12 Jan 2019

Erin Rhoads: simple tips for reducing waste

From The Weekend, 8:40 am on 12 January 2019

Back in 2013, Erin Rhoads watched a Canadian documentary called The Clean Bin Project (about a couple living zero-waste) when she was home sick from work one day.

The Photo Studio Fitzroy

Photo: The Photo Studio Fitzroy 2018

"[That documentary] changed my life and set me on a new path exploring waste and plastics and just what I could do to make a difference," she says.

Erin now runs one of Australia's most popular eco-lifestyle website The Rogue Ginger and has written the book Waste Not.

Erin tells Charlotte Graham-McLay she wasn't always so well behaved and before 2013 was a big consumer of fast fashion and fast food.

"I thought there were other people looking after all this stuff and I could just wipe my hands of it, really."

Now, to avoid adding anything to landfill, she focuses on redesigning, rethinking, refusing, reusing, reducing, sharing, repairing and – as a last resort – recycling.

Erin usually carries Tupperware containers – for takeaway sandwiches, sushi or salad – reusable cups and beeswax wrap (instead of plastic wrap)

If a cafe doesn't want to put food straight in your container, she suggests asking for it to be transferred onto a plate you can fill your container from.

Or consider not taking your food anywhere.

"KeepCups are great, but how nice would it be to sit and enjoy your coffee or your sandwich? Take ten minutes for yourself. Maybe you can use that time to just put your phone down and have a think."

Erin finds her plastic-free beauty products – such as lipsticks in compostable cardboard – on the US-based website Etsy.

"My mascara, I buy in a little metal tin. I can buy it without needing to get a mascara wand. I've been using the same mascara wand for five years now."

Erin's tips: 

Don't be afraid to give feedback about packaging

If a food product you like is overpackaged write the company and tell them you love the food but suggest they could rethink packaging.

Do a 'plastic audit'

Lay a tarp down on your backyard the night before rubbish collection day and tip your rubbish out onto the tarp. Sort through and create little piles of food scraps, plastics, glass, etc and make a note of what you tend to accumulate a lot of.

For Erin, it was pasta boxes, so she now buys pasta in bulk.

"Just look for a theme and start making those changes slowly."

Write to councilors and politicians

"Contact them and say 'I would like to see you invest more money in setting up repair centres'."

Participate in a little bit of activism by 'being the change'

Beach and waterway cleanups are a form of activism, as are helping out with cloth bag programmes.

"There are so many ways that you can get involved. Once upon a time we thrived and survived without single-use plastics … Don't ever be afraid to voice your concerns."