23-year-old hasn’t produced any trash in two years

This post by CHELSEA HUANG originally appeared on Aol.com.
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At first glance, Lauren Singer seems like a typical 23-year-old post-graduate living in New York City. Clad in slouchy black slacks, black crop top and leather moto vest, Singer’s style is congruent with her stylish one-bedroom apartment in a South Williamsburg development.

But a closer look beyond the shabby-chic decor and fresh flora revealed something unexpected. A small mason jar filled with a few colorful wrappers and bits of plastic sat behind her atop the pristine, white kitchen counter.

“It’s been two years, and that’s my trash,” she said with a smile.

Singer has barely produced any garbage since she began subscribing to a zero-waste lifestyle two years ago, which meant eliminating anything that will end up in a landfill or can’t be composted from her day-to-day –- a process she’s documented in detail on her blog Trash is for Tossers.

As an environmental studies major at New York University, she felt like a “hypocrite” for promoting sustainability but having an apartment full of plastic packaging. She decided to remove plastic from her life altogether — a drastic choice many might find impossible.

“Quitting plastic wasn’t just reducing the amount I used. It actually meant eliminating a lot of the plastic that I was buying, so not buying things like toothpaste or deodorant packaging,” she said.

That meant finding alternatives to everyday items and making a lot of them herself. Her bathroom is now lined with mason jars of different sizes filled with various homemade products, and her refrigerator is filled with organic, perishable items. She also makes secondhand purchases to avoid any firsthand packaging.
Despite her unique lifestyle, Singer said she hasn’t really changed, even though stigmas might suggest otherwise. She’s just found alternative means to live her existing life.

“You don’t have to be a stereotype of anything to live a sustainable lifestyle. My style is the same. My taste is the same. I enjoy the same things. I just don’t make trash.”

Plus, it’s not a pricy way to live, despite what many people might think.

“It’s so funny how that narrative caught on that living sustainably is like a ‘rich white people thing.’ It’s not the case at all. I spend like $20 to $25 a week now on everything that I need from the farmer’s market,” Singer said.

Don’t expect Singer to get preachy, though.

“Being an environmental studies major you learn quickly that nobody likes being told what to do. I learned really fast to not tell people how to live because they’ll never change or learn from you,” she said.

Instead, Singer started her blog and a newly-launched YouTube channel to present her lifestyle in a way that’s really easy for people to understand, digest and “do on their own time.” But she’s also noticed her own day-to-day behavior spark a dialogue with friends and family.

“Even just by living my values, it’s making a difference and inspiring them to make changes. I have friends who started shopping bulk or going to farmers markets or carry mason jars around,” she said. “But I never asked them to do that.”

She also recalled a recent date in which she ordered a cocktail with “no straw and no napkin,” and her date followed suit.

Although she has already made an impact, the young professional quit her job as a sustainability manager for the New York City Department of Agriculture to “do something more.”

Singer left her position and launched The Simply Co. in October 2014, a sustainable home cleaning goods line inspired by the products she makes and uses in her own home with ingredients and quality she can control.

The idea sparked when friends and family started asking her for recommendations for safe and non-toxic cleaning products. After scouring store shelves and the Web, Singer couldn’t find one product that she felt comfortable recommending because most of them contained toxic, carcinogenic chemicals or were not low-trash.

“People deserve to know what’s in their products that they’re putting in their homes, that are touching their bodies, that are going on their clothes and into the water into the environment,” she said. “I wanted to provide people with the products I make for myself because I think chemicals should have no place in our homes.”

Singer has received a very positive response to her effort to provide clean, safe organic cleaning products for people who want it. Her Kickstarter campaign exceeded her $10,000 goal considerably, reaping $41,000.

The green entrepreneur now has 1,000 orders of natural three-ingredient laundry powder to fill, in addition to laundry balls, the reusable and sustainable equivalent to dryer sheets. Although the goal for any business is to sell units, Singer has a broader outlook.

“It’s not the typical business model, but I kind of wish that everyone would make their products, which is to say that I wish that my business model didn’t have to exist,” she said. “Ultimately, my goal is for people to realize that you don’t need toxic chemicals to clean your home.”

As Singer continues to spread the green message, she acknowledges that diving into a total zero-waste lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but small steps like bringing reusable cutlery to work and carrying a reusable bag can have a big impact.

“It is possible to not produce trash. It’s definitely possible to produce less trash. Living sustainably is so stigmatized in a negative way — but this is everybody’s earth.”

Check out Trash is for Tossers to learn more about your zero-waste options.

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Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s Pregnancy Announcement Shares Honest Truth: Guilt After Miscarriage

This post by  appeared in Yahoo! Health on July 31, 2015.

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Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, on Friday announced that they are expecting a baby girl — and the couple is thrilled.

But it has not been an easy journey to joy.

The Facebook founder and CEO opened up about the pair’s painful process to conceive, including three miscarriages. “You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child,” he explained in a Facebook post. “You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience. Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you — as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.”

These feelings of anguish and guilt are common in couples who miscarry, says counselor and psychologist Karla Ivankovich, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois, Springfield. “As with any loss, grief is a normal process,” she tells Yahoo Health. “Most individuals will go through the stages of grief and loss, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.”

But mothers, especially, are vulnerable to feelings of depression, guilt, and inadequacy, says Ivankovich. “Miscarriage happens at a time when women are already emotionally vulnerable as a result of the hormonal shifts taking place within the body during pregnancy,” she explains. “Just because there has been a spontaneous termination of the pregnancy, it doesn’t change the significant hormonal shifts. And the postpartum experience can exacerbate these feelings of sadness and grief and, for many, guilt.”

Would-be mothers often turn over how they might have “done something different” to prevent the loss. “This thinking, that the loss could have been controlled, is what results in a sense of guilt,” says Ivankovich. “She might experience anger with herself, as well. How could she let this happen, because a mother’s body is a safe haven for the growing fetus? She may feel that she was unable to protect her child.”

Ivankovich calls this the “mother bear mentality,” which starts the moment a woman learns she’s pregnant. Really, miscarriage can be a perfect storm for women, and it can touch men, as well. Often, both halves of a couple privately wonder if a genetic abnormality on their part is to blame for the loss, if they aren’t able to conceive — but often men and women just need to know they’re not alone in their loss.

It’s easy to internalize a loss as intimate as an unborn child, but Ivankovich says opening up to friends, family, and your significant other helps in the healing process. “Having a strong support structure in place allows the parents to share their feelings of loss, grief, shame, guilt, and talk even about the future,” she explains. “Communicating about the loss allows the couple to feel heard.”

Zuckerberg and Chan found sanctuary in their inner circle. When they told friends about their struggle with miscarriages, the problem was suddenly a universal one — not so individual. “We realized how frequently this happened,” he writes, “that many people we knew had similar issues and that nearly all had healthy children after all.”

Knowing supportive friends and family members who have walked the path, and are now on the other side, can be huge. “In these situations, individuals can offer empathetic support instead of just sympathetic support,” Ivankovich says. “They can guide the person, or a couple, back to a hopeful state. They can help them feel that life will return to a sense of normalcy.”

There is no timeline for dealing with a miscarriage. Ivankovich says some people move rapidly through the stages of grief, others take a few months. But if you’re struggling to cope with the loss, feel disconnected from others, or can’t function normally day to day, seek help. Individual, couple, or family therapy can all be effective, as well as a blend of psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Just don’t isolate. Don’t go it alone. Take it from Zuckerberg. “In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together,” he writes. “It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.”

Zuckerberg says Chan is far enough along in her pregnancy that the risk of another miscarriage is quite low, so they are feeling more hopeful than ever. Like many couples who have suffered a previous loss, they’re planning to celebrate the birth of a little girl in just several months’ time.

Even in the wake of past sadness, there’s hope and happiness in what’s ahead.

Our Evolving Ethics on Animals

This post by Derek Beres originally appeared in Big Think.
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As did murder. In his cover story for the latest Scientific American, “The Most Invasive Species of All,” Curtis W. Marean discusses the intense cooperation that took place for humans to emerge at the top of the animal kingdom. This involved killing off any animal that didn’t look like us, even those we were close to. He writes,

Neandertals were perceived as a competitor and threat, and invading modern humans exterminated them. It is what they evolved to do.

Ever since, humans have done the same to any threatening species, any that provided food. Somewhere along the way — perhaps it was early on — our ancestors also started killing for sheer pleasure. When the hunt was no longer necessary, we still hunted. The quest for protein became a quest for trophies.

Last week’s outrage over the killing of Cecil was tragic, given how photogenic the lion was — we certainly are in love with pictures — but what it wasn’t was surprising. Trophy hunting has gotten a bad rap recently, though at the same time, (predominantly) white Americans who can afford tens of thousands of dollars to chase down animals with the help of rangers has been going on for decades, if not centuries. I’m never sure why one animal sets off our cultural trigger while thousands of others do not, but such is the case.

Turn the other cheek? Hardly. My social media feed was filled with vitriol and disgust to the point of violence. Many wished the dentist/hunter harm, death, jail, unemployment — his Yelp page has turned up a barrage of negative reviews, which, like it or not, has nothing to do with his dentistry. We take twisted pleasure in seeking justice, even if we never leave our living room to actually do anything about it. Laptop as soapbox.

The story disturbed me as well, the way that the death of any animal for pleasure is troubling. But we have this genetic inheritance for murder that extends far beyond killing our cousins. The Gadhimai temple in southern Nepal, for example, has a twice-a-decade ritual slaughter that in 2009 saw the death of 500,000 buffaloes, chickens, goats, and others. The festival, it was just announced, is done with the killings after its 2014 edition.

While that fete’s demise points to progress, the 10,000 dogs killed each year in Yulin will see no such fortune. Activism has ramped up — man’s best friend tugs at our heartstrings more than chickens and goats — whenever I tell someone about this festival, their disgust is palpable. The growing outrage is part of the understanding that we needn’t kill a sizable portion of the 56 billion land animals that die for our sustenance and kicks each year. At the moment, that equals eight animals for every human (not including sea life).

Yes, most other animals kill for survival, but humans take unique joy in murder that far surpasses evolutionary necessity. There’s a large disparity between taking out the Neandertals to capture land and aiming a gun or bow at a lion so you can put its head on your wall. The “spiritual” argument holds little weight: One ranger on the Cecil hunt stated that it is an honor for an animal to be killed in such a way. Easy to say if you’re not the animal being tracked, slowly dying over 40 hours.

The separation between our reality and the reality of the rest of animal life — the “man given dominion” nonsense — is a façade that’s slowly eroding. Killing other animals for survival is part of our heritage. You can argue whether or not it’s necessary in this day and age — I have my thoughts on it, but that’s not the point — but hunting for a perverse sense of superiority or some weird spiritual connection — I wrote about Christian hunting on this site before — we will hopefully evolve out of.

The signs are pointing in the right direction. The pleas for justice over Cecil’s death are part of a larger movement as we, as a species, move toward a stronger connection with the Earth that birthed us. Climate change has helped us understand that the planet’s resources are not something we can easily lord over without consequence. We’ve played that role atop the animal kingdom for 50,000 years now, and the shift away from it is a most welcome one.