and giving ourselves the freedom to believe in what we are doing.
Lauren does not consider herself an environmentalist: “Don’t put so much pressure on what you are supposed to be and do,” she says. For Lauren, putting yourself in a box can be very limiting; she thinks that “everyone should care about the environment, not only environmentalists.”
“There is no failing; if you are trying you are doing something positive, you are not perfect.”
Besides protecting and caring about the environment, living a zero waste life will bring great things your way. For Lauren, saving money was one of the things that she noticed right away. She also discovered her creativity and resourcefulness when making her own products. Her eating habits also changed; she has healthier diet now.
And finally, if saving money and losing weight are not good enough reasons to embrace zero waste, then maybe this will convince you: living a zero waste life will enrich your friendships and relationships. “They have grown stronger, I have met and connected with so many people that are passionate about all of this,” says Lauren. “When you do something that makes you happy, you attract happiness.”
Don’t think you are alone out there, like Lauren; there are people embracing sustainable and healthier lifestyles who are willing to support you and help you throughout your journey!
The holidays are coming, and yes, you can do this!
With the holidays around the corner, you might think that it’s impossible to embrace zero waste now, but remember, it’s a process, you go step by step, and maybe this year you can start by giving zero waste gifts! For more ideas on what to give and how to wrap it, visit Lauren’s zero waste gift guide blog post.