How to be lower waste and being okay with not being perfect

Zero waste and low waste has been a huge trend lately.  This is often met with scorn about how one person can’t make a change, it can only be changed by countries and corporations.  The thing is, if there is a rising demand by consumers for lower waste or responsible packaging and recycled products, then countries as well as corporations do listen.  This means your low waste movements are having a positive impact.

It can be difficult to go zero waste in South Africa and for most of us that’s a luxury.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything. You are just impacted by your own city or town. If you live in Johannesburg, the informal recycling guys on the carts are doing an amazing job at recycling the city’s’ waste. They are found in a lot of the other cities but Johannesburg seems to be the shining example of this recycling activity.  There are also some formal recycling projects underway in some of the larger cities.

Although on that level there is progress there is a lot of small things you can do daily that impacts your environmental footprint.  Most of them are pretty straight forward and easy to do.


Around the house:

Recycle old Jars and containers

Use old coffee jars and containers for storage in your pantry. Clean glass and a basic white paint marker can create a pretty effect on your storage shelves and lower your environmental footprint. I use these jars to store everything from flour and couscous to hot chocolate.

Paper packaging

A lot of products come in plastic. Where possible buy your products in paper, or better yet, go to a refill shop where you can refill your products either straight into your jars or into brown paper bags to decant at home. I know Johannesburg and Cape Town have these, let me know if you know of others in other cities. Many cities also have paper recycling schemes where paper is collected in special bags.

Buy local produce

For the love of avocados, stop buying produce that has been imported from other countries. Avocados and berries are winter fruit for us here. Don’t cause unnecessary carbon footprints to bring in food that we grow locally but is out of season here. Also, your wallet will be happy for not spending the extra money on import tax.  The ideal is that the distance between producers and consumers should be as small as possible.

Plastic bags for shopping is still a huge issue.  Be creative and get a set of reusable shopping bags.  Get into the habit of carrying this with you.  They are sturdier than plastic and will save the environment and your wallet.


In your makeup drawer:


Ahh the joys of haul videos and the search of the perfect red lipstick means that a lot of us are sitting with a lot more make up than we will ever use. While our tendency is to hoard these, because they were expensive or special, is normal. We need to remember that they are just products and make up companies spend a lot of money to build artificial hype or scarcity on a product to push up the price.

I am not saying don’t buy expensive make up, but rather suggesting, don’t buy more than you need and maybe start deciding where you are spending your money wisely. The expiry dates on makeup are an actual thing and you need to be aware of this.  Mascara expires in three months of use, so when you throw away your toothbrush you need to replace your mascara. Buy a decent quality “cheap” one or just tint your lashes and eyebrows so that you don’t really need mascara and eyebrow gel.

Speaking of toothbrushes

Have you considered switching to bamboo toothbrushes? Bamboo is a fast-growing, low resource wood that is completely biodegradable. Sometimes the bristles aren’t recyclable, but it is still a lot more friendly that your average toothbrush.


While getting your products in glass isn’t always that easy, especially when you are buying your products from your local pharmacy. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get your products in glass. If you are curious about local skincare that is made in glass, then consider Lulu and Marula. I did a review of their products a while ago and still have them on the bathroom counter for daily use.


So here I am pretty guilty. I have curly hair and I tend to be not at all brand loyal with my hair. I often switch my hair products out a lot and buy something new while I still have products I am using. This has caused a ton of waste and a huge waste of money. Recently I decided to stop this and am now just following a basic haircare routine with very good quality shampoo and conditioner. This is saving my hair and my pocket.

Let’s talk about periods

I know, I know you are thinking now you are going one step too far. Before you close this article, hear me out. Most female hygiene products are actually full of plastic from the sanitary pads and tampons. If you are trying to go greener, you can get completely cotton tampons and biodegradable pads. If you are feeling super brave you can also try out period panties, washable pads and cups. If you want to know more, let me know.

Out and about



Coffee, ahh my favourite but oh so bad, it is a waste maker. Once off use plastic for coffee is seriously bad. The lids of take away cups are usually non-biodegradable, so these make it even more of a no-no. Reusable mugs in ceramic or bamboo are great, they look elegant and help you protect the environment. Just don’t do what I did and get one for every day of the week because you like collecting things (or don’t clean the car every day)...


Almost everyone and their grandmother seems to have metal straws these days.  While that’s a positive step forward, how many of us use straws when we are at home? When it comes to going out, either consider not bothering to use a straw at all or switch to a straw you carry with you. I have gone for the straw free life, since I don’t want to carry my entire kitchen in my handbag,  though my co-podcaster does.


While I know there are a million things I could add to the list, some of it is very advanced, not all that practical or I just don’t feel like I should have an option about it. You may have noticed I left out any comments on children since I don’t have any.

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