Sometimes transforming our lives to be more sustainable can seem expensive or difficult, but in fact there are many very simple and practical things we can all start doing immediately, which cost nothing – or even save money – and help reduce our impact on environmental resources.
Here is a list of very easy, and free, sustainability tips – that all of us can start today! Or if that’s too much all at once, just pick one a day for the next two weeks, and start making a difference now!
1) Start separating recyclables! In Stone Town you can now recycle plastic (all kinds), metal and glass easily by taking them to the Vikokotoni collection trolley next to Barclays at Darajani. (For glass call Khamis in advance on 0772 286494).
2) Find out where your rubbish goes – Do you actually know where your waste goes? Ask the people who take your rubbish exactly where they take it and what is done with it. Could you unwittingly be contributing your own rubbish to that unofficial dump down the road that you despair of?
3) Label your rubbish bins for non-recyclables ‘Landfill’ – to remind people in your household or business that there is no such place as ‘away’.
4) Switch off lights, fans, and especially a/c in rooms you are not using. Especially in offices, make sure they are not left on overnight or over the weekend. Also switch off or unplug chargers and electronics like the TV and computer when you’re not using them. Why pay for electricity you are not using?
5) Unplug your printer from the network – if you make it take a deliberate effort for someone to print something, people will only print what they need to – and save money on ink and paper in the process. When you do print, use a small font, and print double-sided.
6) Buy sodas in returnable glass bottles instead of plastic bottles or cans. If you have to use plastic or metal – recycle it afterwards! Better still, refresh yourself with a dafu (coconut), or sugar cane juice, that are grown locally and produce no manmade waste at all!
7) Wash dishes in a bowl, not under a running tap. You can even use the waste water for plants.
8) Buy water in the biggest bottles available – and refill smaller bottles or a jug from it. In restaurants or bars – stop serving small plastic bottles of water – give people a glass poured from a larger bottle instead – or at least offer this.
9) Fill a 1.5l bottle with water and put it in the cistern in your toilet. It displaces water in the cistern so you need less water to fill it, saving 1.5 litres of water per flush!
10) For meetings or parties, use large water bottles – You can either use a dispenser, or decant into jugs, and provide glasses (not disposable cups) instead of individual little bottles. It’s cheaper this way too!
11) Avoid plastic straws – and if you must use one, use only one. Garnish with a slice of lime instead.
12) Buy locally – ask where produce and products come from and how they were transported, and whenever possible choose things made or grown locally and that are not flown in. Local and fresh products usually come with less packaging too!
13) Pack a canvas bag, basket, or reusable bag to use when you shop. While plastic bags are thankfully scarce here, even the one-use paper bags used in Zanzibar use up resources. Refuse bags if you don’t need them, and if you have a shop, ask customers ‘do you need a bag?’ rather than providing one automatically even for purchases of only one item.
14) Thank the people who clean up waste – Next time you see the people who collect your business or household waste, or pass someone cleaning the street or collecting rubbish – thank them! They work extremely hard for very low wages, and it’s not a fun job. Let them know the work they do is appreciated and valued. You can really make a difference.
These are only a few ideas – but I am sure you have more. Please share your ideas of how you choose sustainable options below. Also, you can follow Sustainable East Africa on twitter (@SustainableEA) and facebook to get updates on more sustainable solutions in Zanzibar.