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With growing concerns over global warming and other environmental issues, people are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment. And with this growing awareness, many are committing to living ‘greener’– something you’ve probably been hearing about for quite some time now. But what does ‘going green’ actually mean? Effectively, it’s about changing your habits and adopting practices that are kinder to the environment in an effort to protect it and our natural resources for current and future generations.

Many expect an entirely new way of living – transforming their lifestyles to ensure every action is based on a commitment to the environment. But living greener does not mean you have to change your entire lifestyle. In fact, it often starts with making small changes (like starting to recycle) to your daily habits. It can also mean living on less, which is beneficial for both the planet and your wallet. Here we take a closer look at what you can do to go green.

Recycle

Recycling plays a central role in a greener lifestyle, and it’s often a relatively small adjustment to your daily routine. Sorting your trash by having separate bins for ‘glass’, ‘metal’, ‘paper’ and ‘plastic’ will make it easy to drop off your recyclable waste at a collection point. In addition, you should try to limit your plastic use as much as possible. For example, instead of plastic bags, a material tote bag can be used exclusively for your groceries. Also, avoid produce – or any products for that matter – that comes with excessive packaging. Buy a glass water bottle to refill instead of constantly buying plastic bottles of water. Replace your plastic food containers with glass ones – these are better not only for the environment, but for your health as well.

Reduce the amount of water you use

The current water situation in South Africa has (hopefully) made many people aware of the fact that water isn’t an unlimited resource. The new normal is a permanent state of water scarcity, and if we want our water supply to last, each of us needs to play a part in reducing the amount of water we use – even if we are not in the drought-stricken parts of the country. There are a few easy things that you can start implementing today, such as making sure you wash only full loads of clothes (or dishes in a dishwashing machine) and taking shorter showers. You could even put a bucket of water in the shower to catch any surplus water, and use this water to flush your toilets, wash your car or water your garden. Read see our article on how to save water for even more suggestions.

Reduce your carbon footprint

Another term that is often bandied around is ‘carbon footprint’. Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of your activities. Using electricity is a prime example. If you are serious about going green, then you need to watch your electricity usage. Most electricity supplied by the grid is produced by coal power stations, which emit an incredible amount of carbon dioxide. You can start saving energy in small ways by switching off the lights in rooms not in use. Also, be on the lookout for energy-efficient products like light bulbs and Energy Star-rated appliances, and if you are really serious about going green, look at supplementing your energy supply with renewable energy sources. This may be costly initially, but it will certainly save energy and money in the long run.

Become a conscientious consumer

If you are serious about adopting a greener lifestyle, you also have to be more conscious and conscientious consumer. This can be as simple as looking for produce that is organic and low on packaging. Organic food production is conducted without the use of any synthetic materials, fertilisers and pesticides. This means that, unlike its conventional farming counterparts, it doesn’t risk contaminating soil and water. Many will argue that eating organic food and using biodegradable products, free from harmful toxins found in pesticides, could also be better for your health.

Learn more

For more useful information on how to go green (and save money while doing so), sign up for our Money Mailer. In this free monthly newsletter, we serve up articles on topics ranging from saving to borrowing and everything in between. If you've ever wanted to know how to implement cost-effective greener practices, how to cut your living expenses or how to save on groceries, the insights in these articles can leave you wiser, wealthier and better equipped to make the most of your money. 

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