#1 REDUCE - REUSE - RECYCLE
We've put this at number 1 for good reason; it really is the fundamental guideline for every aspect of consumption and in that exact order.
REDUCE; we are all victims of capitalist marketing, marketing which inherently encourages us to over consume; despite what social media seems to indicate, it is not Mothers Day once a month and no, you don't need that 22nd pair of takkies to add to the pile in your already overflowing shoe cupboard. Considered spending of higher quality, longer lasting items is where it's at; spend more, less often.
REUSE; the concept is simple, reduce demand and the supply will be forced to decrease. I'm talking about things like your plastic takeaway containers or glass jars, these are reusable yet we spend thousands every year on buying new plastic containers to serve the very same purpose. We simply don't need those plastic container manufacturers churning out new plastic products year in year out. The same principle reapplies in many areas, here are some examples of reusable alternatives to disposable products;
cling wrap - replace with beeswax wraps
disposable coffee cups - replace with washable coffee cup
kids toys - replace with homemade DIY toy (using things like yoghurt pots etc)
worn torn clothing - repair it before you discard it
Tampons/Sanitary pads - replace with moon cup
You can find loads more suggestions in this great article here
RECYCLE; if you absolutely HAVE to have it and you can absolutely no longer use it then the last option is to make as sure as anything it is recycled and by that we mean, it is discarded in a responsible way and not burdened on our already overflowing landfill and ocean pollution crisis. The technology surrounding recycling is developing at a rapid rate and your recycled waste actually holds value. Just remember, there is no (throwing it) 'away'. In Cape Town we highly recommend the services of Koolwaste Recycling who charge R200 a month to collect up to 4 bags per week.
#2 CHEMICALS CHEMICALS EVERYWHERE
or not if you choose for it to be that way. In the same way that there is no 'away' for your physical waste, the same too applies to your water waste. Every ounce of non biodegradable chemical matter lands up back in our system, whether it's our oceans, the soil, the water table etc. The chemicals being leached into our oceans from domestic and industrial use are poisoning the sea life, sea life that we then go on to eat. Think about it.
Not only are these chemicals damaging to our Earth and the Oceans, they are extremely damaging to us, our bodies and our well being. The harshness of most over the counter domestic cleaning products is definitely not something I would ever consider being near me or more importantly, my child!
Thankfully there are so many options out there which mean we don't have to surround our homes and bodies with chemicals. We really recommend Green Bee Biodegradables who supply every home cleaning product one might need from dish washing liquid to laundry soap. Not only are their products extremely effective, they refill and reuse your empty containers so you are not constantly generating heaps of unnecessary plastic waste.
And for your skin and your hair, because heavens, why would you deliberately plaster chemicals on your skin - we recommend checking out our friends at Wild Earth Botanics who offer an amazing range of 100% natural skin and hair care. Nude Foods and Sans in Cape Town are plastic free grocery stores; they each carry various ranges of biodegradable home and body products .
#3 'SUSTAINABLE' FASHION
One that is of course very close to home ;) We could talk on this subject until the cows come home but we want to keep your attention so we'll keep it short. If you are just starting out on your sustainable fashion journey, the most important thing to start thinking about is how often you shop. The days of ambling down the high street or through a mall, being blind sided by glitzy window displays offering poorly made fast fashion that will fall apart or be 'off trend' in less than 6 months; those days are done friends. Below are a few things we feel are important to think about in this new age of fashion consumption;
- What fabric is it made from? Natural fibres (tencel, linen, cotton, hemp etc) are best because at the item eventually reaches the end of its life, it will biodegrade back into the Earth. Synthetics (polyester, nylon etc) are not only harmful to your skin (basically wearing a plastic bag!), they take 1000's of years to disintegrate.
- Where was it made? First prize is buying clothing or accessories that are made locally, in the country you live in. If it's imported check out the brands transparency surrounding the manufacture; chances are if they're not transparent, it's not good! But on the plus side, a lot of big brands, through consumer pressure are being forced to be more transparent, so keep asking and keep being informed. Check out Fashion Revolution, an amazing global movement encouraging us all towards a transparent and sustainable future.
- When it's worn to death, consider carefully how you dispose of it. Responsible recycling as you would any other physical matter applies to clothing too. Whilst nearly 100% of clothing is recyclable, only 15% is estimated to be recycled. The rest, contributing to over 10 million tonnes sent to land fill a year!
- Just not that into it anymore? Consider doing a clothing swap with your friends. One persons old is another persons gold :)
#4 THE FOOD THAT YOU EAT
How lucky we are to experience this Earth journey in these magnificent 'Earth Suits'; our miraculously functioning bodies.
To honour your body and to allow it to serve you as best as it can, we need to consume that which is best for us. Thankfully with this beautiful shift that is happening, more and more options of not only healthier organic food choices, but food that has a positive socio-economic impact is becoming available to us too. We're talking small scale farmers making a sustainable livelihood from organic farming. And even better, so many of these projects deliver weekly seasonal harvest to your door. Or if you feel like a bit more connection, visit your local farmers market and lend your support to artisans who have committed themselves to offering us with nourishing and sustainable sustenance.
Here are some options worth checking out;
OZCFM - weekly farmers market in Cape Town
UCook - healthy meal plans using ethically sourced quality ingredients
Umthunzi Farming Community - seasonal veg baskets delivered weekly (grown by small-scale farmers in in the Cape Town townships)
Think Organic - Online organic grocery stock (including seasonal weekly veg baskets)
Wild Organics - seasonal veg baskets delivered weekly
Nude Foods - plastic free groceries with plenty of organic options
#5 GIVING BACK MOTHER EARTH
Our home, our big giant collective home. The one which we have abused and unsustainably pillaged the resources of for far too long. The Climate Crisis is real friends and whilst we are all responsible for it, we all also have the power to make changes to stop it.
One of the most effective ways we can do this is to reduce our Carbon footprint - that is reducing the amount of CO2 we are responsible for putting into the atmosphere and increasing the amount of O2 - and what mama Earth give us that does exactly this; TREES! Yes, let's PLANT MORE TREES. Thankfully there are organisations who are one step ahead of the game and can help us to do this. We plant trees with Greenpop (in fact, YOU plant trees with Greenpop because for every 2 orders we receive, we contribute towards planting one tree).
We also need to think about our Oceans; the ones which we have been using as a rubbish dump for over half a century and which are now choking and dying. The next time you're at the beach, pick up all the trash that you can see and take it home and recycle it. If you're not such a beach goer (or even if you are) - think about contributing towards Ocean clean up charities, the people committed to cleaning up for us. We financially support The Big Ocean Blue Clean Up but there are so many organisations doing amazing work, check out a few here and contribute what you can, if you can - every little helps.
Lastly, those who we share this planet with, animals. There are currently over 16,000 animals on the endangered species list; tigers, giraffes, gorillas, sea turtles to name just a few. We did that, our human species did that. And thankfully, again there are amazing organisations committed to stopping their extinction and the best thing you can do is support them. Check out some organisations you can support here.
I'd like to end by sharing with you two really impactful documentaries which shaped the course of the journey that I am on. They are both hugely informative and extremely depressing but they also provide really inspiring and positive information on how we can contribute to change. Both are available to watch on Netflix;
THE TRUST COST - a documentary about the damaging effects of fast fashion on our planet and the social impact of unethical labour.
A PLASTIC OCEAN - a documentary on the extent of all the plastic in our oceans and missions underway to reduce it.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
– Baba Dioum, 1968