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  • This is all of the trash that I've produced in the past 3 years.

  • When I say that, people think that I'm crazy, or that I'm lying,

  • or they'll ask me questions like:

  • "Hey. So, how do you wipe your butt?"

  • I live a zero waste lifestyle,

  • and I have for the past 3 years.

  • Now, zero waste, that's a pretty big idea. Right?

  • So let me define it for you.

  • To me living zero waste means that I don't make any trash.

  • So no sending anything to landfill, no sending anything in a garbage can,

  • and no spitting gum on the ground, and walking away.

  • Right? No trash.

  • This is a big concept, and this all started

  • when I was an environmental study student at NYU.

  • My senior year, I was taking a course called:

  • "The Environmental Studies Capstone course",

  • which is the culminating course that all environmental study students need to take

  • in order to go out into the world, and make it a more sustainable place.

  • Well, there was a girl in this class,

  • and every class she would have this big plastic bag,

  • with a plastic clamshell full of food,

  • a plastic fork and knife, a plastic water bottle,

  • and a plastic bag of chips,

  • and she would eat all of this,

  • and then class after class, would just throw it in the trash.

  • This was really frustrating, because here we were

  • these environmental study students trying to make the world a better place,

  • and there she was, throwing all this stuff into the garbage.

  • One day after class,

  • feeling still particularly upset about watching her throw everything away,

  • I went home to make dinner,

  • and I opened my fridge,

  • and noticed something that I had never seen before.

  • Every single thing in my fridge was in one way or another packaged in plastic,

  • and I couldn't believe it.

  • You know I was getting so mad at this girl for making so much plastic trash,

  • and it turns out that I was just as bad.

  • I was that girl, and so I made a decision in that moment.

  • I was going to stop using plastic.

  • Well, quitting plastic --

  • not so easy of a thing. Right?

  • When you think about your everyday life,

  • when you wake up in the morning, go into the bathroom, and you brush your teeth.

  • What is your toothbrush made out of?

  • Plastic.

  • What is your toothpaste probably packaged in?

  • (Audience) Plastic.

  • Your face wash, your moisturizer, your contact solution.

  • So many things that are in our everyday lives come packaged in plastic,

  • and so I realized that if I was going to move away from plastic,

  • the only way that I was going to be able to do that

  • was to learn how to make my products myself.

  • Well, I don't know about you,

  • but I certainly didn't know how to make deodorant.

  • I didn't have the recipe just hanging out in my back pocket,

  • and so I realized that I had to do some research,

  • and while I was doing research online, I came across a blog called

  • the "Zero Waste Home" started by a woman named Bea Johnson

  • who is a wife, and mother of 2 kids, out in Mill Valley, California,

  • and the 4 of them live a completely zero waste life.

  • When I learned about Bea, and her family, my mind was completely blown.

  • I thought that I was doing the best thing for the planet

  • by not using any plastic.

  • But the idea that I didn't have to produce any trash,

  • was so empowering, and so inspiring,

  • and it made perfect sense. Right?

  • Because I was this Environmental Studies student,

  • I cared about the environment, studied sustainability,

  • talked about sustainability, protested for sustainability.

  • But I realized, that I wasn't actually implementing any of those values

  • into my day-to-day life, and so I made the decision to go zero waste.

  • Let me break it down for you, and tell you some of the things

  • that I did in order to make this transition a little easier.

  • The first thing that I did was I stopped buying packaged food.

  • So instead of going to the store, and buying things packaged

  • in paper, and glass, and plastic, I started bringing my own jars,

  • and bags to the store to fill with bulk, or package-free items.

  • I also started buying my fruit, and vegetables from the farmer's market.

  • So, package-free.

  • The second thing that I started doing

  • was I started making all of my own products.

  • Before I started living this lifestyle, my boyfriend at the time,

  • used to brush his teeth using baking soda,

  • and I thought he was probably the grossest person in the entire world. Right?

  • There's no way that you can get your teeth clean

  • using something like baking soda, it's gross.

  • Well fast-forward, and it turns out that the first product that I made

  • was toothpaste, made with baking soda.

  • So overtime I started making all of my own products.

  • When I would run out of something, instead of going to the store,

  • and buying a new one, I would learn how to make it myself.

  • So when I would run out of lotion, I learned how to make it myself.

  • Run out of deodorant, learn how to make it myself.

  • Over time, all of the things I had previously purchased,

  • were now, ones that I made myself.

  • The third thing that I started doing, was shopping second-hand.

  • So instead of buying new clothing,

  • and putting new waste into the waste cycle,

  • I would buy things that were totally recycled, second-hand.

  • So not making any new trash.

  • The fourth thing that I did was I downsized.

  • So I focused on having only the things that were truly necessary,

  • and that I really needed.

  • Well this was really, really hard

  • because I'm the kind of person who's really sentimental,

  • and I can tell you as to why a toothpick needs to be in my life.

  • But after I really got through that process, and I completely downsized,

  • I realized that I had so many fewer things in my life,

  • my home was less cluttered, and everything was easier to clean.

  • And when you have fewer things

  • you realize that you take better care of them. Right?

  • So, when you take better care of your things you don't have this mentality like:

  • "If I don't want this anymore, I'll just throw it out and I get a new thing later."

  • No, I only had a few things and so I took care of them,

  • and wasn't sending anything to the landfill.

  • All this must sound pretty difficult. Right?

  • I assure you, it's not that hard.

  • I'm just an average, lazy person,

  • and I wouldn't live this lifestyle if it was difficult.

  • In fact the benefits of living this lifestyle

  • far outweigh any of the negatives that you can imagine.

  • The first benefit is that I save money.

  • So I save money when I buy my food,

  • and the products, and when I make my own products,

  • because I'm not paying for the embedded cost a packaging,

  • so things are cheaper.

  • I'm also saving money by shopping completely second-hand,

  • because second-hand clothing is usually less expensive than new clothing.

  • I'm also saving money because I've downsized.

  • I don't go shopping all the time now

  • and you know just buy things on impulse.

  • I only have what I really need.

  • The second benefit is that I eat better.

  • When I go shopping now I don't have the option to buy processed food products,

  • package-free, and so now my diet consists of things like fresh fruit and vegetables,

  • or bulk greens, and nuts that I buy with my jars and my bags.

  • And so when you eat better, you feel better.

  • Over these past few years, I've noticed that my weight has stabilized,

  • I have more energy, I need less sleep,

  • and when you're eating better, and you feel better,

  • and you save money, you're happier.

  • But besides those things I'm happier, because for the first time in my life,

  • I'm living in direct alignment with my values.

  • And why is this important? Right? Waste.

  • Well, waste is a really big problem.

  • In fact the average American person

  • produces approximately 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day.

  • Over the course of a year, that's like taking 8.5 of your best friends,

  • and throwing them in the trash.

  • Don't do that, it's not nice.

  • So, if you care about your friends, and you don't throw them away,

  • and you think that it's possible for you

  • to reduce how much trash you're producing,

  • I have 3 simple steps for you.

  • The first step is to actually look at your trash, and understand what it is.

  • Because you can't solve a problem of having a lot of waste

  • until you know what is it.

  • So when I did this exercise,

  • I realized that I had 3 main sources of trash.

  • The first was food packaging,

  • and so I learned how to shop in bulk or package-free.

  • The second was product packaging,

  • and so I learned how to make all of my own products.

  • And the third was organic food waste, and so I learned how to compost.

  • And just by identifying those 3 sources of waste and eliminating them,

  • I have reduced my trash by about 90%.

  • The second thing that I'd like to suggest is picking at the low-hanging fruit.

  • So doing little things, one-time changes in your everyday life

  • that have a large-scale, and long-term positive impact.

  • This includes things like using a reusable bag instead of a plastic or paper bag.

  • Or using a stainless steel, or glass water bottle,

  • instead of buying plastic water bottles.

  • Over the course of however long, you realize that these little changes

  • actually add up, and make a big difference.

  • The third thing that I'd like to suggest is the DIY

  • or actually learning how to make your products yourself.

  • Now I absolutely love doing this because when you go to a store,

  • and you have to buy products you kind of have to settle,

  • and accept them as they are. Right?

  • If you don't like the way they smell, too bad.

  • If you don't like the way they feel, sorry.

  • If you don't like what they're packaged in, you don't have a choice.

  • But for me, since I make all my own products,

  • If I don't like the way they smell, I change the scent.

  • If I don't like the ingredients in them, I change it.

  • If I don't like the packaging, it's my choice.

  • And so by making my own products I have complete control

  • over what I'm putting in my body.

  • Now I started living this lifestyle while I was still in college.

  • And when I graduated, I had a real job, a real-person job in sustainability,

  • which is exactly what you'd think I'd want to be doing. Right?

  • Well, at the same time I was still running my blog: "Trash is for tossers"

  • and I noticed that I was getting a recurring question,

  • and it went something like this:

  • "Dear Lauren, I absolutely love the products that you're making,

  • and I too want truly natural products.

  • But because of life, family, friends, blah, blah, blah, blah,

  • I just don't have time to make them myself.

  • Do you have any product that I can buy that are equivalent?

  • Thanks for your help. Lots of love. Person XYZ."

  • So I went to stores, and I started looking at products,

  • and while I found that they were beauty products

  • that were reminiscent of the ones that I was making myself,

  • I didn't notice the same trend for cleaning products.

  • When I looked at the ingredients of cleaning products,

  • even the "natural" cleaning products

  • contained ingredient that were really harmful.

  • Things that were carcinogenic, and endocrine-disruptive.

  • You know, when I looked into it further,

  • I learned that cleaning product manufacturers

  • aren't even legally required

  • to disclose the ingredients of their products

  • on the product packaging,

  • and so when we go and buy a product,

  • we're at the complete mercy of the company,

  • hoping that they have our best interest in mind.

  • I feel that we, as consumers, have a right to products that are transparent

  • and that aren't bad for us,

  • and so I started thinking about my own products,

  • the ones that I've been making for years.

  • That are safe, and effective, and have ingredients that I use to do things

  • like brush my teeth, or make salad dressing.

  • And I realized that I had an opportunity,

  • and so I quit my job, and started a company.

  • Because I feel like we, as human beings, have a right to products that are safe

  • for our homes, and our bodies, and the environment.

  • I get comments all the time, that I'm doing this for attention.

  • But I live this lifestyle for myself.

  • I would never tell anyone how to live

  • or how much trash that they should produce.

  • I just want to provide tools,

  • through my blog and my business,

  • for people, who like me,

  • want to reduce how much trash they're producing.

  • I live a zero waste lifestyle, because to me,

  • it's the best way I know, how to live a life

  • that aligns with everything that I believe in.

  • And what's the point. Right?

  • I'm just one person. What difference can I make?

  • The point is simple:

  • I want to be remembered for the things that I did while I was on this planet,

  • and not for the trash that I left behind.

  • Thank you.

This is all of the trash that I've produced in the past 3 years.