Health and the Environment: Being 'green' is not so bad

November 25, 2015, 10:22am

By Deidre Kwenani, Ndapunikwa Investments. Photo: www.motherliving.com  

In order for our nation to remain the clean and beautiful country it has a reputation for, we need to do our part. As a nation we should also be thinking of starting to jump on the band wagon of eco-friendly or “green” living.

We may not see a significant difference in our lifetime, but we can create a better future for the next generation- our children. If we don’t start to think about the environment now, eventually the effects of global warming, lack of water, and the overabundance of greenhouse gasses from all of our trash will take a serious toll.

Even though we need to take a stern look at our own actions, it doesn’t mean that living “green” has to be boring. Taking simple steps to lessen the negative impact we and our families have on the environment can actually be a bit of fun! Here are some simple ways to help the environment, by Reducing and Reusing (in that order).

Reducing the amount of waste we produce…

Buy in bulk:

When at the supermarket, buy in bulk and avoid buying individually wrapped items. It’s often cheaper (by weight) to buy in bulk and you will be generating less waste material from the food packaging, which is likely plastic or Styrofoam and could take hundreds of years to decompose.

Here are some examples of buying in bulk:

1. Buy the large 5 litre (or more) water containers and refill them instead of buying smaller containers more frequently. Remember how long it takes for plastic to biodegrade? Almost 500 years, according to sciencelearn.org.

2. Also, buy your meat in bulk and ask for just one package or bag. Most of the time, you can go to the meat counter and ask for your meat to be cut. Experience has proven that you often end up getting more and paying less than buying the smaller pre-packaged meats!

You know those Styrofoam take-away containers?

Those things are going to be the death of us! I’m just envisioning the country overcome by take-away containers. Everywhere we look and turn there is a heaping eyesore of take-away containers piled up!

These things really don’t biodegrade since they are not made from natural products. It takes hundreds and hundreds of years for them to decompose into unrecognizable parts, and with the amount of Styrofoam containers you can walk away with during one lunch break, we can pretty much count on them being a main waste product in the landfills.

I’m guilty of this too… and sometimes it seems as though an alternative is not clear. But, there are things we can do about this! We can intentionally buy food at shops that package the take-away in paper instead of Styrofoam and plastic wrap.

We can ask stores like Spar and Pick-N-Pay, and restaurants, if they would consider providing take-away containers that are made from cardboard, metal, or sturdy reusable plastics.

Setting Goals Around Reducing:

If you really want to make a change, and be a positive role-model for others watching you, including your children, set a goal for yourself! Calculate how many bags of trash you currently produce per week? If the answer is 3, try to reduce by one bag per week. You could even establish a reward for yourself.

For example, if you originally produced 3 bags of trash, but you have intentionally been reducing that amount to 2 bags per week, then at the end of the month you can reward yourself or your family by going out for a nice meal or doing a fun activity. It’s a great way to get the whole family involved, and rewarding a child’s efforts will positively reinforce this new behaviour.

Reusing the products we buy that are not biodegradable

Now here’s the fun part! Remember the term “biodegradable”? It basically means waste products decomposing back into natural elements, and for the majority of waste products this can take hundreds of years.

Think Reusable!

Whenever you are shopping, look at what you have and consider the packaging around it. Will you be able to reuse or recycle the packaging? If, not, try to reconsider. Here is one reusing trend that is catching fire in Windhoek that I wanted to highlight.

1. Use the re-usable shopping bags available at your local super market. They are most definitely available at Pick’n’Pay and Spar, and hopefully more shops will jump on the bandwagon and start offering them. Sure, they cost about 10 dollars, but it’s much better for our health if we are using reusable bags when we can. After all, some scientists are saying it could take 1,000 years or more for a plastic bag to decompose. That’s a loooonnngggg time!

*If a reusable bag is not an option, ask for paper bags. Paper is made from natural substances, therefore it will biodegrade faster than non-natural products. If a store does not offer them, continue to ask, and they may start to have paper as an option in the near future.

Practical and Fun Reusing Tips:

1. Reuse your yogurt or margarine containers as food storage containers. Simply wash them out and store them in the kitchen cupboard until the next time you have leftovers. You can also send the kids to school with a lunchbox made from reused containers. If the kids don’t want to bring a margarine container as their lunchbox, make a craft activity out of it. Get some paint/markers and let the kids design their own lunchboxes!

2. Make a corkboard out of your wine corks. All you need are the corks, something for the frame (wood or metal), and the pins for pinning up reminder notes.

3. Turn a broken ladder into a fashionable bookshelf.

4. Use glass jars to store the bulk items you buy at the store and keep your kitchen looking tidy and vintage.

There are many more ideas on how to turn ordinary trash into a trendy treasure for your home. Just do a quick internet search and you’ll find several fun things for you and your family to engage in. It will be exciting and you will definitely be doing your part to save our mother earth! And for that I say, “Thank You!”

Ndapunikwa Investments  

Photos:
Trash bags: www.tillersanitation.com and www.bknation.org
Reusable bag: www.hercampus.com
Cork Board: www.moneycrashers.com/creative-ways-to-recycle-reuse-household-items/
Ladder craft: Diyncrafts.com
Reusing glass jars: www.motherliving.com