As your new year starts to take shape, now is a good time to think about how you can lighten your planetary footprint. Make a start in these five areas of life.
Whether you live in a city or town that is experiencing water stress or joyously emerging from a period of drought, this is a good time to review your water habits.
Scientists tell us that South Africa is already a water-stressed country, and climate projections are that we are likely to face longer and more severe droughts as our world heats up.
We can all be more mindful of the amount of water we use in our homes and businesses, and make the necessary changes to stop it running down the drain.
What you can do: Be green and check your water meter at a regular time and make a note of the reading to see where most of your water is going.
Take shorter showers, install rainwater tanks to catch run-off, and make use of grey water for watering gardens and flushing toilets.
You are what you eat
What we eat (and what goes to waste) has a significant impact on the environment. Food production is responsible for deforestation, desertification, soil degradation, water scarcity, declining water quality, and widespread damage to marine ecosystems.
If we as humans are the main cause behind nature loss, what can we do to change the way we live and eat? The consensus is that a diet rich in plant-based food with only modest amounts of animal protein is better for people and the planet.
What you can do: Opt for seasonal, local produce, and eat more vegetables. If you eat meat, choose free range over feedlot, and only eat fish that features on the WWF-SASSI green list: wwf.org.za/sassi.
Also, look out for the sugar bird label on wine bottles to check if you’re supporting a WWF Conservation Champion wine farm.
For nature. For you.
Natural systems provide us with fresh water, support a vibrant tourism industry, and help our farmers put food on our tables (think of the bees needed for pollination).
But habitat loss, changes to freshwater flow, overfishing, pollution, climate change and biological invasions by alien species are all threats that have been identified as pressing problems in our country.
WWF works hard to make sure that these natural systems are looked after for the benefit of nature and human wellbeing.
This work ranges from expanding the population of black rhinos, to safeguarding water source areas, encouraging sustainable agriculture, reducing plastic waste, limiting climate change, and much, much more.
What you can do: Give your support to WWF or another environmental organisation of your choice to help us keep doing the good work.
South Africa is largely a car-bound society, which unfortunately also contributes towards the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately climate change.
About half the direct emissions from transport are from private passenger transport – with one of the chief reasons for this being the daily commute to and from work.
A few tweaks to your work/home life will help to reduce the amount of time you need to spend in a car and make you more green.
What you can do: Carpool with a colleague a few times a month. Use public transport where possible. Organise more virtual meetings and arrange to work at home a few times a month if you can.
Put pressure on your local authorities to provide safe public transport and bicycle lanes. If you’re planning to buy a new car, compare notes to see which is the most fuel-efficient.
Police the plastic
While some plastics play an important part in our daily lives (think your personal computer), there are problem plastics that we can all avoid, such as coffee-cup lids and polystyrene containers.
While some plastics can be recycled and reused, the reality is that recycling is highly susceptible to market forces. Rather follow the mantra to “refuse, reduce, reuse” and then recycle.
What you can do: Support retailers who are making an effort to reduce their plastic packaging. When shopping, check the labels to see whether the packaging is or isn’t recyclable.
You too can give WWF wings
Another great way to support the wonderful work of WWF South Africa is to donate your SAA Voyager miles. Donating your miles is easy:
- Log in to your Voyager account at flysaa.com
- Choose Voyager Shopping, and select Donate Miles
- Under Target Account, select WWF, and make your donation
- You can also do it via the new Voyager app
By donating your miles, you will help WWF South Africa work towards its conservation goals, and free up valuable organisational resources that can be ploughed back directly into environmental work.