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The ultimate detox? Woman who lives a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle can fit two years of rubbish in a jar

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How many times did you reach for the bin yesterday? Consider every time you dried your hands with a paper towel, misprinted a document or threw food packaging away. 

Now, think about how much stuff you have accumulated in your home. Books, clothes, nail varnishes or birthday cards you've been meaning to get rid of for a while. 

Our throwing away list is ongoing, overwhelming and a little frightening. Figures show that the average Brit throws away their own body weight in rubbish every 7 weeks.

So how did one woman go through the last two years without producing more than a single jarful of rubbish? 

Like you and us, New Yorker Lauren Singer lives in a small apartment, likes to invite her friends over for dinner and enjoys a good beer. However she has a wastage footprint that's virtually invisible which she says has resulted in healthier eating, less money wasted on binge shopping and an overall happier lifestyle.

"It all started when I was a senior (in her final two years) at NYU studying environmental studies," says Lauren, who since landed a job as Sustainability Manager for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. "One day after class I went home to make dinner and I opened my fridge and I saw that everything in there was packaged in plastic. And I felt like such a hypocrite."

Jar

Inspired by a family in California who call themselves the Zero Waste Home because they produce little to no rubbish, Lauren decided to stop buying packaged goods by using her own bags and jars to fill with bulk products at the supermarket and only shopped in secondhand stores for clothes.

"I downsized significantly by selling, donating, or giving away superfluous things in my life, such as all but one of my six identical spatulas, 10 pairs of jeans that I hadn't worn since high school, and a trillion decorative items that had no significance to me at all," she wrote on mindbodygreen.com.

"Most importantly, I started planning potentially wasteful situations; I began saying "NO" to things like straws in my cocktails at a bars, to plastic or paper bags at stores, and to receipts."

By making cleaning and beauty products such as washing up liquid and moisturiser from natural ingredients found in the kitchen, she significantly changed her health and wellbeing. "Not only is it easier and stress free, it's healthier (no toxic chemicals!)" writes Lauren.

Lauren Singer's rubbish from the last two years

Lauren Singer's rubbish from the last two years

"Before I adopted my zero-waste lifestyle, I would find myself scrambling to the supermarket before it closed, because I didn't shop properly, ordering in takeout because I didn't have food, always going to the pharmacy to get this scrub and that cream, and cleaning constantly because I had so much stuff. Now, my typical week involves one trip to the store to buy all of the ingredients I need."

"I never anticipated that actively choosing not to produce waste would turn into my having a higher quality of life. I thought it would just mean not taking out the trash."

Lauren Singer

Lauren says the initial detoxing process required a lot of effort and but she was persistent; "If a family of four can live a zero-waste lifestyle, I, as a (then) 21-year-old single girl in NYC, certainly can. So I took the leap".

By minimising, reusing, recycling and composting her waste, Lauren was able to eliminate 80% of her waste.

Two years into her experiment, she's accumulated a small bundle of non-disposable rubbish which she keeps in a mason jar (pictured). To put it in perspective, at the current rate of the UK's waste disposal, the UK could fill the royal Albert Hall with waste in less than two hours. In eight months, that's enough to fill Lake Windermere, the largest lake in England.

Lauren Singer uses canvas bags in place of plastic carriers

Lauren Singer uses canvas bags in place of plastic carriers

Lauren has since quit her job to start her own zero-waste company, The Simply Co., where she hand-makes and sells the products that she's learned to produce over the last couple of years.

"I didn't start living this lifestyle to make a statement — I began living this way because living a zero-waste life is, to me, the absolutely best way I know how to live a life that aligns with everything I believe in."

Lauren's blog Trash is for Tossers is filled with helpful tips, advice and recipes for minimising waste, from how to make your own body lotion using natural ingredients to homemade ravioli. It also lists easy swaps you can make to your weekly shopping list. We pick some of her most useful recommendations below...

Easy ways to reduce common waste

Swap a plastic toothbrush for Bamboo, compostable and sustainable toothbrushes

toothbrushes

Buy at greenshop.co.uk, £2.86

Swap paper towels for cotton napkins

Paper towels

Try John Lewis' 100% cotton napkins, £4

Swap luxury make-up for organic vegan products in recyclable packaging

make-up

Swap shampoo for bulk castile soap

Shampoo

Buy Dr Bronner's Organic Castile soap at feelunique.com, from £5.99.

Swap make-up wipes for organic coconut oil and reusable cotton rounds

cotton and coconut oil

Buy organic coconut oil at ocado.com, £4.75, and 10 cotton rounds at etsy.com, £4.73.

Swap shower gel for bulk soaps

soap

Buy unwrapped soap from thehealthbay.com, £27.30 for 18 bars.

Swap tuppleware which can leach chemicals into food for jars

tuppleware

Swap plastic water bottles for a reusable one

water

Buy a 1 litre bottle from selfridges.com, £12.95

Swap tampons and sanitary pads for menstrual cups

Sanitary cup

Buy reusable Mooncups from Boots, £21.99

Watch Lauren tell her story below..

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