Daphne Hamilton of North West says, “when we wake up in the morning it is to the sounds of birds and a view of the northern slopes of the Magaliesberg.
“We try to lead green lives by using solar geysers, using solar panels to generate electricity (I live in hope for when we can feed back into the grid), growing a fair amount of our own fruit and vegetables, processing some of it and giving away what we can’t use, using only organic fertilisers or pesticides, and having our own bees.
“Although we try, we are by no means ‘there’. Or even remotely close. It makes me feel happier that we do our bit. Perhaps we are simply country bumpkins. Linda Woodrow is a well-known name. It would be a real achievement to be able to emulate her lifestyle.”
Emmie Bedeker, who grew up in the Karoo and now lives in Damaraland in the northwest of Namibia, said, “we have always lived very close to nature and that helps us to realise how important it is to take responsibility for nature.
“No matter how much money you have, you cannot buy water or a clean river or ocean when it is all gone. It is possible to afford something, but are you really going to use it? We think twice before we buy anything.”
Samantha Choles, who started a volunteer organisation that does park and pavement clean-ups said, “I’ve always sought to be involved in my community and it’s something my parents instilled in me from early on. That awareness is heightened when you have children of your own and you want them to live in a world that has a clean future.”
Lesley-Ann Jacobs, who worked as a dietitian in the military and tries to live as close to a zero-waste lifestyle as possible, said, “I believe that every little bit counts and small efforts accumulate.”
Here are some little bits that readers and others have done in an effort to live sustainably and protect the planet.
Like the Hamiltons Wilna and Chris Campbell from Polokwane, they heat their water using solar power.
“We have one solar panel on our roof which supplies electricity to our geyser,” said Chris. “This has already paid for itself, considering the saving on our electrical bill.”
Jacobs said that in an effort to lower electricity consumption she uses a ‘wonder bag’, “or my homemade version — wrap a pot of boiling hot food in a towel and then a blanket to slow cook with residual heat,” explained Jacobs. “Works every time if done correctly. I also use a slow cooker for legumes, chicken and stews.”
Doreen Musson claims she saves energy by only cooking once a week and heating meals in the microwave. “I’m not sure about the health benefits of such meals but it may make Eskom more viable!”
Peter Klemp, who relocated to Claremont in Cape Town from Kimberley where he had lived for 67 years, renovated and made his new home more sustainable.
Klemp installed double glazing on his large north-facing residence and made his own air conditioner. It is powered by no electricity. The 75mm pipe, which is buried next to the foundations, is used to bring air into the house. It is then pulled in by two vents located high up on the walls just below ceiling.
Klemp says that as a result, the average temperature of the house is 21˚C in summer and that he pays only R400 a month for electricity.
Klemp also has a solar geyser at 60˚C to catch the low winter sun, makes use of LED globes in the house and uses a gas stove.
Hamilton waters her garden with water from the bathroom and washing machine. Hamilton also has 90% of her native and waterwise plants.
The Campbells also have a waterwise garden, with plants that don’t need a lot of water, such as two types of spekboom and aloes.
Emmie Bedeker stated the same thing. All the water that her household uses goes to the garden, where it waters the reed bush, which is also used as fencing.
Jacobs uses human urine for fertilizer in her garden. “An interesting YouTube video on using human urine as fertiliser led me to devise a little system to collect, dilute and apply urine to the garden,” she said. “A small routine that takes about five additional minutes a day. This immediately reduced the volume of water used to flush the toilet.”
Chris Campbell said, “We collect rainwater from the roof, which then gets stored in rainwater tanks. Once they are full, the water is stored in a 5,000-litre tank that can be used for household and garden purposes. In such a situation, we disconnect the municipal water supply. It also comes in handy during times when there is no municipal water available, which happens quite often.”
Klemp has a water collection system similar to the Campbells’ and said as a result he only buys a maximum of four kilolitres of water a year from the City of Cape Town.
Jacobs said, “some of the principles that I follow include doing the sniff test before laundering clothes. I spot clean clothes where needed and air them.
“My laundry load is reduced to two per week for the household (no small kids or teenagers any more). Of course, the laundry is line dried.”
Jacobs stated that her dry skin, eczema and other problems were solved when she stopped taking daily full baths. She now does a “bird wash” in a basin of water daily, and only has full baths three times a week. Her bathwater is sucked into the garden using a simple hosepipe.
Doreen Musson says, “I shower once a day instead of twice as in the past. Water will replace oil as the cause of the next world war.”
Emmie Bedeker shared the same story as other readers and said that her family shut off their electric geyser. “We put several metres of black PVC pipe on the roof and connected it to the water system and the outdoor shower,” she said. It’s lovely to shower under trees with sunlight water.”
After listing her efforts, Hamilton added, “My climate change issue is a far broader one — how does one identify ‘green’ investments?’
“I have just, for example, sold my few Tharisa shares because I do not want to be party to and benefit from the open-cast mining operation down the road from us.”
Marie-Louise Kellett has her honours degree in Environmental Science and is especially interested in nature-based tourist said. “We need to be examining how our investments drive the crisis. How many people have unit trusts and pension plans that invest in companies that cause climate change and destruction of natural ecosystems?
“They are most likely blissfully unaware that while they are diligently recycling at home, their pension fund is investing in fracking, for example.
Samantha Choles, who runs a litter clean-up organisation, said, “I’ve always been passionate about the environment. From a young age, I entered numerous poster competitions where the environment was the theme and I still have one of my Standard 1 (Grade 3) posters hanging in my office.”
Choles explained how she realized that litter was something she should do more often after she had collected it in Farrarmere Benoni in 2015 for her “67 Minutes for Mandela” project. Litter Bugs2015
Choles, who also works as a communications specialist in the paper and paper packaging industry said, “the other elephant in the room is the education of our nation around littering.
“Signage reading ‘do not litter’ abounds, but does the average citizen know what litter is?” asks Choles. “Litter attracts litter — clean up first before we try to fix things that might not even be broken.
“Our streets, pavements and stormwater drains are a cesspool of rubbish.
“No matter the cost of the EPR levy or single-use tax, if we don’t teach people to use bins, make bins that work and ensure they are emptied, we are fighting a losing battle.”
Bedeker said, “You do not need to buy new clothes every year. When I buy new clothes, I take some old ones and give them to someone who needs them.”
“It took a long time to establish my own style of dressing and determine which clothes have the quality characteristics that will give me years of wear,” said Jacobs.
“I used to go through my wardrobe regularly and donate what I could. Then I realized that I was replacing clothes I had given away. I am much more selective about what I throw out. Some of my clothes have been with me for decades, especially items such as belts, bags and coats.”
She also makes her clothes. She made the dress she wore to her daughter’s wedding and sewed the skirt she used when she was a dietitian working in a provincial hospital.
“That goes back to pre-1988 and I still wear it,” she said. “These items come back into fashion or are so classic that they never go out of style.”
Lesley Ann Jacobs said, “I have been trying to implement zero-waste (or at least low-waste) principles in my household for several years. The result is that our waste bin is seldom more than quarter full and only put out for collection once or perhaps twice a month.”
Jacobs stated that her philosophy was to use what you already have and reduce waste.
“My military medical career gave way to a career as a defence analyst,” she said. “That allowed me to learn more about war. I am fascinated by the social aspect of war, especially how women and children cope in wartime conditions.”
She learnt about the “family cloth” — squares of fabric used instead of toilet paper and washed with the usual load of laundry. “I have not yet progressed to using it for solids but quite happily wipe liquid waste,” says Jacobs, “[it] feels cleaner and is much softer on delicate tissue.”
She added that all well-worn 100% cotton is used as hankies (as opposed to paper tissues) and once they’ve reached the end of their lifetime they are added to the compost heap to return to the soil.
Jacobs doesn’t use cling wrap, but covers her serving dishes with beeswax cloth.
“The main challenge is in one’s mind,” she said. ”I found that I had to change my mindset about things, such as not having a full bath every day or using the ‘family cloth.’
“Having spent most of my dietetic career in the military and having to do military training helped me understand that I could live with much less, including ablutions.
“We are so used to doing things in one way that it is difficult to imagine new ways.”
“I think it is all about attitude and principles,” said Bedeker. “To live simply, to know when enough is enough regarding things to have. To cook only enough food. You can either eat the leftovers the next morning or give it to the chickens and dogs. We don’t throw anything away. We make our own compost and use the chicken droppings with it.”
Hamilton said that Hamilton’s entire family is committed to sustainable living.
Her sister, Malmesbury, is very interested in permaculture and sustainable life. Gordon Smith, her brother, lives near Plettenberg bay and is off-grid. He also runs a seed swapping club.
Gill, Gill’s daughter, lives in Johannesburg and is involved in several climate mitigation NGOs. She uses solar power and tries as sustainably as she can.
“This is something that evolved over years and my four kids grew up with some of the principles and practices,” said Jacobs. Her children learned how to clean and preserve bottles, before they were taken to recycling igloos.
“These things were and still are normal in our house,” said Jacobs. “My one son has now started a business in recycling — perhaps influenced by his mom! He has an organic vegetable plot at his house. My daughter follows the same routine that I taught her. My youngest son is maintaining a minimal lifestyle, purely because he does not see the value in having a lot of stuff.”
Recognizing the importance of an eco-conscious lifestyle
When asked what led them to lead such an eco-conscious and sustainable lifestyle, Jacobs answered, “I am not sure how I became aware of this.
“I grew up in a dysfunctional environment with many personal challenges, including money. I knew from a young age that I needed to care for what I had, as it could not be replaced. I became more aware of the negative environmental effects of my lifestyle and human consumption later in life.
“It was probably a combination of factors — my childhood years, observation about the ruinous behaviour of people, and information as I grew older.”
Chris Campbell stated that his awareness stemmed partly out of the incompetent of government, which was unable to provide constant electricity and water. He also praised their love of nature.
“We are bird watchers and are constantly aware of the effect of global climate changes,” explained Campbell. “I first became aware of environmental issues when I learnt about acid rain in high school in 1978.”
Marie-Louise Kellett said, “While we need to pay attention to the things we can do in our everyday lives, it is clear that the main drivers of the crisis are systemic, and that, using waste reduction as an example, reducing our waste on a personal level is not really going to make a difference.
“There are obviously other benefits to reducing our personal waste, mainly in the sense that it raises awareness of just how much waste is produced in our current economic system.
“But to truly make any significant impact on the crisis, we as individuals need to learn how to drive change at a systemic level.”
Kellet added, “we need to question the fundamentals of how we make decisions about everything, at all levels. The current model is not serving us well and we need a new approach.” DM/OBP