Each time I cook I am overwhelmed by the need to reduce waste in my home. Especially around food packaging. I feel completely defeated each time I do the weekly shop as the organic vegetables in the supermarket are pre-wrapped so I can not even use my reusable veg bags. Then there are the nuts and the seeds and well….. EVERYTHING! It’s time to make some serious consumer changes but I have no idea how to start so I decided to interview Erin Rhodes, who writes a  plastic-free and zero-waste lifestyle blog. She has been writing about how reducing plastic and rubbish created a happier and healthier life since 2013. She declares she has “learnt to eat real food, discovered new skills, cut down exposure to harmful chemicals, found joy in moments over things and simplified life while saving money.”

Hi Erin, Welcome to No Mum Is An Island. I am a great believer that no mum (or dad) should have to do everything herself, we can’t possibly know it all, and we need all the support we can get, there is a wealth of information out there to help us upgrade our parenting experience, to make our lives easier and this website is a hub for just that!  Many parents across the world are making decisions to upgrade their lives by cutting down on waste as they discover that recycling is no longer such a great option. You are a shining light for a surprising difficult reduced waste lifestyle choice so it is great to get to ask you some questions. 

You are an advocate for reducing, reusing & reconnecting. Zero-waste education & activism but why is it that we need to cut down our waste creation? 

The need to cut down on creating waste will help fight problems like climate change. A majority of the issues affecting our environment can be traced back to how much we buy. The thing is we are not in the habit of buying for it to last a long time, instead we buy items that are design to be thrown away then going back to the shops to buy another new item to replace the not so old one just put into the bin. There is so much waste created during the manufacturing of our stuff that you and I don’t see, but has some of the biggest impact. If we all started throwing away less then we wouldn’t need to mine for new materials to create new stuff. There would be less coal and gas required to manufacture and send everything around the world. The factories where our stuff is made uses huge amount of electricity for lighting, heading and air conditioning. Then there is the pollution and toxic run off that comes from mining and manufacturing.

Your efforts to reduce waste is really inspiring, it is a real challenge in a busy world where convenience packaging is a norm. What advice can you give to parents who are wanting to start to reduce their kitchen waste?

The kitchen is a great place to start changing habits around waste. Our bins are made up of 40% food waste. That’s almost half. Before leaving the house make take the time to make a meal plan and write shopping list. Don’t forget to look inside your fridge and fruit basket, so you’re not buying more of what is at home already to. Writing a list and sticking to it helps us avoid reaching for food we don’t need and impulse buying.

When at the shop look for how you can buy your food with the least amount of packaging, in particular plastic. Try shopping at a bulk food store where you can buy food without packaging. But if you don’t have that option consider choosing packaging that can be reused, before being composted or recycled. Take reusable produce bags or buy your fruit and vegetables loose too. Ask your local bakery to put a loaf of bread into a cloth bag instead of plastic. This one swap once a week with reduce 52 plastic bread bags and 52 plastic bread bag ties.

Should you end up with uneaten food and food scraps from cooking, then why not start a compost or worm farm. You can also try Sharewaste.com and connect with others who have the space to take your food scraps for their compost.

You highlight the importance of reducing your bathroom waste – you have gorgeous full-bodied red hair is it true that you wash it just in water? How long ago did you stop shampooing your hair and can you tell us more about your hair care routine?

I began transitioning away from shampoo in 2015 as an experiment to see if I really needed it. Turns out my hair does OK without shampoo. My routine is simple and affordable, which is always a plus of rethinking how much packaging I need too. I give my scalp a massage and a throughout brush every few days to help move the oil away from the scalp. When it wash day I’ll make some rosemary tea by steeping fresh rosemary sprigs in hot water. Rosemary helps to remove any build up, reduces scalp irritation and alleviate dandruff while promoting hair growth. I’ll spray that all over my hair before I get into the shower then use my fingers to scrub the scalp. And that’s it.

What are your top 10 zero waste items to help families cut down on their waste? 

  • Reusable shopping bags and produce bags
  • Compost bin or worm farm
  • Water bottles and the WeTap app to find local water fountains
  • Tupperware, pyrex or stainless steel to buy takeaway food. You might have some of these at home already hiding in your cupboard
  • Used glass jars for storing food
  • Wax food wraps are great for lunches or to wrap leftovers
  • Bamboo toothbrush. The bristles can be removed and the wooden part reused as a garden marker
  • Swap tissues for hankies
  • Switch out liquid soap for a bar of soap
  • Join a toy library and the local library

How can we speak to our children about waste reduction in a way that makes them realise the importance of this lifestyle change?

I think the key to helping our children understand why Mum and Dad are wanting to reduce their waste and plastic is to look for ways to start conversations that help children take responsibility so they feel their actions are import (which they are). Joining a beach or river clean is a hands on way to get those conversations going. Making it fun is also really important too. All human beings, but especially kids, learn more when a challenge is fun and interactive. Perhaps you can give the role of ‘Plastic Police’ or ‘Plastic Detectives’ to your children and it’s their job watch out for sneaky plastics turning up in the house and helping look for alternatives. Their are some great TV shows, movies and books popping up now too.

So exciting that you have your first book Waste Not is out! Waterstones burb described it as “One of the most substantial plastic reduction guides out there. Packed with practical tips on how YOU can reduce, reuse and recycle, not a single page in this book has gone to waste.”   what has been the biggest feedback from readers on the book? 

Thank you so much! I was very honoured by Waterstones review. So far the reviews that have excited me the most is when I hear that people have decided to start growing a garden or getting involved in their local community. Giving people the courage to speak up about issues when they previously would have been to scared is pretty amazing. We should never ever feel like our opinion don’t matter. Our actions and opinion will change the world for the better. I was also told that the book is the Barefoot Investor for those wanting to be more environmentally friendly. That was cool!


↓  Need some inspiration take a look at our book suggestions for Upgrading Your Home ↓