organics

Guest blog #2: The Rogue Ginger writes about living plastic and waste free

Erin Rhoads, aka the Rogue Ginger, has lived plastic and waste free for over a year. She writes a popular blog about her experiences, offering cool-as tips and techniques to reduce plastic usage and overall waste in our everyday lives. We've asked Erin to shed some light on how she does it. 

By Erin Rhoads

I blog about plastic and waste free living and have been invited to write on the Sustain Me Blog ‘Sustainable Living’ about the consequences of irresponsible plastic use. 

I can hear you ask ‘What is irresponsible plastic use?’ I consider irresponsible plastic use as most of our day to day items, that are not needed. The throwaway stuff.  I am not anti plastic, simply anti the misuse of plastic. Plastic has made vast contributions to medicine, improving the quality of life for many people. Something like a throw away plastic straw, has not made much of a contribution other than continued pollution.  

Recently, there was a story in news of a turtle, with a plastic straw lodged in its nasal cavity. The images were devastating. Stories like this, and many others, are what prompted me to start fighting the misuse of plastic. If we are going to use up a valuable resource like oil, why waste it on a plastic straw?  

Our oceans are filling up with plastic. According to analysis by Project MainStream, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean. The affects will be felt across the world if we don't do something now.  

Living plastic free all began with one step. It can be hard to eliminate plastic all in one go, but here's a couple steps for you to reduce unsustainable plastic use. 

SIP WITHOUT THE PLASTIC 

Saying NO to plastic straws takes practice and if you don't remind the waiter you might end up with a useless plastic stick in your drink. Yuck! Here is a handy tip: when the waiter takes your order ask them to write down your request. Some drinks call for straws so why not invest in a reusable straw. I carry one around with me (including a spoon, fork and knife).

If you enjoy going strawless encourage your local cafe to put the straws under the counter. Then ask the cafe to only give out straws if patrons ask. 

NO MORE PLASTIC BAGS 

Many supermarkets now offer their own reusable bags. If you don't already have some then I suggest purchasing a couple. I also carry a fold up bag in my handbag for moments when I need a bag. Human beings have been living without plastic bags for hundreds of years. Reuse a bag and let's save our rivers and oceans from them. 

SAY NO TO PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES 

If you are serious about lessening the impact of plastic in your life then you will want to invest in a refillable bottle. I have had no trouble asking for cafes and restaurants to fill up my bottle for free when I need it. With a bottle tucked away in your bag you will save money and realise how silly paying for bottled water is.  

DITCH TAKEAWAY COFFE CUPS

Does your morning not start until you have had your coffee on the way to work? Like to keep warm with a takeaway chai? Next time the need for a takeaway hot beverage comes knocking ask for no lid or take 10 minutes to sit in to have your coffee in a mug. You can also take your own coffee cup.  

I offer this tip as a way to start you on your journey, today. I don't advocate the use of takeaway, ever. However, saying no to a plastic lid is a good start. 

Plastic lids easily end up on busy streets creating unwanted pollution. If you are a daily take away coffee drinker saying NO to a lid each day could save you up 20 bits of plastic from entering your life and the environment each month.

Remember that paper coffee cups are not recyclable and go into a bin for landfill. 

Saying no to plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic water bottles and unnecessary takeaway, sends a message that these items are not needed. Our consumer power is just as powerful as voting. Our great grandparents thrived and survived without these four items in their day to day lives, and I know we can too.

When you take recycling and food out of your rubbish bin, what do you have left?

I, like many young people my age, rent. In the last 8 years, I've lived in 7 different places. These ranged in a variety of ways: I lived for two years in uni college, I have rented my fair share of rental houses, I have rented apartments, and one house. Next January I'll be moving again. Why? Being from country Victoria, I think it is my expensive and inconvenient way of seeing and knowing Melbourne. I get to know Melbourne living in one street at a time. But because I move a lot, I can't have or grow a garden. It's very sad. But what I do have is a very fun pot-plant veggie garden.

It was mainly Jamie Oliver who got me into it. To continue the theme in form of analogy, Jamie Oliver planted the seed in my mind to want to have a pot-plant veggie garden in my early teens. Well, in particular, I wanted to live in an artsy London flat that overlooks a neat side walk, with a window that you heave open, framed by a quaint little box of parsley, coriander, mint, rosemary, thyme.... I never knew what he grew. I just wanted me some. 

Instead of the London gig, I live in Melbourne. And instead of a window box of herbs, I have a few pots. As Jamie would say, this is a cheap and sustainable alternative to buying bunches of herbs and veggies in the supermarket that we then throw in the bin, wasted. 

But what does my veggie patch eat!? Well, these wonderful plants need to be fed. And to feed them, I have a worm farm. That's right, I am the proud owner of 1,200 wriggly worms. I had to get over my aversion to them, quick smart. But now I pick them up with my fingers and everything. 

It was a bit tricky at first - they didn't seem to eat very much. They don't like citrus, and don't even think about putting an onion in there. We also had some visitors, little white wriggly worms, which turned out to be the spawn of some devil bug. But I got rid of them. They were numerous, but I was powerful. I had also underestimated the importance of somethings; for example, I didn't consider things like acidity, or how wormies eat (they eat dirt and then sieve the good stuff out, cool, hey?). But I got the hang of it. And now I use what they digest to feed my pot-plant veggie garden. 

Given that I am building a recycling app, I am also very conscious of what we throw out. Everything that could possibly be recycled, is. As we don't put food scraps in the bin either, very little goes to landfill via our garbage bin.  

So, when you take recycling and food out of your rubbish bin, what do you have left? Very little. 

Join the movement, deny the concept of waste. 

And so, this is how the story began

So. A blog, hey? Well, we realised the other day that, as well as an app, we are making a story as we go and it struck us that we could tell it to you.

Imagine this scene. Stephen and I are sitting in a meeting room, in a council building somewhere, talking about our app to council people. Stephen has just explained about bottom lines, and recyclable items going to landfill, wasted recycling opportunities, and so on; at one point, someone asks us why are we doing this. 

Stephen then turns to me and says, 'Elle, you're on'. And I say:

'Well, the reason we are doing this is because we entered a competition in middle of 2013 called the Oxfam-Monash Innovators. The ideas of this competition was to get students to innovate good ideas that address a social issue, and we picked recycling and sustainable living, and we picked a mobile app as the platform. And, well, we won! We won money and support and looked at each other and realised the need to define ourselves. We had to actually do this now. It felt like responsibility. And anyway, did you know that if you put recyclable items in a plastic bag and that bag in your recycling bin, that stuff is not actually recycled. They throw that out.' As council people who work in recycling, funnily enough they did know that. 'But people still do that because they don't know their efforts are wasted.' Pun intended. So, that's why we are doing this. 

But for us the story is also about a project that has blown our expectations. I remember when I heard about the original Oxfam-Monash competition we signed up for. I was sitting at my desk, working on my Masters thesis, and my friend said 'Hey, you should sign up'. And I thought that I didn't want to, but my friend's cool and she was doing it, and it would look good on my resume. Plus I wasn't going to win; it was unlikely and I didn't want to because I had to finish my Masters, and I wasn't sure I had the time. In the end, my friend didn't do it and I won and I still had to do my thesis. So, safe to say my expectations were very quickly blown. 

But the other day, Stephen and I were planning some thing we were planning, and I looked down onto my notes and realised that I had written three names next to questions we had. These contacts would give us the answers we needed. 6 months ago, we didn't know those people. 12 months ago we didn't know anyone. At some point along the line, we became, like, the real-deal. Legit. Da-amn. 

And so, this is how the story began.