Our lifestyles are made up of all our incidental habits added together. And adapting your habits so that your lifestyle is more sustainable is difficult, but it is undoubtedly important. We have a significant impact on our environment through the choices we make. Picture saying ‘no’ to a plastic straw each time you are offered one: you are potentially saving hundreds of non-biodegradable tubes of plastic that would otherwise clog our marine ecosystems and compromise our food-chains.
Here are just a few ways to adopt green habits so you tread lighter on our blue planet.
Electrical appliances and lights
If you’re not using it then switch it off – it is easy to remember your lights and air conditioning system. But what about your geyser, which likely guzzles most of your electricity? Fit an electric timer to switch your geyser on and off according to your household routine. Pro-tip: Be more efficient with your use by dialing down your geyser temperature to 55C, and fit light dimmers. Washing your laundry in cold water follows the same principle. At work, motivate for automated systems that can dim and even switch off lights after hours.
Food and beverages
Run a household audit of how single-use plastic has ingrained itself in your food habits, you may be surprised. Here are some pointers to get you started:
- No plastic straws.
- Ditch disposable plastic water bottles while you are about it. And take it a step further by looking to buy products in easily recycled packaging – for example, boxed laundry detergent instead of the same produced in a bottle, or non-recyclable plastic packaging.
- Re-useable grocery bags. Need we say more?
- Give up chewing gum – yes, it’s a type of synthetic rubber (also known as plastic).
- Smoke? Use matches or a refillable metal lighter instead of a disposable plastic lighter.
- Uber eats? Ask for no plastic eating utensils.
- Pack your lunch in re-useable containers and bags (easily washed beeswax wraps beats single-use cling film).
Of course, don’t stop at less plastic. Look at the amount of energy your food has taken to grow. Meat and animal-based proteins require inordinate amounts of water and feedstock to generate their nutritional properties compared to grains, vegetables, fruit and beans.
Tread lighter during your commute
Consider when you would typically use the car, and think up just one instance per month where you can use another means of transport instead. Perhaps you could walk, cycle, use public transport or an e-hailing service?
When driving consider it a goal to use less petrol, which means leaving on time so you do not have to speed, keeping the correct air pressure in your tyres and braking gently. And you can save up to two thirds of your travel time by driving outside of peak times.
Shopping and retail
Looking at different ways to not get stuck in, or contribute towards, traffic can also include how you shop – a farmers market of organic, locally-grown seasonal food that is always better than food which has travelled hundreds of kilometres to land up on your supermarket shelf. Better yet, save cash and reduce waste by growing your own veggies and herbs in your own backyard.
Yes, reuseable shopping bags have already been mentioned, but consider that they’re better designed to prevent your groceries from falling out when there is a tear, and often also easier to carry and quicker to fill.
Greening your cleaning
Personal, household and office hygene are all trending towards sustainable habits. Our advice to you? Don’t fight it.
While brushing your teeth with plant-based toothbrushes may not be everyone’s style, we can all be more careful about what we put in the laundry. Does your bath towel really needs a wash after every use? Perhaps the jeans you wore on a cool day couldn’t simply do with an airing out instead of a wash? Line-drying your clothes preserves their quality, and uses no electricity.
Homemade cleaning detergents are popular not only because they are effective and save money, but they don’t pollute the environment. Environmentally-friendly detergents are available from most conscious retailers. As a first step, introduce white vinegar into your mix of cleaning products.
Throw away less
Many environmental problems began because people started to throw stuff away. Our uncaring throw-away culture assisted by the ease at which things are disposed means that our ecosystems are being choked by paper, plastics and all other waste materials. Examine what you throw away and look up recycling alternatives for these items you often throw away. And go beyond paper, tins, class and plastics to food waste. Regenerating the nutrients of the soil around our homes and neighbourhoods is never a bad thing, and you send considerably less waste to landfill.
Our lifestyles will impact this planet we call home. As we enter into a time where the effects of global warming becomes obvious with unseasonal weather events, and hotter, dryer days, add one more habit to the list: cultivate spekboom. It punches way above its weight in sucking carbon out of the air, grows in most conditions, and as a succulent it is very water wise.