Mystery Guest

Feb 17, 2017
Originally published on July 7, 2017 8:09 am

This episode's Mystery Guest is Lauren Singer, who decided to change her life in a radical way while she was in college. Now she runs a blog that teaches people how to follow her lead. Ophira Eisenberg and guest musician Julian Velard ask yes or no questions to figure out what she did to change her life!

Heard on Roy Wood Jr.: Puzzle Banger After Banger

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit

JULIAN VELARD: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Julian Velard, here with puzzle guru Art Chung. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.



Thank you, Julian. Before the break, our contestant Nathan won his way to the final round at the end of the show. We'll find out a little later who he will face off against. But first, it's time for a game we call Mystery Guest. A stranger is about to come on stage. Julian and I have no idea who this person is or what makes them special. But our puzzle guru Art Chung does.

ART CHUNG: That's right. Ophira and Julian, you'll have to work together as a team to figure out our mystery guest's special secret by asking yes-or-no questions. Mystery guest, please introduce yourself.

LAUREN SINGER: I'm Lauren Singer. And in college, I decided to change my life in a pretty radical way.

CHUNG: That's right. And now she has a blog that tells people how to follow her lead. So, Ophira, you get to ask the first question.

EISENBERG: OK. In hindsight, was it a smart idea?


EISENBERG: OK. Did you change your diet?


EISENBERG: Is that just one part of it?



VELARD: Is what you do a recognized thing in terms of helping people in the medical field?



EISENBERG: OK. Do your parents think you're crazy?




VELARD: Do you require people to eat a lot of vegetables?

SINGER: Yeah - depends.

CHUNG: You don't have to.

EISENBERG: You don't have to?

CHUNG: That's not the main issue.

EISENBERG: OK. Do you forage and hunt for your own food?

SINGER: If I'm lucky.


SINGER: Sorry, that's not...

CHUNG: No, you can do that.

EISENBERG: I don't know. That's a crazy answer.

SINGER: (Laughter).

VELARD: Does what you have to do have anything to do with sustainability?


EISENBERG: Do you live off the grid?


EISENBERG: 'Cause you have a blog. You can't be off the grid if you have a blog.


EISENBERG: Off the grid but blogging.


EISENBERG: Do you live on a farm where, basically, you are growing and tending for all the food that you consume?

SINGER: (Laughter) No.

EISENBERG: That's a good idea, though.


SINGER: I wish. I wish.


VELARD: Do you teach people how not to create any waste with their food?


CHUNG: Yep. There you go. Yes.


SINGER: Wait, that's not all of it.

EISENBERG: Wait a second. So wait a second. You're saying that you create zero garbage?


EISENBERG: You create zero garbage?


VELARD: I never get it.

SINGER: That was such a leap. It was beautiful. That was so good.

CHUNG: OK. So Lauren's blog, Trash is for Tossers, is about living a sustainable lifestyle and generating as little trash as possible. Since 2012, the trash that she's been unable to reuse or recycle fits into a single mason jar. Lauren, can you tell the story of how you got - what inspired you to go to a zero-waste lifestyle?

SINGER: Yeah. I was at NYU and studying environmental science and was protesting against oil and gas a lot - anti-fracking. And my senior year of college, I was in my last class that I had to take. It was my environmental studies capstone course. And there was a girl in my class.

And every day, she would bring in this big, plastic bag full of - like, a plastic clamshell with food and a plastic fork and knife and a plastic drink. And she would eat everything and throw it in the garbage. And I thought she was, like, the worst thing that I'd ever seen. And then one day, I went home to make dinner. And I opened my fridge, and I saw that everything was packaged in plastic.

And, like, most of my clothes were made out of plastic, and most of my beauty products and cleaning products were packaged in plastic. And so I realized that if I were going to study the environment and protest for the environment - that I actually had to live that way. So I decided to start to live a zero-waste lifestyle. And it's been over four years.

EISENBERG: So how do you deal with, like, buying things that are so wrapped in paper and plastic and containers?

SINGER: I just try to avoid that as much as I can. I'll buy things secondhand. I buy my food package-free or in bulk or at the farmer's market. I buy all my clothing secondhand. So it's kind of just, like, think-ahead mentality.

CHUNG: But you also make your own products, too.

SINGER: I do make my own products, yeah. So I make my own, like, body lotion and deodorant. And I have a laundry-detergent company where I make my own laundry detergent.

EISENBERG: Really? What do you make laundry detergent out of?

SINGER: Baking soda, washing soda and Castile soap.

EISENBERG: And have you been able to then take this thing that you've done and make a business that sustains your lifestyle out of it?

SINGER: Two, yeah.


SINGER: My blog and my company, yes.

EISENBERG: So there you go. Even your...

SINGER: So my parents think I'm crazy, but they don't have to pay my bills.

EISENBERG: That's great.


VELARD: I can identify with that.


EISENBERG: I think we all can.


EISENBERG: If all of our listeners wanted to just do one thing to make a pretty substantial difference, what would you suggest?

SINGER: Anything that you can do is good. There's no, like, one size fits all. But, like, plastic water bottles or reusable bags or saying no to plastic straws or getting, like, a bamboo toothbrush - those are a couple. But on my blog, Trash is for Tossers, I have, like, a massive list of things that you can do that are super-easy, one-time changes that I think make a really big difference.

EISENBERG: So inspiring. Thank you so much.

SINGER: Thank you.

EISENBERG: Give it up for our mystery guest, Lauren Singer, everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF CARIBOU'S "LEAVE HOUSE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.