Erin Rhoads talks to us about rubbish living forever and freeing ourselves from the terrors of waste.
In the lead up to Earth Day on 22 April, we ruminate on the habits of our over-consumption. Our waste is immortal, and food and plastic powers its longevity. It’s also been a year since the Australian recycling system became an absolute dumpster fire (pun intended). These are indeed dark words.
But hold that dang door! Erin Rhoads is here to lead the charge – by challenging our waste habits and by encouraging us to reduce and reuse. Erin is the eco lifestyle extraordinaire known as The Rogue Ginger. On the cusp of launching her new book, she shares the people, projects and places that inspire her to be eco-friendly, and how we can create our own zero-waste kingdoms.
YFM: Earth Day is all about environmental awareness, including ending plastic pollution and educating and activating the environmental movement. Your ethos is all about reducing plastic and waste in our everyday lives, but you weren’t always The Rogue Ginger eco-lifestyle warrior we know and love. Can you tell us a little about your journey to become plastic-free and zero-waste?
ER: I had my eco wakeup in 2013 thanks to a recommendation from my sister to watch the documentary The Clean Bin Project. Before watching what was to be my first eco movie I wasn’t what you describe as environmentally friendly. I loved fast fashion and fast food, never thinking about my plastic use or what happens to my rubbish when it’s taken away. And that’s what I discovered, my rubbish doesn’t go away it’s simply moved somewhere else.
I signed up to Plastic Free July two weeks after watching the documentary determined to learn how to reduce the amount of plastic I was using. It turns out after doing a plastic-free challenge it’s hard to go back to a plastic life! I started shopping at bulk stores to reduce my packaging, switched my make up to refillable or homemade alternatives, started a compost, discovered easy to make home cleaning products, and made the decision to shop only secondhand. Along the way I wrote about my attempts to live a plastic-free, zero-waste and sustainable life on my blog www.therogueginger.com
YFM: Who are some other waste-free warriors that you draw inspiration from/that inspire you?
ER: Beth Terry the original plastic-free blogger, Ree from FortNegrita.com inspired me try living zero-waste, Rob Greenfield for his challenges (right now he’s growing and foraging 100% of all of his own food), John Francis lived car-free and silent for 17 years, the First Australians, this country’s original waste-free people, and of course Jen and Grant from The Clean Bin Project. I have many more yet to discover!
YFM: What do you find are the most common obstacles for people trying to reduce their plastic use? How can they overcome them?
ER: The number one obstacle is changing habits. The disposable bags, plastic containers, cups can all be replaced easily with reusable options. But it’s getting into the mindset of taking those reusables with us and learning to say no that is often the hardest.
I like to encourage people to use the calendar app on their phones to set up alerts to help remember and also putting visual reminders around the house. Before long you’ll come to expect those reminders and those new habits will be your new normal.
[Editor’s note: when you eat out, battle your waste habits by bringing your reusables to take home any leftovers; or bring them to your local butcher / chicken shop / fishmarket / greengrocer. First time? Swing that sword – the worst they can say is no!]
YFM: Tell us more about your new book! What can we expect?
ER: Waste Not Everyday is your step-by-step guide to simple lifestyle changes that will not only influence what you throw out but also have a genuine impact on the planet. Broken down into 365 for each day of year ideas inspire you to reduce, reuse and reconnect.
YFM: What is one of your go-to Melbourne restaurants or cafes that is plastic free?
ER: Moon Rabbit Cafe in Preston is a favourite of mine. They are not only plastic-free, but striving for zero-waste!
YFM: Earth Day is a great campaign to promote awareness about plastic pollution, but transitioning to a plastic-free and zero-waste life can be challenging, and many don’t know where to start. Can you give us a few pro tips to get people started on their journey and celebrate Earth Day?
- Halve your bin today by becoming a better food shopper. Our bins are made up of up to 40% food waste. Before leaving the house make a shopping list and don’t forget to look inside your fridge and fruit basket, so you’re not buying more of what is at home already. Writing a list and sticking to it helps us avoid reaching for food we don’t need.
- Starting new challenges are more fun when shared with others. Why not invite family and friends to make a pledge on Earth Day. It could be something as simple as no more plastic produce bags and learning to compost or starting a worm farm.
- Remember that you will probably forget to say no to the straw or the plastic bag at the beginning. But tomorrow is always a new day to start again.
- Plant trees with a local group or do an ocean clean up. You’ll meet like-minded people who share your same values.
More YFM articles to battle your waste habits
- What would Sarah Wilson do about food waste?
- How to rescue your food when your social life comes calling
- YFM food packaging hacks
- More from our SpoonLed series
Image credit: Erin Rhoads