Lauren Singer says that all of the landfill waste she has produced in the past five years can fit into a mason jar. The sustainable-lifestyle blogger behind Trash is for Tossers doesn’t expect everyone to be that extreme about “Zero Waste.” But for those who want to cut down on the amount of garbage they produce (if only because the city’s trash cans are mysteriously disappearing), she and Daniel Silverstein have opened Package Free in Williamsburg. The three-month pop-up sells sustainable products like bamboo toothbrushes, period panties, and reusable totes (for when the plastic-bag tax kicks in).
“One of the biggest reasons we started the store was to disprove that living a Zero Waste lifestyle is hard,” says Singer, while drinking from a mason jar. “If it were hard I wouldn’t do it, because I’m lazy as fuck.”
Singer got into the Zero Waste lifestyle when she was studying environmental science at NYU, and realized just how much packaging was in her fridge. “I felt like a total hypocrite because I’d been protesting the oil and gas industry but then using one of their biggest products, plastic, and subsidizing them through my purchases,” she said.
She started taking steps to go plastic-free, like making her own toothpaste, and eventually founded The Simply Co., which makes chemical-free laundry detergent. The detergent is now available at Package Free along with the clothes Silverstein, founder of Zero Waste Daniel, makes in Bushwick using textile scraps left over by local garment manufacturers. They’re also selling vegan skin-care products by Meow Meow Tweet, a Brooklyn-born Hudson Valley brand; knives that Chelsea Miller makes in Williamsburg using old horseshoe rasps and wood from her family’s property in Vermont; organic children’s clothes made by Winter Water Factory in Brooklyn; self-watering planters by Back to the Roots; and stainless steel containers from Life Without Plastic.
“Everything is functional, sexy, but also has a positive benefit,” Lauren says. While all of the objects in the store are made by “brands on a mission” that use the best, most sustainable practices for their product category, Singer stresses that they’re not prohibitively expensive. “Contrary to what people think about sustainability, they’re a low-cost investment that actually save you a lot of money over time.” She points to a $1 bamboo straw, by Clean Planetware, as an example of “low cost, high impact.”
Though Singer says she wants the store to be welcoming “even if you don’t give a shit about sustainability,” she and Silverstein are planning classes, workshops, panels, screenings, and even beach cleanup excursions for those who do want to learn more.
“Especially with the political climate, it’s really important for me to vote with my dollar,” Silverstein said. Ultimately, he and Singer are hoping people will make like the hashtag in the window and #giveashit.
Package Free, 137 Grand St., bet. Berry St. and Bedford Ave.