Green Tips For Around The Home

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Page - June 28, 2012
We want to be able to be the greenest we can, but sometimes we are unsure where to start greening our lives. Below you will find a comprehensive list to get every aspect of your life started on an eco- and consumer-friendly track.

Buy Regional/Local     

 

In recent years, there has been a large shift towards buying locally-grown produce directly from farmers at markets, together with a shifting onto what is organic and what is not. Increasingly, people are taking a look at what they consuming and are interested in spending their money where it will really make a difference. By choosing to buy local, you are helping not only yourself and the communities that depend on this source of income, but you are helping the environment too!

  • Buying local supports local communities and preserves open lands
  • Buying local supports biodiversity
  • Locally grown food is a healthier option for you and your family
  • Food that is grown locally cuts transportation time and the consumption of fuel. 
  • Supporting local communities creates jobs.

Ask your retailer where their products are from, and how they were produced. Labels such as ‘organic’ are a good indicator for sustainable food production.


 

Be Energy Efficient

 

Greenpeace Africa actively campaigns for an Energy Revolution - a shift away from coal and nuclear and towards renewable energy and energy efficiency. We believe it is feasible for South Africa to quit its addiction to coal which is destroying our water resources, devastating people’s health, contributing to climate change, and poisoning our air and soils.

We also need to avoid expensive, unpredictable and dangerous nuclear energy and focus entirely on a sustainable energy future for the entire country, combined with energy efficiency. Join the energy revolution and ask the government to start investing in this renewable energy future today.

If you cannot easily equip your home with solar lighting and heating, follow these simple steps to become more energy efficient:

  • Use efficient lighting - replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs). Compact fluorescents use four times less energy, and last eight times longer (8,000h instead of 1,000h). 
  • Only turn the lights on in the room you are in at night, and during winter only heat the room you are in.
  • During summer, open the windows and enjoy the summer breeze!
  • If you can, install motion sensor lighting for your office or for your garden - or day/night lights, which sense night time and turn themselves on and off automatically - so no lights are left burning unnecessarily.
  • Switch off and unplug all electronics when they are not in use - when you leave your office, don’t leave lights and computers on.

Energy efficiency is a very broad term referring to the many different ways we can get the same amount of work (light, heat, motion, etc.) done with less energy.

Is it worth spending money on efficiency measures?

Energy efficiency often has multiple positive effects. For example,

  • An efficient clothes washing machine or dishwasher also uses less water. 
  • A well-insulated house will feel warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer and be healthier to live in.
  • An efficient refrigerator will make less noise; have no frost inside, no condensation outside and will likely last longer.
  • Efficient lighting will offer you more light where you need it with a lower electricity bill at the end of the month.

 Efficiency is thus really: 'better with less'.


 

Toxic Chemicals in our daily lives

 

 

Electronics

In today’s world we are often on the lookout for the next technology - updated hardware to keep us “cool”. But what actually happens to that old computer or cell phone when you throw it away? Follow this simple Green Electronics Guide to find out who is leading the race to make the greenest equipment available for their consumers.

The environmental and health impacts of waste are astounding. E-waste often contains materials such as copper, gold, platinum, lead, mercury and arsenic. When these products are dumped without being properly disposed of, these materials affect the environment that they are in, and poison the people who sift through them to get to the precious metals inside.

When you need to recycle your old phone or computer, don’t just throw it away; rather take it back to the manufacturer, as most of these companies now have recycling depots in their stores, and will properly dispose of the products.

Cleaning agents

  • When you clean your house with toxic and abrasive cleaning liquids, you are exposing yourself to these elements. Once you wash them down the drains you are also spreading these toxins into our water system. Eliminate toxic chemicals in your home by choosing to buy biodegradable household cleaners. Most leading supermarkets and retailers have begun to stock green cleaning ranges, which eliminate harmful pollutants. Avoid the use of polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC or vinyl) in your home. The entire life-cycle of products made from PVC pollutes the environment and your home. PVC items include shower curtains, flooring and even some children's toys.
  • Avoid the use of aerosols.
  • Use castor or mineral oils to lubricate switches and hinges instead of lubricants containing solvents.
  • Choose water-based latex paints over solvent-based paints when painting your home. Never use lead-based paints.

Waste

South Africa produces over 42 million cubic metres of waste per year. 12% of household waste is plastic bottles. This may sound like a small percentage, but in the bigger picture, that adds up to 70,000 tons a year!

When plastic is not recycled properly, it ends up in our water systems, streets, and national parks. Animals can mistake pieces of plastic for food and die of asphyxiation.

  • Do not throw your toxic household wastes, such as paint, paint thinner and car fluids down the drain. Check with your local refuse collection company for proper disposal and avoid these products in the future.
  • Take your own bags to the grocery store. If you take plastic bags, use them until they are worn out, and then recycle them properly.
  • Compost your food waste and use as nutrient rich soil for your lawn.
  • Avoid excess packaging.
  • Always use re-usable products: mugs, lunch containers, batteries, pens, and razors, for example.
  • Replace paper products with reusable ones (use recycled, non-chlorine bleached paper when you do have to use paper).

Plastics

We have all heard about our plastic addiction, but did you know that different types of plastic can be used for different things, and each type has a certain way of being recycled?  Here is a guide to plastics:

>> Click on a number to read its info or expand all answers or collapse all answers.

  Number 1 Plastics
PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
These plastics are found in plastic bottles and most plastic containers. These plastics can be recycled, and are easy to recycle. They are the most common types of plastics.

 

  Number 2 Plastics
HDPE (high density polyethylene)
These plastics are found in more hardy plastic containers - your household cleaning products will most likely be packaged in these. HDPE is a versatile plastic with many uses, especially for packaging. It carries low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable into many forms.

 

  Number 3 Plastics
V (Vinyl) or PVC
These plastics are also found in hard plastic containers like cleaning products, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows, and piping. They are rarely recycled. PVC contains chlorine, so its manufacture can release highly dangerous dioxins. Ask retailers and manufacturers to go PVC-free! PVC may be versatile and relatively inexpensive, but the price we pay for a low-cost piece of PVC pipe or soft vinyl toy is far steeper than it may seem.

 

  Number 4 Plastics
LDPE (low density polyethylene)
Used in squeezable bottles, bread packets, frozen food packaging, dry cleaning and shopping bags, furniture, and some carpets.
Plastic bags can cause great threat to the environment and to ocean life. Avoid buying plastic bags whenever possible - but if you do have to, drop them off at a recycling depot when you are done with them.

 

  Number 5 Plastics
PP (polypropylene)
Used in some yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, and medicine bottles. These can be recycled through some curbside programs.
Polypropylene has a high melting point, and so is often chosen for containers that can contain hot liquid. It is gradually becoming more accepted by recyclers, taking these plastics to your local recycling point is always best.

 

  Number 6 Plastics
PS (polystyrene)
Polystyrene is one of the worst types of plastics you can get, it is best to avoid buying products that come in polystyrene altogether. Polystyrene containers are found in take away packaging, fruit and vegetable packaging, picnic cups and plates. Ask your retailer to quit its polystyrene, and choose biodegradable packaging instead!

 

  Number 7 Plastics
These are miscellaneous plastics. Products that contain these plastics include heavily artificial products like DVDs, nylon, materials that are made to be "bullet proof" or highly durable.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

South Africa produces approximately 350 000 tonnes of toxic waste annually. As there is no completely safe way of handling toxic waste, government should enforce strict laws which compel industry to reduce waste production. Remember to dispose of your waste safely and responsibly.


 

Start your own Veggie Garden

 

Having a vegetable patch doesn’t need to take up all your time - and it could save you plenty of money in the long run. Home-grown veggies leave you with a great feeling, not just because you’ve produced something from your own garden, but because you know exactly what has gone into it. Mass-produced vegetables that you buy in your supermarket may have often been sprayed with large amounts of pesticides, and the emissions from transporting them your table are just not worth it. Even if you do not have a large garden, you can buy seedling trays, and start small.


 

Do you have questions about recycling or greening your home? Leave them in a comment below and our consumer campaigner will answer them for you.

 

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