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Zero Waste / Lauren Singer

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You launched a brand called The Simply Co. which is a line of toxic free, sustainable cleaning and household products. Can you talk about this?
Yes, I make organic laundry detergent, which is something I never thought I would be doing! But I had been making my own products at that point for 2 years – all my beauty and cleaning products – and I realized they worked and they were effective. At the time, right after college, I was working in engineering for the city and I had my blog, and I got questions all the time about the products that I was making, so I started doing some research and found that while there were beauty products that were in line with my own, the same wasn’t true for cleaning products.

I also learned that in traditional cleaning products, there are over 85,000 industrial chemicals that are used and most of them aren’t even tested for safety before they’re released into the market. On top of that, in the US, cleaning product manufacturers aren’t legally required to disclose the ingredients on the product packaging so when we buy something like laundry detergent, we have no idea what’s actually in it. Companies have the ability to say “fragrance” and “perfume” in the ingredient list because those are considered trade secrets, but those could be upwards of 2,000 different chemicals.

I decided to quit my job and start a company to sell these products that I knew worked and that I felt like we all deserved. It was 2 years ago that I launched my Kickstarter for the company. I thought I was going to have 100 people who backed the campaign so I was like “I can do this by hand!” By the end of 3 days, I had over 850 backers and over 1,000 jars of detergent preordered. I was sitting in my apartment hand grinding soap to make laundry detergent!

From there it has become a fully integrated company. My products are manufactured in Ohio at a facility where it’s solar powered and super sustainable, it’s a dream! It’s been a really amazing process.

You haven’t sent a single piece of trash to the landfill in over four years, yet you don’t fit into the stereotypical aesthetic of a “hippie” – can you talk about living zero waste while also thriving in a modern world?
Yeah! I mean, I’m a 25 year old girl that lives in New York City, I want to go out and have fun, date, eat good food, and look and feel beautiful, but at the same time I don’t want to have a negative environmental impact and I want to live zero waste. I’ve found that neither have to be compromised, I can do both, and it’s just about making choices that are quite simple. Through doing things like swapping out a plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one, or coming prepared with a mason jar, I’ve been able to be my authentic self and a live sustainably. If you look at the things that constitute zero waste, like using wash clothes instead of paper towel, saying no to plastic straws, neither of those things are hard, and once you incorporate those into your routine, it has a really positive impact.

How does fashion fit into the idea of sustainability?
When I started living this lifestyle I stopped buying any new clothing, so I’ve been shopping exclusively second hand for 4 years now, and it’s been the most eye opening thing ever. There’s so much unneeded stuff out there that people don’t want anymore, so they sell to a second hand shop. So not only is it 90% cheaper than if I were buying something new, but I’m also reusing something that would technically be waste.

Is it challenging maintaining personal style within your zero waste lifestyle?
Not at all! And it’s cool because I feel like I’m hunting, and when you find something you really like it feels like you’ve scored. I’ve also learned to be much more minimal and have really learned my body and I feel like your 20s are really about that time. I’ve really learned through second hand shopping what I feel good in, what makes me feel beautiful, and through that I’ve learned how to be really selective when I’m shopping. I love asking myself, “How does this make me feel? Does it go with everything in my closet?”

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