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23-Year-Old Hasn't Produced Any Garbage in Two Years

Like most young people today, Lauren Singer is aware of her environmental impact. She pursued environmental studies at New York University and took a job as a sustainability manager for the New York City Department of Agriculture. But Singer, 23, has gone far beyond most when it comes to sustainable living. She has adopted a zero-waste lifestyle. For the last two years, Singer has amassed only a mason jar's worth of trash.

"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," said Lauren Singer. Photo credit: Trash is for Tossers blog

Singer has documented her zero-waste living, which requires eschewing anything that will end up in a landfill or can't be composted, on her blog, Trash is for Tossers. She felt like a hypocrite sitting in her environmental classes listening to professors talk about the "importance of living your values" and it made her question her own environmental impact, according to her blog. Then, she learned about a family in California calling themselves the Zero Waste Home and she thought if they can do it, so can she.

Her blog documents her "zero waste journey" and she hopes it will "show that leading a zero waste lifestyle is simple, cost-effective, timely, fun and entirely possible for everyone and anyone," she said on her blog. "If I can do it, anyone can!"

This is how much trash Singer has amassed in two years. Photo credit: Trash is for Tossers blog

But the young post-grad doesn't just go without common household products like toothpaste or deodorant. She makes her own. Her blog offers recipes on everything from toothpaste to drain cleaner to cold brew coffee. She also offers suggestions of alternative products for everything you could imagine from personal care products to kitchen supplies. She lays out the problem with disposable, chemical-leaden plastic products and recommends items to buy that are reusable and compostable.

When she goes to the store, she brings reusable bags, but also organic cotton drawstring bags and mason jars which she uses to avoid plastic packaging. She recently challenged her friend, Lee Tilghman, dubbed the 'Smoothie Bowl Queen' by Free People, to make a zero-waste smoothie bowl. She documented the experience on her blog and the smoothie bowl looks delicious.

Zero waste smoothie bowl made by Lauren Singer and her friend, Lee Tilghman. Photo credit: Trash is for Tossers blog

Her lifestyle is a testament to the fact that sustainable living doesn't have to be super challenging or mean you live a boring, sad 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," Singer told AOL.

And she says it doesn't have to be expensive. "It's so funny how that narrative caught on that living sustainably is like a 'rich white people thing,'" she said to AOL. "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."

The young New Yorker has quit her job at the Department of Agriculture and launched The Simply Co. She created a sustainable cleaning product line for people who want the products that she makes, but who don't feel they have the time to make these products themselves. She surpassed her $10,000 Kickstarter goal by $31,000 and she now has 1,000 orders of natural three-ingredient laundry powder to fill.

"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 told AOL. "Ultimately, my goal is for people to realize that you don't need toxic chemicals to clean your home." She acknowledges not everyone will adopt a zero waste lifestyle, but she says everyone can waste less. "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."

Singer recently launched her own YouTube channel, where she provides "DIY recipes, Zero Waste tips and sustainability tricks in order to live a waste-free or low-waste life."

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."