Happy New Year! If you’re signed up to my newsletter (and if you’re not, register in the side bar), I would have already wished you a happy 2017, but this is my first post on the blog, and it’s one about a movement I aim to get super intimate with this year. With a little one on the way, my concern for the state of the planet has grown tenfold. I’ve already mastered the no animal product thing (in case you didn’t notice, ha!) which is a major factor in ocean and habitat destruction, global warming and water wastage (I’m sure you’ve all heard that one beef patty uses the equivalent of six month’s worth of shower water), but this year I want to push myself further and sort out our household waste usage, significantly reducing our footprint on the earth.
You can’t go online these days without seeing how much plastic and waste there is on our planet and most especially, in our oceans. Every week there seems to be news of whales and other marine life washing up dead on beaches with mountains of plastic and even car parts in their stomaches, which just breaks my heart. Did you know that a single plastic bottle can take between four hundred and a thousand years to disintegrate? And even once it has disintegrated, it leaves tiny molecules of plastic in our soil and sea which become part of the food chain. In a nutshell, we’re literally starting to eat plastic! And if you know how toxic plastic is, you will understand why this is not great for the human body at all. It’s becoming such a crisis that last week, Sky News launched their Ocean Rescue initiative, as well as their documentary, A Plastic Tide (see more here), and even Prince Charles is on board with getting major companies and corporations to help with reducing wastage and making recycling easier for everybody.
It’s one thing reducing and recycling in first world countries, where most municipalities collect your recycling for you from your home, but recycling in South Africa, yes, even in the beautiful city of Stellenbosch, is quite another story! I’m still hoping to find a recycling service that hasn’t closed down, or get a reply from the municipality regarding where or how I can recycle in the area. This struggle has led me to the conclusion that my goal is going to have to ultimately be a waste-free household. Eeeeeeppppppp. How am I going to do this? Well after following the 30 Days to Zero Waste Challenge over January, I have identified my major weak points and these are the steps I have taken / am taking to make my life as waste-free as possible:
No more Plastic Shopping Bags
I have invested in some good quality shopping bags (my favourites are locally made by EcoGemGem) and have made a pact with myself that if I ever forget my shopping bags at home, I’m not allowed to buy plastic ones! I will physically carry every last item of shopping to the car by myself before purchasing one single plastic bag.
Yes, it’s happened already.
Yes, I carried every item to the car with my own two hands.
As for picking up doggy poo from the lawn, I am currently using brown paper bags and a garden spade. Glamorous, huh?
Farmers Markets and Reusable Cloth Product Bags
For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing my fruit and vegetable shopping at farmers’ markets where the produce is less likely to be packaged in plastic. Bar for the berries and mushrooms, almost every vegetable and fruit item comes as is at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market at Granger Bay. They provide brown paper bags if needed, and I also have purchased reusable cloth produce bags from EcoGemGem (as pictured) which are see-through and weightless to enable easy weighing and transport of your fav foliage! Every time I use them in Spar or Woolies, I get impressed looks from the cashiers and fellow shoppers – it’s the way forward, folks! Those little plastic bags provided at the grocery store’s veggie stands are horrific – please try to avoid using them at all costs! I’m sorry to say I haven’t been shopping at Woolies in quite a while because ALL their produce is just covered in plastic and styrofoam. Not good for our planet, Woolworths! Or our bodies.
Reusable Straws and Cutlery
I purchased glass straws from Stream Straws a couple of months ago and I LOVE them! I always carry one in my handbag for use at restaurants and I’ve also started carrying my own cutlery for meals at markets. Plastic straws and cutlery are the items found most in our oceans and really, most of the time, are not even really needed. If I forget my stream straw or cutlery, I simply use my hands to eat or sip straight out of the glass. It’s not rocket science.
Environmentally-Friendly Bathroom Products
Our bathrooms are filled with plastic! From earbuds to toothbrushes and beauty products, it’s really hard to avoid waste in this area of our home. I’ve started by using a bio-degradable and environmentally-friendly toothbrush from Faithful to Nature (R40), buying bath and shower products not wrapped in plastic (such as Apostrophe Bath & Body‘s beautiful vegan soaps) and going back to replacing cotton buds with a good old facecloth to clean ears and remove eye makeup. Most of my beauty products are already local and natural and come in glass jars, but there a few more products like my makeup and hair products which are packaged in plastic. I’m looking forward to finding more eco-friendly replacements to them. Let me know if any come to mind! Or who knows, maybe I’ll go stage-eleven-hippie and start making my own.
A Good Quality Glass Water Bottle
Single use plastic water bottles are the number one waste product around the world. In the US alone, 24 BILLION plastic bottles are discarded every single single year. Remember when we were kids and bottled water was not even a thing? Like if you wanted to drink water, you asked for it in a glass, or slurped it from a tap in the public bathroom? The bottled water trend is KILLING our earth, and unless you really don’t have access to clean drinking water (and I’m guessing that if you’re reading this blogpost on your smart phone, you do), then there is no reason you should be purchasing water in a plastic bottle. I’ve bought a good quality glass water bottle and I keep it on me at all times when I leave the house. If I forget to fill it up at home, I’ll ask a cafe to do it for me or head into a public bathroom to fill it up. If I’m desperate for a soft drink, I’ll purchase it in a glass bottle rather than a plastic bottle.
Takeaways are sneaky little plastic pundits, especially those of the sushi variety! I try limiting takeaways to one night of the week and try to order from a company that uses bio-degradable containers – pizza boxes are usually the safest best. Cook at home as often as you can and pre-make meals in bulk over the weekend for the next week’s lunches, thus avoiding popping into the store on your break for a sandwich or salad. These items are usually always packaged in plastic! Invest in a good quality lunchbox instead of using Ziploc bags or cling film to transport your homemade lunches to and from work.
Do you know how much less waste you throw out if you use your food scraps and other bio-degradable waste for composting? It’s unbelievable! I’ve just started adding to our already-existing compost heap on the property, and it’s made such a difference. And it’s not only food scraps that be composted, but things like cardboard, newspaper, hair, nail clippings, tea bags, coffee grounds and even vacuum dust can also be chucked on there! Read here for more information. Also, visit Faithful to Nature to check out their various home composting bins and kits.
So that’s pretty much the biggest changes I’ve made in my life over the last few weeks or so. There are still a couple of things I want to work on in the next few months. The biggest one concerns my pets. I have managed to reduce our household waste to one bin bag a week (note this is largely because I haven’t found a recycling option yet) and most of that waste is the plastic packaging our pet food comes in. I’m currently feeding our three dogs Vondis, which is a locally made raw food, and while I give them ten points for being healthy, the food does come packaged in 500g plastic bags. I feed Jessie and Millie two bags each a day, so you can imagine how that adds up! My next step is to probably start making my own dog food… the problem is that Millie (the German Shepherd) refuses to eat vegan dog food (the other two will literally eat human shit if served up to them, so they don’t care), which means I will have to cook meat, and I’m not sure if I can do that. Every fibre in my body tells me to not purchase meat and every smell receptor in my nose tells me I wouldn’t be able to stand cooking it. My other option is to put the dogs back onto kibble, as it comes in one big massive bag, but it’s also filled with sugar and preservatives and god knows what else (yes, even the expensive brands)! So, dear readers, any advice on the above would really help! Are you a vegan or vegetarian who cooks their dogs meat? How do you stomach it? Or have you managed to turn your meat eating hound into a veggie? How did you do it? Help! And please, no attacking from the vegan police, I have honestly tried feeding Millie the most delicious vegan food, covered in peanut butter and marmite, and she will not touch it. Unfortunately, I was not vegan when we got her and I therefore cannot change what she was accustomed to before my lifestyle change, just as I can’t force my husband to be vegan either – as much as it would rock my world and he would receive a million blowjobs a day (are you reading this, babe?? Lol).
Another change I need to make has to do with my clothing. Last year, I hardly bought any new clothes. I think that over the last few years, I have pretty much mastered the capsule wardrobe and I have some great quality items that I mix and match all the time. But being pregnant has forced me back into the clothes shops (my boobs have got so massive, I even had to buy new bras) and, shock, horror, H&M seems to be the only place that does maternity wear. Not very local. Or sustainable. Or un-sweatshoppy. I have discovered Cherry Melon and also, very recently, Anneen Henze, both South African labels that make maternity wear, and I will be buying any other items I may be needing come the colder months, from them. Let me know if you know of any other great South African maternity clothing brands!
And speaking of clothing… there’s this little baby on the way. A brand new consumer to add to our already-busting consumerist world. And yes, we know this, baby things are SO cute. So. Fucking. Cute. Take-my-credit-card-and-stab-me-in-the-eye-with-it cute. But I’m being very mindful of the clothing and toys I am buying her, and trying to stick as much as possible to local, sustainable and non-toxic plastic items. I bought a little dress made by a granny at the market the other day and it felt SO good swapping my hard-earned monies for a one-of-a-kind locally made item. I’m also planning on using cloth diapers as much as possible and eco-friendly disposables – so we’ll see how that all goes. Who woulda thunk?
Wow! That ended up being a ridiculously long post. Hope it made up for the radio silence over January. I also hope that this post many have inspired to start making changes in your life regarding waste usage. Perhaps by the end of next year we can all share gloriously smug pictures of our yearly household waste accumulated in an one times old mayonnaise jar? Wouldn’t that just be fantastic!
Have a wonderful week!
PS: In celebration of all things waste-free and living the kindest life we possibly can, I’m giving away a copy of my vegan lifestyle guide, A Guide for Wildflowers, an EcoGemGem “Be Kind to Every Kind” vest and three veggie produce bags over on my Instagram account. To enter simply follow me (@keribainborough) and @ecogemgem, tag two friends in the giveaway post and let me know in the comments what changes you’re making every day to live life as kindly as you can!