The Four R’s of Green Living
You might have heard some of your friends around braai fires throwing around words like going green, reducing the carbon footprint, sustainable living, environmentally friendly and so on. Some even talk of “doing their bit” to ensure they are not contributing to global warming. By the time you've tucked the lamb chops away and downed a few drinks, you could find yourself asking how you could also “do your bit”.
Well, going green is one way of saying becoming environmentally friendly or living a sustainable lifestyle. It also means green or sustainable living is a lifestyle where one consciously works at reducing their impact on the environment for future generations. Green living can also be an exciting lifestyle and a money saving endeavour. It can be done in one, or all four ways, called the four R’s of green or sustainable living, namely recycling, reusing, repurposing and reducing.
Let us quickly look at these four, rather unassuming words, in turn and see what impact you could have on cutting back the accelerating global warming trend, should you choose to also go green at home or at the office.
This is basically the process of converting certain waste material into materials that can be reused for other purposes. A Green Building Council of South Africa survey found that proper and consistent recycling can reduce household waste to landfill by up to 80%.
The first stage of the process can be done in your home or office and is basically the separation of waste into recyclable and non-recyclable. Recyclable materials include cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles, and paper products such as magazines, old books and cardboard boxes. (A look into your bin right now can show you that 60-70% of the waste is recyclable). You will need to separate these types of waste accordingly and drop them at local recycling plants or collection centres found in a number of cities in South Africa. The website mywaste.co.za provides a tool to locate recyclable waste drop off depots near you. In Cape Town the CapeTownGreenMap shows drop off depots around the city.
Reuse means just that. Instead of throwing something away you simply reuse it for its original purpose or you use it for something else. This also reduces the stuff you would have dumped at a landfill.
There are a number of things that can be reused around the house. A few suggestions include using the shopping plastic bags they give you at the grocery store as bin liners, use empty shoe and similar boxes to store items like photos, use empty plastic margarine and other similar food containers to store food stuffs. Donating your old clothes to the less fortunate is also a way of reusing.
Instead of throwing something away because it has ceased to serve its purpose you could think up a new purpose for it. One good example is, with a little bit of artistic designing, turning old flower pots into beautiful lamp shades. Another one is attaching a couple of old car tyres together in a stack, putting a wooded board and a cushion on top to produce a stool for your patio.
This simply refers to reducing your usage of electricity and water.
In another survey, the Green Building Council of South Africa established that if you take a bath you use up to 120 litres of water. On the other hand, if your shower is fitted with a low flow rose and you shower for about two minutes you will use less than 20 litres of water.
You can also reduce your water usage by harvesting rain water to wash your car or water your garden on dry days.
Geysers consume the most electricity in most households, unless you turn down the thermostat and wrap your geyser with a geyser blanket. Geyser blankets reduce heat loss and result in a reduction of the amount of electricity used for water heating.
Other ways of reducing your electricity usage include using cold water in your washing machine, not ironing certain items that can do without ironing, such as pyjamas and gym wear and switching off and unplugging items that are not in use.