Living a Low-Waste Lifestyle with Lauren Ferree

01.29.2021 — The Frenshe Editors

FRENSHE: Lauren, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started as an environmentalist?

Lauren Ferree: Of course! I grew up in LA, and have always had a strong affinity and admiration of the ocean. In 2017 the topic of selling permits for offshore drilling all around the country kicked my activism into high gear. I literally Googled “how to stop offshore drilling in LA” and that’s where I found the Surfrider Foundation. They had a brilliant initiative called “Drilling is Killing” where they were organizing and calling elected officials to stop the plans for off-shore drilling. From there, I built an amazing community of fellow ocean enthusiasts and folks who wanted to make a difference, and my curiosity went wild! I took classes in sustainability, spent my weekends at local beach cleanups, binge-watched environmental documentaries, and starting calling my local representatives and speaking at city council meetings. I now know what a true purpose feels like, something greater than ourselves, and I’ll never look back. 

F: Can you break down the meaning of the term “zero-waste”? Some may be intimated by it at first.

LF: In my opinion, the only thing that’s truly zero-waste is nature’s cycle. There is no waste in nature. A leaf falls from a tree, then becomes mulch, and returns nutrients into the soil to then support the tree or new life. We as humans can try to live zero-waste, but in our developed systems, everything we do has an environmental impact or byproduct (therefore waste) of some sort. I like to use the words low-waste or minimal-waste because they’re more realistic to our consumption cycles. Low-waste means attempting to create little waste in your life, and more often than not it means trying to create as little plastic-waste as possible. While this won’t reverse the climate crisis or global waste crisis, when we’re aware of our consumption, emissions, and waste, we can use that to demand change! We’re so much more powerful than we think. 

F: What were the first changes you made on your journey to promote a zero-waste lifestyle? What are the first steps someone can take to get started?

LF: The first thing I did was plug into an NGO (non-government organization). Where we have community, we have accountability. We’re reminded that we’re not alone in this fight, and we don’t have to recreate the wheel from scratch. Start by peeking into your bins, understanding the waste you’re creating, and work backward from there. 

  • If it’s paper towels, you can start using kitchen cloths and rags instead.
  • If it’s food wrappers from pasta, grains, or rice, you can start buying bulk and bring your own jars/bags to the grocery stores that offer bulk sections.
  • If it’s food packages from things like salsa or hummus, you can find some yummy recipes online and make your own! 

In my opinion, the only thing that’s truly zero-waste is nature’s cycle.”

F: Can you explain how people can start practicing sustainability in different areas of their life? (products they use, recycling, composting, etc)

LF: Although it might not be glamorous (LOL!) the first thing you can do is use what you have! It’s very tempting to buy the latest and greatest sustainable products, but more often than not, you probably already have something that serves a similar purpose. I remember seeing sustainable folks with these cute metal tiffins that they’d carry their lunch or leftovers in, and I wanted one so bad! But the Tupperware that I had for years worked just fine! In my opinion, practicing sustainable living means using what you have, taking great care of it, and owning fewer, better things. 

F: What about composting?

LF: Composting is a GREAT practice to get into. Our food scraps are PACKED with nutrients that we can return to the soil, instead of sending them to a landfill where they serve no purpose. If you live in an apartment, you can freeze your compost and bring it to a local drop-off center (or use the app NextDoor to see if you have a neighbor who composts!) or you can start vermicompost (worms!) under your kitchen sink. If you have a little yard you can start a compost pile in your space and use the finished compost for your garden. 

F: What motivates you to continue your own practices?

LF: My fiancé and I just got engaged (yew!) and we’ve always talked about having a family of our own. We might not live to see the worst of the climate crisis, but if we have children or grandchildren, they definitely will (not to mention all of the children living in developing countries who are on the frontlines of the climate crisis). As a future mother, this fight is for all of the future children of the world, and the one planet we call home. 

F: Where are the best resources to get educated on zero-waste and sustainability practices?

There are so many brilliant resources for staying inspired and informed on the topic. I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorites on my blog hereThere’s an amazing movement called Plastic Free July that has all sorts of resources, challenges, and other material to get you started on creating a low-waste lifestyle.  Social media has also made the space much more inviting and inclusive. I just recently posted nine climate activists and educators who I’m constantly learning and finding inspiration from. 

F: You’ve risen to TikTok stardom! Is there anything you find that the younger generation is most curious about when it comes to sustainability, zero-waste, etc?

LF: Kind of what I was saying earlier about being a future mother and creating a safe, habitable place for my future children. The youth have taken the environmental movement by storm and have raised their voices to demand change for the planet they will inherit…it’s remarkable! They were tired of seeing decision-makers implement or roll-back policies that put them and our planet in danger. The younger generation has organized to create coalitions like the Sunrise Movement, Fridays for Future, and Youth Climate Strike. I’m constantly learning and being inspired by this younger generation and their persistence to speak up for things they care most about.  

To learn more you can follow Lauren on her social platforms and check out the resources found on her website. 

[Images: Instagram/@re.laurenferree]

The Frenshe Editors