Words by Le’Chelle Aldridge. The original article can be found here

I know we’ve all seen this statement (the new normal) floating around online as it relates to COVID-19 but I want to talk about my new normal in regards to living a more sustainable lifestyle. I’m sure, if you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen me chat about sustainability many times over the last year or so. I really do love that this has become a topic more influencers and celebrities are talking about online, especially big names like Desi Perkins, Jen Atkin & Gwyneth Paltrow to name a few.

This quote perfectly sums up my approach to sustainability:

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

One person can’t do it all but if each of us do our little bit it will create a bigger impact and cast a wider net of influence. One of the things this pandemic has taught me is to appreciate and look after what we have, and that includes the earth. And before this starts to sound like someone who knows it all, I have to point out that I’m no eco warrior. I just live by the above quote and try to do my bit.

I thought it might be helpful to share some of the changes I’ve made in the last year in trying to live more sustainably. You don’t need to do all of these things, in fact, I applaud you if you’re even doing one! If you want to see what your sustainability rating is, take this test by Aurora Sustainability. More than anything I found that taking the test showed me even more ways to reduce my carbon footprint.

Let’s start in the area where I feel like I’ve made the most significant changes and work our way down from there, shall we?

HOME

All our Tupperware bares the mark of our new found love for spicy food which lets be honest is not cute and it’s reaching the stage where it can only be seen by Sean & I (I’ll spare you). So I’ve slowly but surely been working on replacing all our plastic Tupperware with reusable options made from glass, stainless steel or silicone. In fact, my most recent Faithful to Nature order included a fabric bread bag & two Stasher silicone bags – YAY! Having said this, it really doesn’t have to happen all at once, you can make gradual subtle changes that have a large impact. In my experience, the more I’ve done, the more I want to do because in the long run, I’m saving money and saving the planet – win win!

sustainable living

GROCERIES 

Gone are the Boomer days where trust was blindly given and smoking was recommended by doctors. Now more than ever we ask questions like where, how, and who made my products? I think this comes down to more people wanting to live a healthier lifestyle and preserve what’s left for the next generation.

Two or three years ago I would just pick the easiest or more affordable option but now I can be seen in the grocery aisle reading the ingredients list and googling their benefits. This could be down to age or simply learning to care about what I put in my home and body.

I’ve noticed that all the major food retailers now have some kind of eco-friendly range available. This means the better choice is now even more readily available to all of us and at times more cost-effective.

Checkers  By now we all know how much I love the Simple Truth range for food and household cleaning. I swear by their oat milk, gluten-free pizza bases, raw honey, gluten-free pasta, multipurpose cleaner & double choc chip cookies (they’re dangerously delicious!) to name a few.

Pick n Pay  selected stores now have no packaging zones for fresh produce and selected dry goods. You can bring your jars or reusable bags (also available to purchase in-store) to stock up on some of your essentials. Some of the stores also offer reusable produce bags in the fresh food section as an alternative to the roll of plastic bags.

Woolworths  a couple years ago they started developing their own eco-friendly range which they’ve steadily increased over time and it includes everything from cleaning, beauty, and food prep items. Some of their stores have altogether stopped selling single-use plastic bags at checkout and they have reusable produce bags available.

Local – This is something I love, especially during this time is to shop at small local plastic-free stores. In Cape Town we have Nude Foods, Faithful to Nature & Shop Zero. If you know of any others, especially in other cities, please leave them in comments for others to see.

sustainable living

PLASTIC BAGS

I vividly remember having a packet draw when I lived at home – this draw housed the many plastic bags collected from each trip to the grocery store – can anyone relate? Our new version of this draw is the boot of our car where we keep all our reusable shopping bags. Majority of these I’ve collected from press drops but most stores now have some really cute bags available at checkout. I love this one & this one from Faithful to Nature & Kare Bags.

TAKE-AWAYS

At this point we don’t need to talk about single-use plastic straws, coffee cups and plastic water bottles do we? To quote coach Carr from Mean Girls, “just don’t do it”. I have two glass straws from Restraw (which I love), a couple metal ones and you could also get bamboo, pasta (interesting) and collapsable silicone straws.

Most coffee shops will give you a discount for bringing in a reusable cup and there are plenty available in store and online. I love this one from Huskee, I also have a collapsable cup from Stojo which literally fits into any bag and I know a lot of people love KeepCups too. Alternatively you can get a branded reusable cup from your favourite coffee shop. When it comes to water bottles, I prefer using a glass bottle like this but these stainless steel ones are cool too!

You guys are always seeing me make smoothies & iced coffees on my stories and I get tons of questions about my wide mouth glass jars which were a wonderful gift from my sister in the US. You can however get Consol wide mouth jars from stores like Merrypak in Cape Town. Most cafe’s will allow you to bring your glass jars for takeaway smoothies (pre COVID-19) and they’re also great for leftovers at home.

sustainable living

WORK FROM HOME

I know most of us are forced to work from home right now and you’re either loving it or dying to get back to your work desk. Whichever group you’re in you’re doing something great by simply staying home because, a) Covid-19 and b) you’ve significantly reduced your carbon footprint. We probably leave the house about once a week to get groceries and that’s is! Whereas previously it would be normal to use our car 7 days a week. So maybe when things get back to ‘normal’ you could create a new normal of working from home a couple days a week, which would mean having to see your annoying boss significantly less and reducing your carbon footprint. I mean if that’s not motivation enough you really must love the office!

BEAUTY

Especially this year, I’ve started questioning my choices when it comes to beauty products, tools, and brands. So I’ve tried to change a few small things at a time.

KONJAC SPONGE

I didn’t even know what a konjac sponge was 6 months ago and now I can’t imagine my skincare routine without it! Konjac sponges are made from a natural vegetable root grown in Asia and they’re great for exfoliating or cleansing your skin. It feels rock hard when dry and transforms into a wonderful & weird gel-like texture when wet. In the morning I use just the sponge and water to cleanse my face, at night I use it with my second cleanse or simply to remove masks or products from my skin. I bought my konjac sponge from Faithful to Nature.

LUSH

Lush have done a great job at adapting their products and packing to be eco-friendly. Some products have naked packaging, ie, no packaging and others are in glass containers or recyclable packaging. Whether you’re looking for a luxe essential oil bath bar, vegan skincare or out of this world fragrances, you can get it at Lush. Personally I love their Mask of Maganaminty, Eau Roma Water, Rub Rub Rub body scrub, Lemony Flutter cuticle cream & Rentless perfume.

REUSABLE COTTON ROUNDS

This is probably one of my favourite purchases for 2020. Yes I know we’re only in May but still! These reusable cotton rounds have been a game-changer for me. I use these to remove my makeup so I could easily go through two packs of single-use cotton rounds a month so not only is this great for my budget but also the plant. I bought these off Amazon while I was in the US and sadly can’t find a good replacement that’s available locally. You could use those magic eraser mitts or something like this. 

sustainable living
ZERO BAR

Last year I was introduced to Zero Bar and it instantly caught my attention because they use no water to produce the product (interesting), the packaging is plastic free & they’re cruelty free. They’ve since come out with hair and body bars which are great for husbands/partners or if you’re into fuss-free hygiene. These bars are produced in South Africa using locally-sourced ingredients and you can get between 50 to 70 washes out of one bar! We took these when we went to the US because they take up little to no room, don’t weigh much and they have a handy metal travel container. These definitely have my stamp of approval.

MAVALA CRYSTAL NAIL POLISH REMOVER

To be honest I thought nail polish remover only came in two variants: stink out your apartment and burn your nose & eyes. Turns out there such a thing as acetone free, environmentally friendly nail polish remover. Who would’ve thought? This Mavala Crystal nail polish is 100% biodegradable, non-drying (isn’t that nice?), non flammable & odour and colourant free. This oil based formula removes nail polish easily, doesn’t make me cry from the chemicals and strengthens my nails rather than drying them out.

FASHION

Over the last two years we’ve tried to live more of a minimalist lifestyle, read more about it here. But still, fashion is the area I struggle with the most because I want to support local and only buy from sustainable fashion brands but I also just want to shop! Anyone else? But as of this year, 2020, my take on this is that I want to invest in key items rather than buying low quality items and having to replace them more often. Yes, I may still buy Zara dresses (they are my weakness) but lets all just have grace for each other.

VEJA

Within the last year and in my quest to find fun, sustainable fashion brands I found Veja. If there was a popularity contest for sneakers, Veja would be winning! From the design, to the ethics and fit I can’t fault them one bit. Vejas are made using ethically sourced, eco friendly, fair trade materials in Brazil and they also have vegan leather sneakers. Their transparency and business model are beyond anything I’ve seen from any other brand and that alone will have me supporting them until I see otherwise. Learn more here.

I bought (well actually these were a gift from my sister) the V-10 Extra White Black sneakers from Maison Mara last year and am already researching which pair to buy next. They’re super comfy and the minimal branding means they pair well with basically everything. Maison Mara ship locally and their customer service is exceptional!

sustainable living
H&M CONSCIOUS COLLECTION

As we’re able to applaud one another for taking steps toward being more sustainable we should be doing the same for brands like H&M that are doing their bit. I haven’t spoken much about fast fashion because I don’t feel like I’ve done enough research to be a helpful source of information, just yet. Having said this, I have been following H&M’s journey towards sustainability and they’re doing a great job. No they’re not perfect, but who’s looking for perfection? Not me!

They’re doing a wonderful job at being more transparent about where our clothes are made and what they’re made of. This is their aim, taken directly from the site: “So our aim is for all our products to be made from recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030.”

Yes, that’s 10 years away but let’s remember that 10 years really isn’t THAT long! 10 years ago I was bratty 18-year old uncertain of her future, partying till all hours of the morning. Unrelated? Maybe, but we all get the gist. For now, they do have a Conscious collection made from at least 50% sustainably sourced materials. These are the items with a green product tag. If you want to know more, read this.

COTTON ON’S SUSTAINABLY SOURCED COTTON

100% of Cotton On’s everyday tees and jeans are made using sustainably sourced cotton. I don’t know about you but that is music to my ears because I love Cotton On’s denim selection, not only for the variety but because they cater for plus size! So if you’re a jeans & tee girl like me at least you know you can shop their selection with peace of mind.

They’ve also started using recycled cotton from their own cotton-growing program in Kenya. That to me, sounds like a step in the right direction and I’m happy to cheer them on and see how they improve further. Read more about what they’re doing here.

As I said, these are the things I’ve done over the last year so if you’re simply wanting to start living more sustainably, just start with one or two things and work your way up from there!

If this is to become your new normal ease yourself into it. And if you’re looking for down to earth, normal tips and resources along the way, Aurora Sustainability has a ton of helpful blocks posts. And while you’re there you should do the quiz – it’s really cool!

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