New Year’s isn’t the only time to make resolutions. How about we all make one big one in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic to live a more sustainable existence? We know it’s hard to feel hopeful with much of the world shut down, but Earth is in serious need of our help – and starting to live a greener lifestyle will help pass time and keep you focused on the fact that we have a future worth investing in.
Tired of shopping in a crowded supermarket where everyone is literally rushed, the produce is shipped in from who knows where and natural, cruelty-free products are few and far between? Fret not and turn to Joburg’s local grocery stores instead.
Shopping locally is great for you and the planet for many reasons. Fresher food is available at your local greengrocer, most items being sold have limited packaging, you know where your food comes from, the experience is way more fun and, of course, buying locally helps the local economy prosper.
Some of our favourite local grocery stores to shop at are Impala Fruit & Flowers in Craighall Park, Northcliff and Little Falls; The Leopard in Milpark and Richmond; The Refillery in Morningside and Fourways; Jackson’s Real Food Market in Bryanston; The Health Food Emporium in North Riding; Dunkeld Fruit & Flowers in Dunkeld; Food in Motion in Illovo; Bryanston Organic Market in Bryanston; Urban Foods in Wynberg; Ferreira Fresh in Linbro Park; Morningside Fruiterers in Craighall Park; and and Thrupps in Illovo.
Top tip: Interesting fact? It takes between 15 and 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose, so remember to bring a reusable grocery bag to the store when you shop. Also, ditch the bottled water which creates a lot of needless waste because tap water in Joburg is safe to drink as well as avoid buying things in plastic or Styrofoam – these are heavily polluting materials that aren’t sustainable!
Reduce household energy use
If you’re really committed to living a sustainable lifestyle, you need to look for ways to save energy. From simple behavioural adjustments to extensive home improvements, there are lots of energy-saving ideas that you can try.
Some simple actions to lower your household energy consumption include turning off lights and appliances that you’re not using; keeping a bucket under leaky taps and using it for the garden; opening windows instead of turning on the air conditioning or snuggling into a blanket instead of turning on the heater; hanging clothes out to dry rather than using the tumble dryer; using a programmable thermostat that lowers or raises the temperature when you’re not home; and installing energy-efficient appliances, solar panels and low-energy lights.
When it comes to water, collected rainwater is ideal for watering your garden, while recycled greywater from showers, washing machines and laundry tubs can be diverted to your garden with a plumbed-in diverter or used in toilets and washing machines. You can also buy a water-efficient showerhead – these are super water-saving devices for daily use. As fresh water is getting harder to come by, we also recommend keeping showers to a maximum of four minutes by installing an egg timer in your shower.
Top tip: Decreasing your carbon footprint can be as easy as switching to cool water, seeing as 90% of the energy your washing machine uses is for heating water. Washing your clothes in cold water instead of hot or warm water takes very little effort but can make a huge difference in energy efficiency. It also makes your clothes less likely to shrink or fade!
Start a sustainable home garden
While it may seem like a relatively small step, there’s no better way to perpetuate eating local, sustainable foods than by planting your own vegetable garden. It can provide you with all kinds of healthy, organic options that you and your family can enjoy as well as provide a sense of empowerment because you’re in complete control of what you consume. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time-consuming!
Our advice is to start small with one or two potted tomato plants and herbs like rosemary. Then, when you’re ready, move onto planting small beds in squares rather than rows using a 30x30cm grid system. Don’t worry about the quality of soil or dirt in your garden – just make sure you pick a spot for the beds that gets at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day, doesn’t puddle after rain and is free of tree roots. Peppers, beetroots and aubergines are easy vegetables to plant first and they grow fast.
You might think that the colder months aren’t ideal for growing vegetables, but April until the end of May in South Africa is actually the perfect time to plant vegetables to grow in winter. Vegetables that thrive in winter include green onions, garlic, peas, spring onions, perpetual spinach, broad beans, kale, thyme, salad leaves and green pepper. You can also plant sage, parsley, chervil, oregano, hyssop, yarrow, sprouts, spinach or Swiss chard, radishes and sugar snap peas.
Top tip: To keep your plants warm and add potential for extra moisture absorption, use mulch (grass cuttings, wood chips, straw or other organic material) for crop protection, layered around the vegetables and garden bulbs. Also, cover the squares with garden cloth when severe frost is expected – especially for young seedlings.
In-season produce don’t only taste better as they’ve been naturally ripened and harvested at the right time – they also help cut the demand for out-of-season produce which contributes little to carbon emissions through less transportation, refrigeration and hot houses. Plus, if you buy ingredients that are in season, you help support more sustainable farmers!
There’s plenty to look forward to in the kitchen with the bountiful seasonal fruit and vegetables of autumn that make for a more well-rounded and balanced diet. Examples of autumn fruits are apples, avocados, figs, granadillas, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, naartjies, oranges, pawpaws or papayas, pear, pineapples, plums, pomegranates, quinces, sweet melon and watermelon. Autumn vegetables include artichokes, aubergines, baby marrows, beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butter beans, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chives, courgettes, cucumber, mushrooms, onion, parsley, peas, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, radishes, sweet peppers, squash and turnips.
Top tip: Support your body’s natural nutritional needs for each season by trying out some tasty autumn recipes this month, such as an aubergine salad with hummus dressing, broccoli and chickpea bhajis, chargrilled asparagus and avocado salad with prawns, creamy penne pasta with mushrooms and gammon, fresh pea and mint soup with garlic bruschetta or gluten-free beetroot cake.
Consider all-natural cleaning alternatives: Chemical-based cleaning products are pricey, and their manufacture, use and disposal can harm the environment. If you’re using this time to clean up and get organised, use ingredients like lemon, baking soda and white vinegar instead.
Make washable cloth goods yourself: Right now, you’re probably using – and wasting – more paper towel than ever. Instead, why not put reusable materials like old cotton cloths, sheets, T-shirts and even bleached or bedraggled towels to good use?
Phase out plastic bottles in your bathroom: When your bathroom products run out, replace them with plastic-free alternatives that work just as well without generating packaging and landfill waste. We love Zero Bar Hair & Body Bars (available from www.zerobar.co.za) and Georganics Natural Mineral-Rich Toothpaste (available from www.faithful-to-nature.co.za).