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3 Women Share Their Tips for Living Sustainably and Why They Went Plastic Free

3 Women Share Their Tips for Living Sustainably and Why They Went Plastic Free

Zissy Lewin
3 Women Share their Tips for living sustainably and why they went plastic free

Recently I shared what 1 week of single use plastic looks like for me. It’s clear there’s much room for improvement, and so I turned to 3 women who ar living sustainably and have moved towards eliminating plastic, specifically single use plastic from their lives. I asked them what inspired their move to sustainability, the hardest part (because it can’t all be a breeze) and the products that changed their lives. What they shared is not only inspiration to start living more sustainability, but amazing resources for starting – from products, to shops, to things to know. Here are their stories.

 

Carmen Fourie

Carmen, 27, is an employment relations manager and business owner. You can follow her on Instagram (@sustainabilityc), Facebook (@sustainabilityC), Twitter (@carmenfourieER) and her blog here

 

On what inspired her move towards a more sustainable life

I started [in] May last year, so it has been just over a year now. What inspired the change was the realisation that while one life might seem insignificant, my life will always be the most important thing I do. With that realisation comes a great responsibility to do the best you can with what you have, because your life matters and what you do matters. Our behaviours, specifically our consumer behaviours, have a significantly negative impact on the environment. A negative impact in the form of waste and destruction that will still be here long after we are gone. I believe we should attempt to leave as little waste and destruction in our wake as possible. Contrary to popular belief my changes were inspired by a drive to do something positive and not by a negative image. Your sustainability journey should always be a positive one.

 

On the hardest part of going plastic free

The hardest part is that we are still a minority. We are the exception rather than the norm. I am positive that this will change, but for the time being it means that the shops and businesses cater for the masses. I have to spend a bit more time sourcing products, driving a bit further to go to a specific shop where I can get plastic-free products.

 

On her life changing plastic free alternative

This is going to seem a bit silly, but beverage containers (water bottles, coffee cups, juice bottles, etc). I think they make such an immense difference, because I used to buy lots of little bottles of water and get take away coffee. Now I have a water filter at home and I just refill my bottles. I honestly think this has reduced my waste the most. Second on that list is my menstrual cup, it not only reduces my waste significantly (every single month), but it is also so much healthier!

 

On her go-to plastic free stores

I am based in Somerset West. First on my list is Familiar Organic Farm Store (Stellenbosch). I can get most of my products from them. Take outs from Nature (Online). Meat, I buy from Vans Meat Market in Somerset West (I take my own reusable silicon bags). Bread from Schoon (Somerset West, Franchshoek & Stellenbosch). Organic fruit and veg I order weekly from Alan’s Veg (Somerset West, also available at the Market Shed). Vredenhof Organic Estate is also great (Somerset West) and I have recently heard of another shop, Bare (Somerset West). Food Lovers has a good section of plastic-less fruit, vegetables, grains and spices.

WHILE ONE LIFE MAY SEEM INSIGNIFICANT, MY LIFE WILL ALWAYS BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I DO.

On the one thing she wished people knew about living sustainably and plastic

Sustainability has become a value that guides my choices. In every aspect of my life I try to focus on meeting the needs of the “now” in such a way that I do not compromise the “future”, but rather enhance or improve it. By this I mean I focus on my long term health and wellbeing (physical and psychological wellbeing). I try to make a positive impact on our economy and in the community where I live and I, of course try to minimise my waste and negative impact on the environment. The one most important thing I wish people understood about living more sustainably, is that your life matters. What you do every single day matters. Every choice you make, every purchase you make or don’t make matters. I can’t say it enough, your life matters and with that comes a great responsibility to try to do the best you can and that includes taking care of yourself (health and wellbeing).

 

On advice for reducing plastic

Just try. You don’t have to do it perfectly and you don’t have to get it right every time, but just keep trying. Try to remember your reusable shopping bag, your own container, your own water bottle, etc. And try to be mindful of your purchases and your choices. Think “do I really need this?”, “Can I drink this without a straw”, “Can I carry this in my hand and not a bag”. Buy things that last, rather than things that are cheap.

 

[In addition] it has saved me so much money! I do not unnecessarily purchase anything.

 

Since most of the clothes these days are made from plastic (polyester), I have saved so much by buying second hand, swopping clothes and only buying essentials new. I do not waste money on things like wrapping paper (I reuse gift bags, or I reuse paper). I do not buy snacks unless they are plastic free, so no money wasted on impulse food buys (I also don’t eat takeout food). I predominately buy concentrates for cleaning stuff, so it works out much cheaper (even using 100% natural, organic and biodegradable products). I don’t spend money on single use things like cotton wool pads, pantyliners, paper towel or serviettes, because I have reusable versions for all of those.

 

Being as plastic free as possible is the best thing you can do for your bank account. So instead of spending it on household products, you can spend your money on experiences.

 

Janisha Harie

Janisha, 34 is a Chemical Engineer and eco-influencer. You can follow her on Instagram (@janishaharie)

 

On what inspired her move towards a more sustainable life

Following a lung illness, I started using chemical-free personal care and household cleaning products and adopted a mostly plant-based wholefoods diet in order to aid my healing. As I became aware of what I was putting into and onto my body, I also became conscious of how I was consuming and the waste that I was generating. I became increasingly aware of the global crisis of plastic pollution and started transitioning to a plastic-free lifestyle in November 2017.

 

On the hardest part of going plastic free

As you start reducing your plastic consumption, you’ll become aware of how many everyday items contain plastic. It’s hidden in so many things that we are not even aware of, which at first can seem quite overwhelming. Luckily there are always sustainable alternatives.

 

Food is the item I struggle with the most, as many items are still packaged in plastic. I try to buy as much package-free food as possible. For those items that are packaged, I recycle what I can, and EcoBrick the rest.

 

On her life changing plastic free alternative

[I have] so many! But if I had to choose, there are two that top the list:

  • An activated charcoal water filter from KURO-Bo: I lived in the Vaal Triangle for 12 years and the water quality there is not very good. Hence, I used to buy 5L water bottles in bulk. I started using KURO-Bo activated charcoal filters in November 2017 and have never bought a plastic bottle of water ever since! The water is clean and tastes amazing, the sticks and koins are easy to use, portable and very cost effective.

 

  • A stainless-steel insulated tiffin which I bought from The Spice Emporium: I use it when I collect takeaways which means no more single-use takeaway containers, and piping hot food too! I also use it to bring back a home-cooked meal from my Mum whenever I visit my family in Durban – nothing spills in the aeroplane, and I don’t need to remember to return my Mum’s Tupperware on my next trip home. It’s also fantastic for packing food for a picnic, or for bringing home leftovers.

 

On her go-to plastic free stores

Faithful to Nature and The Refillery for zero-waste pantry goods and reusable eco products.

 

Small neighbourhood grocers, farmers markets and the loose produce section in supermarkets for package-free fresh produce.

EVERY PIECE OF PLASTIC EVER MADE STILL EXISTS! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS "AWAY".

On the one thing she wished people knew about living sustainably and plastic

Every piece of plastic ever made still exists! There is no such thing as “away”.

 

On advice for reducing plastic

Start with one change at a time, especially the easy swops like not using plastic bottles, bags, straws and cups.

  • Choose cold drinks and juices that come in a glass bottle or in a can instead of a plastic bottle. Carry your own water bottle and fill up at home or on the go.
  • Carry your own bags when you go grocery shopping, and even when shopping for clothing, personal care products and homeware items. Keep your bags near your front door, or where you keep your keys, or in your car. If you forget your bags when grocery shopping, ask for a box or push your trolley to your car and unload each item individually – I guarantee you’ll never forget them again!
  • When you’re out and order drinks, learn to say, “No straw please”. Carry your own or do without and just sip directly from the glass.
  • Carry your own cup for your takeaway drinks. Most coffee shops give you a discount if you bring your own. Alternatively, choose to sit down and drink from a proper cup.

 

Remember, you don’t have to buy new things or spend lots of money to reduce your plastic consumption, you can use what you already have: For example, an empty peanut butter or honey jar is great for takeaway drinks and to pack leftovers. Also, simply use your camping mug and spork that gets used once a year to avoid plastic cups and cutlery when you’re out.

 

Think ahead and plan what reusables you may need for your day. If you forget, don’t be so hard on yourself as it will get easier with time as it becomes a habit. Do what you can – every small change makes a difference.

 

Melanie Farrell

Melanie, 57 is a word warrior and pallet garden queen promoting a green economy in South Africa through Green Route ZA – the path to eco-conscious living. You can follow her on Facebook (@GreenRouteZA), Instagram (@melanie.farell1) and on her blog here.

 

On what inspired her move towards a more sustainable life

I’ve always been a bit of a ‘greenie’ but about three years ago my eldest son had a major health scare and became much more conscious about the environment, embracing a vegan diet and clean living.

That was when I came up with the idea for Green Route ZA: I decided to focus on promoting eco-conscious living through writing stories about other ‘greenies’ in South Africa. My tagline for Green Route ZA is that it is ‘the path to eco-conscious living’ and my philosophy is: ‘Green Route would never tell anyone how they should live, we simply make it easier for people to make better choices when it comes to sustainable living.’

I suppose it’s a ‘soft’ approach, but I know that people don’t like to be told what to do. I also know that it’s difficult to break an old habit (we’ve been shopping with plastic bags for so long) and create a new one so I focus on featuring people who are already on an eco-conscious path in South Africa.

 

On the hardest part of going plastic free

I’m still battling with hair products like shampoo and conditioner. I tried a shampoo bar but my hair didn’t respond well so I’ve resorted to using tiny amounts of shampoo and conditioner until I figure out a better substitute.

 

On her life changing plastic free alternative

I stopped using plastic, single-use shopping bags and switched to reusable bags that I keep in my car and handbag so that I don’t forget to take them with me when I go shopping. I’m a bag lady through and through and the best reusable bags were given to me by friends – they fold up into the size of a cell phone, perfect for my handbag.

 

On her go-to plastic free stores

I feel very lucky to have so many plastic-free options where I live in Cape Town.

 

My closest zero-waste store is The Daily Goods Store in Muizenberg. Organic Zone in Lakeside also has a good selection of fruit and veg that is plastic-free. Most of the fruit and vegetables can be bought loose and weighed at the tills. I don’t bother with little bags, I just put everything in my trolly, weigh at the till and pack everything into one reusable shopping bags.

 

Further along the southern peninsula is Low Impact Living, below the Glencairn Hotel, which also has a zero-waste café. Moving towards town, NUDE FOODS has a store in an upcycled shipping container at Montebello Centre in Newlands and the main branch is in Cape Town.

 

If I’m in Woodstock I like to pop in at Shop Zero, near the Old Biscuit Mill, and Low Impact Living has also opened a zero-waste stall in the newly-opened GOODSpaces building (opened July 2019).

If you’re interested in discovering more zero-waste stores in South Africa please read the ‘zero heroes’ article that I wrote for #PlasticFreeJuly in Daily Maverick.

ELIMINATE ITEMS AT A COMFORTABLE PACE TO KEEP IT PERMANENT. VOWING TO STOP ALL PLASTIC AT THE SAME TIME ISN'T SUSTAINABLE.

On the one thing she wished people knew about living sustainably and plastic

Plastic is bad for the environment, from its manufacture to its disposal. It’s made from oil, a non-renewable fossil fuel, and because it sticks around for hundreds of years and there’s so much of it piling up, it’s responsible for killing creatures in the sea and on land.

Of course, some plastics can be recycled but single-use plastics are the worst product because you use them once, chuck them out and they can’t be recycled.

 

On advice for reducing plastic

Breaking bad habits takes time but perseverance will pay off. And you also need to plan and prepare by anticipating where you’re going and what you’ll be doing when you get there.

 

Eliminate items at a comfortable pace to keep it permanent. Vowing to stop all plastic at the same time isn’t sustainable.

 

There are lots of small things that you can do, starting with the 5 Rs – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. The 5Rs are great because it enables you to make an informed decision with refusing plastic being the first option. Then you can work your way through the rest of the Rs.

 

For example, when I go to the supermarket I buy products packaged in glass rather than plastic and I’ll shop in the loose produce section when it’s available.

We don’t eat takeaways but if your favourite place doesn’t have compostable containers why not use your own takeaway container and cutlery?

When you start becoming aware of the amount of plastic that we’re confronted with every day you can start making good choices about where and how you spend your money. If we vote with our wallets we will be able to influence what is on offer to us as eco-conscious consumers.

 

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