In an exclusive interview with TreeHugger, the waste-free lifestyle pro explains what's gone into creating this unique shop.
Yesterday I wrote about Package Free, the zero-waste pop-up store coming to New York City this spring. It’s the innovative brainchild of Lauren Singer, of Trash is for Tossers fame, and Daniel Silverstein, a.k.a Zero Waste Daniel, a fashion designer who uses discarded textiles to create his funky clothing line. After publishing that introductory post, I caught up with Singer over email to learn more about the project firsthand. (Responses have been edited for length.)
TreeHugger: Has this project been in the works for a while?
Singer: Daniel and I have been friends for years which all started because I was in love with his clothing and begged him to let me wear it for my 23rd birthday. Three years later, we are still friends. We have both been involved in the zero-waste space for over five years now and realized that, while it is easy to live a zero-waste lifestyle, finding everything that you need to do it is not always so convenient. You have to go to lots of online stores to find the tools that you need.
TH: Are there any similar zero waste stores in NYC yet, or is this the first of its kind?
Singer: Package Free is the first such store in NYC, and maybe in the country, and maybe in the world! Most zero-waste stores integrate grocery, whereas Package Free is exclusively lifestyle-based. We have all the products and tools that you need to live a zero-waste lifestyle, ranging from reusable coffee cups and refillable dental floss to reusable toilet paper (yes, a thing!)
TH: Do you hope to open a permanent location, if the pop-up is successful?
Singer: Daniel and I started with a pop-up to test out this concept in NYC. Since the response is already incredibly positive, and Daniel and I work together so well, we are definitely open to creating a permanent location for Package Free after July 2017.
TH: Who will be teaching the on-site DIY classes?
Singer: At Package Free, we will offer a variety of classes, panels, and workshops to equip our customers with the skills they need to be successful. These include, but are not limited to, classes like soap-making, cooking, sewing, and more. We hope that Package Free will become a nucleus for the sustainable community.
TH: How did you select brands to feature?
Singer: I have personally used the products of every single brand that we’ve chosen to feature at Package Free. I have vetted and studied them extensively. To say that I am particular is an understatement. I chose these brands not just because their products are sustainable, but because each brand in the store is a problem-solving company.
For instance, Bureo, company that we are featuring, aims to reduce ocean plastic pollution and does so by making their products from reclaimed fishing nets. (Read TreeHugger’s article on Bureo.) Daniel's company, Zero Waste Daniel, uses discarded cutting room scraps destined for landfill, recovers them, and uses them to make his clothing.
Daniel and I believe in knowing your makers and we want every customer that comes to Package Free to learn about the incredible brands that we are featuring, connect with them personally, and create lasting relationships.
TH: How do you approach the issue of 'intrinsic' waste, i.e. the waste that is embedded in the production process or packaging before the item is displayed package-free on your shelves?
Singer: All brands at Package Free already have very strong plastic and waste reduction philosophies, which is what drew us to them in the first place. When we received samples from each of the brands, they were almost all packaged in recycled packaging with paper tape and paper wrapping.
With every one of our brands, if a product comes in packaging (i.e. because of FDA regulations), we take the responsibility upon ourselves as a store to ensure that it is recycled or composted properly, instead of putting that burden on our consumers. We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone that walks into Package Free to shop and walk out with tangible and simple ways to reduce their waste, not give them more waste to deal with. We truly want to show that living a zero-waste or low-waste lifestyle is simple, cost effective, fun, and sexy!