Sunday, 11/26/2023

Leave Only Footprints

Burn it or bury it. In most places around the world, that’s what we do with our garbage. Pretty grim choices that present disheartening ecological challenges. Incineration emits harmful gases and dust, exacerbating pollution of the air, land, and water, not to mention increasing global warming. Landfills further contaminate the ground and water, and to make matters worse, tons of garbage – predominantly plastic – end up in the ocean.

For one young woman in New York, this monumental garbage problem was simply too much to take, so she decided to do something about it. Meet Lauren Singer: a 23-year-old who, for the last two years, has lived a completely zero-waste lifestyle. That’s right; she creates no trash, no garbage, and no waste. She saw that the garbage problem was a symptom of our consumerist lifestyles, and she realized that with a few simple changes in her daily habits, she could reduce her waste output to zero.

It all started two years ago in the college classroom at NYU, where she was an environmental studies major. Every day, she watched one of her classmates come in with a plastic bag containing her lunch, all of which were wrapped in plastic containers. Even her water bottle was plastic, and all of it went right into the trash after she used it – every day. This unsustainable practice made her angry. Yet, one evening after class, Lauren opened her own refrigerator and saw nothing but plastic everywhere. She felt like a hypocrite, a revelation that led her to make a drastic change that most couldn’t imagine. She decided she would cut out all plastic from her life.

She began to start saying no to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in stores and restaurants. No to straws in her cocktails in bars, no to plastic bags, and no to plastic toothbrushes became part of her daily routine.

She started saying yes to putting a little elbow grease into making her own products instead of purchasing everything from stores. She created her own packaging and made her own personal care products, like toothpaste and deodorant, using common, natural ingredients. She also started recycling her packaging and taking it with her to the store to further cut down on her plastic use.

Once she became completely plastic-free, she decided to take the leap and live a 100% waste-free lifestyle. Lauren says that 80% of her staggering waste reduction came from two simple things: recycling and composting.

She says the personal benefits for Lauren include saving money, eating better, and being happier. She has even recently started her own company, where she makes and sells the kind of products she has learned to make over the past two years.

The Native American Chief Seattle once eloquently said, “Take only memories, leave only footprints.” What do you think? Could you recycle and compost your way to leaving only footprints?



  • not to mention: used to introduce an additional point or reason that emphasizes or supports what has already been said
  • to make matters worse: to do something that makes a bad situation worse
  • end up: eventually arrive at, become or happen
  • too much to take: overwhelming or difficult to handle or endure
  • cut out
    1.) to stop doing something;
    2.) to remove someone or something
  • elbow grease: hard physical effort
  • take or make the leap: make a big or sudden change

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