June 8, 2023


Creative living

Zero-Waste Movement – Lauren Singer Package Free

5 min read

We all know that living sustainably can be a daunting task—it’s hard to feel as if you’re ever doing enough. You’ve bought your metal straws, you say no to plastic bags, you carry a reusable water bottle. But Lauren Singer is here to tell you that zero-waste living is more attainable than it may seem. The founder and CEO of Package Free, Singer has been documenting her sustainability journey for the better part of the past eight years. Spurred on by her frustration toward an environmental-studies classmate who consistently relied on single-use plastic, she decided she wanted her actions to speak louder than her words. ELLE Decor talked with Singer to understand what zero-waste means and how she’s incorporated it into every aspect of her life, from her business to her home.

ELLE Decor: OK, can you give me a quick rundown of what a zero-waste lifestyle entails? How is it different from simply living sustainably?

Lauren Singer: Zero-waste means something different to each person. My zero-waste is that I don’t produce any trash; I send nothing to a landfill. However, I do compost, and—while it’s not ideal because of the chemicals involved—I also recycle. The blanket term living sustainably tends to be green-washing, which can mean everything and nothing.

ED: Eight years is a long time to be represented in a mason jar. Was there a catalyst for this lifestyle switch, or did it come naturally?

LS: I’ve always been passionate about the environment. I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which documented the environmental effects of chemical pesticides, and it really showed how human beings are the only species that have the ability to destroy the planet. It got me thinking that if we hold the power to do such damage, we also have the power to change. I had been protesting various industries for a while, from agriculture to oil, but I realized there was a difference between caring about something and living in alignment with those values.

lauren singer mason jar

Lauren Singer and her mason jar of trash.


ED: So tell me, what was the toughest part about adapting to the zero-waste lifestyle?

LS: Everyone asks that! It’s always about the struggle. It’s never, ‘Tell me what’s exciting about the process.’ When you look at zero-waste from such a wide perspective, it’s intimidating. It’s all of the little steps that add up to something larger. The hardest part is getting over that mental block. I’m a lazy person. I work hard, but I don’t go out of my way to do that many things, so if I can do it…

ED: How did Package Free come about?

LS: Trash Is for Tossers, the blog documenting my zero-waste journey, came first. I’m motivated to make a change when I’m excited about something—I don’t respond to anger or fear. I wanted this to be a tangible and palatable resource that highlighted my actions in a way I wish someone had explained it to me. From that, I found there were two main problems that needed solutions. First, there was no clear market for zero-waste supplies. There’s Amazon, but the excess packaging defeats the purpose. Secondly, there were these incredible independent brands making these products, but they couldn’t grow. So I decided to combine my audience on the blog and these brands into one space. I found really quickly that this was something people not only wanted, but needed.

“I’ve always been attracted to secondhand pieces—loving something that someone else didn’t.”

ED: Interior design is an industry that can sometimes create a lot of waste. How do you go about decorating your home and office in correspondence with your lifestyle? What are your favorite sources for home decor?

LS: My mom is actually an interior designer, and I grew up with her and my aunt literally trash-picking to find furniture that could be repurposed. I’ve also always been attracted to secondhand pieces—loving something that someone else didn’t. I love Chairish, Craigslist, the RealReal. They have super-high-end pieces at affordable price points, and you get to pick exactly what you want without sacrificing sustainable choices.

My main focus is that everything should have a future life after I’m done with it, whether that means biodegrading, reselling pieces, or taking it with me to my next place. I have the same mentality for my office.

ED: Plastic gets most of the attention right now, but what is the next important topic we should pay attention to?

LS: I like to focus on things people can control. We can’t take down entire industries, but there are things we can do to disempower them a little. Something that’s very accessible and that people can do now is composting. It doesn’t take any extra time for most, and there are drop-off locations in many places. I’ve also become very passionate about limiting synthetic fabrics, especially in design. The majority of the “eco-fabrics” out there are just green-washing. Anything made synthetically has microfibers that make their way into our water systems. This includes carpets made from PET—the material most food packaging is made from—and anything that you can vacuum or machine-wash. Even those upcycled plastic-bottle fabrics are not good. The threading is really detrimental to our environment.

ED: If there is only one lesson people take away from you, what should it be?

LS: It’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. Do one thing at a time, and carry that excitement through the process. I most equate zero-waste living to losing weight. Small changes over time can result in a positive change. Integrate a new step into your routine, allow it to settle in, and then move on and add something else. It’s important to be motivated, and that you’re trying—that’s what really counts.