Updated: Nov 24, 2019
This post comes as a summary of the sustainability changes I’ve made, and maintained, in my life over the last few years. I think it’s so important to be realstic when it comes to these things. There are SO many things I’ve tried and left behind and I want to be upfront and authentic about that. Also, I’m super into documenting myself if you haven’t noticed.
I’ve genuinely tried almost everything you can think of in this sphere, and I sincerely think this list is the easiest and most realistic way to live a gentle-footprint, healthy, and sustainable life; here in Johannesburg, South Africa, circa. 2019.
This is my gospel-esqu checklist (elaboration below):
3. Ban single-use.
4. Buy in paper or hard plastic (yes, I said plastic).
5. Shop local/second hand.
6. Mend things.
7. Check your lightbulbs.
8. Share a bath.
9. Flush like a Captownian.
10. Buy unpackaged fruit and veg from woolies (or Siyakhana co-op).
And some extra for good measure;
11. Imbue everything with kindness and positivity.
12. Be realistic.
Notice I haven’t actually listed recycling here.
I actually think each item could be an independent article (perhaps I’ll create a series?) but for now I want to lay out a few key maxims/truths that have informed the longevity of the above.
Firstly, food waste, and actually not plastic, is probably the biggest problem when looking at greenhouses gases, global warming and landfill.
When plastic goes to landfill it goes to landfill. This sucks but it’s not the “roof-on-fire”. When food or any bio waste goes into landfill, it becomes compressed into a vacuum - unexposed to light or air, and it ferments.
This process releases honest-to-goodness methane gas. Like for real. Into the air. All those biodegradable, bamboo earbuds you were buying to try save the planet (unless composted) are actually contributing MORE to greenhouse gas, not less. Whoops.
Chemicals suck. For so many reasons.
They make things expensive. They are packaged in plastic. They affect our health, water supply, and the planet. And they’re also not necessary.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Bicarb and Vinegar. The celebrity couple of sustainability.
Then, every single item we own has a carbon footprint. A quantifiable, negative impact on this planet. A theft, if you will, of precious and irreplaceable resources.
I’m into reducing that by not adding the weight of a transatlantic flight to said footprint. Even better if it’s been used before and now finding new life with me instead of making its way to a landfill.
And then of course we have common sense. Obviously I want my electricity bill to be lower so I have more money for me. So replacing from 60w to 3w light bulbs is just simple maths.
Same same with bath water.
Lastly, there’s joy. When I was young and existential I used to spend my free time, between trips to the mall, contemplating changing the world. Eventually, when I was 25, I realized a happy world is a changed world and so the only way to change the world is to start first by changing myself. Or perhaps, by working on myself. Becoming the best version of myself.
So so much more to say on this but the general premise is clear. Do all things with joy and your life will be joyous.
A joyous life is contagious.
Sustainability, unfortunately, can sometimes be so overwhelming and unrealistic that it’s just not actually very sustainable.
I’m doing my best to do my best. Not sure there’s actually room for anything more than that.