Have you ever watched something that profoundly impacted you? Erin Rhoads did – and it quite literally changed her life. After watching The Clean Bin project she began to not only notice the amount of single use plastic in her life, but also just how much our society has become accustomed – and reliant – on its throwaway culture.
Then and there she decided to change. Since then Erin began to take small steps to lessen her personal impact. She began to shop at farmers’ markets; buy her clothes secondhand; and became a whiz in the kitchen, making many of her own cosmetics and cleaning products from scratch while documenting her journey on her blog, The Rogue Ginger.
And, in the past year, Erin added motherhood and writing a book to that list! Needless to say I’m both amazed and inspired by this lady, so let me introduce you to Erin:
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m the curious lady behind one of Australia’s popular eco lifestyle websites, therogueginger.com I’m on a mission to redefine what is waste and how we can create less of it.
How did you start on your zero waste/plastic free journey?
The Rogue Ginger is my blog where I share how I attempt to live a plastic-free and zero-waste lifestyle. It did not originally start as a blog about reducing plastic and rubbish, but rather a travel blog! I became so passionate on the issue, soon the blog became a place to keep track of the changes I had made to reduce my rubbish.
My journey began when I found myself watching a documentary called the Clean Bin Project. Once the documentary had finished, I was shocked about the amount of plastic pollution affecting our oceans. I began to question my own indirect contribution to the issues and knew I wanted to reduce my plastic use, but did not know how or where to start. So I typed the question “how can I reduce my plastic,” in to a search engine and up popped Plastic Free July. I did the challenge for one month and saw many benefits beyond my reduction in plastic, that I decided to continue it. Here I am, six years later about to publish my first book ‘Waste Not’ sharing everything I’ve learnt.
Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself when you first began that journey?
Taking small steps is the way to do it. I am guilty of trying to make too many changes too quickly and have been left suffering from environmental guilt (feeling like you are not doing enough, so you give up). I have since learnt simple small steps that work well for my life, location and situation is the best way forward. My motto is to do the best with what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.
Your blog The Rogue Ginger is a wealth of information. Why did you decide to start documenting your journey?
I decided to document my journey as a reference for myself and to hold myself accountable. At the time there were not many blogs, especially by anyone living in Australia.
You’re now a mum as well. How have you had to adapt your zero waste practices (if at all) to co-exist with motherhood?
I haven’t had to adapt many of my zero waste practices to co-exist motherhood. If I’m ever stuck I’ll simply think back to how our great grandparents lived (and thrived). We chose to do baby-led weaning so this has helped us steer clear of packaged foods while keeping it simple for us. Borrowing toys from a toy library, choosing secondhand clothes, using cloth nappies are all ways to reduce rubbish with a baby and there are many parents who already participate in these practices too.
What’s one common misconception about the zero waste movement?
I think a lot of people feel to live zero waste it’s all about bulk food stores and keeping rubbish in a mason jar. It can, if that is how you wish to live your zero-waste life and is accessible to you, but there are so many other ways to reduce rubbish and they are not expensive. Mending clothing and our household items, buying secondhand, sharing or hiring items instead of buying new are all part of zero waste living and are affordable to most of us. Bulk food shopping is one small facet of a zero-waste lifestyle.
For people wanting to learn more, where would you recommend them starting?
Watch a movie like Bag It or The Clean Bin Project. Both are funny and accessible, not all doom and gloom. They show simple, meaningful changes do make a difference and also explain why its necessary. Then start looking at joining a local zero waste group in your city or state (I have a list on my blog). Connecting with like-minded individuals on the same journey is helpful especially when others around you are not interested.
You’re writing a book as well as looking after your baby – how do you find that elusive work/balance?
It has been a challenge. I’m a first time mother too, so while I’m trying to figure out the work balance I’m also figuring out the whole motherhood role too. Not one day is the same with a baby, it changes all the time. I found staying fluid and not having a strict routine has helped reduce the pressure.
What are your top 3 tips for someone wanting to reduce the plastic in their life?
I advocate starting with doing a challenge like Plastic Free July. You don’t have to do it in July, it could be any month. This will help learn to undo some habits picked up around single-use items like plastic bags, straws, coffee cups, takeaway containers. A challenge will help provide you with new habits. To me, I find habits to be the hardest thing to shift. Once you have new habits in place to choose reusables over single-use plastics then it will be easier to follow through with some other changes in the future. I’d also suggest looking into composting! Our bins are made up of over 40 per cent organic waste. If we all composted imagine how much less would be going to landfill!
There’s no doubt parenthood is great, but it can also be exhausting. What does self care look like for you?
I’m still trying to figure this one out!
What’s coming up for you in 2018?
Apart from my son’s first birthday which I’m very excited for, I’ll be releasing a book with Hardie Grant Publishers in July. The book is titled ‘Waste Not’ a practical guide to start tackling waste at your own pace.
What a powerhouse of inspiration!
All amazing imagery is from Erin’s instagram page. You can find Erin and a wealth of resources at: