As some of you may know, 2018 was the year I decided that we as a household would start our Zero Waste journey. For those who are unfamiliar with Zero Waste, in short it is a lifestyle in which you buy products (mainly package free) in such a way that you don’t send anything to land fill.
The 5 R’s of Zero Waste are: Refuse what you don’t need; Reduce what you do use; Reuse or upcycle; Recycle; Rot veggie scraps and such in a compost bin. In this order.
In Cape Town South Africa we are faced with two major problems:
- We are experiencing one of the worst droughts recorded.
- We are running out of space for our trash at landfills. We are literally going to be to capacity within a year. Have a look at The Argus’s articles a few weeks back if you are unsure what I am referring to.
Sustainable living has become our priority.
If environmental reasons alone won’t persuade you to look at Zero Waste, what if I told you Zero Waste is saving us money? I will entice you to live a little more sustainably, saving mother earth and gaining a few more bucks to spend on the things you love.
By following the 5 R’s of Zero Waste you can already reduce the waste you bring into the house and save a few bucks.
- Pamphlets at traffic lights. They just pile up in your car and glossy paper isn’t recyclable.
- Freebies at events.
- Straws and disposable cutlery. I carry my own, but I have noticed you don’t really need a straw.
- Bottled water. Not only does it take 15 times more water (that’s in the actual bottle) to produce the plastic bottle, but research has concluded that there is significantly more plastic in the bottled water than in our tap water. Rather have your own reusable bottle (ideally stainless steel or glass) and fill up at home. Our tap water is safe to drink. And if you are traveling overseas (I am in a few weeks), do your research beforehand. There are Zero Waste ways of purifying water.
- Plastic bags. Bring your own. Plastic bags are not recyclable.
- Your food waste by purchasing fresh goods weekly. Meal planning helps as well.
- Instead of buying shampoo’s, conditioner, shower gel and a million other items for the bathroom, buy sustainable options such as shampoo bars (most can be used for body as well), replace your razor with an old-fashioned safety razor… as so on. Not only will you be saving money and the environment, but most shampoo bars have natural ingredients.
- Eat out less. And when you do, take your own container with in case you have leftovers.
- Packaging by buying unpackage products or products packaged in recyclable or reusable material such as carboard, paper, tin or glass.
- Buying processed food in jars means that you can reuse them. Either for storage, use it as a vase or pot, or even use it to make your DIY toothpaste in. You have tonnes of options!
- Instead of throwing out your plastic containers (like an ice-cream container) see if you can’t use it.
- Not all plastics are created equal. Some plastics are not recyclable yet in South Africa. Do your research. Unrecyclable plastics also creep into my home such as the plastic that covers cheese, the little plastic ties that attaches price tags to items such as clothes, Styrofoam that encases mushrooms, etc. What I do with these is simple. I wash and dry them and then stuff them into my eco-brick. An eco-brick is a 2l plastic bottle filled with unrecyclable. Organisations use this as cheap building material.
- Tin, paper/cardboard and glass are 100% recyclable. But rather reuse them before considering recycling.
- Compositing is one of the easiest ways in dealing with food scraps. Make sure you do your research before purchasing a compositing bin. I currently have a double 45l tumbler from Yolo and they are almost at capacity. We are only two people, so our food scraps will be way less than a family larger than ours. The Western Cape government give out free compositing bins, contact them and ask them when they will be in your area. These are 200l composting bins, so make sure you have the garden and space to put them in. There are alternatives for apartment dwellers such as worm bins or even a 25l bucket.
Our household consists of two adult and two dogs and we reside in the Western Cape. I realize not everyone will have the same shops or resources we do, but you will be surpirsed what you find when you ask around. There might be more available to you than what you expected. I am just trying to give you an idea of how we have managed to save a few Rands here and there.
What we typically spend our money on:
- Buying our staples such as rice, oats, pasta and flour in bulk saves us time, money and of course wasteful packaging.
- Local, seasonal, unpackage vegetables and fruit. We buy weekly in small amounts as not to waste food. Scraps are composted.
- Processed food such as jams we buy in jars and reuse the jars for storage.
- Vinegar and bicarbonate of Soda we buy in bulk, they are multipurpose cooking and cleaning products.
- We buy less meat.
What we no longer buy:
- Paper Towels
- Body Lotion
- Plastic bags
- Tin foil
- Cleaning Products
The list gets longer as the months progress. We save between R500-R1000 a month and we are not completely zero waste yet. We are still finishing up products purchased back in 2017 and slowly replacing them with more natural and sustainable alternatives. But our pockets are not the only ones benefiting from this lifestyle.
- We produce at most ¼ of trash bag of trash a month, which is lowering our carbon footprint significantly.
- We are eating healthier and cooking from scratch has given us a deeper appreciation in what goes into preparing a meal.
- My toiletries have been reduced to 1/3 of what it used to be. Everything I use is simple, natural and often has multiple uses.
We plan to further reduce our spending by growing a small veggie garden this rainy winter.
Sustainable living is hard work, you are inadvertently changing your entire lifestyle and way of thinking. But it is so rewarding when you see the small changes and the look back and see the progress you have made. And it’s even more rewarding when you have that extra in your pocket to afford your own adventure.