Every action has a reaction and that’s true for what we do on a daily basis in terms of our effect on the environment. Reduce your ecological footprint and increase nature’s spread by being more cognisant of the ripples you create each waking moment.

It’s certainly trendy to be green at the moment – and green products abound. But how do you practically integrate them all into your life without compromising the must-have convenience of modern day living? Well, the first point in living a green life is that you really shouldn’t rush out and buy anything at all. Use what you have and only replace items when there’s a real need. Green is more than using products; it’s also about making full use of what you already have and reducing waste. Living a life that takes our beautiful world and the environment into consideration isn’t as difficult as you might think.

‘Ecological footprint’ is defined as the measure of human demand on nature and compares human consumption of natural resources with earth’s ecological capacity to regenerate them. World Wildlife Fund

It’s not necessary (and not green) to unilaterally throw away everything you think may pose a danger to the environment (like plastic containers). Recycling and upcycling are both ways to ensure your wastage is kept to a minimum. There are numerous recycling bins set up around the country, but try to be a responsible recycler: wash any meat packaging before putting it in the bins (blood-soaked packaging attracts bacteria, flies and creates odours); be sure to separate plastic and paper (remove staples too); and remove paper labels from glass containers (or keep your glass containers whenever possible).

PLASTIC

Reduce your impact on landfill by recycling plastic bags and buying up-sized packaged products (more stuff inside, less packaging outside). If you’re going out to eat and just know you won’t finish your meal – take your own take-out packaging. Seriously, you’re not going to look like a crazy person if you bring your own Tupperware – you can proudly brandish your environmentally friendly action. Instead of buying foil or plastic wrap each month, invest in good quality glass containers to store leftover food – glass is recyclable, lasts forever (if it’s not broken) and isn’t toxic.

OH RATS!

If you have few unwanted rodents scurrying around, don’t reach for the dreaded, toxic rat killer. Not only will you experience the awfulness of rodent corpses in sneaky crevices, you could also be killing off the local owl population. The hauntingly beautiful birds are brilliant rat catchers, but are being killed off by poison-infested rats. Rather integrate a breeding pair of owls into your area for a rodent-free and much more peaceful existence (build an owl house in your garden to lure these exquisite rat-catchers).

TRUE NATURAL MEDICINE

Aloe Vera, a prolific plant that’s found all over the world has so many health properties, from tumour reduction to blood-sugar regulating, it’s hard to list them all. Suffice to say, you can forgo all the chemically enhanced face creams and grow your own in your garden. Aloes are hardy as well, so you don’t necessarily need a green thumb to coax them out of the earth. For great skin hydration and rejuvenation, rub raw aloe gel (that’s the sticky stuff inside the leaf) on your face, and slip some in your smoothie maker for an inflammatory boost. Aloe also makes a fantastic medical kit – you can get rid of the plastic-wrapped, foil-contained creams and plasters and use aloe for cuts and scrapes, burns, sprains, insect bites, sunburn and bruises.

SWITCH OFF

Eskom’s been telling us for a long time now that just switching off lights and appliances when they’re not in use saves energy. It certainly helps save on your energy bills. Here are some other easy tips to reduce your energy consumption:

  • Hot plates retain heat, so switch yours off before you’re finished cooking
  • Only boil the amount of water you need in your kettle to avoid extra electricity usage boiling excess water
  • Use a thermostat-controlled iron and try iron all your washing at once – the average iron uses the same amount of electricity as ten 100 watt bulbs
  • Check the seal on your fridge – a damaged seal can allow cold air to escape, making your fridge use more energy to control its internal temperature
  • Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket – you’ll use far less electricity this way – also consider converting to solar or a heat pump

TIP: If you choose to switch off the lights and use candlelight, burn soy candles as they don’t emit any toxins (paraffin emits 11 different toxins)

BICARB ESSENTIAL

From deodorant to cleaning products, bicarbonate of soda is incredibly versatile. It’s a great tooth whitener and antibacterial agent (using this as a toothpaste means you aren’t at risk of ingesting fluoride). It’s also got an anti-inflammatory function, so it can be used on insect bites and stings, and is great for nappy rash. But, you can also use it as a cleaning agent – mix with vinegar for a brilliantly clean loo, or add to your eco-washing powder to make the powder last longer. Vinegar is also a cleaning essential – instead of window cleaner, use one part vinegar to one part water and rub onto your windows with used newspaper.

LAP IT UP

Laptops use 50% less power than desk top computers. So, instead of upgrading your PC, invest in a laptop. But, be care-filled when you get rid of the desk top version as electronic waste often contains mercury. Contact your computer goods supplier to find out how to responsibly recycle, or donate to a needy organisation.

SHARE

If you’re a book or magazine junkie, consider pooling your reading matter by sharing with friends and like-minded people. Be aware of the impact of deforestation (although most of South Africa’s paper industry uses sustainable forests) and the production of paper and ink and make a difference by recycling paper (use both sides of paper to print and copy), send electronic greeting cards or letters, and buy recycled paper whenever you can for printing, business cards and the like.

WEAR IT WELL

While it’s so tempting to up your wardrobe choices with impossibly cheap imported offerings, rather opt for natural fibres that are produced locally. Buy well and your clothes will last for much longer..

TIP: Choose organic cotton clothing as much as possible. Organic cotton production has a much lower environmental impact than conventional cotton production.