Meet Lauren. A part of the zero waste movement, she has produced only one mason jar full of trash over the past four years. I’ve been admiring her online for quite some time and have been blown away by the dedication she commits to her cause. Especially when I saw she carried a banana peel while traveling around Europe for a few days until she found a proper place to compost it.
Lauren shares tips about her eco lifestyle and beauty DIY videos on her blog Trash is for Tossers. She is also an amazing entrepreneur and owns a zero waste laundry detergent company called The Simply Co.
This girl has also spoken at TedxTalks, the United Nations, and has been featured in endless amounts of other media outlets. Talk about a woman on a mission! Read more to hear about how she got her start in the zero waste movement, what keeps her passionate and her best advice for starting your own business.
How did you discover your passion for the environment and being waste free?
When I was a senior in high school I read Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring which is about the impacts of DDT (a man-made pesticide) on bird populations (as well as humans), and it really opened my eyes to the fact that human beings can truly have a negative impact on the environment and I knew I wanted to do something about it, and so I decided to major in Environmental Science at NYU.
My junior year of college I saw the documentary Gasland which is about the impacts of hydrofracking on humans and the environment. Like Silent Spring, this piece of work opened my eyes to the capacity of humans to compromise the earth we need to survive. Following that documentary I began actively protesting against the oil and gas industry.
My senior year of college I had a girl in my final Environmental class who every day would use a ton of plastic to eat her dinner and I thought it was crazy that someone majoring in Environmental Science would make so much plastic trash. She was on my $hit list for a while until one day I went home to make dinner and saw that everything in my fridge was packaged in plastic.
I felt like the worst person in the whole world.
I had been judging this girl in my class for making so much plastic trash and it turned out that I was just as bad, worse even, as all of my beauty and cleaning products were packaged in plastic and most of my clothing was made out of plastic materials.
So I made a decision to completely remove plastic from my life as an attempt to live my values.
I quickly learned that I couldn’t just buy my way out of plastic and realized that I had to learn how to make plastic free alternatives to my everyday products, which I had no idea how to do, so I started researching. I came across the blog Zero Waste Home and learned about the Zero Waste lifestyle, which honestly blew my mind.
It was THE MOST empowering thing I have ever learned. For the first time in my life I had a way to actually live my values, and not just talk about how much I cared about the environment. To me going Zero Waste was not just about not producing trash, it was because it was the first time that I could actually live my day to day life in alignment with what I believed in. It has been four years and not once have I ever regretted this decision.
Are there moments from your childhood where your inner environmentalist came out?
I always wanted to live like the Swiss Family Robinson or The Boxcar Children. I would read those books over and over and over envisioning myself rummaging through landfill for supplies or foraging in the woods for food and building my own shelter. I knew from a young age that everything that we need (truly need, not want) is readily available to us from nature. It made me wonder why we feel the need to continue produce and question what real happiness is.
I think I’m just a really sensitive and emotional person and the organized chaos of nature always made me so incredibly happy and I don’t need much more than to observe it to feel that way. To me, nature is everything. I think that is why my goal in life is to help to empower people to reduce their environmental impact and why I work hard at it every single day.
Do you have any tips for people who are interested in taking up this lifestyle?
I would say to check out my blog, Trash is for Tossers, where I have tons of different ways to reduce your waste. Pick one that looks exciting to you, and try it out. Don’t try to take on Zero Waste in one day. Zero Waste means a collective of tiny changes that over time result in producing less trash. So whether it is refusing plastic straws at a bar, composting your food waste, or carrying around a reusable bag, every baby step is an amazing step towards doing something that truly helps to improve the state of the environment. Every tiny thing counts.
What are your favorite types of food to cook?
I look to cook whatever is in season at the farmers market. I am challenged to innovate based on what is available. But whatever it is, I know pasta is always the perfect foundation for whatever I choose to build as my meal. I make homemade pasta about once or twice per month and keep it in my freezer so I always have something that tastes great and cooks fast to eat with whatever is in my refrigerator.
Do you have any other passions that interest you or things you would like to take up?
Infinite. I want to do so many things. Start more companies, learn to play the guitar and drums, draw more, write more poetry, read more, not be bewildered by accounting, act, farm, learn to carve wood, it’s all super random and the list goes on, and on, and on. I’m always trying to grow.
What inspired you to start The Simply Co.?
When I graduated from college I was Sustainability Manager at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. At the same time I was running my blog, Trash is for Tossers, and I noticed that I was receiving a lot of recurring emails from people reading my blog that went something like “I love the products that you are making, but I don’t have time to make them myself. Can you recommend brands that I can buy in stores that are like the products that you are making?”
So I went to work trying to find in-store alternatives to my handmade zero waste products. While I could find some great body options, the same was not true for cleaning products. Besides all being packaged in plastic, even the “natural” brands contained potentially toxic chemicals. On top of that, I learned that in the United States it is not legally required to disclose the ingredients of a product on the product packaging, so when we buy a cleaning product, we really have no idea what is in it, and companies can totally lie about their ingredients or cover them up using umbrella terms like “perfume” or “fragrance” which could mean hundreds of potential chemicals.
I thought that was totally unfair. I feel that we as consumers have a right to safe products. I started thinking about the products that I was making. They are safe, made with natural ingredients, and most importantly, incredibly effective. So I quit my job and decided to launch my company to provide people with products that I feel we all deserve. Ones that are safe for your home, your body, and the environment.
Was it difficult for you to quit your job and take such a big leap? Any advice to others who want to do the same to follow their dreams?
My mom always told me that nothing in life is permanent except for death and that if I’m not happy it’s okay to change my mind about what I’m doing. I think that foundational support really helped me to quit my job and start my company. I completely believed in my idea and what I was doing because I think it is something that the industry really lacks and that’s not okay.
I founded my company on three foundational questions:
– Why the *!?& are there so many toxic chemicals in everything?
– When did this become okay?
– Are they even necessary?
I hope that through my company I can empower people to ask those questions and realize that we do not need toxic chemicals in our cleaning products and that natural products are effective.
I would say to anyone that wants to pursue their dream, do it. But make sure you save up first. I had enough money to support me for the next year and a half saved up to cushion me. So if you prepare and save, I say reach for your dreams. I think if you fail, there is always something else out there, and you could learn something even more important or eye-opening along the way.
What’s in store for the future for your company?
We hope to expand to a full line of cleaning products, lower our prices, and distribute internationally. I don’t think access to sustainable products should be limited to those who can buy products on the internet or can go to a natural food store and buy them. I want everyone, regardless of where they are, to be able to use products that are safe for their bodies and the environment around them, and buy them conveniently in any store.
Can we ever look forward to The Simply Co. beauty products?
If you told me two years ago I’d have a laundry detergent company I would have laughed in your face. So honestly, who knows, anything is possible. 😉