Being Environmentally Smart

Being Environmentally Smart

Every time you switch on a light, drive your car, run a bath or put out your rubbish you’re making a decision that affects the environment. Natural resources – water, coal, oil, land and fresh air – will run out if we use them at a faster rate than they can replenish themselves. There are many indications that this is already happening.

Households have a significant cumulative impact. To make sure that there are enough resources to go around – enough for current and future generations – we need to manage our resources well, using what we have efficiently and fairly. Many of us are aware that we should be doing this, but are often unsure about what to do and how to do it.

The Smart Living Handbook, produced by the City of Cape Town, is a useful resource that provides information and practical actions to implement – to protect the environment, save money, and make your home a safer place to live in. Although it is focused on Cape Town, much of the information and tips can be more widely used and implemented.

‘My Green Home’ is about how one South African family changed their home to help change the world – and shows how you can too. The Ngewana family had a ‘green home makeover’ and improved their daily habits, to save money and reduce their impact on our Earth. They demonstrate the positive impact a family can have by living a more energy efficient and environmentally conscious lifestyle. This website tracks their journey, to inform and inspire you and others to take action in your own homes.

The Better Living Challenge provides a platform for the development of new and existing solutions that address the needs of people living in informal settlements, backyard shacks, RDP homes and subsidised housing. It aims to support the building of a home improvement market that is beneficial to both producers and consumers. Categories include the structural home, comfortable home and connected home, where environmental impact and affordability are taken into account.


  • Reduce your amount of waste by buying goods with little or no packaging or packaging that can be recycled.
  • Re-use glass and plastic containers as well as plastic carrier bags.
  • Recycle glass, tin cans, paper, plastic and car oil.
  • Make compost from vegetable matter (e.g. potato peels) and garden waste (e.g. leaves/grass cuttings).



  • Save electricity.
  • Switch off
  • Use energy efficient LED lights.
  • Walk, cycle, lift-share or travel by public transport to work to offset your ‘carbon footprint’.
  • If purchasing a motor vehicle, select a model with very economical fuel consumption (5-6 litres/100km) and do not drive with a ‘heavy foot’ on the accelerator.



    • Don’t let a tap run unnecessarily (e.g. when brushing your teeth).water-filtration
    • Take short showers instead of bathing.
    • Re-use bath/washing-up water for the garden (grey water).
    • Fix dripping taps (replace washers) and pipe leaks.
    • Check if your toilet is leaking by adding a few drops of food colouring in the cistern, wait 30 minutes and check the bowl for any signs of coloured water.
    • Fill a 2-litre cool drink bottle with water or sand and place in the toilet cistern to reduce the amount of water per flush.
    • Wash cars with a bucket instead of a hosepipe or use a nozzle on a hosepipe to control water use.
    • Wait for a full load of washing or dishes before switching on the washing machine or dishwasher.



  • Plant indigenous trees and shrubs in your garden.
  • Remove or refrain from planting alien/non-indigenous plants.
  • Do not pick flowers or disturb animals in protected nature areas and always keep on the footpath.
  • Join a ‘Friends’ group and volunteer your services to help with conserving an area compost-pile(e.g. clearing of invasive alien plants).
  • Stick to the legal size and quantity limits for collecting marine animals like crayfish.
  • Use chemical-free products or buy ‘environmentally friendly’ organic-based products such as detergents or pesticides that do not contain toxic or harmful chemicals.