Go Green This Year: 20 Changes We Have Made To Live A More Sustainable Lifestyle

Byron and Tammy reading a book about Herbalism

This year has really been one of reflection for us and we are sure it has been the same for many of you.

We began this journey looking to heal. Not because we are broken, but because we felt the expectations of life as we know it are. We want to bring healing to the mind, body, soul, and earth.

Through this reflection and based off of the knowledge that we have gathered while travelling and seeing the effects of plastic first hand, we decided that we wanted to do more to contribute to the planet that we live in and contribute towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

However, just like many of you, we didn’t know how – and we are still learning. It’s tough to watch a documentary for instance and then say, ‘well how can I do something about it’? How can I live a more sustainable lifestyle? Well, we may not be able to enforce the end of plastic production or the production of methane greenhouse gases but we can take small steps to implement change in our own lives and change our consciousness.

These are some of the steps we took to live a more sustainable lifestyle.


1. Re-use and Upcycle Your Glass Jars

If you went to look in your kitchen right now, how many glass jars would you find? Nevermind just your kitchen, but your house. We bet you, you would find a lot!

Coffee jars? Jam jars? Pickle Jars? Sauerkraut? Beetroot? Old candles? Oil diffusers? What happens when they are finished, do you toss them out? We sure used too.

However, over the past few months, we have been saving them and now we have them at our disposal.

We have used them as food storage containers for our bulk dry ingredients like flaxseed powder, chia seeds, oats, shredded coconut, baking flour, dates – you name it. Which comes in handy with our next tip…

P.S. If you don’t have any glass jars right now, that’s okay. You might also consider your Tupperware, plastic containers or even old ice cream tubs.


2. Shop At Grocery Stores That Offer Non-plastic Options

When you walk into your local grocer, it seems like every item comes with some form of plastic. Plastic bottles, plastic wrap around broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber and meat, carrots in plastic bags, “ready to eat lasagna” in a plastic container… You’re thinking about it, right?

Throwback: When we were living in Thailand it used to aggravate the living heck out of us. We would buy a pack of 20 sausages, they were obviously in a plastic packet, but when taking them out, every single, individual sausage was wrapped in its own plastic too.

Therefore, try your best to support stores that promote a sustainable lifestyle with less plastic or eliminate plastic completely. Like The Refillery.

“The Refillery is an exciting, new planet-friendly grocer offering a stylish, convenient, PLASTIC-FREE, ‘weigh-and-pay’ shopping experience that helps you to stock and re-stock your pantry with the highest quality, ethically-sourced products without all that wasteful packaging normally associated with a trip to the grocery store.”

The Refillery

We haven’t had a chance to visit the store yet, but they do deliver. The best part about it all is that this whole system is biodegradable. If you keep a compost heap/bin, you can use the brown paper bags and the cardboard box as carbon-rich matter. Which leads us to step three…


3. Make Your Own Compost

Not only is composting a great source of healthy nutrients for your plants and generally just good for the environment, but it also reduces landfill waste.

Why is reducing landfill waste so important? Well, every week our garbage is collected and our waste goes off to a landfill somewhere in the country, it becomes an out of sight, out of mind kind of situation for us.

However, because there is so much waste in the landfills, they lack the necessary oxygen to facilitate in the decaying process. So, bacteria builds up and begins to emit methane gases and therefore contributes to greenhouse gases which cause global warming. When researching this further it said that 90% of food waste in South Africa is disposed into landfills.

So, if we can do our part, not only will our plant’s benefit, but so will our planet.


4. Plant Your Own Vegetables and Herbs

Now that you have some compost available, you will need something to benefit from its great source of nutrients. So, why not plant some vegetables or herbs?

This is actually where our journey towards a sustainable lifestyle began. I mean the knowledge of it had been building up inside already, but this was the first step we actually took to implement it into our home.

Why grow your own food? Firstly it can be extremely rewarding (we literally watch our plants grow), but secondly, think of all of the production and distribution steps that you’re eliminating.

Growing your own produce is a great way to monitor what goes into its growth process. You can make it totally organic and free from all pesticides. You eliminate the fossil fuels used to distribute it to retailers, you eliminate the use of plastic, and it’s also cheaper.

Also having your own herb garden can be great for cooking and herbalism if you are interested in natural medicine remedies.


5. Support A Local Farmer

Fruit and Vegetables from a Local Farm

If growing your own produce is not something that tickles your fancy, why not support a local farmer who uses sustainable farming methods?

Supporting a local farmer is a great way to support your local community, and get fresh produce that has been grown organically.

To be honest, it was not so easy to find a local farmer near where we live in the south of Johannesburg. It took a lot of research.

The same can be said about farmers’ markets. We don’t really have anything like that – and if we do they are filled with stalls with arts, crafts, fast foods, and plastic-wrapped vegetables. Not exactly a sustainable lifestyle environment.

However we have found Virgin City Fields – for which we are extremely happy!

They are an online store that provides high quality, organic fruits & veg, plus a myriad of other ingredients that have been sourced from sustainable farming methods.

If you know of any other local farms or markets in Johannesberg let us know in the comments below!


6. Make Bone Broth

Making broth in a slow cooker

Before sending your scraps away to the compost heap. Save some to make your own vegetable/chicken/pork/beef broth. Whichever you prefer.

Chicken broth is amazing for anyone suffering from gut issues. My mom had been suffering from leaky gut syndrome for a long time. She would swell up at the drop of a hat and react to foods that never presented a problem before. This went on for about 6 years. To aid in her healing we started making chicken broth.

All I’m going to say is Dr. Josh Axe – How to Make Chicken Bone Broth


7. Use A Bamboo Toothbrush

Bamboo Toothbrushes on Leaves

We are told that to practice good dental hygiene, we must replace our toothbrush every three to four months. While we highly doubt that actually happens, we know you can’t keep one toothbrush your entire life. At one point they are thrown away.

Why is this so terrible? Well, toothbrushes are made from polypropylene plastic and nylon, which come from fossil fuels and apparently they can take up to 400 years to decompose. Since none of us have reached the 400 years old mark, I suppose we will never even know if that statement is even true…

A little bit of truth: while Bamboo toothbrushes are 90% biodegradable there is still 10% that isn’t. The bristles are still made of nylon. A little disappointing, but currently there aren’t great alternatives.

The concept of change is there. It’s up to us to keep developing.


8. Bring Your Own Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags. I’m pretty sure we have all seen the movement or the call for reusable grocery bags in the last year or so. At one point even Woolworths implemented the bring your own bag rule. However, sadly this didn’t last long as people started to complain.

Throwback: we visited Bali in 2019 and this was the first time we were introduced to a grocery store that refused to give out plastic bags. If you didn’t bring your own bags – you would have to carry your shopping out by hand. We admired it so much, that it changed our outlook. In fact, it inspired people to try to eliminate other plastic within the store too.

We can’t place judgment though. Sometimes the alternative is expensive, sometimes you just arrive at the store and realise you have left everything at home. The most important thing is we do the best we can and get creative with it. I’ve seen people in Thailand coming in with wheelbarrows and laundry baskets. It’s the effort that counts.

It’s also up to retailers to offer more sustainable lifestyle friendly options. Apparently now Woolworths is doing a trial run on recyclable brown paper bags. I admire their push to become a zero plastic store.

Did you know that ±500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide every year? We also only use them for a maximum of 15 minutes. After that, they take 500 years to decompose and end up in our oceans.

Definitely recommend watching this: Together, we can stop plastic pollution in our oceans.


9. Make Your Own Homemade Cleaning Products

DIY House Cleaning Products

It’s time to brush off those harsh chemicals by making your own DIY cleaning products. This is a fun and easy one that not only benefits the environment but your health.

For an awesome surface cleaner, all you need is a spray bottle, water, white vinegar, and 10 to 12 drops of your preferred essential oils. I love to use lemon, peppermint, and orange to give everything a fresh smell. Highly recommend trying it out.


10. Invest in Reusable Stainless Steel Straws

Straw Layout

Just like most plastic items, they don’t only end up in a landfill. If you have ever seen that video of a turtle getting a straw removed from his nose that will be enough to stop you from using them.
(Watch it here – Beware Highly Sensitive)

So the fact that the “Say No To Plastic Straws” revolution has become quite a big movement now, with many restaurants and cafes refusing to use plastic straws, is a great step in the right direction.

However, many restaurants have opted for paper straws. I’m not sure how fantastic of a replacement that is though. I do understand that its a cheaper option but I also think I can speak for literally everyone when I say using a paper straw sucks! I don’t have a solution besides investing in stainless steel or glass straws and implementing fantastic sanitation practices.

However, at-home try to make use of stainless steel, bamboo, and glass straws. You can even bring them along wherever you go.


11. Drink From Reusable Stainless Steel Bottles

Plastic water bottles are a great and convenient way to stay hydrated, even I have been enticed to simply plonk a bunch of water bottles in the fridge so that I can take one on the go.

However, the effects that it has on our environment is simply not worth it. I mean they are supposed to be recycled… but do you make sure they get recycled? Or do you just throw them away?

The Guardian released an article stating that “A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.” Maybe only half of those will be recycled.

It makes a lot more sense to just carry around your own personal reusable bottle. If you are worried about water quality you can buy water in bulk from stores like Perfect Water or get a filtration system of some kind. Even at some airports they will have filtered water stations for you to fill up your bottles.


12. Invest In Reusable Coffee Filters

If you are like me, then there is nothing more exhilarating than a cup of good coffee in the morning.

However, our coffee habits do not always contribute to a 100% sustainable lifestyle… From water to electricity to filters to machines that use aluminum and plastic pods.

It’s important to always be on the lookout for more eco-friendly ways to brew your coffee. For example, using a reusable coffee pod or biodegradable coffee pods.

Not into pods? A great method to use is a french press. They have a reusable filter, require no electricity, and are easily washable. Another method is the all-natural pour-over, where you can use an organic cotton reusable filter or stainless steel one.


13. Invest In Sustainable Products Like Bamboo, Glass Or Stainless Steel

If you are looking to expand your kitchenware then consider other alternatives before purchasing your next Tupperware set. Don’t only consider the environment here, but your health. “BPA Free” is not the only thing we should be worrying about.

If you are interested in learning more about this, read Should I worry about plastics? an article on BBC. It talks about an experiment done to show how the chemicals found in plastic transfer to our food and then to our bodies.


14. Be Mindful Of Your Purchases

What does this mean? Stop shopping? Hell no! But maybe be more mindful about the item you are purchasing. If you are going to spend money on a polyester t-shirt, why not invest that same money in an organic cotton t-shirt? (Did you know fast fashion is one of the biggest polluters in the world?)

Instead of normal coffee pods, biodegradable? Be Conscious. That’s all.

(Also, the more stores that see their patrons only supporting certain ethical and environmental practices, the more they will invest to improve their sustainable lifestyle operations and at some point, they will all have to make the switch to keep up.)


15. Recycle

Every country and city is different. It can be really difficult to recycle, especially when it is not a normal part of your normal garbage collection system.

We are lucky that where we live, we receive a recycled plastic bag every two weeks to store our recyclable goods in, then every two weeks they come to collect it.

If you are serious about recycling, you could always find a recyclable drop-off centre near you and to take your already separated items to.

We found this useful guide if you want to read more about recycling in South Africa: Treevolution’s Guide to Recycling: 2018.


16. Reuse Zip Lock Bags

This is something we started doing a while back. We love to start our mornings off with a smoothie. So, we pre-cut banana and other fruits to freeze. In the past, we would just throw the bag away once we were done with it. Now we choose to wash them out and reuse them.

Now, you can also get reusable silicone sandwich/ziplock bags which is definitely something we’d like to look into. But for now, to save some money, we have our zip lock bags and we’re going to keep re-using them.


17. Shop At Stores That Offer To Recycle

Be on the lookout for a shop that offers recycling options. For example The Body Shop. They offer a “RETURN. RECYCLE. REPEAT.” system. Basically you return your empty product bottles, tubs and such and they add it to their recycling bin. Plus, if you are a Love Your Body Club member you will earn a small reward for every 5 products you recycle.

H&M stores also offer something similar. You can bring in old textiles and any old garments you have to be recycled. You also get a 15% discount for every bag you bring in. They also have a conscious collection, where you can buy garments made from recycled items. I got the cosiest winter jersey from the collection the other day!

Tammy sitting on the bed wearing a Jersey from the conscious collection from H&M

18. LEDs, Power Saving Globes and Digital Timers

Try and limit the amount of electricity you use by replacing your old globes with LED and power-saving globes. Another great thing to have is a digital timer so you can monitor how long your lights stay on for. This is great for those times you fall asleep before turning off the lights.

A lot of the new smart light switches are also able to track power usage, so you can set some personal goals! Please don’t live in the dark though.

Also be wary of which lights are on. If you are only occupying one room, the other rooms don’t need to have lights on.

Throwback: Byron and our good friend Sev installed smart switches into our home a few months ago and they have been amazing to use. We can even control them from our phones through voice activation. So this can be fun too.


19. Unplug Everything

Be wary of the vampire effect. You may not be charging your phone currently, but your cord may still be drawing electricity. Make it a habit to unplug everything and only utilise it when you need it.

The key to a sustainable lifestyle, is “lifestyle”. It may seem a little tiresome at first, but once it becomes a habit, you won’t even notice you’re doing it!


20. When All Else Fails – Educate Yourself

The first step to change, before the actual action, is gaining the know-how. We didn’t suddenly expand our thoughts and understanding of a sustainable lifestyle. We invested our time to listen to others, people who know more, and have dedicated their lives to improving the environment. Our advice – read books and watch documentary after documentary.

Also, we don’t believe in judgment of any kind and we don’t believe that you should pass on judgment either! Everyone’s journey is different, we want the idea of a sustainable lifestyle to be a passion of yours, not one based off of peer pressure.

We want our blog to be a space of growth, learning, and reflection. If you feel you cannot commit yourself to everything we have listed, that’s okay.
You shouldn’t live your life with stress and anxiety over what others might say. If you are passionate, do what you feel comfortable with.

We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.

Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef.

If you are passionate about living a more eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle like us, start chatting with us in the comments below! We would love to hear your options, your tips and build a supportive environment for all…

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