Anne Hathaway's Taking on Film-Industry Pollution with Zero Waste Founder Lauren Singer

Badass Women celebrates women who show up, speak up, and get things done. Anne Hathaway and Lauren Singer are August 2019 InStyle Badass 50 honorees. 

Anne Hathaway - Lauren Singer
Photo: Getty Images, Courtesy

Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway has had a “major girl crush” on Trash Is for Tossers founder Lauren Singer, who first made headlines for fitting four years’ worth of waste into a single mason jar. The environmental advocate says a light bulb went off for her during her senior year of college when she started to evaluate how much plastic she was using. “Everything in my fridge, all of my beauty products, my cleaning products, and most of my clothing were packaged in or made of plastic. I was actively subsidizing the industries that I was against,” she says. “Living a zero-waste lifestyle was the perfect way for me to align my day-to-day actions with my values connected to environmental sustainability.”

Becoming a mom in 2016 was the ah-ha moment Hathaway says pushed her to more critically consider the long-term consequences of the things she consumed. That’s about when she found Singer on Instagram. The actress says she was then inspired to start going through her home, room by room, to search for areas where she could eliminate or limit her use of harmful materials that take thousands of years to decompose. Now with a new baby on the way, which the actress announced on Instagram last week, Hathaway is ready to make zero-waste an even bigger part of her life and her career.

Below, the duo chat about waste, the environment, and their plans to make a difference for InStyle’s third badass women-dedicated issue.

Anne Hathaway: I want to talk about how we can rebound the motion-picture industry because it’s one of the worst polluters on the planet. While working on The Hustle, I noticed disposable coffee cups, plastic water bottles, idling trucks, and food waste. When I finished the film, my family and I went zero waste. I’m actually putting together an environmental rider too.

Lauren Singer: I’m so on board with that! There has to be a way to compost on set. I’ll brainstorm.

AH: I think while we're trying to put pressure on industries to do a better job of not putting toxic products that are terrible for the environment out there in the first place, the best thing we can do is take responsibility where we can. I see these opportunities where I'm just like, okay, you get everyone a zero-waste kit at the beginning of a film. And we hire environmental PA's or something to maintain the kits and use reusable coffee cups for all of us, for example, when they go on runs. Now I say if you can remember your keys and phone in the morning, you can remember a reusable coffee cup and water bottle.

LS: Totally. That’s what makes you a badass. You saw a problem in the world and did something about it. I’m proud that I take responsibility for my planet and show people they can change the world. I also feel powerful going into boardrooms with 30 men on behalf of my companies, Package Free and The Simply Co., saying, “I’m going to take the money that 94 percent of you get in venture capital and redistribute it to my staff of 96 percent females.”

AH: Betting on yourself to start a business at the age that you did, turning your passion into action in a demonstrable, physical, and economic way — it changed my life. I think that's really badass. It’s funny.When I was in my twenties like you, I thought that a badass woman was someone who could do anything, who was powerful, who always spoke her mind, and you never saw the effort, you never saw the strings. I’m in my 30s and I've never met anyone like that. I've seen people with really good PR. [laughs] But, now I think badass women are people who know how to get up. They take pain and find the wisdom inside of it. Every single woman I know does that. We don't stop. And that’s why I think the environmental movement is going to work.

LS: It’s such a mother energy thing. Women are so aligned with being stewards of the planet.

AH: It’s about being conscious that the way I choose to live my life is going to have repercussions for somebody else, like our children. I mean, I think the most badass thing I’ve ever done is give birth.

LS: That’s my next goal. I want a baby.

AH: Oh, I cannot wait until you become a zero-waste mom! I have so many questions. I’m never going to be the mason-jar girl. [laughs] But I do feel a oneness with things that I haven’t felt before — even when I was a vegan. Still people looking in at a zero-waste lifestyle probably think it seems arduous. But what is a zero-waste pleasure of yours?

LS: Well Saturday is my favorite day of the week because I bring my compost to the farmer's market. I get to really be in touch with time because I eat locally and seasonally. And I love to go secondhand shopping.

AH: What pisses you off?

LS: Greenwashing. When companies make products that seem sustainable but aren’t. I deal with it by making better, cheaper, and cooler products. My goal is to make things like toothpaste, razors, and soap with no plastic packaging, no synthetic ingredients, and no waste. Even if you don’t give a shit about sustainability, what you buy will already be made with it in mind.

AH: What are the hardest working zero-waste products that you use?

LS: My favorite is a menstrual cup. De-stigmatizing menstrual cups is a massive goal of mine. You save upwards of $4,000 over the course of using it for the 10 years that they're supposed to last, and it's a onetime purchase of $39. Upfront, it seems more expensive, but there's an exponentially lower risk of getting toxic shock syndrome or any kind of STI that's made possible from taking a dry tampon out and getting micro-tears that make you more susceptible to infection. It's a much more equitable product. It can be washed. I want every menstruating person to have one.

AH: Practical question: How do you clean it when you're out in the world?

LS: You can pee, you can poop, you can do everything, and you don't have to remove it in between. It fills up and it lasts pretty much all day. When I get home from work, I'll take it out and rinse it. Worst case scenario, you just wash your hands before you pop it out, dump it in the toilet, and then you can put it back in. You don't even have to wash it or rinse it every time.

AH: I know some of this stuff, like getting really jazzed about menstrual cups, seems a little weird and crunchy and granola. [laughs] I get it. But everybody should give it a try. Because it starts to make sense the more you do it. I mean I grew up in the ’80s, and filling your house with new stuff was a big thing. But now, as a mom, it’s important to me that products I buy don’t end up as something my son trips over in the future and says, “What the eff is that? Why is that here?”

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