Travel – Everyday life - Repeat: Living Green at Home and Elsewhere (2)

Many people love to travel, and many tourists care deeply for the environment and the world and her people in general. They do a lot to live a green life at home, and here they tell us what. Let us inspire each other to do better.

Jordan and Daniel from South Africa

Jordan and Daniel met at university in South Africa. Their blog, The Timeless Voyagers proves that even 'eight-to-fivers' can travel and have wonderful experiences. The two geographers love to spend time in nature and to go hiking and stargazing. Be it on the coast, in the mountains, along a river or in a forest. Both say that one doesn't need to travel far, to travel well. At home in Port Elizabeth, Jordan and Daniel love to play tourists. They are in their element when searching for the best coffee shops and visiting farmers markets.

Bloggers Jordan and Daniel, The Timeless Voyagers, from South Africa

How do you live sustainably while travelling?

When travelling we often take the ‘slow travel’ approach and will take the train and bus over flying. When travelling in Europe, we took the bus from Germany to the Czech Republic and the train from Italy to Germany. The travel time is longer, but these transport options have lower carbon footprints than aeroplanes. When travelling within Europe we make use of public transport or we typically walk around most places.

When travelling within South Africa, we approach travel differently. Trains do not run across the country, leaving you with the option to drive, take the bus or fly. We have used all of these options. We love road trips but will always carpool when we can. If we go as a group with family or friends, we carpool rather than us all going in our own cars. We live on the same road as some of our friends, and if we are going to the same event the four of us will travel together in one car. South Africa is a fairly big country and we live in the middle of the country. Sometimes flying to the other side of the country is better than the two of us driving. When flying within SA and out of it we take direct flights when we can, however, costs do play a factor in this.

We always travel with glass water bottles, travel mugs for hot drinks, reusable straws, reusable shopping bags. This reduces our use of single-use plastics while travelling. This also helps us be more sustainable when we are at the final destination.

What about a green life at your final travel destination?

We support local at our destinations in as many ways as we can. We try to eat at local restaurants where the food is more likely to be sourced locally. We will rather have coffee and drinks at a local café than a mega global brand. If we want to buy souvenirs or the like, we buy from the locals and avoid mass-produced items that are likely imported and will have larger carbon footprints. Choosing to support locals in a variety of ways means the money spent goes directly into the community and affects change to real families and doesn’t line the pockets of big corporations.

Similarly, when we do any tours or activities, we research companies and we will rather support companies that employ from and support local communities. The same goes for hotels. We are not saying that all staff need to be locals, but a good proportion of them hopefully are.

At the accommodations, we hang up our towels to show we will reuse them. We also often take photos of brochures and maps with our phones and leave them behind for other guests to use. This is in hopes that fewer brochures and maps will need to be printed, saving on paper and ink. We have Google Maps / Maps. Me on our phones as well so we don’t need to have a physical map with us.

Activities that involve animal interactions are avoided because of the unethical treatments of animals. We do include this as green acts because it falls under the larger umbrella of Responsible Travel.

Generally, what about a green life at home?

We follow the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We reduce our amount of waste first: buying products without plastic or packaging when we can. We reuse the containers (e.g. feta cheese) and if we don’t, we recycle. There are recycling points in our city where we can drop off our recycling. We are fortunate to live near one of the recycling points and have a glass recycling point across the road from us. We have also learned of a recycling company that collects your recycling from your residence, which we are looking into now.

If something in the house has broken, we try to fix it before we replace it. The freezer section of our fridge recently stopped working. We had a refrigeration repair man fix it. Unfortunately, after a few days, it stopped working again. We freeze meals and so needed to have that option. We replaced our fridge but donated the old fridge to a local business who had no use for the freezer part but needed a fridge for their tearoom.

As lightbulbs burnt out, we replaced them with eco-friendly bulbs. We also turn off the lights when not in the room and switch of plug points that are not in use. When we go away, all plug points (except our fridge) are switched off so that no ‘standby energy’ is wasted.

When it comes to laundry, we wash our clothes on cold so that less energy is used (no water heating). Our washing machine also weighs the load to determine how much water is needed. We do not own a tumble dryer, so our clothes dry naturally on the line. This way of drying takes longer but is an easy energy-saving act.

Our block of flats has rainwater tanks and 5l water bottles are filled and placed in our foyer by the building workers. As a body corporate, we promote the use of this water to fill washing machines, wash dishes, flush toilets. Showering with buckets to catch water is common practice. We use this water to flush toilets. While lathering/washing hair and body we switch the water off to save water, switching it back on to rinse off. South Africa is facing an incredibly severe drought, so water-saving measures are encouraged from a government level as well.

Let us go into detail. What about a green bathroom and personal hygiene?

There are local artisans that we have contacted who create their own soaps, facial kits (wash, toner, balms etc), shampoos and deodorants. Before buying the facial kits, I asked if the bottles and containers could be reused/refilled and it was confirmed this would be possible. As our shop-bought products are finishing, we replace them with these greener options. Some products have taken time to get used to because the soaps and shampoo bars don’t foam like we are used to. But with time, you can get used to anything.

We could definitely improve the ‘greenness’ of our dental hygiene. Bamboo toothbrushes only take us so far. We tried making our own toothpaste from a common recipe on the internet. We used it for a month but didn’t quite get into it. Toothpaste alternatives are something we need to look at more seriously. A friend in a different city recently found eco-friendly floss made in South Africa. We floss daily so this is something else for us to order online.

There are also eco-friendly cleaning products available, such as dishwashing liquid and bathroom and cleaning detergents. A lot of these products are not made in our city so while we do incur travel carbon costs by ordering online, they are still locally made in South Africa. Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and vinegar are our go-to natural cleaners – unclogs drains and cleans ovens really well.

South Africa experiences a lot of sun throughout the year. Local artisans are producing eco-friendly sun creams that won’t be as damaging to the ocean life as the sun creams stocked in shops. Summer will be here soon, so this change is one we are definitely planning to make.

Let us look at it more closely. What about a green kitchen and what about food?

We try to keep our shopping to what is produced locally (less travel time so lower impacts) and is in season (less demand for imported produce). Most meat products are labelled local, so it is easy to identify. We also have aquaponic systems in the Eastern Cape (our province/state) that some shopping chains support, allowing you to buy ‘living lettuce’ (keep it in water and it will keep growing). Groceries like this are also labelled local.
When shopping we buy ingredients for meals we have planned for the week. This avoids buying food we won’t use in time, reducing potential waste and impulse buys. When we have a mix of ingredients that don’t really go together, we make soup or curries to try to use it all.

Ultimately, composting food waste is our goal and we will implement it when we have a garden. Until then, we are quite conscious of our waste and reduce as much as we can. We have recently seen someone who freezes her food waste (potato peels, carrot tops etc) and creates a vegetable stock from it. This is something we would like to try.

We are not vegetarian, nor vegan, but meat consumption has large environmental impacts. We have meat-free days or one meal a day will be meat-free, especially not red meat. This is something we want to improve on though, with the hopes of being 80 % plant-based within a year.

What about shopping green – clothes and groceries?

We take reusable shopping bags with us – we also leave one in each of our cars so that we always have one on hand. We also have small reusable mesh bags for fruits and vegetables to reduce plastic packaging.

Our city is far behind the greener grocery stores we read about overseas, and the ones coming up in the larger South African cities. But there is one small ‘plastic-free shop’ that has opened up in Port Elizabeth where we can get a variety of grains, flours, spices, and dried fruits like raisins and cranberries. The owner also sources local free-range eggs. We reuse our egg trays and any extras we have we leave at the store for other customers. This way, if you forget to bring yours, there are some available in the store.

In our city, we have a variety of markets that proudly support local, whether its food or crafts. We attend the markets regularly to buy locally grown produce (mostly package free), enjoy homemade food, and purchase locally made gifts and household items.

There is a local shop who hosts a monthly reduce-reuse-recycle based event where you can sell your preloved clothes. This is to promote second-hand clothes shopping. We have sold clothes during these events, and regularly browse what is for sale. We have sold clothes to second-hand stores and donated the clothes that didn’t sell. We are taking a minimalist approach to clothing and really think about our purchases – choosing items that are versatile and will last. Fast fashion is an easy trap to fall into. When we have big events like weddings or fancy dinners and need something new to wear, we borrow clothes from friends instead of buying outfits – from dresses to ties. We both have clothes previously owned by friends and family in our cupboards – they no longer wear it or bought it and never wore it.

Is an environmentally sustainable life possible? What is the best way to communicate with someone who doesn't believe that we all need to change things?

Absolutely! Small changes made by each person has huge cumulative effects. We are not ‘journey judgers’ – we aren’t going to judge you for how many or how few sustainable acts you do, but we do always encourage making more sustainable changes to your life. Everyone has a beginning so don’t judge yours against someone’s middle or end. Similarly, don’t judge your end with someone’s beginning. Encouragement and positive reinforcement go a long way. We have green practices but as you can tell, we are constantly finding new and better green practices.

Going green doesn’t mean you have to replace everything you own. We were told a story of someone who threw all her Tupperware away to replace them with glass containers. This can be expensive and can put people off going green. Make the change gradual: as products and items break, replace them with more eco-friendly options.

Living in South Africa, better eco-friendly options can come with a higher price tag. This makes people more hesitant to make the changes. We understand this, and to be honest, it’s also why our changes are gradual. All we can say is that the extra money you may pay goes further because the products and items are often better made which makes them more durable. For example, a cork purse is quite expensive here but will last a very long time (it’s one of the best purchases we have made).

Talking about the environmental benefits of sustainable living doesn’t always create the desired response of banning together to make a better life. When talking to people with this view, tell them the financial benefits – save money on electricity and water (at least in countries like South Africa). Products and items may cost more but you will be buying be it less frequently.

The type of media consume is also important. If someone is not willing to change, share or retweet positive articles of change. Promote the voices that are spreading more sustainable practices. It’s important to remember that what works for one person, may not work for another. During conversation casually mention a great article or podcast or green practice you are trying. This creates no pressure for them to change but you’re making them aware of potential positive changes.

If more and more of your friends and family are enacting green practices, they will eventually do them too. For gifts, give sustainable items like bamboo toothbrushes or a range of eco-friendly cleaning products or a voucher for an eco-friendly company or activity. Change the way people talk and act about green practices by bringing change into their lives. By exposing more resistant-to-change people to different thoughts and voices, it will hopefully help them make small but impactful changes.

Thank you, Jordan and Daniel. Please give my love to South Africa.

Meet Jordan and Daniel on: Twitter. Instagram and visit their website.

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