Together for tomorrow


Talking Rubbish: 8 ways to lighten your footprint this year

by | Jan 11, 2019

At the start of a new year, many of us take the opportunity to set goals, intentions and resolutions. The themes usually run along the lines of becoming healthier, exercising, drinking more water, taking up a hobby or improving a skill.

Whether you’re a fan of new year’s resolutions or not, the time couldn’t be more apt to think about more than ourselves when it comes to planning for the new year. How about making a few sustainable resolutions? Here are eight suggestions.

1 Forget Fast Fashion

Fast Fashion is extremely exploitative of garment workers (who are disproportionately women and children). Most of these workers are subject to working conditions not fit for any person and receive a wage so low it is considered modern slavery.

Elizabeth L Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, states how fibre production now uses 145 million tons of coal and up to 7.5 trillion litres of water – not to mention the disposal process of these fashion items which are worn an average of 1.5 times. Considering we’re in a global water and climate crisis – the cost of fast fashion is just too high.

Opt for using using and loving what you have, attending or hosting a clothing swap, buying secondhand and when you do buy new, support small local and ethical fashion brands that use natural materials. In 2018 I bought one item of clothing: a secondhand pair of shorts. My life certainly isn’t worse off for it.

2 Support Local

Supporting local fashion is one thing but looking to support local farmers and traders is also a great way to be more sustainable this year. When it comes to fruit, vegetables, non-perishables and even fish, do you check the label to find out where it is from?  If not, this year is your year to start. When I started checking if foods had been sourced locally, I was shocked at the amount of items I found that had been imported. That’s not to say that there aren’t many local options to choose from because there are. We just need to look a little harder.

3 Embrace Plant Rich

In 2018 a comprehensive analysis of the meat industry made headlines across many publications. The findings showed that due to the high emissions and water-use, cutting out meat and dairy is one of the biggest things individuals can do to help slow climate change. By eating less or no meat, you will try new recipes and food combinations, save money and you may start feeling lighter and healthier.  

If you’re a meat-eater and can’t face the idea of quitting or need to eat meat for health reasons, why not look to reducing meat consumption to once or twice a week?

4 Install Low-Flow Fittings and Harvest Rain Water

Low-flow fittings can decrease water use in homes by 45% or more. That’s a huge shave off your water-use and bill. The fittings can be bought for a relatively low-cost and are easy to install. I have them on all of our taps and showerheads at home and have also installed toilet stops to save water with every flush. Large rainwater tanks and treatment systems that come with a capital outlay are not necessarily the only way to collect and harvest rainwater. In my home, for now, we have intercepted the gutter’s down pipe with a 200l bin/drum in a couple of places. The water is not filtered but can be used for irrigation and toilet flushing.

5 Choose Reusables

If you haven’t already made the switch, start with the big four: water bottles, coffee cups, straws and shopping bags. If you’ve got that down, start looking for other areas of your life where you can swap out a disposable item for a reusable one.

Think safety razors, Stasher bags, mesh bags for produce, a menstrual cup and beeswax wraps and dish covers instead of cling wrap. When it comes to grabbing takeaways or eating at markets I now take my own containers (and cutlery if needed). It may mean you have to order and wait a few minutes instead of calling ahead – but it certainly is worth it when you consider all the single-use items you avoid.

6 Sort out your Rubbish

Recycle. Compost. Ecobrick. Three important and easy ways to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the bin destined for landfill.  We use this system in our home and it has been an imperative part of keeping our household as low waste as possible. We have a recycling collection company that comes every second week and we collect our food waste separately for compost in the garden. If you do not have a garden, try to use a small worm farm or donate your compost. If this is not possible, simply ensure that your wet and dry waste is separated to make sure that recyclables do not become contaminated with food and other wet waste.

When it comes to the nasty soft plastics and other small items that cannot be avoided or recycled (think chip packets, pen lids, plastics marked number 7 etc) then set up a little eco bricking station to prevent these from reaching landfill or worse. (Tip: I love to keep my hands busy and ecobrick while watching series)

7 Take a Minimalist Approach

With the rise of “conscious consumerism” we have the potential to remain trapped in the mindset of consuming too much. When we take a more minimalist approach, it can apply to every aspect of our life: purchasing as little plastic as possible, buying less and making things last, using less water and electricity, spending less time on our devices and all round just living a more sustainable and purpose-driven life.

8 Be Active

Last year was a scary one for climate activists with the release of the latest IPCC report. The shocking report stated that we have just 12 years to stop climate change before it gets to catastrophe level. That may sound like a reason to to lose hope but it’s not! It’s a reason to make this your year of taking action, getting involved and having your say.

There are so many organisations to get involved in. I personally support 350 Africa and Fossil Free South Africa but there are many climate justice groups working hard at holding those in power accountable to the principles of science and social justice. In fact – we all have the power to write, tweet, email and call out our political leaders,    and put pressure on them to make the changes we need  to actualise a better tomorrow.

All we have to do is start.

  • Image credit: Gaelle Marcel/Unsplash 
Share this article:

Related Posts

Our work is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 12, which aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production. Read More