In 2010 a South African study found that only 3.3% of the country’s urban population regularly recycled household waste. The majority of the survey respondents indicated that they didn’t know where nor what to recycle.
More recently, in February 2014, The Glass Recycling Company announced in the media that the glass recycling rate has reached 40.6% in South Africa. Interestingly, most glass recycling is done by lower income groups as a way of generating income. Many middle to upper class citizens still do not recycle.
Clearly many South Africans still need to be encouraged to live more environmentally friendly. The thing is, it’s not that difficult to go green. Yes, it might require a bit of adjustment at first, but like all behavioural changes, living green will become habit very quickly.
So let’s look at how the average South African can go green by focussing on the kitchen. Why the kitchen? Because this area sees a lot of plastic pass through it and it consumes much of the water, as well as electricity used in our homes.
The simplest way to start is by recycling. If you are one of the people in South Africa who does not know what can be recycled, read this handy article.
As a start, keep three different bins in your kitchen for paper, glass and plastic. Food scraps, like egg shells and potato skins, can be tossed in a separate bin and added to a compost heap once a week. If you don’t have a garden yourself, find out if there is a community garden in the neighbourhood that would be willing to take the compost off your hands.
Use eco-friendly cleaning products
Dishwashing liquids, floor and surface cleaners, and other household cleaning products generally contain a lot of harmful chemicals. Make the swop from your normal big brand cleaning agents to products that are non-toxic and biodegradable. You could even make your own cleaning products, using nothing more than items you’ll find in your kitchen cupboards.
Reduce the amount of plastic in your kitchen
It’s great when plastic gets recycled, but it’s even better when it’s not used at all. The average kitchen houses a lot of plastic, from water bottles to cottage cheese containers. Reduce the amount of plastic in your kitchen by using glass water bottles, stainless steel storage containers and keeping leftovers in ceramic bowls. Don’t just stick to these suggestions either, challenge the whole family to find new ways to use glass, stainless steel and ceramic in the kitchen.
You can save a lot of electricity in the kitchen by rethinking the way you whip up meals:
- Ensure that the base of the pot or pan fits the stove plate when cooking– if the plate is too big for the pot or pan, you’re wasting electricity.
- Stock your kitchen with energy-efficient cookware and appliances.
- Choose the microwave over the stove whenever you can. Microwaves use a lot less power and perform the same functions as a stove in a much shorter space of time.
- Use the smallest appliances that’ll work for the job. For instance, instead of heating pre-made waffles in the oven, pop them in the toaster for a few minutes.
- Keep the oven door closed while baking. Opening it lets heat escape, which means the stove needs to work harder afterwards to generate the heat that was lost.
- Boil water in the kettle before using it on the stove to cook food. This’ll cut down on the time the stovetop has to stay heated.
Grow your own herbs
If you use herbs to add flavour to meals, considering growing your own. It doesn’t have to be a big project, because you can grow many herbs on your windowsill. Once your fingers are green, you can extend your gardening to growing your own veggies too. Nothing beats biting into a fresh, ripe tomato picked from your own garden!