The environment is in trouble, we are drowning in plastic. Every single plastic toothbrush you have ever used in your life is still on this planet. And one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute! A fraction of them are recycled.
Even if you recycle your plastic it could still end up in a landfill or in the ocean because unless someone wants to buy your dirty used plastic it’s worthless. There’s a reason why recycling is at the bottom of the Zero Waste pyramid.
Even worse, we all eat about a credit card of plastic a day – it’s in our food, there is plastic inside all the water you drink – even bottled water.
I am not against plastic, I am against single use plastic. I am also not perfect – I also buy plastic water bottles sometimes.
Nobody has to be perfect, if we all make some small changes, together we will make a difference. But we need to act now because we only have 7 years left to save the planet.
Here are some ideas
- Walk or ride a bike if you are making a short journey
- Next time you buy a car, consider going electric or buying something that is better for the environment (don’t buy an SUV)
- Eat less meat (especially beef) – you don’t need to go vegan – you can also just be vegetarian a couple days during the week and still make a difference
- Switch to LED light bulbs (I never realised until recently you can buy LED light bulbs for any light fitting). The CNN Climate Change quiz ranks this as the #1 change with the highest impact in our homes.
- Shop local
- Prepare food in bulk and freeze it so you can have convenient home-made meals during the week
- Take your own containers when you order take-away
- Order-in instead of taking out
- Buy a re-usable water bottle and coffee cup
- Shop at a package free store, or buy in bulk, or buy products packaged in paper, glass or metal
- Start composting – if you don’t have a garden donate your compost to a city farm. If you live in an apartment you can use bokashi, or freeze your compost if you can’t drop it off regularly
- Try avoid food waste (tough one with kids I know!). If food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China
- Buy less food,
- Freeze fresh food you may not have time to eat, or
- Put items that need to be eaten at the front of the fridge, or out in sight so you don’t forget to eat it
- Switch to a bamboo toothbrush
- Switch to a shampoo bar
- Use a bar of soap instead of liquid soap
- Replace household cleaners with an all purpose cleaning product such as Triple Orange Wonder Gel
- Choose your beauty products carefully
- Don’t buy new stuff if you don’t need to
- Ask friends and family if you can borrow,
- See if it’s available second hand,
- Mend an item you already own,
- Re-purpose something else, or
- Try do without
- Consider changing how you purchase gifts (birthday or Christmas) …
- Buy second hand presents (e.g. books),
- Make something,
- Choose an experience, or
- Buy a voucher or group present instead of buying something the person actually doesn’t want or need
- Buy recycled items – especially those made from recycled plastic. If you don’t buy recycled plastic, there’s no market for these products. Clothing, made from recycled plastic, especially active wear, is readily available. Here’s a list of 19 every day products made from recycled materials, and here are some South African companies you can support:
- Sealand Gear
- Spirit Girl
- Bonsela Upcycled products
- The Joinery sustainable products
- K-Way recycled fleece jacket (from Cape Union Mart)
- The North Face recycled beanie (from Shelflife)
- Woolworth’s re-usable recycled plastic shopping bag (cotton shopping bags are reported to be less sustainable)
- Addis Rough Tote box
- L&L recycled lunchboxes
- <Contact me to add your product to the list>
- Buy good quality items (the best you can afford), especially those that have guarantees – especially those with lifetime guarantees. Patagonia, Sealand and Jansport are some good examples of companies making good quality products.
- Buy rechargeable batteries, and dispose of your batteries responsibly.
- Use a refillable pen (e.g. Lamy, Parker or Waterman) instead of a disposable one
- Refuse free samples
- Use less electricity, or if you are able to, choose renewable energy providers
- Email companies and ask them what they are doing about climate change
- Email companies that have poor packaging and ask them what they are doing to switch to more environmentally friendly packaging. Don’t accept the answer that their plastic is recyclable – unless they are doing the recycling themselves this is not an acceptable solution.
- Follow accounts that give you useful eco tips (e.g. on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook)
- Educate yourself about environmental issues
- Talk to your friends
Follow these accounts to get even more ideas and eco-swaps
Follow the Zero Waste Chef (aka Anne-Marie Bonneau) on Instagram tips on baking sour dough, fermenting, cooking and sewing. She regularly hosts Zoom meet-ups.