Why I live a zero waste life | Lauren Singer | TEDxTeen

Why I live a zero waste life | Lauren Singer | TEDxTeen

Translator: Bob Prottas
Reviewer: Leonardo Silva 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?” (Laughter) 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 a 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 — (Laughter) 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? (Audience softly) Plastic.
LS: Plastic. What is your toothpaste
probably packaged in? (Audience) Plastic. LS: 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 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 with easier to clean. And when you have fewer things you realize that you take
better care of them. Right? 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. (Laughter) Don’t do that, it’s not nice. (Laughter) 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. (Applause)


  • Angel Williams says:

    and condoms?????

  • Wiktoria JES says:

    I back there after 2 years and I'm so happy, because this video change my life completely. That was my first step in zero waste world and so many things are not the same now. Thank you Lauren❤️

  • Nagendra Sen says:

    When u eat better, u feel better and u look better & adorable

  • Jiwon Hwang says:

    This really inspired me try to make less waste. Thanks

  • Ivan Kuberzovski says:

    Shut up karen

  • Amandeep Mintu says:

    How to become as fluent as you are? I WANT to improve my spoken English

  • vanessaxcix says:

    So I just have a question for the people here. I know that this is completely random but what about fish or any fresh meat you get from the market? How am I gonna bring it home without juices dripping or fishy-smell reeking if I am using an eco-bag?

  • Christopher Will i am says:

    zero waste but still produces waste 0.o

  • Dense Cabbage says:

    Uhh I spend like 10× more waste in a day than she had in that jar 0W0

  • Juana Paiva says:

    Sim, ela faz isso por atenção e deve continuar fazendo! Não existe "fora". Ninguém joga nada "fora". Está tudo aqui no nosso planeta e esse lixo volta através da água, do solo, da chuva, dos animais. O seu lixo é meu problema, então sim, a gente precisa chamar atenção.

  • Zhonguoria says:

    I just sold some glassware on Ebay, and I padded it with paper. One of the glass broke, and buyer got mad at me, claiming I didn't package it PROPERLY. He said I should have used (plastic) bubble wrap! Sooo…. given you opened a store, how do you deal with this – Pop popcorn?

  • Hi It’s me says:

    Where does she get the baking soda

  • Tintu Mon Discovery says:


  • Mike Becket says:

    Oh a super hero I suppose…well you are not because everytime to go to the restroom …duh!

  • Nabeela Wisal says:

    Wait when you have 3 or 4 kids .

  • Sandrine Nelly says:

    Pourquoi mettre un titre en français pour une vidéo en anglais et sans sous-titres ? Heureusement pour moi mon anglais est bon mais c’est trompeur…

  • feel this joy says:

    I agree on what she said that you do these things because it is in alignment with what you believe in. So it actually starts on your beliefs and principles. If you are not passionate with this type of lifestyle and just would like to follow the fad or just because you're scared of climate change then you will go back and forth like some people. But it becomes easy when you start believing that you want this lifestyle and really want it in your life. This is true to other lifestyle changes such as minimalism and vegan lifestyle. I like the way how she presented it here as you can strongly feel her conviction on what she believes in and personal conviction does that to you. You can sell anything with that type of passion and conviction…

  • Media For You says:

    Cutest girl ever in tedex.

  • American Citizen says:

    I really doubt the NYC Department of Environmental Protection was "zero waste". Government agencies are notorious for wasteful practices. I admire her efforts, but she does not include "indirect" waste. Her business generates no waste? This TED talk generated no waste?

  • American Citizen says:

    Using the internet is a high-waste activity. If you watched this video then you just contributed to global warming and the death of the Earth. Have a nice day.

  • Adele D says:

    No waste to me means also avoiding production-based waste, which is often impossible. Like, choosing some "good" things actually may lead to a bigger environmental damage

  • Art The Great says:

    Ima about to buy that bamboo tooth brush tho

  • cat speed says:

    You just changed me.thanks

  • Dear Knowledge says:

    Zero waste life and flawless skin with beautiful hair is a miracle 😱😍

  • Abril Cabrera says:

    People like me think… YOU ARE AMAZING!

  • Benjamin Chen says:

    Wait what I'm still confused. Even if you make toothpaste out of baking soda, you can't really find package free baking soda anywhere can you? I'm thinking that the packaging for materials has gotta be more than the packaging for the actual product right? I can't imagine that she is mining trona from the ground and turning it into baking soda just for some toothpaste

  • Koustubh Avachat says:

    My teacher said I am total waste

  • Uyên Nghi Thái Lê says:

    I'm really inspired to continue following the zero-waste lifestyle after your video. Thank you very much. Wishing you success!!!

  • Khánh Nguyễn says:

    I love this girl and admire her lifestyle so much!!! She is so talented. I would love to partake in this challenge!!

  • TTdexter says:

    Does she know that her speech caused people to travel there, sit there, have tickets, eat packed food, e.t.c. – that created lot of waste… so her lifestyle is creating waste… if she was ZERO waste, she would refuse to talk, cos it would save CO2 emissions from traveling, shoes from being worn out, chewing gums from being spitted out before taking seat, e.t.c. … so ZERO waste is just a feel-good topic… her ring needed to be somehow created – it caused waste. So did her clothers, her shoes, instagram and facebook and other internet services she uses create waste in datacenters (broken/replaced parts)… she is soooooo ZERO waste…

  • Adam Forrest says:

    What a beautiful women. inside and out

  • Ramjii Chilla says:

    nuvu super.

  • Tai Nguyen says:

    Man, she is distracting

  • Aesthetic Artist says:

    Soon Europe will ban plastic

  • Hanna Roberts says:

    This video is super helpful and inspiring! :)💜

  • Holly Fortenberry says:

    She's right that it's not that difficult. I am not zero waste but I have been using my own canvas shopping bags since 2005 and I recycle or compost about 90% of my waste and have planted my yard about 80% native plants. I almost never go shopping or wear beauty products, etc. Life is easier that way too, so your mind is more clear and you have more time to do things that matter most.

  • bla bla says:

    okay but to make your toothpaste or lotion you need to buy baking soda or coconut oil that is prepackaged so its not really zero waste, is it?

  • Henrique Rothbard says:

    I thought this was something related to wasting zero time with useless things…

  • Case Wulf says:

    freebleeder alert


    She is a beautiful goddess and wish I can have a women like her in my life. She truly is on her own level you go girl.

  • • cams • says:

    I will try to imitate her lifestyle

  • Regine B says:

    I love this. Only bottled water has become a basic necessity in natural disaster situations. Less chemicals into the environment. We also have to think about the human race in caring for the environment so that ithere is zero unemployment and zero homeless people. Peace, love, and happiness. One by one we can make a difference. Thank- you

  • Varija Jayanti says:

    Those stuffs too need raw materials to make it at home and we can only get that in the market….mostly in packets!

  • Conservative Hamster says:

    women, having a zero waste life?? LOL women are the most wasteful bitches, they spend men's money like a free ATM on pointless things like clothes, cosmetics, cell phones, social media, hair dos, jewelry, etc.

  • Anita Bisht says:

    Beautiful with Brian.. grace.. ND kind heart

  • Zeki Agac says:

    Use plastic but consciously, don‘t throw it in the nature

  • Fala Pedal says:

    Every action counts. Tks

  • marion westerburger says:

    On my island they banned plastic bags, and we are trying to make them ban plastic straws too😊

  • Cat And says:

    Thank you. Godbless

  • zerofecks says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble kids, but she DID NOT live a zero waste life. She still generated waste, both directly and indirectly…and quite a bit more than fits in a 16oz Mason jar. I'm not saying her heart isn't in the right place or that it's not a wonderful aspiration, but zero waste is 100% impossible in this society. I'm not being negative or pessimistic, just realistic. Before you can fix problems such as waste and pollution, you have to be completely honest in identifying those problems. A reduced waste lifestyle is doable and something we should all be focused on and striving for, but zero waste does not exist. Think.

  • Thunder Bird says:

    She is so beautiful!

  • Geethanjali balaji says:

    I still haven't understood what zero waste is , i bought a dress from stores and it was wrapped in plastic which i didn't ask for , still it was given to me .. Am i zero waste ?

  • Geethanjali balaji says:

    Her idea doesn't support the economy …

  • Rei Ackerman says:

    wait wut
    can she at least give us the tutorial of making these things

  • Elsje Massyn says:

    I am so psyched up now to live a Zero Waste life after watching Lauren’s inspirational speech. Thank you for sharing 👍

  • Carolyne Mas says:

    Not always a choice for the poor, some of whom have no refrigerator and who rely on canned and packaged goods from the food bank, and who cannot afford to make their own personal products as they rely on cheap dollar store fare.

  • Nicolas Dimitropoulos says:

    Very empowering person! Thanks for sharing this.

  • KuchBhinhi talks says:

    I need your shampoo recipe…

  • Hamilton Jet Sport Association says:

    You are crazy, your lying, both. Your deluded

  • Frau Chen says:


  • Aarti Choudhary says:

    Lovely work you are doing Lauren.. Keep going..

  • Sherry Sherry says:

    God is in control please open your bible's and learn the truth as it is in Jesus Christ the righteous 😚😚😚

  • Sherry Sherry says:


  • Sunnysunflower333 says:

    I won't drink tap water so I have to recycle plastic water bottles.

  • Ember2460 Harrington says:

    Honking car locking wakes people up and creates Noise Stress Everywhere. It wakes our kids up.
    We can hear it inside our homes when you park.
    Please! Break the Honk Habit! The Auto Industry needs to use technology to let people know their cars are locked and armed that does not emit noise into our communities. Please lock your car with light flash only. Thank you.

  • Ava Bee says:

    *drops jar*


  • Anja PL says:

    I can’t… she is so pretty! 😍

  • Mia Meow says:

    she shops at second hand stores for menstrual diva cup and reuses the same one for years and gives other ones as gifts for female friends.

  • I wish I was wrong says:

    She lost me at environmental studies at NYU. What a heap of virtue seeking turds.

  • dark says:

    3:11 It's called your phone and the internet

  • Deborah Hanouna says:

    It almost makes me cry when I saw how many wast she produce in tree year, It would be so amazing if stores were selling think without packaging. That’s a dream to became like here


    0 waste ? Quite difficult ! Unfortunately, we all produce human waste which are more harmful than plastic ! But I will respect and follow your technique ! Well done!

  • Levi Stephens says:


  • John Robi says:

    It's working in San Franshitco. The homeless are saving thousands of gallons of water by pooping outside.

  • 3ds max says:

    For every plastic thing you chuckleheads try and "save" I create more.
    For every hamburger you don't eat, I eat 2 more on top of that.

  • melanie cubells says:

    i’m trying to start going zero waste, but it’s hard where i live. i’m gonna buy my mom reuseable bags (there only 99¢ each), and i’m already using metal straws, a reuseable starbucks cup (3-4$). i bought recycled dividers for my binder, and a recycled folder (both recyclable. i have bought plantable pencils, and a reuseable bamboo cutlery set for takeout, and for my lunch.

  • Monishka Kaushal says:

    What about tampons and pads how do uh manage it

  • Katrina Rogers says:

    13:15 DROPS MIC

    On another note I used to be one of those who thought Zero Waste was "a good idea but too hard for me" until I talked to someone who actually lives it. Now, I realise it is only as difficult as you make it and actually a lot of fun since you can do it in degrees. Every little change really counts, even if all you do is buy a steel water bottle and a natural-fibre dish brush.

  • Bethany Ward says:

    Totally unrelated to her topic, but she looks like a young Alicia Silverstone with dark hair.

  • Nick Gisburne says:

    So hard to watch this because the one word I see written all over her face is 'smug'. 'Look at me, how much better than you I am because I have this jar'. So she makes all her own products? Wonderful. How does she find the time to live and breathe after spending so much effort manufacturing her own phone, computer, furniture, sanitary products, clothing… and so on? Does she make her own toilet paper? Because I'd be interested to know where the little cardboard tubes go if she doesn't. Don't see any in that jar. And for the record, every time you eject the brown stuff, and flush it down with paper when you wipe, that's waste too. Only affluent, privileged people talk like this.

  • LuLu says:

    Even baking soda comes in packaging. Yes, some health food stores have bulk items, which you can put into your own containers. But not everything can be purchased that way.

  • Tanja Schneider says:

    This was truly inspiring! I do not think a ZERO waste lifestyle is possible for everyone as some don't have access to bulk stores, but you can reduce your waste soooo much if you want to and I think that's what we must all try. Because if humans continue to pollute our earth and emit co2 like we do, future generations won't have a planet to live on

  • tamsyn pemberton says:

    where do you buy baking soda that doesnt come in some sort of pakaging

  • Laurie Bruce says:

    How do I purchase your products? Do you have a website?

  • Alice Féline says:

    Thanks Lauren for this planet🙋‍♀️💕 I also reduce plastic and stuff

  • 12 says:

    How do you buy flour?

  • VanderleiaVivaCasa says:

    Sensacional ! Você é um grande exemplo para o mundo, Parabéns👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

  • adam atiyeh says:

    Google/ YouTube Adam Atiyeh TTT

  • Marty W says:

    Well, you’re American. You are plastic. Plastic people.

  • Stanzavik says:

    0:31 I'm not sure she ever answered this……but I'll bet it involves a bidet or a bathtub used in a bidet-like fashion.

  • Nahla Bee says:

    Awesome.. 👏👏

  • ranichi mourishin says:

    she is so inspired. I love her ways of thinking

  • Junie says:

    How is your company zero waste? Examples of products please.

  • عبير الزهراني says:

    الترجمه بالله

  • JJ Guitar says:

    … our jobs are … gone … let's talk about waste?

  • vijesh kadarkarai says:

    Our life style.. 0 waste

  • I am me says:

    I will join you, gal 🙋

  • Parth Patel says:

    Amazing thinking seriously, 👏 everyone should follow the advice for her. It is really every useful for us.😊

  • happy club says:

    I watched the whole video because of her beauty😍

  • DJ Santiago says:

    One problem, anyone who watches this will have to do so on a phone, tablet, these mobile devices require minerals that can only be found in the congo jungle, & mining for them is directly contributing to the near extinction of silverback gorillas. Great talk though 👍

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