When Maslow first created his Hierarchy of Needs, he outlined the tiny tip of Self Actualization at the top. Unfortunately, we need to get more people to be aware of our impact on our planet. We, as a species, continue to produce and consume at a rate that is unsustainable to the long-term preservation of our earth.
By becoming more conscious of our impact on our environment, reducing our consumption levels, and strongly encouraging businesses to change the way they currently operate, we can start to undo some of the damage we are now doing.
Conscious Living Starts at Home
Take a good look at your surroundings! What can you do without or donate or recycle to someone who can use it more than you do.
During the Covid-19 hard lockdowns, neighbours shared tools, gadgets, kitchen appliances, supplies, etc., as they could not get to the shops.
Facebook Marketplace became the place to buy and sell second-hand furniture, goods, and appliances.
If you need something specific, does it matter if you get it second-hand? Or if you don’t currently use something in your home, can someone else make better use of it.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
The first step in becoming more aware of our impact on the environment is to see what we throw away. You can eliminate basic things like buying bottled water if you have a reusable water or juice bottle handy. Instantly, you’ll minimise the plastic reaching our oceans. Installing a water filtering system in your home ensures you have clean and fresh water on tap to refill your bottles. Eliminate plastic bags and replace them with reusable bags when you go grocery shopping. Confidently deny the plastic coffee cup and plastic straw by bringing your own. Reusable mugs are super versatile for hot and cold drinks and often you get a discount for bringing your own.
Energy and Water Consumption
Do a detailed assessment of your home. What are you spending on electricity each month? Did you know that by changing up some minor aspects of your home, you can reduce that radically? Energy-saving light bulbs, sensors on your lights, which switch off when you leave the room, and energy-efficient appliances can all make a difference.
Water is fast becoming a very scarce resource. You can implement a water capturing system in your garden. Installing or converting gutters so that the water runoff lands up in a Jojo tank can water your garden for months from the seasonal rainfall. Live in an apartment? Get the community involved and do the same.
Only when you make conscious decisions about your consumption habits will you start to see a difference in your shopping habits. Vote with your wallet, and support sustainable businesses with a conscious conscience.
Buying bottled water every day because the manufacturer tells you it is made from recycled plastic and recycled after use is just not good enough.
The abundance of plastic landing up in the oceans and landfills is more than our planet can withstand.
The option to recycle, is last on the REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE list for a reason. Not everything can and will be recycled! As a collective we have to reduce consumption first and foremost.
Plastic, glass, and paper are categorised into what can and cannot be recycled, here is a short breakdown to help you sort your waste:
YES – Glass bottles, wine bottles, jam jars, sauce and spice bottles and plain drinking glasses
NO – Cups and saucers, ovenware, ceramics, mirror glass, fluorescent tubes, light bulbs, windscreens, car lights, window panes.
YES: Beverage cans, food cans, aerosol cans and paint cans
Paper and Cardboard:
YES: Office paper, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, books, long-life cartons
NO: Plasticized or laminated paper, photographs, wax, greaseproof paper, carbon paper, adhesive tape, tissues, and serviettes.
YES: Cooldrink and water bottles, cleaning product bottles, milk bottles, yogurt pots, margarine and ice cream tubs, soft plastic bags, bubble wrap, cling wrap, crackly shopping bags, chunky polystyrene, plastic garden chairs, buckets, and flowerpots.
NO: Black plastic bags, black ridged trays, white polystyrene trays, containers, cups, plastic trays made from PET, plastic contaminated with oil, glue, or paint, chip packets and many biscuit wrappers.
YES: Used printer cartridges, large batteries, e.g. those from gate motors, alarm systems, aluminium foil, e.g. pie plates, some yoghurt seals, foil food wrap, used cooking oil for manufacturing bio fuel, old X-Rays.
NO: Cassette and video tapes, domestic batteries such as torch batteries, rubber, vinyl, items made from mixed plastics and/or other materials, e.g. toothbrushes, pens, some toys.
As a consumer, look for the number on the container. Almost all recycling centres accept plastics #1 #2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and some #7’s. The containers that your fruit or favourite on-the-go sandwich comes in, is not currently recyclable in South Africa. Rather opt to buy your fruit unpackaged and put it in a reusable bag.
There is also a sustainable trend towards refillable shopping in SA. Some Spar stores have a liquid refill outside their stores where you can refill essentials like dishwashing liquid, cream cleaner and fabric softener. Just take your container and only pay for what you dispense. If you haven’t tried one, pack a few jars and reusable bags in and head over to experience a truly waste free shopping experience.
For more information visit www.plasticrecyclingsa.co.za
For a map of recycling locations visit Recycling and waste sites | Glass Paper Plastic Garden Rubble Refuse (sst.org.za)
Convenience is often the downfall of our decisions. It is far easier to buy that unhealthy take-out from the drive-thru than prepare a healthy meal at home. The same applies to making decisions about our consumption habits.
Every choice we make impacts our planet. Choices that impact animals, plant life, and of course, the dreaded landfills.
We have outlined some simple steps you can take to make yourself more aware of the impact of your choices.
1. Water consumption and wastage
Do you leave the tap running while you brush your teeth? Run a long bath when a quick shower will do? The Day Zero drama that Cape Town experienced not too long ago was one of the most significant impacts on the province. Hotels removed bath plugs from hotel bathrooms, and they placed buckets in the showers to catch water for cleaning and flushing toilets.
Being more aware of how you water your garden at home, planting water-saving plants and shrubbery, and even getting a pool cover to limit evaporation in summer can all significantly impact your household spend and wastage of water.
2. Being a conscious shopper
By doing a little bit of research, you’ll understand what it takes to produce the food we eat. Not only do some plants take an excess of water to grow (take avocado’s for instance), but when we selfishly want to have those Avo’s out of season, we increase the carbon footprint by importing them from seasonal countries.
When we choose to shop local, shop fresh, and shop seasonally, the change is enormous. As creatures of habit, humans like to consume the same thing. So by opening up your world to seasonal foods, spices, and herbs, you can expand your pallet and try new things. Removing your expectation to buy products that are not available or in season will reduce the demand. When we stop buying the products, retailers will stop buying them.
3. Buy second hand and recycled goods
Facebook marketplace, gumtree and other online stores are the best invention for saving on our intense desire to own things. Ideally, we can reduce our consumption by buying less. Alternatively, pop onto the second-hand circuit and find what you are looking for at a fraction of the price.
With the volume of people downsizing and emigrating, finding great products online that are in excellent condition but second-hand is the perfect way to reduce consumption.
In summary, the concept of reduce, reuse and then recycle can come into play with every decision we make. All of these options will reduce our overall impact on the environment. Before you whip out your wallet, first take a moment to ask yourself if you need it, if you can find it closer, cheaper, or second-hand.