Living Sustainably in South Africa

There's always time for a beach walk

Living in a third world country has its benefits and perks but in the last year I have had to adjust and change a few things in my lifestyle. Mostly the way I eat and some of the products I had been using for years.

I don't know that much about South Africa and where the best places to shop for sustainable and environmentally friendly products are. Coming here with the knowledge I had of sustainability and what was normal for me in Australia, I have struggled. However, I have found a few places to buy ethical or sustainable items and online platforms that have been helpful. I have also realised you don't have to buy all the superfoods in the shop to be healthy (because man some of these things are expensive, thanks mum for having them in the pantry or fridge at home for all these years).

We are super lucky we live by the coast and can go fishing. Otherwise, I try not to eat seafood as I believe it is difficult to really pinpoint where seafood comes from and if it was caught sustainably (with a single pole and line rather than trawlers and long lines).

I went from eating a mostly plant based diet in Australia, maybe enjoying meat once a week or less, to having meat almost everyday. Living with boys it is hard to get everyone to enjoy veggies for dinner.

In Australia we shopped at our local farmers market where we bought veggies, fruit and bread. Their is also loads of small grocers scattered around the Noosa area so we could avoid shopping at the large supermarkets so we could support local small businesses (something I miss, I found the cutest deli in Johannesburg- Culinary Table which reminded me of home and had so many goodies).

Food Lovers Market here in South Africa has a bulk food section and you can choose your fruit and veg without bags and plastic stickers. This store is found in all the bigger towns but is maybe the only supermarket where this is possible (SA Woolworths have some organic produce but I can't get over all the plastic packaging they use). There's nothing better than finding a roadside stall selling fresh, seasonal fruit- YUM.

Fresh fruit from a roadside stall in Sodwana Bay
Fresh fruit from a roadside stall
The pumpkin harvest on the farm, lots of soup and roast veggies for the winter
The pumpkin harvest on the farm

I found @adreskitchen on Instagram. Super delicious looking food and inspiring vegetarian recipes made with seasonal ingredients. I look forward to recreating some of her recipes.

Bags, surely everyone has a tote bag or two. I find it so unnecessary to shop and use plastic bags. Not only are they single use, but you gotta pay for them. Re-use what you already have and minimise using excessive plastic.

I was living with my mum in Australia, so I didn't have to worry about buying household cleaning products, I am just lucky she also has a passion for the environment and 'eco' products- we learned from each other and enjoyed finding new brands and products to try.

We tried our best to live sustainably and had the environment in mind for most everyday things. Sometimes it just wasn't sustainable financially or convenience got in the way or we just felt like a packet of store bought salt and vinegar chips!

I had been using bamboo toothbrushes for a few years with natural toothpaste (thanks to @vanillafood we could buy a wholesale box of 24).

Go Bamboo, wooden toothbrush- we buy in bulk and get a big discount
Go Bamboo, wooden toothbrush

I was using natural hair and body products from Sayaskincare, a local brand from my home town. I also love Aveda, a cruelty free, vegan hair care brand from the US. I love their wooden brush and still use it years after purchasing. Their Suncare hair and body cleanser is perfect for ocean lovers as it conditions and removes salt build up.

I would mix up which roll-on deodorant I used and still haven't found a brand that I love.

Reusable period care products and a metal safety razor are other plastic-free essentials that I have been loving for the past few years.

Some of my favourite products; Aveda hairbrush, Africa Organics body lotion, razor from ShopZero, Himalaya toothpaste and an organic cotton tote
Some of my favourite products from around the world

I also opted for purchasing local and ethical made clothing. I tried not to buy too much clothes, especially in my last year of living in Australia as I knew I wanted to live overseas and couldn't take suitcases and bags full of clothes with me. However, I think I kind of had a shopping addiction (thanks to @stevieyaaay for talking a lot about this and my sister for always telling me NO, you don't need it!). Anyway, with a little searching you can find so many ethical clothing brands out there. I would go to the about section of their website and see what they said (any decent brand should be transparent). Vintage and secondhand denim is the best, so comfy and already worn and often way cheaper than new.

And then there is swimwear, I still have a bikini fetish! I have 3 pairs waiting for me in Australia, from local, sustainable swimwear brands that I have purchased in the last year.

I haven't yet purchased any swimmers in SA, but Atlas Label is a Cape Town brand that is at the top of my list.

(Swimwear gets the most use out of any of my clothing as I'm always in the water, so that is my excuse!) And I love when brands make matching scrunchies from off cut material!

  1. Camp Cove Swim, AUS

  2. Ohoy Swim, Sweden

  3. Atlas Label, SA

  4. Fisch Swim, USA

  5. Lemon Spicy Swimwear, AUS

  6. Charlee Swim, AUS

Living in South Africa, I have looked into shipping some of my favourite products into the country but Covid postage delays and cost have deterred me. So I have had to make do with what is here (which is not a bad thing because I have found a few brands that I love). I have got to love The Body Shop again, I used this brand in high school when I started caring about what I used on my skin and body. Finding this cruelty free brand with good ethics in most shopping centres was perfect, I had run out of shampoo and needed some kind of treatment for my salty damaged hair. I also bought lip balm, tea tree oil and an exfoliating cleanser. I don't like to put too much on my face and don't wear make up so tea tree oil on blemishes and fresh aloe vera works for me (I bought a little Aloe plant in Johannesburg and have literally travelled around with it for almost a year).

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Robert Swan, Author

I have also just come across @be.bare. They are a South African plastic free, haircare brand that make shampoo bars. I can't wait to buy when my current shampoo runs out. Africa Organics has become a go-to brand as well, they use wild sourced African plants in their 100% natural hair and body care.

Shop Zero is a zero waste store with human and animal friendly products. I have purchased a few things from their online store in Cape Town. They have a bulk food section as well as any 'eco' product you can think of.

Seed card from Shop Zero, they put this in your parcel when you make a purchase
Seed card from Shop Zero

Spaza Store make simple household products, like bowl and container covers. I first came across Spaza at the OZC farmers market in Cape Town in 2017 and still to this day it is my favourite market in the world!

Fresh strawberries with minimal packaging at the OZC farmers market in Cape Town
Plastic-free finds at the OZC farmers market

NOTE: Use up what you have! This goes for household bit and bobs, food in your fridge and skin/ hair care products- even if the product isn't ethical or sustainable. It is unsustainable to discard these half used products to buy a 'trendy' alternative. When you finish a product choose a brand or product that suits you and your ethics. Small actions by individuals multiplied by millions can make a big difference.

Oh and a reusable coffee or tea cup always comes in handy, I use my Huskee cup for tea on the go.

AND big news my mums cookbook VanillaFood the Cookbook can finally be shipped to South Africa, we have one on the way. I can't wait to have a read and be inspired.

My mum's book- VanillaFood the Cookbook released last year. I can't wait to see it in flesh
VanillaFood the Cookbook

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

Native American Proverb