Over the past few years, the threat of climate change and the loss of biodiversity has made many of us strive to lead “greener” lifestyles. The problem is that we are not sure where to begin, or how to make the maximum impact in the fight for a cleaner earth. I personally faced this dilemma a few years ago. Below I have provided some of the easiest ways to start your environmentally friendly journey.

The first thing to remember is that this is a journey, and it will not be perfected overnight. If you slip up, forget or experience a moment of weakness, do not give up. Perseverance is key, and eventually this will all become a routine. With the help of shops like The Refillery, a zero-waste store, this process becomes much easier for us as individuals to perfect. Remember to use these eco-resources throughout your journey.

There are some eco-swaps that have been made popular on social media, such as refusing the straw and carrying a reusable straw, refusing the plastic bag and taking your own tote bag to the shops and, of course, saying no to single-use plastic water bottles. Make sure to incorporate these switches into your everyday lifestyle.

Bamboo Toothbrushes. There are so many bamboo toothbrush options that there really is no need for the old, ugly plastic toothbrushes that we are used to. The bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable, look classier and cost roughly the same amount. This is one of the easiest swaps as it requires no thinking. Just buy your bamboo toothbrush, or order it online, and voila you are done.

Metal Safety Razors. This is one of my personal favourite eco-swaps. Metal safety razors are significantly cheaper than a normal plastic razor. After the initial purchase, you will never need to buy another one. As for the blades, it is approximately R15 for 5 refills. Use the safety razor with slightly more caution than a normal razor. However, after 2 years I have had no problems.

Reusable Cotton Rounds. Instead of using the disposable cotton rounds to apply your toner or to remove your make-up, rather invest in the reusable versions. These reusable cotton rounds can be hand-washed or thrown in the washing machine to be cleaned. It takes a substantial amount of water to grow cotton, and therefore reusable cotton rounds

Soap Bars over Shower Gel. If you are looking to reduce the number of unnecessary plastic bottles that you buy, swap to bars of soap instead of shower gel. There are many soap bars that come in cardboard or paper wrappings, instead of plastic.

Shampoo Bars or Refills. Here you will need to experiment with what works for your hair. Shampoo bars are a great ‘naked’ alternative, Or choose to refill.

Be Water Wise. Be aware of how much water you are using, especially in the bathroom and the kitchen. To save water when flushing the toilet, place a bottle filled with water in the cistern of your toilet. This will lessen the amount of water used when you flush. Take shorter showers or invest in a Water Saving Shower Head.  In the kitchen, make use of a dish washer. Dish washers use less water than individually washing each item. However, this only works if you wait until the dish washer is full before switching it on – don’t use it for 3 plates and a spoon. When washing your vegetables, fill the sink with water, rinse them, and then collect the water with a bucket or bowl and use that to water the flowers, or your veggie patch.

Switch Off Your Lights.This is such an underrated habit, with the added benefit of reducing your monthly electricity bill. Don’t forget to unplug unused appliances as well.

Donate What You No Longer Use.Instead of disposing of the items that you no longer use, donate them. Every community has its own charities that are always looking for donations, especially of clothes, food, toys, blankets, unused household products etc. You can sell your old electronics to a shop such as Cash Crusaders and give someone the opportunity to buy second-hand. All your old books and textbooks can be donated to a second-hand bookstore.

Watch what you eat.It is a well-known fact that the food industry is not environmentally friendly. Therefore, I would suggest a Flexitarian diet. The beauty of a flexitarian diet is that it is personal and can be amended to suit individual needs. Whether you are taking part in Meat-Free Mondays, or adding one vegan day into your week, or simply cutting out beef, every little bit helps. This way of eating is not restrictive, and only promotes taking in more fruits and vegetables than usual. Another eco-tip is to make enough food for leftovers. This will prevent you from cooking a whole new meal from scratch every day.

Be a conscious consumer.  I cannot stress this enough. By just being aware that what you buy adds to the consumerism problem, you can have a positive effect. Maybe it will lead to you buying fewer clothes. Maybe it will lead to you buying second-hand books, clothes, electronics etc. Maybe it will lead to you buying fewer soft drinks. Whatever you buy less of, you reduce the demand for that product.

These simple and affordable life-hacks should be enough to get you started on your own “green” journey. Once you have incorporated them into your life, be sure to promote these practices to your friends and family, and lead by example.

Written by Romana Katrakilis | @eco_made_easy