Lauren Singer on Living Zero Waste in Style

By Annie McBride, Outerknown

Lauren Singer is a trailblazer in the zero waste movement and popularized the concept—she has a BIG impact with a small footprint. She calls NYC home, where she’s the Founder and CEO of Package Free Shop, which sells all the essentials for living a zero waste lifestyle. Lauren so aligns with our brand ethos and we are excited to feature her in our first women’s catalog! She unites style and sustainability with ease. We caught up with her recently to talk trash (and how to cut it out), the small world of Instagram, and what natural sexiness is all about.

You are keenly aware of the sustainable brand space. Why did you agree to work with Outerknown?

I got to know John and Outerknown through the world of Instagram, and really admired the overall aesthetic and quality, the partnerships, and the values they seem to uphold in everything they do. John and I jumped on a call to talk over the opportunity and ended up in a long conversation about packaging and the fashion industry. I could tell he was dedicated and in it for the right reasons. Even if a business isn’t perfect, the ones that are actually coming from a genuine place of wanting to have a positive impact are the ones that I want to align myself with. I feel like John and Kelly really want to do this, not just for the brand value of it, but because of the impact it has on the world. Or, rather, the impact that it doesn’t have on the world. I am super inspired by anyone taking a stab at making fashion better.

How was the Santa Barbara catalog shoot?

I mean… it was winter in New York, so. . . [chuckling]. It was so so so fun! And getting to know Raychel and Candace and the rest of the Outerknown team was such an amazing time and it just felt like a family at the end of the two days.

You got the first look at the line! What do ya think?

Wearing looser-fitting, really well-made, durable, natural items just makes me feel like the sexiest version of myself—and I really felt that way in Outerknown. To me, sexiness is not about wearing something that’s tight or supposed to be sexy. It’s about how wearing something makes you feel on the inside and how that exudes to the world around you. I think the type of clothing that Outerknown is making is the kind that can bring out that inner sexiness. There’s something about California, mixed with that type of clothing, that just makes me feel like the best version of myself.

Any favorite styles in the assortment?

My favorites were the cropped tank top in black. I was obsessed with that. I loved the cropped sweatshirts because I have a short torso, so for me it was amazing to have a sweatshirt that fit me and was loose and flattering on my body type. I also loved the jeans, they were so comfortable.

Shop Lauren’s Favorites: Oasis Top (coming soon!), Solstice Sweatshirt, and Dune High Rise Slim Fit Jeans.

Fill us in! Tell us about your blog.

Trash is for Tossers was my first attempt to align my day-to-day actions with my values for environmental sustainability. I was talking about it, working in the space, protesting for the environment, but wasn’t doing all that I could in my daily life. Sharing tips on my blog inspired me to always take a deeper look at my own personal waste. After doing a personal audit, my first step was cutting back my plastic consumption to align with my personal values.

And that led into starting Package Free Shop?

Along the way, I met a lot of people starting brands that were helping people reduce waste, but many were having a hard time getting traction and building a community. I started Package Free Shop to create a convenient way for people to get the best products for reducing their daily waste. From kitchen and laundry supplies to self-care and period products, we sell everything you might need. We have a store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and an e-commerce shop. And we are growing quickly! Last year we had 1 employee, now we have close to 30 and a big office and warehouse! On Earth Day, we’ll be celebrating our 2nd birthday.

Does all of your waste still fit in one mason jar?! What’s in there?

Yes! It’s been 7 years. I started this when I started my blog. It was my way to make tangible the things that I couldn’t eliminate from my everyday waste, to really understand my footprint. One of the most frustrating things is the little plastic things that attach a hang tag to clothing—they aren’t recyclable in municipal facilities! Little things like that end up in my jar. Contact lenses, produce stickers, bracelets from festivals. . . these little things add up. It gets easier and easier to avoid waste every year, and now there are amazing tools that can help, like Terracycle’s Zero Waste Boxes.

What are the unknown benefits of living zero waste?

Reducing waste has saved me so much money! Packaging comes with a premium and you end up paying more for it. When I eliminated food packaging, I was eating real, whole foods—I was feeling a lot better, my weight stabilized, and my overall health improved. Buying secondhand clothing, buying off Craigslist, and making my own things (like toothpaste) all save money. And it’s what’s best for the environment. The oil and gas industry is one of the largest contributors to climate change—by not using plastic, we can change that! If we stop using single-use plastic today, that’s like taking all the airplanes out of the sky! And the amount of plastic that ends up the ocean is equivalent to dumping one trash truck into the ocean every minute!

Can you give us some simple tips for reducing waste?

My favorite things to recommend are the ones that don’t cost any money at all. Saying NO is free! Saying no to plastic bags (you can even make your own out of a t-shirt or pillowcase) and saying no to straws is easy and free. The next steps are getting a reusable water bottle, reusable coffee cup, carrying your own utensils, and bringing your own lunch and avoiding takeout. I am obsessed with these metal to-go containers we sell. When you get takeout, call in advance and ask them to remove plastic from your order. Or just get pizza, like our office does!

What about textile and clothing waste?

Buy the things you’ve been thinking about for a long time. Just buy what you need and buy for the lifestyle you currently live (not the one you hope to have one day). Buy natural fabrics because you can compost them at the end of their life. Do swaps with friends! Get your clothes and shoes repaired!