How To ... Go green on a budget

2014-01-31 08:00

Leonardo DiCaprio’s doing it. So are Jessica Alba and Oprah.

Ecofriendly and organic living are buzz words in Hollywood but how can the rest of us go green without the benefit of a million-dollar pay cheque?

While we cannot stop climate change, “we can all do something to reduce the rate of change”, says Stefan Grab, a professor in physical geography at Wits University.

Here are 10 tips:

Buy local

The greater the distance your food has to travel to get to you, the greater the volume of CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere. Grab says the biggest problem is buses, trucks and cars travelling on the roads for long distances while emitting greenhouse gases. So, buy proudly South African goods not only for job creation but also to save the planet.

Forget the plastic

Plastic is not biodegradable and takes more than 20 years to disintegrate. Rather invest in shopping bags. “Fabric shopping bags are better,” says Grab. These bags may cost you R10 but will last you between three and five years, and they can be recycled.


The initial cost of rechargeable batteries may be costly but the investment will pay itself off in a couple of months. “I’m not sure how much you save on using rechargeable batteries but I know that buying rechargeable batteries means that factories are manufacturing fewer batteries and therefore polluting the air less,” says Anna Steynor, a researcher in climate change at the Climate Systems Analysis Group in Cape Town.

Choose matches over lighters

Grab advocates for matches because they are biodegradable. Lighters are made of plastic and butane fuel. Plastic is not biodegradable and butane releases CO2 gases that puncture the ozone layer.

Turn off your computer

It may be time-consuming to wait for your laptop or computer to switch on, but shutting down is the best option. Shutting down your laptop saves electricity and it will save your laptop’s battery life.

Meat-free Mondays

This is a campaign that encourages people not to eat any livestock on Mondays. Researchers in Australia found that livestock is one of the highest producers of CO2 gases after cars and trucks in the world combined. Steynor supports Meat-free Mondays and says they were a small and easy contribution to reducing CO2.

Do full loads and air-dry your clothes

Whenever you wash just a small load of laundry at a time you waste water, power, and money. Steynor says sometimes half-load settings on machines uses as much water and electricity as full-load washes. Rather let your clothes accumulate over the week and then do a full load. On hot days, air-dry your clothes.

Don’t iron your sheets

It’s strange but true. You are going to crease the sheets by the end of the night, so why waste electricity, time and money on ironing them? Plus no one will judge you for having creased sheets because they are hidden underneath your covers.

Go digital

Migrate to digital. Music, newspapers, magazines and books can all be found on digital platforms. “Going digital definitely saves paper, trees and money,” says Steynor. According to her, this tip is a double-edged sword because people working in newspapers and book stores could lose their jobs, but digital migration still remains one of the best ways to reduce the rate of climate change. (Ed: City Press ewspaper is available via a digital subscription: 0861 697 827)

Recycle, reuse

“Sort your rubbish. Group the plastics, cans and nonrecyclable goods together. This will make your recycling process easier,” says Grab.

Before you throw empty containers and bottles away, think of ways you can reuse them in your home. Empty jam jars can become make-up brush holders, coke bottles can be used as retro flower vases and old ice cream tubs can be used as containers for leftovers.

» Additional sources:

              52 Cheap ways to go green

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