10 Small Waste Hacks (with a BIG impact on the planet and minimal inconvenience on you)


by Erin Katherine


With Plastic Free July in the rearview mirror and to celebrate all the small swaps we've made - I have compiled a list of 10 small waste hacks and swaps that have a big impact on the planet and minimal inconvenience for you. Be sure to share this to others to help us collectively have less and less impact on our beautiful earth. Let's dive right in!


Small Swap #1: Reusable Bags (Then make it non-negotiable)

It seems obvious but I cannot tell you how many times I see people saying "damn it - I left my reusable - oh well" No. Not Oh Well Wendy. Be better. In all seriousness mistakes happen but often it's not a one time mistake it's just a habit. And new habits are easy to form. Here's my waste hacks: What you're going to do is have at least 5 reusable bags that live in the boot of your car. Every time you go shopping you grab one. You get home, unpack that baby then take 2 seconds to go back outside and put it back in your boot. I'm guilty of saying "I'll do it later", never doing it and having to carry my groceries in my arms to the car because I made not using bags a non-negotiable. 

Another little hack is to have a pretty reusable bag that clips onto your handbag (or whatever bag you most often use) these are available online but also at South African shops like Clicks, Mopani, Dischem and Woolworths. (Or our nifty little reusable tote that we send with your order.)



Small Swap # 2: Get a cute "keep cup"

Unless you're going to Viva Cafe which has compostable cups AND lids (frothing for this idea) then this should be another non-negotiable. The other alternative is getting a to-go cup from places like Woolworths and Mugg and Bean (which are compostable too) and skipping the lid. (And then actually composting the cup afterwards). 

But the top tier as far as waste swaps go - is a "keep cup". A cup that you don't throw away or compost but in actual fact - keep. There are such fun and stunning bamboo ones available online, in Mopani, at Woolworths and even in Checkers and coffee shops.

Alternatively if you're always on the go like I am you might want to opt for a flask type "keep cup".  I opted for this beautiful one from Typo. (Okay it doesn't have to be cute but just get a keep cup will you?)

One of my space waste hacks is to grab my silicone foldie that I purchased online.


Small Swap # 3: Choose cans 

This girl isn't about to get in the way of your beverage cravings and choice. But when you do have the option - choose tin or a can instead of a plastic bottle. Cans and tins are made from aluminum - which just so happens to be 100% recyclable! 100% recyclable scores 100% for waste hacks. The Aluminum Associationteaches us that "[aluminum] retains its properties indefinitely. Aluminum is one of the only materials in the consumer disposal stream that more than pays for the cost of its own collection." Pretty neat I'd say! So now you can drink your coke and recycle it too ;). 


Small Swap #4: Ditch plastic bottles for good (be a #hydrohomie)


There's even water in tins/cans in a lot of garages/convenience stores. The next best for water is water out of a carton. Avoid plastic bottles or be like me and religiously carry your water bottle everywhere. I always have either my 1.1l or my 500ml HydroFlask. 



Small Swap #5: Separate your rubbish/ trash

It makes recycling easier or at the very least if you're in South Africa it helps those digging in your rubbish and recycling on your behalf. It's simple. Get 4 bins, write: Plastic, Can, Glass and Other on them and use them. Bonus points if you pay that little bit extra per month to have the right bags delivered to your house and get the pros to handle your recycling. This waste hack is to waste better.


Small Swap #6: Shop Plastic Free (one of 2021's best waste hacks)

This discovery was by far my best of 2021: You can now shop online and have your non-perishables (as well as cleaning and lifestyle goods) delivered to you in brown paper bags or glass jars. Not only are the prices comparable to the likes of Checkers, PnP and Spar (yes, way cheaper than Woolworths) but you also receive free shipping over a certain amount. AND if you're in the Lowveld Area (Nelspruit/White River) you can shop for your next order in jars and they come and take your empty ones and replace them with full ones. Good for the environment. Aesthetic af. Cost effective. Need. I. Say. More? Just About Refills is the waste hack of waste hacks. This small business I support for food and cleaning goods.


Small Swap #7: Reusable Menstrual Products (For the women only waste hacks' list)

Ladies - listen up. I'm about to change your life in two words: Menstrual Cups. It is cheaper, healthier for you, more convenient and better for the planet. I am so passionate about this topic.

For peace of mind I also wear my reusable and super discreet MoonTime panty liner. I also wear one the day after my period in case. I recommend getting two - three. One being washed, one you're wearing and one in case. The night after my period I also wear my reusable size super small MoonTime pad. These take a while to dry to be sure to get two if you love them as much as I do. I get all my lifestyle goods from a small business called Earthlings to save on shipping and delivery plastic (they deliver everything in brown paper bags).


I did a post on all the TMI details of reusable period products so check that out for more information.


Small Swap #8: Support small business (and friends) and get thrifty.

I was shocked to find out how terrifyingly damaging the textile industry is to our planets. Fashion trends mean there is WAY more clothes being produced than ever sold or bought in major stores. But I love new activewear as much as the next girl. And that's why switching to smaller businesses (like KoaKoa Active ;) means the clothes are being produced by demand and every item is being sold. If the brand is not progressive yet - pop them a dm and see if they can send your order without plastic. And if they're awesome like KoaKoa Active is and already do then keep supporting them! (My Koakoa Active Tote bag is one of the reusable bags in my boot by the way). 

Small Swap #9: Ditch Straws OR Take your own!

Be honest with me (yourself, and the planet) do you really need that plastic straw? Majority of the time - no. Sometimes you do and sometimes it's just really nice. I too, enjoy the finer things in life like sipping my cocktails smoothies through straws. So take them with you! 

You can even customise them with your name (or make sure you're staying safe by putting everyone's names on so you don't share) from small businesses like La Tiara (they come with cleaners and pouches too).


Small Swap #10: Ditch Single Use Plastic (Sandwich bags, cling wrap etc.)

The easiest switch would be to a reusable silicone ziplock. Stasher Bags are an example of high quality bags that are leak proof, durable and can go in an oven, microwave, freezer or dishwasher. But there are way cheaper reusable bags available if you're just putting your daily sarmie or smoothie ingredients in. 

Alternatively just use a good ol' reusable container. I find glass and tin ones to be my favourite for freshness. 

If your family covers every dish with plastic cling wrap, consider gifting them with cute dish covers that come in every size (available from Just About Refills or Earthlings linked above). Alternatively (again) just make one extra dish and store it in a reusable container. 

At the grocery store/ shops along with your reusable bags store some produce bags. They're light, cheap and every piece of single use plastic you avoid makes a difference (for up to 1000 years). Alternatively, refuse a bag and stick the price right on your bunch of bananas or green pepper. There's really no need for that plastic bag. 

Bonus Small Swap: Go meat free once a week (or more ;) 

You didn't think I was going to conclude this list without mentioning the agricultural industry (one of the most damaging industries to our planet on the planet) did you? That one day or even meal a week sparks you to try something new, get a little creative, load up on veggies and make a massive impact. Just that once a week commitment that requires zero extra effort (other than some thinking power) makes a difference. It's a small switch that if more and more people commit to would make more and more of a difference. Because little by little, a little makes a lot.


Aim for progress!

You don't need to do every one of these or even do one of these perfectly all the time. Through awareness and compassion we can all make small swops that have a big impact. So don't beat yourself (or anyone else) up. Let's just try to be a little better and less wasteful every day. I promise this weird thing happens when you suddenly become a little calmer, happier and a little kinder to yourself and others as a result. 

Follow Erin on Instagram here. 



August 05, 2021 — Bianca Asher

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