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How one woman saves big by living a waste-free lifestyle

Alyssa Pry
Personal Finance Reporter

Lauren Singer has been living “Zero Waste” for the past five years. For her, that means “not sending anything to landfills, so not making waste that you throw on the street or putting anything in a garbage bin.”

While studying environmental science at New York University, Singer realized that the way she was living didn’t align with her beliefs, so she made the switch and has gradually cut out plastic and waste from her lifestyle.

“One day after class I went home to make dinner and I saw that every single thing I had in my fridge was packaged in plastic,” she says. “I started reflecting on my own apartment and saw that my beauty products and cleaning products were packaged in plastic.”

Singer went zero waste gradually, and shares her lifestyle through her blog, Trash is for Tossers. She began a business selling her sustainable products called The Simply Co., and opened a package-free store in Brooklyn, New York.

“We really believe that no matter who you are, where you come from, what your background is, how much money you have, every single person can make changes in their everyday life to have a positive impact,” she says.

Singer says these changes can also have a big impact on your wallet, and shared 5 tips to help you save money, while wasting less.

#1: Get smart with groceries

Singer says an easy way to save money and waste less is to make a grocery list.

“One of the most expensive things when it comes to grocery shopping is the money that you spend on food that you don’t consume,” she says. “By being prepared and planning ahead I was actually saving a lot of money because I wasn’t wasting anything.”

Singer also recommends trying to avoid buying foods packaged in plastics. Shop at farmers markets and buy foods like beans and rice in bulk. Not only will you save money, but you’ll be eating healthier.

#2: Buy clothing secondhand

One of the best ways that I’ve learned to save money was through not buying any new clothing. All of my clothing is secondhand,” Singer says.  

Singer says buying a pair of designer jeans may cost around $150 to $200 brand new, but buying secondhand could drop the price to around $10, saving you major cash, and reusing items that may otherwise be sent to a landfill.

“To me, that’s a no-brainer,” she says.

#3: Invest in reusable products

Going zero waste won’t happen overnight, but small changes will add up over time. Buying a reusable water bottle, tote bag or coffee cup may cost money upfront, but you’ll save money in the long run.

“The average American will save about $40 [over the course of a year] by having a reusable coffee cup because you actually get a discount on your coffee if you bring your own cup in many places,” Singer explains.

When it comes to water, the average person will spend $100 per year on plastic water bottles. Buy a reusable bottle for $20, and you’re saving around $80, Singer says.  

#4: Try DIY

Singer says many people criticize her lifestyle, and assume it’s more expensive to live this way, especially when it comes to making her own beauty and cleaning products. But she says it’s just the opposite.

“A really great example of how you can save both time and money if you’re making your own products is toothpaste—to mix the ingredients together takes me about 30 seconds and costs me much less than a dollar.”

Singer’s blog has many recipes and tutorials for beauty and cleaning products to help you lessen your waste, and save some cash.

#5: Just say ‘no’

For people who want to go zero waste, but spend zero dollars, a simple solution is to just say no!

“You can say no to plastic straws at restaurants, you can say no to disposable silverware if you get food out, you can say no to buying new clothing,” she says. “There are so many ways that you can say no that cost nothing at all but overall have a large positive environmental impact.”

“Ultimately living a zero-waste lifestyle helps you save money in a really significant way because you learn how to consume less, you learn how to consume smarter, you learn how to question the things that you’re purchasing and ask if you really need them,” says Singer.

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