Erin Rhoads has been been writing about her zero waste life since 2013, sharing how she reduced plastic and her rubbish, leading to a happier and healthier life. Through Erin’s pursuit to live plastic-free and zero-waste, she learnt to eat real food, discovered new skills, cut down her exposure to harmful chemicals, found joy in moments over things and simplified her life, while saving money. Erin is on a mission to engage with individuals to redefine what is waste and how we can create less of it. She was a consultant on ABC’s War on Waste; shares skills and practical help to hundreds at workshops, talks and forums; helps organise and assist environmental action groups and co-founded Zero Waste Victoria and Plastic Bag Free Victoria. Her first book Waste Not: Make a big difference by throwing away less was released July 2018. Find out more at her website here.
What motivated you to start your blog, The Rogue Ginger, and did you have any idea it would lead you to become an author and prominent commentator on zero-waste living?
My blog began in January 2013 with the intention to document my new life in Melbourne as I had recently moved to the city. Six months later I watched my first eco documentary The Clean Bin Project which I shared on the blog. For those who haven’t seen it, the documentary follows a couple from Vancouver as they battle it out to see who can produce the least amount of rubbish over one year. The movie had a profound impact on me, soon after I couldn’t stop seeing plastic everywhere in my life and decided I needed to reduce too. I signed up for my first Plastic Free July, documenting it along the way, and haven’t stopped! I never once expected someone who was once a climate change denier that spent her spare time buying fast fashion and a lot of fast food to be writing a guide book on how live zero-waste..
Your new book, Waste Not Everyday, offers 365 ways to reduce, reuse and reconnect and offers daily inspiration for a year of zero-waste living. What do you consider the most important first step for a family wanting to live a life with less waste and more meaning?
Up to 40% of what we are putting into our bins is organics, like food waste. That’s almost half of our bins. If we started reducing the amount of food in our bins then our landfills would also halve in size. Looking at our food, especially how we shop, is a great first step. 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. Look for recipes that will encourage you to use up the whole vegetable and try using up scraps for making homemade stocks. For any remaining food waste start a compost or worm farm. Your council might even take food scraps in the green organics bin, so double check. If you don’t have space for a compost or worm farm sign up with ShareWaste.com, to link you with people in your neighbourhood that will accept it. Our food scraps don’t break down in landfill properly because therE is not enough of oxygen and microrganisms to help. It becomes a sludgy liquid while creating methane gas. By composting our food waste we are also putting nutrients back into our soil and food.
How much of your time is taken up with research and keeping up to date with the latest environmental findings?
A lot less these days as there is so much more being reported by the media compared to when I started on my zero-waste journey. The information is much easier to navigate, which is great! Of course this also means we all need to be critical and make sure the right information being released by say a scientific journal is not being watered down in the wrong way by larger media outlets.
What would you be doing if you weren’t writing books and promoting awareness about our need to think about the future of our planet?
Most likely I would be working as a graphic designer which is what I was doing until I had my son. I imagine I’ll return to this field at some point in the future, but maybe for an organisation or not for profit in the environmental area. Writing books has been a lovely adventure but it doesn’t cover the rent or put food on the table.
Were there any obstacles on your path to publication?
The biggest obstacle was trying to figure out what to include in both books. I wanted to make the information easy to understand and accessible no matter where you live. I hope this was achieved!
How involved have you been in the development of your books?
My publisher and editor at Hardie Grant were very supportive and we worked closely on the books from development through to the printing. Together we looked at ways to keep the production as low waste as possible.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life?
Being able to help others and the environment is the best aspect.
Trying to find the time with a vivacious two year old!
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it?
I have the opposite! There are too many ideas in my head and sitting in draft documents ready to be put into the world.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer and speaker?
I wish I had done a class on public speaking. I get so nervous wondering if how I’m delivering information is actually the best way. It’s still on my list to do. As for writing, I’m not sure what I would do differently. Probably just write more because I enjoy it so much.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
Don’t compare yourself to others. Whether it’s writing or if you are making eco changes in your life. Everyone is different and just because someone is doing it one way doesn’t mean it will suit yours.
How important is social media to you?
Depends on the social media – I love Facebook because of the communities that can form through Facebook groups. I’ve watched fantastic initiatives spring up to become helpful tools used widely not only in Australia but across the world. There is also the support Facebook communities can offer too.
What do you read for enjoyment? Favourite books/authors?
I recently finished Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (which I loved!) and am currently reading Island by Alistair MacLeod. This has been hard to put down. Unfortunately when I try to read anything my son will want me to read his books instead. His current pick is Truck Truck Goose.
What is your top tip for anyone wanting to write a non-fiction book?
Plan, plan, plan! Remember you’re writing to help your audience understand a subject so think back to how much you didn’t know before becoming an “expert” on the subject. I constantly asked myself what kind of book I would have liked at the beginning.
Now for a little light relief – If you were stuck in a stalled lift for several hours, who would you choose to share the experience with you and why?
Scott Morrison – hopefully by the end of the experience he would be a waste warrior and ready to turn Australia into a circular economy!
Waste Not Everyday
Suited to those who are interested in taking their first steps towards a zero waste lifestyle, this book is a lighter, easier approach to Erin’s first and more in depth book, Waste Not. Also makes a great gift for friends and family looking for a simple introduction to the concept of zero waste.
Would you like to throw away less? Do something for the planet? But not ready to dive straight into composting or go totally plastic-free yet? Waste Not Everyday is your step-by-step guide with 365 easy changes that will not only influence what you throw out but also have a genuine impact on the future of our planet.
Split into four easy-to-follow parts, Waste Not Everyday features simple tips that will lead to a real shift in thinking and action and show you that a zero-waste lifestyle is actually achievable – for everyone, every budget and every schedule. With tips ranging from actions and inspiration to recipes and resources, Erin takes you on a gentle journey towards a life with less waste and more meaning.
It is available from the following links: