It has become quite a trend and a reality check to take more care of our planet. After all, we only have one! It’s like your permanent teeth – you only get one set and if something happens to them you can replace them with dental implants, but it will never be the same. PROTECT OUR PLANET!
I have found it somewhat rewarding planning how our household will be reducing our environmental impact in and around the house. When I was younger it never even crossed my mind to start recycling and start saving the planet. But…. they say that with time comes wisdom (thank goodness!) and I have changed my outlook COMPLETELY! Contributing to a greener earth has become one of my passions in life and I enjoy educating people about their choices.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
When it comes to adapting your lifestyle to live a greener life, there are three things to remember – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. If you look at all the things you buy and use, and how you consume and get rid of these items, you can apply the three R’s to make a difference. I have found a great example of how to implement the three R’s in your life (source: WWF Australia)
How we make a difference at our home
Recycling has become a no-brainer in our house. My husband and I don’t even think twice about putting the correct trash in the correct recycling bin, we just do it. We began recycling a few years ago and I cannot go a day without doing it. We have three recycling bins in the garage at the moment – one for paper, one for plastics and one for glass. The odd times we indulge in carbonated drinks from cans, we put aside the cans to take with to the recycling depot. We also have a bin for general, unrecyclable waste. Our closest recycling depot is at the Lyttleton Hospice shop a few kilometers away. I normally take the recycling every few months when I see the bins are quite full and it is worth the trip. There are large sorting bags for all kinds of recycling at the recycling depot.
There are some things that I keep aside for our friend’s mom. She is a preschool teacher. My mom used to be a pre-school teacher so I know exactly what type of packaging material the kids use during arts and crafts. The teachers and kids get really creative with these items and hardly ever say no to donations. Some items that you can consider taking to a preschool are washed tins, supplement containers, egg cartons, toilet rolls, toothpaste boxes, etc. Get involved and help the schools out – after all, you would have just thrown it away.
When we visit friends and family and I see that people are throwing out perfect recyclable items in the garbage, it makes my blood boil! Just get a few bins and start recycling – you get used to it so quickly. Plus, it would save you on rubbish bags throughout the week. We only put out 1 rubbish bag in a week and half of the time the bags are not even full.
- Reusable bags
This is most probably the easiest way you can make a difference in reducing your plastic usage at home. It is really worth investing in reusable shopping bags. You can buy reusable shopping bags from most grocery stores for about R 15.00. These bags are mostly made from recycled materials and can be cleaned and reused for years to come. This makes them much more durable than normal plastic or paper bags.
It is best if you could go to the local farmers’ market with your reusable shopping bag. This will make sure the least packaging has been used to get the fresh produce from the farmer to the consumer (you). Unfortunately, it is not always possible to get to the farmers’ market because of time or because of location. It would defeat the purpose of reducing your carbon footprint if you drive an hour to get to the farmers’ market just to save on some packaging material.
We take our reusable shopping bags with us to every shop. There have been a few times that I think I will just go to the grocery store for one or two items and end up buying WAY more than I thought and I am forced to buy a plastic bag. So, what I do now is take my own reusable shopping bag whenever I go to the grocery store, even when I think I am just there for one item.
If you have forgotten your reusable bag at home and you need to buy plastic bags, you can fold them into little triangles and keep them for future use – just don’t throw them away for no reason.
- Repurposing Packaging Material
I keep most of the packaging material that our food is packaged in for later use. We use these containers to package food for people in need. Most evenings there is more than enough food for my husband and me and we give the security guard or beggar a warm meal. The preschool around the corner will also repurpose these containers.
- Buying in Bulk
Normally I buy in bulk and repackage into smaller reusable containers. I also sometimes split the fruits and vegetables with my sisters. They can then repackage into smaller containers. If I see there are fruits that we will not be able to finish before they go bad, I cut them up and freeze them in small containers. We make fruit smoothies every day of the week. By freezing the fruit we make sure that nothing goes to waste. Buying in bulk saves on packaging material and is less expensive. It works great for us, but if you think you are going to waste more than benefit from this, please do not buy in bulk. Wasting perfectly good food just because you could not consume it before it goes off if just wrong and everyone should make it a habit of eating everything in the fridge.
Some of the items we buy in bulk and repackage into smaller containers include chicken, meat, fruits, vegetables, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, dishwashing liquid, washing powder, mince, etc.
- Buying Refills
Wherever we can, we buy the refill sachets of cleaning agents, herbs, and spices, sauces, etc.
- Using Water Wisely
As you all know, South Africa is experiencing its worst drought in decades. Water has become something that more valuable than gold, and beware of serious judgment for wasting it! Water is life and without water, we cannot survive, let alone do our washing. There are SO many ways that you can reduce your water consumption. These are the tips you should all know and be implementing at your house by now:
- Only wash full loads of clothes in the washing machine.
- Take a 2-minute shower instead of taking a bath.
- Use your greywater to water your plants (and only after 18:00 to avoid evaporation).
- Only switch the dishwashing machine on if it is completely full.
- Use a bucket to catch shower water and use it for something else.
The list of saving water tips is endless and people have become really creative in their ideas for water conservation. If you would like to learn more tips on water conservation, please visit the Rand Water Wise website.
When I work with water in the kitchen, I rinse fruits and veggies in a bowl that is filled with water. The bowl is then used to rinse ALL of fruits and veggies that I am going to use. I do this instead of rinsing it under running water. After my food prep is done I pour the container of water over some herbs in our garden. When I wash dirty dishes, I open the cold water tap to rise each item. This works better for me than filling the sink ⅓ of the way and rinsing the dishes in the sink. I place a large container inside the kitchen sink and let the water drip into it. I then reuse the water in the garden.
When you go for takeaway coffee, please take your own travel mug with. 7 million takeaway coffee cups are used EACH DAY. Say what?! This is shocking! Most of these cups are not even recyclable. Read more about this shocking truth here. Rather invest in a snazzy reusable coffee cup and start a trend in your little group of friends or among your colleagues. Keep it in your handbag, keep it in your car, but please just use it wherever you go!
The other MAJOR pollutant is plastic straws. Yes, it is nice to sip your drink through a straw and straws can be so damn pretty. Unfortunately, the consequences of using plastic straws are enough to make one’s hair stand up on the back of one’s neck. In the USA alone, more than 500 million straws are used every day! (insert shocked emoji here). A lot of these straws will just end up in the ocean and harm the ocean life. Invest in a reusable straw and start saying no to plastic straws. You can read more about this sad truth here and here.
- Saving Electricity
Here are some of the ways we save electricity:
- Switch the lights off if you don’t need them.
- Unplug appliance from wall sockets if you are not using them.
- The kettle should boil just enough water that you will be using – do not fill it with more water as it uses unnecessary electricity.
- Don’t use the oven unnecessary as it uses a lot of electricity. Rather use a gas hob. If you really have to use the oven try prepping your meals so that you can cook a few things at once.
- Cook enough food for two days. This will save electricity for the following day that you are not making use of the oven/stovetop.
- Don’t make use of heaters or electric blankets. Rather use more blankets or clothes to keep you warm.
- Make use of sunlight for drying your clothes instead of using a tumble dryer. In Pretoria (low humidity / dry air) we are fortunate that our clothes will even dry inside the house on a drying rack. We live in sunny South Africa – please reconsider making use of a tumble dryer. Stretch your legs and arms and hang your clothes in the sun.
- Switch off your geyser if you go away on holiday.
I am not an expert in saving water and electricity. The above-mentioned tips are just from my own experience.
You can also make a difference – just start somewhere!