It is only a short time now until Womadelaide 2017! We are so excited about the entire weekend and one of my personal favourite parts (aside from the great music, the dancing, the people, the food, the trees, the time with family!) is the line up at The Planet Talks. The Rogue Ginger is a blog where creator Erin Rhoads shares stories and tips about how she lives plastic-free and zero waste. It did not originally start as a blog about reducing plastic and rubbish, but rather a travel blog! She is speaking alongside a fabulous panel and we are having a chat about how to reduce your waste and what her journey has been like.
When and how did you decide to go waste free?
It was the documentary, Clean Bin Project, that prompted me to start reducing my plastic. 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,” into internet search 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.
What does waste free mean? Do you create absolutely zero waste? Does it make a difference if you reduce your waste by even a small amount?
Zero waste and waste free is impossible to achieve in our society, unless you move out to the bush and go completely self sufficient. Our economy is linear, not circular, meaning most of the items made for consumption are designed to end up in landfill. Living zero waste is the aspiration or attempt, to create as little waste as possible as a consumer by following the philosophy of rethinking, refusing, reusing, reducing, repairing, rot and recycling as a last resort.
Any attempt to reduce waste, even by a small amount, does help.
Not only does it cut down on what is sent to landfill, our choices send a message to businesses and to our community. Something as simple as saying “no plastic bag, I have my own” could inspire a person in the checkout behind you or friends and family to make changes too.
We tend to take the approach at Recycled Interiors of encouraging people to take small steps, gradually increasing their focus on making changes – do you think there is a bit of a guilt trap that can make people turn off if we ask them to do too much?
Yes! I agree, small steps is the way to do it. I am guilty of have 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), because I forgot my reusable water bottle or someone gave me a plastic straw. I have since learnt simple, small steps that work well for your life, location and situation is the best way forward. My motto is to do the best with what you can, where you are, for yourself.
Can you give us some insight into how you manage to create so little waste and some top tips for people that they could do right away?
Australian household bins are made up of 40-50% food waste. If we all started composting, this act alone would reduce what goes to landfill dramatically. Most local councils have composting initiatives, so give them a call. Or you can check out my post on different ways to compost, in any space (http://www.therogueginger.
Some other tips include:
- Invest in reusable shopping bags
- Take a water bottle with you and don’t buy plastic bottle water
- Say no to plastic cutlery
- Ask for no straw when getting a drink.
- Buy you bread in a cloth bag from a local bakery You can take your own and we have some here in our store
- If you have a local farmer’s market, check them out. They are one of the best places to get unwrapped vegetables and fruit
- Try shopping at a bulk food store or bulk co-op
I live with type 1 diabetes and multiple chronic conditions needing all sorts of medical waste – do you have any thoughts about reducing waste in areas such as medicine? (I cringe every time I have to toss my insulin pump supplies for example!)
I too have to take medication, and while there is so much waste in the medical industry, I don’t believe we should try to avoid it. Especially if it is needed! Plastic has done so much for the health industry; it has made medicine available to more people, allowed advancements to improve lives. However, there are initiatives like Insulin For Life that send surplus insulin to people in need and Vinyl Council Australia also recycle hospital waste where they can.
What are the top 3 areas that cause waste in our every day and how can we change that? Why does it matter?
Food waste is the biggest contributor to everyday waste, followed by single use plastics. We can change this by making simple swaps.
If you are someone who loves to get a takeaway coffee, try sitting in or taking a reusable cup. It could be a mug from the office! It matters because if we don’t start making changes, then industry is going to assume we are happy to continue this way. We as consumers help to dictate trends. The power is in our wallets.
There are so many things we can do to make a difference to the planet. What made you choose this particular path?
It all comes down to responsibility. When I first learnt about plastic pollution, I realised that it is my responsibility and not the next generations. They will be the ones who have to deal with it all, and I did not believe that to be fair. Nobody likes to clean up after someone else!
Do you have any ideas about what the future could look like if we started to lessen our waste? What kinds of interesting ideas are people coming up with?
I think the future would look kinder if we all took the time to step back and reassess our habits as consumers. Every action has a reaction in this world. We get to choose how and where things are made, the conditions they are made under and what happens to them at the end of their life. At the moment, too much of the planet and people on it, are exploited for an assumed convenience. Taking a moment to think about what we spend our money on or where an item will end up, can help us rethink what kindness truly means.
There are so many ideas people are working on to reduce waste. The Phillipines are one of the biggest farmers of pineapples, but the leaves have always gone to waste. So someone decided to turn that into a vegan leather. How cool is that? Another group in Indonesia is using tofu waste to make a fabric. Here in Australia we have the Boomerang Bag initiative that is popping up everywhere. Every day I learn of a new initiative being developed to address the problem of waste, in a range of sectors.
You have a baby on the way (congratulations!!) – what has it been like considering zero waste when you are pregnant and then planning for when you have a child and do you have tips for managing that?
Thank you! It was hard at the start, as I was very ill. I have taken it all slowly, doing what is best for me and my needs. When you are responsible for the growth of another human being, you kind of need to do that.
Getting our baby room ready, finding clothing etc has been a breeze zero waste as there are so many second hand options out there. And it’s much cheaper too! Everything in our baby room has been donated or sourced from people that used it already. I also have a toy library near us, and I look forward to exploring that rather than buying new toys. We will also be doing cloth diapers too. I’m trying not to plan too much as we don’t know what to expect once the baby is born. If anyone is interested in following along on that journey, you can expect a lot of posts on my blog soon.
What are you going to talk about at Womadelaide?
I will be on a panel with people from different industries chatting about the I in climate change and what we can do as individuals, while working with governments, big business, scientists, environmentalists and economists. It’s time to remind the individual of their voice and power!