• Image
  • Image
  • Image

Tips for Green Living


Practice the 3 Rs recommended by the Fairest Cape Association and the Citys cleaner production initiatives:  Reduce, Reuse/Repair and Recycle.


  1. Buy only what you need and avoid buying excessively packaged products.
  2. Buy in bulk (less packaging) those items you use a lot.  Buy refills and concentrates.
  3. Buy products that offer packaging made from recycled materials, such as kitchen towels and shampoo bottles with recycled plastic content.
  4. Try to avoid disposable products, such as disposable razors, cameras and paper plates.
  5. Choose glass over plastic as it can be recycled.  Many plastic packaging items are still not recyclable in South Africa.
  6. Avoid toxic or hazardous products


  1. Where you no longer have a use for something, find somebody who does.  Schools, charities, libraries and some drop-off centres may accept unwanted clothes, furniture, toys, books, videos and magazines.
  2. Repair items rather than throwing them away.  Support you local seamstress, shoemaker, bike repair shop and so on.  This also stimulates jobs in your community.

Handy ideas for reusing household goods:

  1. Store food in reusable containers, rather than non-recyclable cling-wrap or tin foil made from resource sensitive aluminum.
  2. Reuse gift wrap and greeting cards.
  3. Consider non-material gifts such as a night out.
  4. Cut up used paper into squares to reuse as notepads.
  5. Use both sides of any piece of paper and then recycle.
  6. Plastic pots and waxed or plastic coated milk or juice cartons make excellent pots for seedlings.


  1.  Recycle waste that cannot be repaired or reused by dropping it off at your nearest recycling depot or drop off facility.
  2. Choose packaging and products that have recycled contents and are recyclable look for the recycled symbol.
  3. Use your vegetable waste to make compost.

Becoming a recycling home

Separating your waste

A good place to start is to set up 3 bins (consider using reused boxes) in your house; an organic bin for the compost heap, a dry recyclables bin (cans, plastic, glass bottles, plastic wrap, paper and egg boxes) and a bin for non-recyclable waste.  This will help you to sort your waste at source.

The benefits of recycling:

  1. Reduces the amount of waste going into landfill sites, saving airspace;
  2. Create jobs and money for schools and organizations;
  3. Reduces pollution and litter;
  4. Saves raw materials needed to make new products;
  5. Slows down the consumption of the worlds non-renewable (oil, coal and iron) and renewable resources (trees);
  6. Reduces energy costs in manufacturing of containers, packing, ect.; and
  7. Saves water (used in packaging and product manufacturing).  Recycling paper uses 50% less water than paper that is made from wood pulp.

Contacts and Resources:

City of Cape Town Refuse Removal Cleaning and Disposal Services (including queries relating to drop=-off facilities and reporting of illegal dumping) General enquiries:  0860 103 089.

City of Cape Towns Waste Wise Campaign
Tel: 021 4003298/2292
Web: www.wastewise.org.za

The integrated waste exchange programme was launched by the City of Cape Town in May 2000 in a bid to reduce the amount of hazardous and general waste material entering landfill sites.  Visit www.capetown.gov.za/IWEX for more information.

The institute of Waste Management promotes environmentally-acceptable and cost-effective waste management with the aim of protecting the environment and South Africans from poor waste management:  www.iwmsa.co.za

The national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has developed good waste manuals.  Waste Management Directorate tel. 012 3103911, or visit www.environment.gov.za

The Natural Step puts the principles of sustainable development into practice by introducing the framework into organizations. Visit: www.naturalstap.org/about/international.php#SouthAfrica

Another good resource is Lakhani, Muna, How to Have a Safer Home, Improve your Health and Your Environment, Produced by Earthlife Africa Toxics Group, November 2002.

Institute for Zero Waste in Africa:  Tel. 083 4717 276, email zerowaste@iafrica.com

Recycling Organisations:

Sappi Waste Paper: 021 9307145
NAMPAK Recycling: 021 5074300
Mondi Recycling: 021 -9315106
Rose Foundation (oil): 021 4487492
Oasis Recycling and Waste Management Project: 021 6715570
Tsoga Environmental Centre, Langa: 021 6940010
Footprints: 021 7945586


Purchasing energy-efficient appliances

The government is introducing a energy-efficient labeling system that will require all new electrical appliances to carry a label explaining their energy requirements and efficiency so that you as the consumer can compare the ratings of appliances.  These performance ratings are set within the South African National Standards (SANS) and the label design is identical to that used by the European Union Countries.  The A rating is most energy efficient and G is least efficient.
Heating your water

A solar water heater (SWH) is much more economical and environmentally sound option compared to the traditional electric hot water geysers.  Solar water heating relies on the abundant energy of the sun. Although SWH Systems may use an electric back up, far less electricity is used.  This means free hot water, less pollution and hot water even when there are power failures!  SWH systems require little maintenance once installed and typically last 20+ years.  They will save you money and are a great asset when selling a house.

Geyser efficiency tips
  1. If your geyser or the pipes leading from it are warm to the touch this means it is losing heat and wasting energy.
  2. Insulate your geyser and hot water pipes using geyser insulation piping, or by wrapping a blanket or newspaper around them.  Material batting (that lines quilts and duvets) and then heavy-duty aluminum foil wrapped around the geyser with string works well.
  3. Reduce the temperature on the geyser.  Optimal settings are 50 degrees in summer and 60 degrees in winter.  Most geysers are set at 65 degrees.  Reducing you geyser thermostat by 1 degree Celsius could save 10% of your heating costs.
  4. Install a timer that switches the geyser on according to the time you set it and therefore avoids heating water when you do not need it.  Note: The timer is only effective if the geyser is insulated.
  5. Vertical geysers are more energy-efficient than those placed horizontally.


A gas hob with an electric oven or gas ring and electric hotplate are good options for cooking, from an environmental and financial point of view.  However, gas can be difficult to obtain.  Although a paraffin stove is cheap to buy, it is a major cause of fires and needs to be carefully used.  A hot box is an excellent addition to any cooking appliance.
A Hot Box is made up of 2 cushions filled with polystyrene.  The Hot Box costs about R140.00, but the same effect can be created by simply wrapping a pot in a blanket or sleeping bag. Using a Hot Box for cooking can save you up to 60% of cooking costs.

Salathiso is a group of HIV-positive woman from Kayamandi community on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. As a collective they have started producing Hot Boxes a product they identified as a solution to their own energy needs and in reducing the burdensome costs of fuel. The proceeds from the sales are shared amongst the women.  For most of the group this is their sole source of income.  To support this initiative, find out more or to order a Hot Box, contact Wendy Walton on 021 6838597.

Cooking efficiency tips
  1. Check that rubber seals on ovens are not worn or perished as this will use up more electricity.
  2. Buy the smallest sized appliance that you can for your cooking needs. This will save fuel.
  3. When buying any cooking appliances, check the energy efficiency ratings. When buying paraffin stoves or gas rings, check that they have the SABS stamp. This means that the government checked the quality of the appliance.
  4. Use a kettle to boil water. A kettle uses 50% less electricity that heating water in a pot on the stove.  Only boil the amount needed, but make sure the element is covered.
  5. Soak beans, samp and lentils overnight as this saves time, money and several hours of cooking.


Refrigeration efficiency tips
  1. Buy energy-efficient fridges and deep freezers.  Ask for refrigerators that have a highly efficient compressor and BLDC fan motor to help save energy.  Compare consumption figures of different models.  This information is usually available with the product.
  2. Always keep a space at the back of the fridge for air to circulate around the condenser coils.  These should also be kept free of dust as this makes the fridge less efficient.
  3. A full fridge uses less energy than an empty one.  Keep bottles of water in your fridge as they will retain the cold.
  4. Make sure that the rubber seal of your fridge is in good condition so that the cold air does not escape.  If you seal has worn out and the fridge does not close properly, note the make and model of your fridge and approach the manufacturer, or any appliance store or repair business in your area, for a new seal. To replace the old seal you will need to unscrew the liner between the outer and inner door, pull the old one and insert the new rubber seal and replace the screws.

Lighting your home

Compact Fluorescent bulbs (CFLs)
CFL Bulbs convert 80% of the energy they use into light and only 20% into heat. Incandescent (traditional) bulbs convert 20% of the electricity they need into light and 80% into heat.  Although CFL bulbs cost tree to five times more than normal incandescent bulbs, they last six to ten times longer and are therefore cheaper than traditional light bulbs. No special fittings are needed simply replace your existing bulb with a CFL.

Some things to watch out for

  1. When your CFL bulb burns out (in 6 to 10 years), you must throw it away wrapped in a plastic bag to protect the environment as it contains mercury.
  2. Most CFLs cannot be used with dimmer switches
  3. Avoid using CFL bulbs in bathrooms as steam damages the electronics inside
  4. CFLs make their biggest energy savings when they are left on for at least 2 to 3 hours a day. IN a room where they are regularly switched on and off, a CFL will make little difference to electricity consumption.
  5. They also take about 5 minutes to reach their full brightness.
  6. CFL bulbs must have enough space around the attachment for air to circulate.
  7. Do not plug CFL bulbs into light-activated adapters it shortens the life of the bulb and the adapter.
  8. Get a CFL with built in sensor.

LED Cluster bulbs

LED cluster bulbs represent the latest in cutting-edge technology with a lifespan of 15 to 20 years and drwing as little as 1,08 watt per bulb (a 95% saving per bulb as compared with an incandescent bulb) . LEDs are still fairly costly and are currently used for task lighting and decorative lighting.

Keeping your house warm in winter and cool in summer

Gas heaters are very effective and quickly warm up a whole room.  They are the best appliance when considering cost, health and safety.  When using gas it is important that the room is well ventilated.  Gas heaters are more expensive than other options but long lasting.

Temperature tips
  1. Do not use the oven or stove plate to warm your house.
  2. Seal doors and windows from draughts make a door worm out of scrap material. Tightly sew a long sausage (10cm diameter about the diameter of a cooldrink can). Stuff the worm with sand. Place the worm on the inside of the door at the bottom. This will keep the wind and draughts out.

Transport: getting about efficiently


Keeping your car running efficiently and driving in the most fuel-efficient manner can make a big impact on your fuel consumption.

  1. Service your car regularly (at least every  10 000 km)
  2. Make sure your tyres are pumped at the correct pressure (recommended by the manufacturer). Underinflated tyres can increase fuel consumption by up to 8%. 
  3. Use multi-grade oil in your engine as it reduces drag.
  4. Switch to radial-ply tyres as they offer less rolling resistance and longer life that the cross ply variety.
  5. Accelerate slowly, changing through the gears as soon as practically possible.  A car runs more efficiently at lower revs.
  6. Avoid stop-start driving.  Every time you brake, energy produced from acceleration is wasted.  Anticipate traffic lights and brake less this could save you as much as 18% of your fuel per tank.
  7. Do not speed. A car travelling at 110km per hour, uses up to 25% more fuel than it would be at 90km per hour.
  8. Roof racks and open windows increase wind resistance and fuel consumption by as much as 20%.
  9. Air conditioners use about 10% of fuel when on.
  10. Use a logbook to record your fuel purchases and kilometers travelled in order to set new goals.

Contacts and resources:

City of Cape Town Electricity, tel. 0800220440

Email customersupport@capetown.gov.za

Visit www.eskomdsm.co.za for more electricity saving tips

The green house project has good information on energy-efficient and sustainable building practices, tel. 011 7203773 Internet www.greenhouse.org.za

Fuel safety information; LP Gas Safety Association, tel. 021 5315785


Working with water

An important first step is to find out where you water mains stopcock is so that you can turn off your water supply if necessary.  Think of the stopcock as the main tap to your whole house. When you shut if off the water for the mains pipes will be shut off and water will stop flowing into your house.
When you close a stopcock you may hear slamming or banging noise in your water pipes. This is called a water hammer and is caused by the sudden change of water flow and water pressure surges, which make the pipes vibrate. With time, this can loosen brackets holding the pipes and increase the likelihood of leaks, and so closing a stopcock should only be done when really necessary (such as when fixing a leak).
Drips and water wastage

A dripping tap may waste between 30 to 60 liters of water every day.  If your water bill seems particularly high check you home for leaks. Taps, showerheads and geyser overflow pipes may be dripping.  An unnatural green patch in your garden may indicate a leak in one of your underground pipes.  This can also be a major source of water loss.  In terms of the new City Water By-law it is illegal to permit pipes or water fittings to leak (Water By-law, Ch 3, Section 42 (1)).

What is needed to repair a leak
  1. Adjustable jaw pliers
  2. A vice grip
  3. A 200mm shifting spanner
  4. A flat-point screw driver and
  5. Some knowledge and confidence in your DIY skills!


The amount of water used by your toilet can easily be reduced with good maintenance and simple water initiatives. Older toilet cisterns with syphon-flushing systems hold between 9 lt and 12 lt of water. Modern toilet cisterns hold about 6 lt of water. Converting your toilet to a multi-flush (which flushes for as long as the handle is held down) or a dual-flush system (long and short flush) can result in savings of up to 20% on your water bill.  You can also reduce your cistern volume by placing a bottle or bag (hippo bag) that displaces the water in your cistern.  In terms of the Citys new Water By-law, a water closet (toilet) cistern may not exceed 9,5 lt in capacity (Water By Law Schedule 2, Water Demand Management).
Baths and showers

In terms of the Citys new Water By-law the maximum flow rate from any showerhead my not exceed 10 lt per minute.  An average bath holds between 150 and 200 lt of water.  The average shower uses about 22 lt of water each minute.  Low-flow showerheads are available that deliver less than half this amount per minute.  Under pressure, low-flow showerheads restrict the amount of water that flows out of a showerhead. This saves up to 50% of water and also reduces water heating electricity consumption.


As with toilet cisterns, geysers also have an overflow pipe to prevent flooding.  It is normal for water to drip from the overflow (or drain) pipe that is conccected to an expansion relief vavle.  When heated water expands, a small amount is released through this valve.  The drip should, however, stop when the temperature of the heated water stabilizes.  This normal drip could continue for an hour or more. UP to 2 lt of water can flow out of this overflow pipe each day.  This can be collected and reused on your garden plants.


Tap aerators can be fitted onto bathroom and kitchen taps, reducing normal tap flow from around 20 or 30 lt per minute, muchj of which is wasted, to a more sensible 6 to 10 lt.  Water-flow from your tap can be reduced by 50% to 75%, while the water pressure remains the same.  In terms of the Citys new Water by Law the maximum flow rate from any tap installed in a wash hand basin may not exceed 6 lt per minute.
Dishwashers and washing machines

Dishwashers use on average 40 to 75 lt of water per wash, but very efficient machines can use as little as 13 lt.  Washing machines on average use 150 lt per wash.

General tips
  1. Front loaders are generally more e3fficient than top loaders (water- and power-wise)
  2. Any wash cycle using a temperature setting of over 60 degrees is wasting enormous amounts of electricity.
  3. A quick/rapid wash and half-load options both help to save water when doing lighter loads.
  4. Always run washing machines and dishwashers with a full load.


Where houses have gardens these regularly consume as much as 40 to 60% of all the water used in the home.  This is treated, drinkable water (that costs money to purify) and we need to think carefully about using it in the garden.  We can bemore efficient by watering during the coolest part of the day, using drip irrigation system, composting regularly and adding mulch to our gardens.  Some plants suited to growing in Cape Town (indigenous endemics) do not require watering at all except during establishment.  In terms of the Citys new Water byLaw gardens  may not be watered using potable water, between the hours of 10:00 and 16:00.  Where a hose pipe is used to water a garden from a potable water source, a controlling device, such as a sprayer must be attached to the hose end.
Swimming pools

It takes 32,5 billion lt of water to fill the estimated 650 000 swimming pools in South Africa.  The western cape has about 91 000 of these swimming pools.  During hot weather, pool levels naturally drop 0,5 cm to 1 cm per day.  Pool covers reduce evaporation by up to 90%, saving the water you would use to top up your pool levels.  In terms of the Citys new By-law automatic top up systems using a float valve fed from a potable water source to supply swimming pools and garden ponds is not allowed.
Rainwater tanks

While it is illegal to connect a rainwater tank to the drinkable water supply system, installing a rainwater tank for your washing, cleaning or topping up of pool water may be worth considering.  Rainwater tanks may also be plumbed to feed toilet cisterns and so reduce the considerable amount of water used daily for flushing.
The black and white of grey water

Grey water comes from water used in the house for bathing, wahing and cleaning. A grey water system will take this used water and transfer it to a garden watering system.  The size and angle of the pipes that divert washing machine water is important. Filters, valves and a reservoir (for storage) are also necessary.  Laundry water with detergents containing phosphates is nutritious and man encourage plant growth.  However, many washing up liquids contain surfactant that is bad for your garden.  Grey water from the kitchen should not be used to water the garden.
Contacts and resources

City of Cape Town Water Account Queries: 0860103089

The department of water affairs and forestry regional office, 17 strand street, Bellville: tel. 021 9507100; Internet: www.dwaf.gov.za


Plant an indigenous garden

For more information on suitable species to plant in your area, access the web page www.sanbi.org and select the plantZAfrica section.

Naturalising your neighbourhood

All open spaces in our city, not just private gardens, should be planted with indigenous plants.  Encourage naturalization of public open spaces, for example by replacing grassy verges with indigenous shrubs and bulbs.  You could also get involved with encouraging schools to start indigenous gargend around playgrounds and field edges.  Local businesses may be interested in sponsoring such projects.
Working towards a chemical free city

Chemicals are often poisonous (pesticides, herbicides, paraffin and diesel) and corrosive (car battery acid, drain and oven cleaners or bleach).  Such substances are hard for natural system to break down and can damage the natural system which they come into contact with poisoning animals for which they were not intended, poisoning water systems and plants.

Avoid harsh chemicals in your garden.  When shopping, be sure to buy products that are free of hazardous chemicals.  Always take chemicals, used oil or any other unnatural substance to a city solid waste drop off site or other formal collection point.  These must not be thrown down drains or into the street.  Any chemicals thrown into the drain and stormwater system end up in our rivers, estuaries and oceans, killing and destroying many plants and animals.
Keep your neighbourhood clean and free of environmental harm

Dumping waste in the veld or on any open lot is an offence.  If you see someone dumping please contact the Metro Police on  021 5961999 to report the incident.
Involve yourself in local environmental initiatives

Managing our natural world is everybodies responsibility and much of the work is done on a volunteer basis.  Cape Town has a very active network of environmental clubs, societies and groups.

Information extracted from the SMART LIVING HANDBOOK Copyright CITY OF CAPE TOWN, AMATHEMBA Management Consulting, Sustainable Energy Africa. ISBN Number 0-9584719-4-0

More information available from Environmental Resource Management Department
6th Floor
44 Wale Street
Cape Town
Tel: 021-4872284