September 30, 2022

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Lauren Singer Says Fashion, Beauty Need to Think Through ‘End of Life’

It’s time for fashion companies to swap the sustainable marketing ploys in favor of more impactful but potentially less buzzy changes, according to Lauren Singer, founder of Package Free Shop.

“A lot of people try to focus on what seems sexy and marketable for improvements in fashion emissions, but actually most of the impact in the fashion industry comes from the supply chain,” Singer said.

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Creating more energy-efficient factories, changing out light bulbs and improving shipping and logistics within the supply chain would make a big impact, Singer said during an interview with WWD sustainability editor Kaley Roshitsh.

“Changing light bulbs is a lot less sexy than eliminating ocean-bound plastics, but that’s where the impact comes from, and we need to make those big changes quickly,” Singer said. “If every manufacturer changed out their light bulbs it would actually be really great for the planet, but a lot less sexy to market.”

Singer runs the Package Free Shop on Bond Street in New York, and also developed a laundry business called The Simply Co. She went viral a decade ago when she fit a year’s worth of her trash into a large mason jar, and has since become a zero-waste lifestyle influencer. She started her blog, Trash is for Tossers, in 2010.

Singer said she is on a mission to reduce the amount of trash that people produce daily, but that businesses are able to have bigger impacts on the environment.

“I focus on trash as a way individuals can take steps to mitigate their personal impact on climate change. The reason for that is when you throw trash into landfills it creates methane which is more lethal of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,” Singer said.

While Singer is living — and encouraging others to live — in a way that is “in alignment” with the world she wants to see, she said that policy shifts are necessary to make a larger impact.

“It’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing what we can to mitigate climate change because policy and big businesses are not taking the steps necessary,” Singer said.

She suggested ending subsidies for the oil and gas industries, creating a large-scale composting infrastructure and holding businesses responsible for the waste they produce. “There’s many larger things that need to happen,” Singer said.

At her business, Package Free, she aims to bring options for daily-use products that have minimal packaging to consumers. The business sells products in beauty, grooming, periods, home, kitchen and cleaning.

“Our aspiration is to help our customer find the best versions, the most planet-friendly versions, of these products so they can make small swaps every single day that result in creating a larger and more positive environmental impact,” Singer said.

Behind the scenes, Package Free is looking into how products were made and their ingredients. “We’re doing a lot of that work so that the customer doesn’t have to,” Singer said. The business is meant to make sustainable shopping more aesthetically appealing, while using reclaimed and secondhand materials in stores.

Singer advises companies to think about the end of life for the products they are making.

“End of life solutions is a huge opportunity,” she said.

“We’re cleaning up a mess that’s continuously spilling out,” Singer said. What we need to do in terms of plastic pollution and environmental degradation is, we need to turn off the hose, we need to stop creating the problem in the first place.”

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