Simply Creating a Waste-Free Life

The path to sustainable living is being paved by innovators, willing to go off the beaten path to bring consumers better options.

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Photo: Colleen Murphy

Years ago, I saw the Oprah episode with Bea Johnson, the mom who decided to live a zero-waste lifestyle. I remember being blown away at the extreme reduction in trash she was able to pull off through a radical change in lifestyle. She went from a McMansion-style home, disposing of two huge trash cans full of waste per week to a vastly simpler lifestyle producing almost no trash over the course of months. She could hold the garbage her family had created in the palm of her hand.

Lauren Singer came across the same story I did and as an Environmental Studies major, became inspired to live and promote a zero-waste lifestyle. Her popular blog, Trash is for Tossers is a practical guide to creating less waste and living a more sustainable lifestyle. And a new pop-up store is her latest project.

I read about her store and had to see it. So, today I visited Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home to Package Free, a retail experience promoting a zero-waste lifestyle. And, just wow.

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Photo: Colleen Murphy

Lauren brings together manufacturers of every kind of product and sells them in one beautiful space. The design of the store is simple and of course, sustainable. Little messages greet you next to each product. She has sections with curated kits, created by her employees with their favorite products. Some brands are popular and recognizable. Other items are raw and homemade. You can find everything sustainable inside. And I do mean everything. Locals can refill their own containers with hand soap and dishwashing liquid from the bulk section. You can buy the most personal items like sustainable feminine hygiene products, biodegradable condoms and vibrators. Yes, I am serious. You can feel good about any purchase you are looking to make.

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Photo: Colleen Murphy

Even the tags for each item are handmade on scraps of cardboard. Not a single item is wasted in this store. And do not show up without a bag. They are bag free. You can buy a cloth product but there is not one provided for you. Amazing.

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Photo: Colleen Murphy

The friendly staff is there to answer your questions and walk you through the zero-waste ideas that you may not immediately understand. I was thrilled to learn about how many options there are to further reduce my personal production of trash. Entering a store like this one is like entering another world of education. So many companies are working out real sustainable consumer solutions. Lauren herself has her own startup company called The Simply Co. producing organic, vegan laundry detergent.

Like all great lifestyle advisors, Lauren promotes making small life changes. Pick something you can eliminate and see if you can live with that change. Too much all at once rarely lasts. Anyone who has made a lasting improvement to their daily routine knows that it isn’t a radical shift. It is more like a gravitational pull in a particular direction.

“It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s environmentally destructive and what’s sustainable. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal. We don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabeled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed animals.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

I love shopping stores like Lauren’s. Walking through a store where I know I can feel good about any decision I make is such a positive experience. Every day, we are confronted with choices. Endless decision making is exhausting. Having kind options laid in front of you makes it so easy. Yes, I want to try the sustainable dish soap. Yes I will try reusable paper towels. Yes, I want my shopping to feel easy and worry free. I don’t want to walk out of your store with packaging I don’t need and items that don’t make me feel good.

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Photo: Colleen Murphy

Shopping Package Free definitely introduced me to new concepts in sustainable living. I shopped each product and chose a number of items that I will definitely be incorporating into my daily routine. Some are simple solutions and others may require a radical change to implement. But each time we decide on a small shift toward a reusable option, we help the health of ourselves and our planet.

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