Garage Sale Trail (without the balloons and plastic tape)

16 October 2018
Garage Sale Trail (without the balloons and plastic tape)

I was putting up my plastic-free garage sale sign today when a lady walking her dog commented how helpful garage sales are for passing on the stuff you don't use anymore. Most people know what a garage sale is and how good for the environment they are (reusing instead of buying new = less resource reliance and depletion = less waste), but how many know what the Garage Sale Trail is? The lady didn't and you might not either. In a nutshell, the Garage Sale Trail is...

one BIG WEEKEND of garage sales that's happening right across Australia on October 20 and 21.

It's like an Australia wide second hand party happening all over the country. Garage Sale Trail helps those thinking or planning on hosting a sale to advertise and have it placed on a searchable a map for people to find easily. Users are able to search a town or area of their city and plan out a trail of garage sales to visit.

The service is free with resources for not only households but also community groups, local businesses or even the street you live on if you are keen to get one going with your neighbours. According to Garage Sale Trail's website groups use it as a way to fundraise which I think is a great idea. If you are inspired to join up this year its not to late - simply visit their website to learn how to promote your garage sale like a boss this weekend.

Now, if you are joining the Garage Sale Trail this year (and why wouldn't you?) I'd like to make a request...please don't use balloons to advertise your sale. Often after garage sales balloons used on street signs and power poles can be forgotten. Street signs and power polls sit right next to our gutters. Those forgotten balloons will eventually end up in the gutter unless picked up or removed from the poles by people like me and gutters lead to our waterways where those deflated balloons can endanger wildlife. Yes, I know some are made of latex and will break down eventually. But unfortunately our wildlife don't yet know to wait until the balloons have degraded to a small enough size that would make it safe enough to swallow. You can read more at Melbourne Zoo on the dangers and alternatives to balloons.

And it's not only the balloons left behind, the plastic tape used to attach signs and those balloons mentioned above to poles also pose a serious threat and are often forgotten too. Most of the littler ending up in our waterways is by accident.

There is another way to hang a sign up alerting the neighbourhood about your upcoming garage sale and you can even add a bit of fun with cotton fabric. Want to see how I created mine?


Garage Sale Trail (without the balloons and plastic tape)

I collect an old box, shone twine, jute or coir string (or hemp...anything made of 100% natural fibres), coloured pencils & pen (didn't end up using the pen), scissors and scraps of cotton or another 100% natural fabric.

Garage Sale Trail (without the balloons and plastic tape)

I cut the sides of box and removed the plastic tape too. I'll keep the plastic tape rather than leave it on the cardboard to avoid it ending up in the environment.

Garage Sale Trail (without the balloons and plastic tape)

I now have four individual pieces of cardboard. The two larger pieces can be used for the street signs and the others on the day of the garage sale as sign on tables.

Garage Sale Trail (without the balloons and plastic tape)

Using my coloured pencils I write the details of the garage sale. With the scissors I add four holes in the middle top and middle bottom for the string. Seven holes were also added to the very bottom to thread the coloured scrap fabric through.

Garage Sale Trail (without the balloons and plastic tape)

A close up photo of the very professional holes with the string threaded through.

Garage Sale Trail (without the balloons and plastic tape)

And same for the fabric scraps. haha.

Garage Sale Trail (without the balloons and plastic tape)

Now it's ready to hang up on a power pole. If you are looking to put your sign up on pole or anything with a smaller circumference move the holes the string are threaded through closer together. Of course you don't need any fabric or other embellishment if you don't want it. And don't forget to collect your signs after the garage sale.

If you know someone who are using balloons and tape ask them to collect after the garage sale and dispose of both properly.

Happy Garage Sale Trail, Australia! 

Pass on the stuff; pass on memories instead

12 October 2018
My grandma's garden

My grandmother died last month. I'm still finding it hard to believe she is not here. Every other day I keep thinking I should call her for a chat, then realise I've forgotten she's gone. Even though we lived in different countries, I was lucky that I had a close relationship with her. After finishing high school I lived with her so I could get to know my grandmother better as our relationship was mostly conducted through long and expensive phone calls reserved for birthdays and Christmas. And I'm so glad I did live with her because I gained a deep friendship where I learned a lot.

This is the first time I've lost someone close to me. It hurts i'll never see her again and it hurts even more knowing my son didn't get to meet her beyond Skype video chats. The Builder and I had planned to visit next March just before his second birthday and it's now my biggest regret we didn't go sooner. I would have loved that memory of them meeting.

My sister and I inherited her small collection of jewellery but each time I look at her rings, all I think about are the moments lost and memories that will never be made with my son. While I have many of my own I'll share with him, there is something heart expanding about having the special people in your life meet one another. Losing my grandmother was a painful reminder that collecting stuff is not important. It's the people we love and the memories of these people we cherish, that make for a rich life. I'd happily trade her rings for one last hug. 

We might stick to our plans and make the trip to Arkansas in March (free air flights for children under two which is why I held off visiting for so long!) so I can say a proper goodbye and catch up with the rest of the family too. Our rough itinerary was to visit Little Rock to see dads family then onto New York where my brother lives and a stop off in San Francisco on the way home as the Builder expressed interest in visiting. Or it will be Dallas or Houston before coming back to Australia. It would be special to take my son for a stroll through her beloved garden. My book Waste Not launches in the US April 2 (7 March in UK) and If we do end up travelling I thought it would be fun to organise North American meet ups in those cities while we are there. 

In happier news, we are enjoying the warmer weather and getting excited about the Garage Sale Trail happening in a weeks time. Have you signed your garage sale up? This coming Sunday I'll be at Spring Into Gardening Festival doing a zero waste talk plus beeswax wrap demo and co-hosting the Waste Hub with Zero Waste Victoria. Come visit with your questions on how to reduce waste in your life. My speaking events are set for the remainder of the year. I just might be speaking near you soon. 

Looking back at July and August, starting with my book launch!

24 August 2018
It's hard to believe two months have passed since my book has been out in the world; held in your hands, booked out at libraries and being snapped up from bookstores around Australia and New Zealand. My book won't be available outside of Australia and New Zealand until early next year but that hasn't stopped many of you getting a copy! Thanks for all the snaps from Turkey, Germany, France, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia snapping photos as you read Waste Not.

Neighbourhood Books were equally excited for the book offering to host a book launch. It took some convincing by Hardie Grant PR for me say yes. I didn't want anyone wasting time organising an event no one would attend. The exact opposite happened! The beautiful book store was crammed with friends, family and YOU. Thank you so much for coming! I didn't stop talking all night and it was so nice to meet many of you. Apparently the food was all low waste but I didn't get to sample it as I was put on book signing duty. Thank you Hardie Grant and Neighbourhood Books for putting it together.

waste not erin rhoads book launch
Photo Piccolo Angelo Photography

Photo Piccolo Angelo Photography

Photo Piccolo Angelo Photography

To get their office prepared for Plastic Free July Hardie Grant Publishing gifted every staff member a copy of my book plus a reusable coffee cup. If you bought my book from Dymocks and certain book stores you may have scored a reusable tote bag of your own! My editor organised a clothing swap at Hardie Grant that I unfortunately missed due to radio interviews and filming. They are a stylish bunch there so I'm sad i couldn't attend.




The annual Plastic Free July workshops, talks and interviews have kept me busy as usual and amongst all of that  I participated in author Q&As, panel discussions and even met Bea Johnson. We also sold our house and I helped organised Victoria's first Zero Waste Festival. We ran a festival! Something I never thought i'd ever do in my life. A skill to put on the CV haha.

Amongst the circus my son and I have been passing a cold back and fourth. I took a week off recently and we lived in our pyjamas catching up on sleep and snuggles. It was just what we needed. Except for the snotty kisses he would bestow on me...

I have updated my public events page for the remainder of the year, including two workshops in NSW. There will be more public events to come. I just wanted to stop by here to share and celebrate what has been an exciting two months. There has been such a huge interest in reducing plastic and waste this year. Truthfully I had hoped my next blog post would be celebrating a Cash for Containers announcement here in Victoria. Well, that was voted down. Oh well, onwards and upwards. Okay I better get back to packing up our house for the move.

Why now and not then?

22 July 2018
Why now and not then?

I’m often asked in interviews what the trigger was that made me want to reduce my plastic and why. For those who don’t know my story it was a documentary (The Clean Bin Project) watched out of boredom in 2013. I often wonder why it was this particular documentary? Why that moment? It’s not like I hadn’t been exposed to other environmental atrocities or how our consumer choices have a direct impact on eco systems and the animals reliant upon them. What made me change then and not before? 

The photo above is of me from 2009. I’m on the island of Borneo travelling around the Malaysian state of Sabah. As you can see i’m about to visit Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The centre cares for orphaned orangutans as a result of logging and deforestation for palm oil and those illegally caught and traded as pets. Visitors watch from afar as these orangutans eat and play. 

You’d think after sitting there for over an hour and hearing about palm oil, logging, poaching and watching real life orangutans rehabilitate from trauma would lead to personal change by me. But nothing changed. It baffles me why the image of a deceased Laysan albatross in the documentary I watched years later made me want to look at my consumer habits but not an orangutan playing within 100 meters of me. Or seeing acres of palm oil plantations where once stood a thriving habitat for many animals and local people.

Why now and not then?

After I left the island and returned home I was aware the products I was consuming and using contained palm oil but didn’t change. It wasn’t until I was focused on reducing my waste that I gave up all palm oil products seven years after that visit to Sabah. Seven! While it does interest me as to why it took me so long I am reminded too that a seed was planted when i visited the Centre... it just took a little while to sprout. But it does worry me too. Seven years is a long time. 

One of my favourite quotes is 'from knowing comes caring, from caring comes change.' I knew about the issue. I saw it first hand. I cared about the issue but didn't change. At least not right away. Why now and not then? I imagine it’s a question and concern many environmentalists have pondered, perhaps even you have asked too: why does one experience make you change more than another? Is it a build up of knowledge or guilt? How can we help people understand without forcing change upon them?

Introducing my book Waste Not!

30 June 2018
Waste Not by Erin Rhoads

Hello friends. I'm finding it a little weird to be here on the eve of Plastic Free July writing a blog post about my new book Waste Not. It feels like only yesterday I was logging on to write my thoughts following my first eco documentary The Clean Bin Project. For those who have followed my story will know it was after watching this documentary that I stumbled across the Plastic Free July challenge when I was encouraged by the documentary to reduce my plastic. I used this space which was started as a travel blog to document my month without plastic. I wrote about the challenge to hold myself accountable and of course, make it fun. Never once did I envision my blog would be swallowed up by the topics of plastic and waste or that I would be publishing a book about how to make a big difference by throwing away less.

In the middle of last year an email appeared into my inbox. It was from a publisher with another request to write a book. I usually file them away with a polite decline. But I didn’t with this one. Earlier that year the Australian version of War on Waste had aired on TV propelling the discussion of our wasteful practices into everyday conversations. Waste and single-use plastics quickly became a popular topic. Maybe we were finally ready to address the issues around waste? Perhaps it was time for a book. So I had a meeting with the publisher and before I knew it, my seven month old sons change table was converted into a writing desk while he played at my feet. A year later the book is here. And it’s a BIG book (300 pages!) full of tips, tricks, recipes and resources.

Here are a handful of the topics I talk about:
  • Setting up a plastic free challenge for yourself
  • the simple swaps and how to make new habits stick
  • how to conduct a bin audit and plastic audit
  • what you can do to reduce your kitchen waste
  • Growing food and composting
  • how to make safe and low waste cleaning products
  • Decluttering kindly
  • Caring, fixing and repairing
  • Tips for second hand shopping and extending the life of your clothes
  • How to make your own beauty products or find low waste options plus other personal care solutions
  • hosting and navigating events of your own and with family/friends
  • Preparing for children, nappies, kids parties, toys even pets
  • Eating out, travelling and being low waste in the office
  • The different ways to act your vision through activism

There are contributions from kind waste warriors who went above and beyond to provide helpful resources for you too. A big thank you to Sabrina Fraser Burke Co-ordinator of Minimal Waste Central Queensland, Kirsty Bishop Fox of Sustainable Pathways, Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald eco repair wiz, earth advocate Anamarie Shreeves from Fortnegrita.com, Social change strategist and communicator Dr Holly Kaye-Smith, Laura Issell stylist and event manager from Put YourHeart Into It, Kirsten Marren volunteer at Wyndham Little Buddies Toy Library, Amanda Chapman at wastefreeland.nz, Siska Nirmala Puspitasari adventure enthusiast and journalist at zerowasteadventures.com and zero-waste business associate Jonathan Levy at zerowasteguy.com

The book is not just for those who label themselves zero waste; it’s for anyone and everyone who’d like to make simple changes where they can to reduce their individual impact and carbon footprint.

I chose not to put the focus on zero rather it’s about reducing waste at your own pace. It’s practical and I hope gentle too. I know from my own experience and talking with hundreds at talks and workshops over the years that making changes can be hard with each of us encountering different obstacles.

'This is a much-needed guidebook from a true agent of change.’ Sarah Wilson


Where is the book available?


In Australia the book can be found your local bookshop, Dymocks, Collins, Robinsons, QBD, Big W, Kmart, Newslink, Booktopia, Amazon and of course the library. It is also available as an eBook through iTunes, Google Play and Kindle. 

UK, Europe and North America will have their own versions Spring 2019. The publication date in the UK is the 7 March 2019 and US 2 April 2019. 

Buy this book and you'll be supporting Waste Aid


I will be donating 5% of my profits to Waste Aid Australia. Waste Aid works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island (ATSI) communities to create long-term sustainable solutions to address inadequate waste management in disadvantaged communities and in so doing reduce the adverse environmental health impacts. I'll be sharing more about the work they do later this year.

Is a book really that eco friendly?


Before I said yes to the book I did think about whether writing a book would be wasteful. Something like an eBook would be more sustainable right? But a chat at a local workshop reminded me that not everyone reads eBooks or gathers all their information from blogs like mine. Books still hold up as valuable and essential resources. Go into any bookstore or library and the section dedicated to reducing waste and plastic is small. Tiny. Less than five books. But the cooking section will have around twenty plus books dedicated to pasta alone! 

As much as it would have been great to print the book on recycled paper stock unfortunately this is an area without strict quality control and could have compromised the end product. Instead the book is printed on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified stock. FSC is the highest standard forest certification scheme and the only one to be member of the ISEAL Alliance, the global association for sustainability standards. However the printers recycle everything they can from paper, plastic, wood and metal (printing plates). Paper is cut to size (prior to printing) for each book in order to help reduce excess wastage. The ink used is soy based meaning there are less VOCs. Full disclosure, the cover does have a plastic film. This was a decision my publishing company made to prevent books being returned to the warehouse for pulping if they were marked or damaged in the bookstore which apparently happens often. This will significantly prolong my books life for many many years when it is shared amongst friends, family and anyone you meet. 

Thank you


Thank you so much for all your support over the years. I am genuinely excited to see a growing group of people wanting to learn how to reduce waste. When you buy my book remember to have fun with the changes you make and feel free to adapt anything you read to your own needs. It's not a rule book, simply a guide. 

If you live in Melbourne I'd love for you to join me at the book launch hosted by Neighbourhood Books on Thursday 12 July from 6pm. Tickets can be bought here. I'm interested to see how the book store will do it low waste! See you there.
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