Erin, surrounded by the trash she produced during 7 weeks of traveling Europe.
Erin, surrounded by the trash she produced during 7 weeks of traveling Europe.

Meet Erin, a low-waste chica who shares her low-waste lifestyle via Instagram in the hopes to inspire others to live more consciously.

A recent Culinary Nutrition & Food Science grad of Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, Erin has relocated to Italy to work on an organic farm in Tuscany.

The most recent photos on her feed have been about harvesting autumn squash and hand scraping bugs off kale leaves (how’s that for no pesticides!). Her bright smile mirrors the colorful photos of re-useable water bottles and crunchy kale chips.

Already, Erin’s feed has changed since the beginning of her journey. During her time studying in Rhode Island, she posted creative recipes that encouraged the use of left over food scraps, such as juice pulp burger patty. She posts tips on how to keep your greens fresh, and how to make grocery shopping a more low-waste experience (like beeswax coated organic cotton, Beeswrap).

During her travels abroad, Erin documented the waste she made in certain countries and tiny travel anecdotes of living zero waste (a Greek waiter called her an Earth warrior!).

NTCH had the chance to catch up with Erin via email, to chat about her personal journey with a zero-waste lifestyle and the challenges while traveling zero-waste.

 Clothes are fix-able! Via @eco.erin
Clothes are fix-able! Via @eco.erin

What originally inspired you to transition to a zero-waste lifestyle?

Erin: I’ve always been conscious of things I could do to minimize my impact but I had never realized how wasteful I still was until I stumbled upon some zero waste videos on YouTube. I had never heard of the term or the lifestyle but I was instantly inspired. After some more research, I decided to start making some changes in my life. It wasn’t an overnight switch, but I immediately became aware of habits that needed improving.

How long have you been embracing the zero-waste mindset?

Erin: I’ve been living low waste since the about the spring of 2017. I don’t remember a specific time when I decided to start living low waste because it was such a gradual transition.

 Ultimate low-waste checklist: bamboo utensils in a cozy carrying case. Via @eco.erin
Ultimate low-waste checklist: bamboo utensils in a cozy carrying case. Via @eco.erin

What’s your personal zero-waste on the go/travel checklist?

Erin: It’s so important for me to come prepared so I’ll typically carry my low waste staples in a purse when I know I might need them. Depending on the excursion, I’ll bring something along the lines of my reusable containers, utensils/straw, napkin, and an extra packable tote. While it might seem like a lot, they’re all fairly compact!

What’s the biggest challenge in being zero-waste while on the go? Got any funny/interesting travel stories?

Erin: The biggest challenge I’ve faced while being on the go, specifically while traveling abroad, is that I can’t anticipate what will be available to me that’s low waste. Whether I’m going to a grocery store where every item of produce is wrapped in plastic, or I’m going to get takeout from a restaurant that won’t accept my reusable containers, I’m sometimes faced with the challenge of finding the least wasteful option. I always try to maintain my optimism and make the most ethical decision (like choosing a hard recyclable plastic package rather than a non recyclable package). I’ve really resonated with the term “low waste” rather than “zero waste” because sometimes I’ll have a slip up and feel like I’m being dishonest for calling myself zero waste. “Low waste” allows room for the unavoidable, the mistakes, and just plain life.

One of my favorite zero waste travel stories was when I was at a tiny restaurant in Greece. They offered wine to all guests as we waited for our tables but they only had plastic cups. I decided to ask a waiter for a glass instead and he gave me a strange look. Typically, I won’t go into full detail about zero waste but he asked me why I was adamant about using glass instead. I briefly explained to him that I prefer not to use single use plastics and he said, “Oh, so you’re an Earth warrior?” I laughed and replied, “Exactly.”

He said, “Oh, so you’re an Earth warrior?” I laughed and replied, “Exactly.”

 Food scraps aren’t trash! Via @eco.erin
Food scraps aren’t trash! Via @eco.erin

How do you feel social media has been a part of your zero-waste journey?

Erin: Social media has been a massive part of my journey. The zero waste community on social media is awesome. There is a large spectrum ranging from the hard core zero wasters and those just starting their transition/journey. From my experience, everyone is so supportive of others and I think we all learn a lot from each other. While I’m not the biggest fan of social media in general and choose to take time from it occasionally, I feel this is a prime example of social media being used for good.

Have there been any major shifts in your life that you didn’t expect would result from living zero-waste?

Erin: While I haven’t had any major shifts in my life, my interest in sustainability has certainly swayed recent decisions like coming to live and work on an organic farm in Tuscany. I am able to see first hand how sustainable food is grown and how it can be improved. It’s been an inspiring experience and I can’t wait to put my new knowledge to work!

I produce trash. And so does every “zero waster.” To me, being “zero waste” is more of a lifestyle title and less of a fact or statement about the waste I personally produce. I like to call it “low waste” or “low impact.” Regardless of the trash that does or does not come home with me, there is trash being produced in this world because of my status as a living, breathing human being who needs food and shelter. That being said, I like to explain that being zero/low waste is mostly about being conscious and aiming to live life as waste-less as possible.

To continue following Erin’s journey with zero-waste living, you can find her on Instagram as @eco.erin.