Above: Blogger and author Erin Rhoads chats to Laura Bennett.
In her new book Zero Waste, eco-blogger Erin Rhoads says that every year, Australian households produce enough rubbish to fill a three bedroom home.
It’s a sobering statistic – but instead of feeling guilty about it, Erin wants us to feel motivated to make a change.
Living waste-free isn’t as hard as it sounds, she says. After all, it’s how our grandparents or great-grandparents lived, before the age of plastic and fast-consumables took hold. In her new book Waste Not, Erin (who blogs at The Rogue Ginger) outlines some of the simple ways we can be more conscious about what we buy—and what we throw away.
Rethink What you Buy and What You Bin
Chatting to Laura Bennett, Erin said her less-waste journey began about eight years ago when she held her first ‘Plastic Free July’ – a personal challenge to avoid single-use plastics, such as straws, bags, water bottles, takeaway food containers and coffee cups.
Now, living a life without throwing things away is second nature to her.
“To live a waste-free lifestyle is to rethink what is waste,” Erin said. “A lot of what we put into landfill sites or our bins every day, perhaps can go to other locations. For instance our food scraps. Our bins are made up of about 40 to 50 percent food scraps. If we started shopping a bit smarter and using up scraps, and doing things like composting, you’ll be able to divert half your bin away from landfill.”
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Erin also recommends repairing clothes, borrowing and sharing household items with family and friends, and buying food free of packaging.
“A lot of the stuff I talk about in my book is exactly how my great grandparents used to live,” Erin said. “We survived and thrived without any plastic packaging, by repairing things. There’s people out there who repair our clothes for a living and I happily take all my stuff there and get them fixed, and by doing that I’m investing in skills as well.”
When she’s out shopping, Erin has a set of principles she sticks to before buying anything. She calls it her ‘waste framework’.
“I think about, ‘Can I reuse this? Can I repair this? Could I give it to somebody else? Could I compost it? Do I really need this? A lot of us have fallen into not thinking before we make a purchase and before we throw it away.”
When Buying Less Means More Happiness
Since Erin changed to a waste-free lifestyle, she’s also changed pace.
“I’ve learnt to slow down and really think about things,” she said. “I feel like I’m not trying to keep up with everyone else.”
But she hasn’t had to give up things she loves; she still buys makeup and beautiful clothes, they’re just from ethical suppliers that use recyclable materials, non-toxic ingredients, and zero plastic. Even her wedding was zero-waste, with food scraps composted, items bought second hand, and friends contributing to her honeymoon instead of buying gifts.
This thoughtful way of living has made her much happier.
“We feel we have to keep up with our neighbours,” Erin says. “We’re chasing what is sold as happiness to us. It’s a false happiness. I find living with less and buying less stuff and investing in my community a bit more is where I’m finding my happiness.”