7 simple tips for a sustainable lifestyle

Sustainable living has seen families to fashion designers focusing on ways to reduce and recycle products and fabrics, for example.

Image by Chrissie Kremer, Unsplash

It takes conscious decisions such as adopting plans to rethink, reduce and repurpose items in the home or the workplace. 

To live a sustainable life requires a lifestyle change, says Cape Town-based Xoli Fuyani, Earthchild Project Environmental Education Coordinator.

She says that in many communities, sustainability is a norm, even though many people may not be aware of their actions. “Instead of always looking to buy new products, households repurpose, thus creating a balance and causing no harm to the environment.”

According to Fuyani, most families grow their own food, and waste pickets are being recognised to contribute to the circular economy. Informal settlement structures (shacks) are mostly built with old reused materials such as cardboard, plastic sheeting, wooden planks and sheets of corrugated iron.

Image by Jenelle Hayes, Unsplash

Second-hand market

Growing up, she says preloved clothes were passed on to younger siblings. “I still hear of families passing down clothes from one generation to the next, instead of buying new clothes.”

However, most families can now afford to buy new clothes. This has opened up thriving ‘Thrift stalls’ in the township where these once loved items can be sold.

The 2020 Resale Report by thredUP reveals that the second-hand market is set to reach $64bn in the next five years. Furthermore, the report notes that in 2019, resale grew 25 times faster (49%) than the broader retail sector (2%).

JSE-listed company and Poland’s retail landlord, EPP’s City Bazaar second-hand goods exchange is popular with consumers.

In 2020, the company opened its fourth and largest store, offering online and offline services, according to Tomasz Trzósło, CEO of EPP.

“The City Bazaar is an original concept for customers who understand the environmental, social and economic benefits of reusing goods through the second-hand market. EPP is like-minded about environmental responsibility and committed to playing our part in making a positive impact,” says Trzósło.

City Bazaar store in Poland

Global climate change has seen a huge shift in sustainable living due to the urgency to save the planet.

Families, big brand names and fashion designers alike are recycling and repurposing items and fabrics. In turn, consumers want to know where their food comes from, and the source of the fabrics for their clothes.

The NESCAFÉ Ricoffy brand recently announced that it uses 100% responsibly sourced coffee beans. The announcement formed part of Nestlé South Africa’s recently launched RE Sustainability initiative (Rethink, Reduce and Repurpose). 

Coffee tins can repurposed as décor

Nicole Roos, Nestlé South Africa Business Executive Officer for Coffee & Beverages, says they encourage consumers to reuse product packaging. This is one way to achieve repurposing in the RE initiative.

“We’ve seen creative and innovate product ideas as a result, and it is encouraging to see how society is adopting a sustainable lifestyle,” says Roos.

Fashion and sustainability

Dion Chang, Flux Trends business strategist and founder, says that the growth of sustainable consumption seems to be reaching its tipping point. “It is accelerating, as more people understand the environmental impact of waste and strive to support the circular economy.”

In the fashion world, many South African fashion designers are aware of the importance of sustainability. They try to implement these practices into their businesses.

However, Chang says that the majority of consumers are not yet ready to pay a premium for sustainable products. “There is a preference for mass-produced clothing and international labels; as a result, the sustainable designer brands remain niche.”

A survey reveals that 76% of South Africans believe we have a climate emergency. This is according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Peoples’ Climate Vote, a survey that includes the perceptions of 1.2 million respondents in 50 countries.

Chang says this indicates that most South Africans are aware of the need for sustainability. “A vast majority are still reluctant to take action regarding their purchasing choices, but, this is beginning to change.”

In addition to the sustainable emerging fashion brands, we are also seeing a growth in the number of second-hand retailers and recycling drop-off points in malls.

Lucilla Booysen, CEO of SA Fashion Week has been leading the way towards encouraging sustainable fashion design, he says.

Chang notes that larger retail fashion brands, such as Woolworths and Mr Price, have the buying power to incorporate sustainable principles into some aspects of their business. The bulk of their products are still made the old way.

Inside a City Bazaar store

Internationally, fashion designers like Stella McCartney have embraced sustainability and recycling into its business model, according to an FG Magazine article. Speaking to Vogue about the importance of sustainable design, Gabriela Hearst believes sustainability is a necessity rather than a choice.

As Chang points out, “We are seeing a lot more sustainable fashion brands than five to 10 years ago. Still, the target market appears to be a niche sector of society that is environmentally conscious”.

Globally, a trend that’s likely to shape the fashion industry in future is the transient economy. This is where people rent rather than own items, according to Chang.

“This trend is flourishing in Europe and the United States, and we are likely to see this coming to South Africa. It is especially appealing to Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2015), who do not view ownership in the same way as older generations.”

Sustainable living tips

South Africa’s own sustainability champion, Jackie May, the Twyg Magazine editor, started the publication to explore better ways to live and protect the environment.

May says that with high levels of inequality and poverty, it is difficult for many South Africans to prioritise sustainability. For example, climate change has been caused by economic and industrial activity. “Marginalised people are often the most vulnerable to the extreme weather that is linked to climate change,” May says.

May applauds Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, for being pro-active in helping South Africa reduce its impact on the environment.

However, if government and other bodies’ initiatives to protect the environment are to succeed, everyone has a part to play.

May says that the most important things to remember are the three Rs: reduce (consumption), reuse (what you have) and recycle (what you can’t use in its current state). 

“When we think of the three Rs, it becomes easier to adopt a sustainable approach as part of our lifestyle.”

Image by Hamza Javaid, Unsplash

Fuyani and May offer seven simple tips for a sustainable lifestyle:

  1. Buy local as much as possible. The closer to home, the less transport and carbon emissions, and we help to create jobs
  2. Donate items that you no longer use to charity organisations.
  3. Grow your own vegetables.
  4. Make your own compost using fruit and vegetable waste.
  5. Reuse packaging such as bottles and tins as storage for food items or stationery, for example.
  6. Respect both people and our planet.
  7. When buying new or fresh produce, find out about the origin and source. Ask yourself, is it ethically and sustainable produced?

Edited by Gudrun Kaiser

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


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