How to be an everyday eco-warrior

If there was ever a time to take serious note of your environmental impact, it’s NOW. The hottest topic of discussion in Cape Town is not where we can go for brunch and what exercise we’ll do beforehand, but, rather, it’s all about water – our lack thereof, to be precise.

The City of Cape Town is currently experiencing its worst drought in over 100 years and we could conceivably be the first city in the world to run completely dry. While Day Zero (the date on which the taps will cease to flow) may have recently moved from mid-April to early June 2018, the probability of running out of water is still very real.

At the same time, it has been encouraging to see the big changes that Capetonians (and visitors) have made to save water. Whether it’s taking 90-second stop-start showers, keeping buckets in showers and sinks to reuse the grey water, using waterless hand sanitizers, and even cooking meals that require little to no water, there’s so much that can be done. In fact, it’s not an option anymore: we have to make drastic changes to our daily conservation habits.

Essentially, that’s what being eco-friendly comes down to – creating daily habits that become as normal as waking up and brushing your teeth. My hope is that we’ll continue to not only be conscious about our water usage, but also about our individual and collective environmental impact in general.

Because this a topic I love to yak away about, and to get you started on creating those habits, here are 8 easy ways to be an eco-warrior in your daily life: 

1.Reduce your consumption of single-use plastic

The single-use variety refers to plastic (usually shopping packets, water bottles, straws, and food packaging) that we consume for a very short amount of time before discarding. While I try to recycle as much plastic as possible, some forms aren’t recyclable and end up in landfills. From there, it’s not a far leap to our vulnerable, already overly polluted, oceans.

The solution? Reduce your consumption of single-use plastics wherever you can. Take reusable bags when you go grocery shopping or pack an on-the-go lunch instead of buying one in a reusable container (and save your hard-earned cash dollah while you’re at it). Granted, many restaurants these days make use of recyclable/biodegradable take-away containers and utensils which is GREAT NEWS so make it your mission to support those with a similar mindset as you.

I buy A LOT of coffee on-the-go during the week so that’s a part of my daily life that I’ve made a mission to eco-ify. To cut down on my take-away cup count, I’ve invested in a reusable coffee mug that I hand over to the barista for my A.M. caffeine kick. The best part? Many café’s will offer a discount when you make thise eco-warrior move.

2. Refuse the straw

This goes hand-in-hand with lowering your single-use plastic consumption. Straws are literally used for a couple minutes at a time, before they’re thrown away and forgotten about. Hundreds and thousands of them are used daily, yet they take hundreds of years to decompose. Generally, they end up in the ocean where (especially due to their size) they endanger marine life. When you think about this, do we really need them? Is sipping straight from the glass really so bad? Nope and nope. Next time you’re out for a drink, decline the straw.

I’m pleased to notice a lot of local restaurants and bars openly supporting this movement by displaying signs indicating that they won’t supply them, or alternatively make use of the reusable variety like glass, metal and bamboo ones. Bootleggers, Nourish’d and Sheckter’s Raw are just a few Cape Town favourites representing this trend.

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a germ-ophobe (especially when it comes to drinking from cans) and do sometimes like to use a straw (like when drinking a smoothie on the go) so I’ve invested in a Stream glass one. It comes in a pair of two so you could keep one on you while out and about (side note: super useful for traveling!) and another at home for when you want to jazz up your smoothie experience at home (fully guilty of doing this).

3. Support Local

Supporting local suppliers/creatives is the way forwards – whether you’re stocking up on organic veg (the Oranjezicht City Farm Market is a Cape Town favourite), picking your own cut of free-range meat from an ethical butcher (I like the sound of Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants) or getting clued up on the slow fashion movement (Jane Sews, South African maker of artisan clothing and footwear, embodies this idea).

It comes down to being a conscious consumer, and putting thought into buying things that are not only better for the planet (and your well-being), but that are also ethically-sourced. And, it’s not as difficult as you might think. There are so many home-grown brands (restaurants, grocers, apparel, cleaning products, lux beauty ranges, you name it) that openly embrace this ethos. It’s one of my biggest personal intentions to be one of these more conscious consumers.

4. Meat-free Monday

The argument against society’s meat consumption (and the negative environmental impact its production causes) is a strong and highly compelling one. And that’s before we even start talking about the (un)ethical treatment of animals.

While I’m personally a far cry from the vegan life, I’m a super strong advocator of the Meat-free Monday movement. The premise is that, by eliminating meat from your diet for just one day a week, you’re making a positive contribution to climate change, your health and even your bank balance.

I really enjoy the challenge of cooking new and creative vegetarian dishes, so much so that I’m finding myself eating less meat/chicken without actually trying (but, more on that another time).

5. Clean up your local beach (or any natural space)

You don’t have to take part in an organised event to help clean our beaches. If you see rubbish littered on the beach (or a hiking trail, or nature reserve or any space), pick it up, and there you go! Ever wondered what to do with rubbish that can’t be recycled (like straws)? Get inspired by the Ecobrick Exchange.

6. Volunteer at your local conservation organisation

Last year I spent some time working at a local marine conservation organisation SANCCOB (read about it here) and it was the most rewarding 6 months. Not only does that kind of work experience look excellent on your CV, but it’s also an opportunity to put your skills towards an environmental cause. Non-profit organisations are always looking for skilled people to help out so if you’re great at yakking at people on the phone, a boss at organising important events, a designer of digital content, a wordy genius, a social media strategist with all the right strategic moves or just have a lotta love to give, then get involved.

7. Badger your friends, family and anyone that will listen

I’ve noticed that within my own family, the more candidly I talk about and point out these easy changes and habits, the more they embrace it.

8. BE WATER WISE

 Just thought I’d throw in another shameless plug on behalf of Cape Town. The city’s current situation has forever changed my outlook on water. Even when I’m in places that don’t have restrictions, running myself a luxurious bath doesn’t come without a conscious acknowledgement that that’s exactly what it is – a luxury.

None of us are perfect, though, and it’s more about making little positive changes that add up to a big one. Do what you can and be kind to the planet.

Em xx

P.S. The featured image of this post was taken on my first morning in Mahé, Seychelles during which I got to explore Beau Vallon beach. For a beach that’s banked entirely by hotels, I was shocked by the state of it – for the most part, it was pristine. Inspiring, right?

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