Practising environmental friendliness can be as easy as popping a plastic bottle into the nearest recycling bin. But you can always do more to up your game and adopt “greener” lifestyle habits. Don’t wait for the next Earth Day or eco-awareness campaign – even if you’re not able to make massive changes, here are a selection of really easy things anyone can do to help the planet, starting right now.
1. Help firefighters in Cape Town
Start off your heroism by helping firefighters. You could donate once-off to the Volunteer Wildlife Services or become their monthly sponsor. Wildlife that has been displaced by the fires can also be taken to to the SPCA’s (Cape of Good Hope) short-term wildlife care facility. For more tips, read ‘How you can help the firefighters in Cape Town’.
2. Set computer to energy saving settings
Instead of leaving it on standby (which still draws a lot of power), utilise the energy saving settings of your computer. If possible, printers and scanners around the office should also be unplugged. Remember to always turn off the lights in spaces that are not occupied.
3. Bring your own reusable plastic/glass container
Styrofoam is awful for the environment, and you can reduce your use of it by planning ahead and bringing your own container as a “doggy bag” to a restaurant. You can buy BPA-free lunch boxes from Clicks’s Smartlife range.
Or, if that takes a bit too much planning ahead, you can avoid two of the biggest culprits when it comes to plastic pollutants – single-use straws and coffee cups. Ecoffee cup is a South African company that makes reusable coffee cups out of bamboo, and you can even get reusable glass straws online if you can’t live without your smoothies.
4. Choose eco-friendly accommodation
If you are not sure what to look for, eco-friendly accommodation usually limits energy and water consumption and reduces waste production. They also tend to prioritise the use of renewable energy and in best case scenarios, promote environmental education. Have a look at these 10 beautiful eco-lodges around the world for some inspiration; or, if you’re a fan of keeping it local, check out these beautiful off-the-grid getaways around South Africa.
5. Use public transport
The thought of using public transport is daunting and it may not be your idea of fun – but it is eco-friendly. Just using the train or bus a few days a week for your commute instead of driving cuts down your carbon emissions. For larger trips, avoid using planes if it’s at all possible. Whether by train, bus or tuk-tuk, your mode of travel can shape your experience of travel and save the planet. Our online editor Kati Auld travelled from Zanzibar to the south of Malawi entirely on public transport and says it was one of the best decisions that she ever made. Read her 8 tips for travelling on public transport in Africa.
6. Re-think your souvenirs on holiday
However tempting it may be, there are a number of reasons why seashells should stay put. According to the Smithsonian.com tourism can contribute substantially to the decreasing number of shells. Among the variety of functions, shells supply nutrients to organisms living in the sand, and these small organisms form an important part of the marine food chain.
7. Pack lighter
Having a heavy suitcase is not only irritating for you, while carting it around – it also results in more carbon emissions. Melanie van Zyl tried these packing hacks that will help you to lighten your load and travel efficiently (read: Pack perfectly: 10 awesome packing hacks).
8. Grab a reusable shopping bag
These are readily available thanks to the growing awareness of environmental conservation. Instead of biodegrading, plastic bags break down into smaller toxic bits. Almost 90 per cent of ocean debris is plastic. Spunprint is a local company that specialises in the production of reusable bags made from “spunbond” which is a non-woven fabric made from 100% pure polypropylene. Polypropylene is a sustainable material that is recyclable and has the lowest CO2 emissions during production. You could also use a cotton or hemp tote bag.
9. Switch to low flow shower heads
This is not only a way to save water, but to save money too. If a jug fills up with up with water in less than 11 seconds, your shower head is releasing too much water in a short amount of time. Compared to ordinary shower heads which emit 15 litres per minute, low flow shower heads release 9 or 10 litres per minute.
10. Use cold water to do laundry
Also make sure that you wash a full load. Most energy involved in a wash cycle is used to heat up the water (90 per cent). You could also go the extra mile and purchase an energy-efficient washer and dryer.
11. Cover your pool when not in use
It might not seem like much but covering your pool prevents evaporation and the need for refills, which saves water. Your pool also stays cleaner and fewer chemicals are required.
12. Look for organic alcoholic beverages
Take drinking responsibly to another level and seek organic options when you have your next drink. The ingredients in organic liquor, beer and wine are produced without pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals. You can also look out for companies that have sustainable practices when it comes to producing their products. Faithful to Nature sells organic, gluten-free and non-alcoholic beer on their online store.
13. Have a “green” braai
This might be sacrilegious for South Africa’s favourite past-time, but it’s certainly worth exploring for the environmentally conscious who love a braai. You can even take baby steps by having less meat and finding vegan/vegetarian alternatives (like these vegetarian braai kebabs). Buying organic, grass-fed meat is also an option. It’s also important to consider the sources of charcoal as it is better to buy charcoal made from invasive, rather than indigenous, woody species. Also keep an eye out for eco-friendly firelighters or reuse old candle wax.
14. Use snake removal services in your area
As a free community service, Blouberg Snake Rescue specialises in the capture and relocation of snakes that have entered your home, farm or garden. This initiative was started with the purpose of conserving snakes that are often killed due to lack of knowledge. If you are in the area you can call 0823851589 or look for a snake removal service where you live.
15. Set your geyser at a lower temperature
You can do this by finding the thermostat which is on the geyser. The electricity supply to the geyser needs to be turned off and you will need a small flat screw driver to set the temperature lower. It’s also a good idea to insulate the hot water pipes to decrease heat loss. To take it a step further, think about investing in a solar geyser.