Environmentally Friendly Shopping Tips

Environmentally Friendly Shopping TipsOne Sunday morning Sporty and I drove to the start of a new trail we’d discovered (this was back when we still owned a car).

Set about a car length in, a locked boom at the start of the jeep track had inadvertently created the perfect parking spot.

I pulled in immediately, happy that I’d found such a convenient place to park. We grabbed our backpacks out the back and headed off.

We’d barely gone a few metres when a guy called out to me from across the way.

“What happens if an emergency vehicle needs to get up there?” he asked, pointing at the road I’d happily blocked with our little Hyundai Atos.

Only once he’d pointed out what I’d done did I realise how thoughtless I’d been.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t think about that.” I said and quickly ran back to move my car.

We don’t intend to be rotten humans, we just don’t think through the details.

We’re all so caught up in our own worlds, that things like buying food, paying the bills, earning a wage and finding the most convenient parking spot take precedence over everything else.

Life is busy. The things that are important, like being aware and noticing what’s going around us, are relegated to the back seat, when what they should be doing is riding shotgun.

So how can we step up and be better humans?

South African conservationist and adventurer, Braam Malherbe, challenges us to Do One Thing and Mother Theresa summed it up beautifully when she said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

All actions, no matter how small, make a difference.

And there are so many ways we can make a difference. One place in particular where we can make a real and lasting impact is by making better choices when we shop.

The Plastic Pollution Problem

About 8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean every year. Right now there’s at least 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are currently in the oceans, a third of which is concentrated in the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

At least one million seabirds and one hundred thousand marine mammals die each year due to plastic pollution. The survival of at least 100 species, including the Hawaiian Monk Seal and Loggerhead Turtle, could be jeopardized by plastic debris. —The Ocean Cleanup

Fresh Produce Bags

You know those clear plastic bags you get in the fresh produce section at the supermarket? Well nine times out of ten you don’t actually need them, you’re just using them out of habit. If you’re buying, say, loose lettuce leaves or cherries then it makes sense to put them in a bag.

But most of us use them for absolutely everything, from one banana to a head of garlic to a pineapple or orange. They’re not going to get lost or suffer any irreparable damage if they’re not in a bag, so don’t put them in one.

Reusable Shopping Bags for Groceries

More and more people are using reusable bags when they do their grocery shopping (kudos if that’s you), but an alarming number are still buying plastic bags at the check-out.

Sporty and I have way too many reusable bags, because the rule in our house is that if we forget to take bags with us then we have to buy new ones. No plastic, no matter what!

Recently the pile of bags teetered so high it looked like they were going to stage a coup. Not willing to take the risk (and because we’re minimalists), we rehomed a few of them.

Reusable Shopping Bags for Clothes and Shoes

Here again I think most of us just act out of habit. We’ll go grocery shopping and diligently take our reusable bags with us, yet when we go clothes shopping we’ll still accept a plastic bag. We need to stop doing that. And unless we’re planning to use it for something, say the Santa Shoebox Project, then we also don’t need to take the shoebox when we buy a new pair of kicks.

Earth Friendly Products

Typical of anything non-mainstream, earth friendly products are generally more expensive than the regular alternatives. But more and more, we’re finding earth friendly options that are affordable.

If you can afford to buy them they’re definitely the better route to go. They’re free from harmful toxins, which means the little guys in your house (human and animal) are safe. They’re better for your skin, they’re not strong-smelling and they’re not tested on animals.

Bottled Water

Instead of buying bottled water, Sporty and I filter our own. It’s cheaper, more accessible and much better for the environment. At home we have a Brita jug and when we’re out and about we just fill a gym bottle and take it with us.

When we go out to eat we just drink tap water. I know most people would be horrified at the thought, but it tastes fine and it hasn’t killed us yet. Obviously this logic doesn’t apply to countries like India, but I’m assuming since you’re reading this blog you must have at least a modicum of common sense.

I used to have a Bobble water bottle for gym etc. but I found the shape a bit clumsy. It works like a charm though, and what’s especially cool is that you can fill it up anywhere. (Hmmm, maybe I should get myself one again.)

Seasonal Produce

Nowadays food is imported and exported all over the world, which means we can get our favourite fresh produce all year round. Here in South Africa, for example, we’re heading into winter and yet we can still enjoy asparagus and figs (thanks to Peru and Israel).

The are lots of benefits to eating what’s in season. Most notably, it supports your body’s natural nutrition needs. In winter we need the rich doses of vitamin C found in citrus fruit, while winter vegetables are the perfect addition to the hearty soups and stews we crave for their warmth and comfort.

However another equally important reason to eat what’s in season is because the carbon footprint of something grown locally is much smaller than that of its imported counterpart. Think Tinkerbell versus Yeti.

Local is Lekker

We have a saying here in South Africa: Local is lekker. ‘Lekker’ is the Afrikaans word for candy and it’s also what we say when something is really nice.

Try and shop local as much as possible. Some things, like coffee for example, might not be grown locally where you live. If you’re a caffeine addict (like we are) then go ahead and use your mostly mindful get out of jail free card*.

With clothes it’s trickier, since so many brands are manufactured in China or Indonesia where labour is cheap. However there are more and more Indie labels popping up, so make a point of finding and supporting them.

*The whole idea about being mostly mindful is that you find a balance between living mindfully and living i.e. enjoying life. It’s different for everyone, so do what works for you.

Beauty Without Cruelty (Look for the Bunny)

For Sporty and I this one’s non-negotiable. If a product doesn’t have the Beauty Without Cruelty bunny on it or clearly state that it’s not tested on animals then we won’t buy it. Even if you’re not vegan, this is one area where you can be more mindful when it comes to animals and their wellbeing.

You can go one step further and make sure the product doesn’t contain any animal products either. It’s crazy what people will put into products these days, so be sure to scan the label for any untoward ingredients.

Beauty without cruelty extends beyond lotions and hand-creams however. Things like clothing and bedding also come into play here. Make a point of informing yourself before just willy-nilly buying something just because it suits your needs. By way of example, here’s what it takes to make your down coat ethical*.

*Personally, we believe the only ethical coat is an entirely synthetic one, but if you have your heart set on a down one then at least make sure it’s cruelty-free.

Recyclable Packaging

Look for packaging that’s recyclable. Sporty and I eat a plant-based diet, which means we buy an enormous amount of fresh fruit and vegetables. Because we’re limited to shopping at Pick ‘n Pay we’re not able to be as mindful as we’d like, but as far as possible we avoid non-recyclable packaging.

So for example we’ll buy unripe, loose avocadoes rather than the ripe ones housed in clingwrap. We also buy loose bananas, even though the bagged ones are packed in recyclable bags. If there’s a choice we’ll always go the non-packaged route. They’re considerably cheaper too and I’m a big fan of being frugal wherever I can. (In our house I’m known as Bargain Betty!)

Sporty: or Frugal Frannie when Betty gets unreasonable 😉

Farmers’ Markets

We’re lucky to have a Saturday market around the corner from where we live, so we do some of our shopping there. For the most part everyone there is super mindful of packaging, opting for brown paper bags as far as possible. It’s also a great opportunity to support local growers and artisan traders.

See what’s happening in your area and if you have a local market nearby then make a plan to support them. Aside from making a difference, it’s also a really fun way to spend an hour or two since most of these places invariably sell food and coffee as well.

Hopefully we’ve given you something to think about and maybe even inspired you to make some small changes to your shopping habits. Leave a comment below and let us know. If the post resonated with you please share it far and wide.

Each one of us can make a difference. Together we make change.
—Barbara Mikulski

The Best Natural Anti-Inflammatory Remedy. Ever.


Spoiler Alert: If you want the recipe, but can’t be bothered to read the whole post (I get it, there’s a whole new season of House of Cards waiting) just scroll to the bottom. No questions asked and no feelings hurt.

How I Came to Need a Natural Anti-Inflammatory

I wasn’t the most sporty of teenagers, though I did, for a short while, join the cross-country team. The name implies that we were trail running, but we were really just jogging around the neighbourhood (some of us at an embarrassingly glacial pace).

My knees hurt sometimes when I ran, but back then we trained in plimsolls and the term anti-inflammatory had yet to reach us in the southern suburbs of Johannesburg. As they did with everything that didn’t involve a severed limb or main artery, my parents put my complaints down to growing pains and moved on.

I stopped running when I went to college and the knee pain miraculously disappeared. Sometime in my early twenties the desire to run returned and yet again I found myself with achey joints. So much for growing pains.

In Which My Knees Are Sliced Open

This was during the allopathic junkie phase of my life, so I immediately went to the doctor who sent me to an orthopaedic surgeon who had me on the operating table faster than I can eat a chocolate.

It wasn’t one of my best decisions. My knees never got over the shock of being sliced open by a scalpel-wielding maniac and to this day complain bitterly whenever I ask them to do anything more than a slow trundle.

Before becoming vegan I tossed back chondroitin supplements (most of them contain shark cartilage) like peanuts. I can’t even remember now if they worked or not, but as soon I found out what their key ingredient was I began looking for natural anti-inflammatory remedies.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

There are plenty of foods that reduce inflammation (the below list offers a few key examples) and while I’ve certainly seen a significant improvement in my overall health since embarking on a plant-based lifestyle, I haven’t noticed any real difference in my knees. I absolutely believe that food is medicine, but I think sometimes a more direct fix is required in addition to improving one’s diet.

• Tomatoes
• Olive oil
• Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and collards
• Almonds and walnuts
• Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Dr Mike Dow’s Anti-Inflammatory Fix

Now for the juice tip. I got it from Dr Mike Dow, author of The Brain Fog Fix. If you’re looking to reclaim your focus, memory, and joy and want to do so in just three weeks then this is the book for you. At least, that’s what the dust jacket claims.

I have yet to read it, so I can’t say if that’s true or not, but if Mike’s anti-inflammatory fix is anything to go by then I reckon there’s a really good chance of the book delivering on its promises.

The Recipe

I hope y’all got your pen and paper handy, because this is one complicated recipe…

½ Teaspoon turmeric powder
½ Teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix both in a small amount of water and drink.

Mike says to do this once a day, but I’ve been doing it morning and evening because my knees have been pretty painful lately.

The Results (so far)

Natural Anti-Inflammatory

I’ve been doing this for a little under two weeks now and the improvement is phenomenal. My runs have been amazing. I have almost no pain and when I do a quad stretch on on my right leg (historically, the worse one) I can pull my heel all the way to my butt no problem.

If you suffer from arthritis or inflammation of the joints for whatever reason I highly recommend you try this. It’s cheap, uncomplicated and honestly, it doesn’t taste nearly as bad as you might think. Best of all, no sharks are harmed.

Let me know in the comments if you give it a go, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. —Hippocrates

A Minimalist Manifesto

A Minimalist Manifesto

What’s the Problem?

We’re so focused on accumulating stuff that we’ve lost sight of what’s important. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to just be.

There’s a disconnect.

We believe our happiness lies in what we own, when in fact the opposite is true.

Our possessions weigh us down and we become resentful, disheartened, uncertain even.

We don’t let that stop us though. The more we have, the more we want. Bigger, better, faster. Screw waiting, give us both our damn marshmallows. Now.

This demand for instant gratification leaves us wanting, but we don’t let that stop us either. Instead we attempt to fill the void by continuing our cycle of buying. Convincing ourselves that this time we’ll be happy. That this [whatever] is exactly what we need to make our lives better.

But all we end up with is more stuff.

The void we’re trying to fill just gets bigger and bigger. Until it’s like a metaphysical Teletubby (with indigestion). And now we’re even more miserable because we were so convinced that the stuff would make us happy.

And why wouldn’t it? Everywhere we’re turn that’s what we’re told. On TV, in magazines, at the movies, the message is the same: If you buy this [whatever] your life will be better.

Perhaps we just didn’t buy the right [this]? At a loss as to what else to do, we take to this business of accumulating with renewed gusto. And in the process we become unhappier, deeper in debt and even more stressed.

I’m going to break it to you gently. Those bastards lied to us.

Stuff does not make us happy. I’ll say that again.

Stuff does not make us happy.

What’s the Solution?

We’ve agreed that there’s an elephant in the room, now let’s look at what we can do to usher it back outside where it belongs. With the other pachyderms.

We’ve all got a serious case of want-itis and it’s time we faced facts.

We need to stop buying and start decluttering.

We need to make space in our lives. Space to breathe. Space to move. But most importantly, space to reconnect.

Remember earlier how I said there’s a disconnect? Well this is the source of all our problems.

As humans, we’re so focused on our individual needs and wants that we’ve literally lost touch with anything that doesn’t directly affect us. We’re not aware of what’s happening outside of our own universe.

On those occasions where something does threaten to penetrate our bubble, we shut our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears and say, “I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to hear that.”

Because seeing or hearing ‘that’, whatever ‘that’ may be, will force us to make a change. And change is hard. It requires effort and tenacity and vulnerability.

It’s so much easier to just order another latté and go back to pretending everything is fine.

What’s the Next Step?

This isn’t going to be quick or comfortable, but done a day at a time, in small increments, it will certainly be doable. More than that, this process of reconnection will probably be one of the more rewarding journeys you ever embark on.

Start by letting go.

The first step to reconnecting is making space. It’s time to let go of everything that’s cluttering up your life. Clutter can take many forms, from physical items in your home, to habits and people. Yes, even people.

For now though, let’s just focus on letting go of the physical stuff. It’s the easiest area to start with and it’ll give you the space and momentum to fully immerse yourself in the fantastically fun and exciting process of reconnecting.

But how do you let go? Where do you even start?

After waxing minimal at TEDx Cape Town in 2013 I came up with the #30DayDeclutterChallenge. It’s super simple. Just start by getting rid of one thing a day for 30 days.

My theory is that by Day 30 you’ll have built up enough momentum to want to just keep going. By then you should (unless you limited yourself to throwing out marbles) be seeing and feeling the results.

When to keep something and when to bid it farewell.

Perhaps you’re wondering how to decide what to keep and what to get rid of?

Sporty and I are pretty ruthless nowadays. If we haven’t used something in three months it goes. There are obvious exceptions, such as winter clothes, however if there’s something we don’t use then on the giveaway pile it must go.

If three months seems a little too extreme you can always opt for six months or, at a push, a year. Just be really honest with yourself when assessing whether an item should stay or go.

The trick is to not overthink things. Just make the commitment and get started.

Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to let go, but don’t be too easy on yourself either. Put on your big girl panties or superman undies and just do it. You can’t sit on the porch forever, it’s time to run with the big dogs.

Here’s to reconnecting.

We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new beginning. Zig Ziglar

[Minimalist] Mother’s Day Gift Ideas


When it comes to Mother’s Day all moms are minimalists at heart. Sure, they might appreciate the expensive bottle of perfume or [fancy label] handbag (Kamilla if you’re reading this, feel free to butt in with an appropriate name), but ultimately, the best Mother’s Day gifts are time and love. Sounds sappy, maybe a little cheap even, but I know I’m not wrong about this.

When I started working and earning my own money I’d often buy my mom gifts: clothes, flowers, a scarf, jewelry. She loved it, but she loved it more when I just took her out for lunch or coffee and hung out with her.

Sometimes we’d go further afield to a neighbourhood or area she hadn’t been to before (she didn’t drive, so her ventures were limited by bus routes and schedules), other times we’d just go to the local mall for a cappuccino and a slice of chocolate cake. To her it didn’t matter, she’d always thank me enthusiastically when I dropped her off.

Time with me was all that mattered to her. And because I made the effort it let her know I loved her, that she was important to me. I wasn’t always as patient as I could have been, but I spent time with her rather than just fob her off with lavish gifts.

Now that she’s gone I have more happy memories than I do regrets. It’s a good place to be and one I’m especially grateful for. Okay, anecdote over. Let’s see about some gifts for mom.

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas (With a Minimalist Slant)

A Special Meal

Take your mom out for a special meal, but throw in a surprise. One time Sporty and I arranged a breakfast with my mom’s siblings without telling her. She thought it was just going to be the three of us and when we arrived she found her two sisters and her brother waiting at the restaurant.

Remember though, this is your mom’s treat, so choose a place that she’ll like. One that serves her favourite food and where the ambiance is to her liking. You can go wherever you like later.

If you have kids perhaps you could arrange a brunch at home and they could help prepare and serve the food. Or at least entertain their granny while you whip something up. Again, think about what she’d enjoy best and do that.


What about taking her to the theatre, movies or ballet? A concert, a comedy show, a dance? If it didn’t involve coffee and cake my mom wasn’t interested, but your mother might enjoy going out to see a play. If you’re anything like Sporty and I you probably limit your outings to the movies, so this is a great excuse to get out and do something different.

Touristy Stuff

If dinner and a show isn’t her speed then there’s the option of playing tourist in your own city. In Cape Town, for instance, we have the Red Bus, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Robben Island and Cape Point, to name just a few. These are all great experiences just waiting to be had and yet so often we ignore them, because, you know, we live here. Well so what if you live here, get out there and do something out of the ordinary.

But Maybe You Still Want to Buy Her Something?

Gift giving dates back thousands of years and is used as a way of connecting, a way to say, “I see you, and you mean something to me.”

I’m a minimalist not a grinch, even I get that exchanging gifts holds value. However, the problem nowadays, is that most of us indulge in token gift giving. Which is a polite way of saying that we buy stuff for one another because we feel we have to, not because we want to.

I know, I did that for many years and all it resulted in was a depleted bank account and a maxed out credit card. As for the gifts themselves? Well they most likely ended up in the recipient’s spare room cupboard, alongside everything else they didn’t want but couldn’t throw out.

Back to mom. First, don’t leave buying the gift until Sunday morning a week from now. Nothing reeks lastminute.com like a bunch of wilted flowers and that’s precisley what you’re going to get if you don’t plan ahead.

I wasn’t planning on writing one of those posts where I give you ten ideas to choose from and you pick one, but what the hell, here you go.

Flowers or a pot plant

Most moms love flowers, but a pot plant is also great, plus it’ll last longer. Provided, of course, that she doesn’t have two black thumbs.


In this case chocolates is a catch-all for mom’s favourite edibles. Maybe she’s a fruit dainty kind of a gal or perhaps she prefers savoury snacks like pretzels or roasted nuts. Could be I’m just projecting, but I think food is the perfect gift.

A magazine subscription

I’m breaking my minimalist norms for this idea (and the one below), but if you can persuade the old duck to donate the magazines to a library or school when she’s done reading them then it’s a good idea. However if your mom harbours hoarderish tendencies it’s best to stay away from this one.

A book

As with the magazines, if you can get your mom to donate the book once she’s read it then great. However if your mom loves reading then I reckon a Kindle is the way to go. If she’s reticent about the idea tell her she’ll be able to adjust the size of the type, that’ll win her over for sure. A Kindle also makes future gift giving really easy, because all you do is buy her an Amazon voucher.

Make a donation on her behalf

Sporty and I love doing this, especially for people who really don’t need anything. Which, if we’re honest about it, is most of us. Look for a charity or cause that you think will resonate with her (maybe she already has one she supports) and make a donation in her name.

Bake her something

Nothing says I love and care about you like a homemade cake or a freshly baked batch of cookies. Anybody can go to the shops and buy something, but making it by hand takes thought and effort.

Make a photo album or collage

Be honest, you’ve got like a gazillion photos on your phone and laptop that you’ve taken and never looked at again. Well now’s your opportunity to actually do something with them. If you’ve got siblings ask them to send you some of theirs as well. Compile a photo album, create a collage or simply frame some of the nicer ones. Moms are sentimental creatures, so this idea in whatever form it takes is bound to be a hit.

If you’re still at a loss after this then I suggest you go and iron your ears and have a think about why you’re such a rotten child. Just please don’t tell your mom I said that.

Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother. —Oprah Winfrey

Let’s Look at What a Vegan Diet Is (and Isn’t)

What is a vegan diet

People are always asking Sporty and I if eating a purely vegan diet isn’t really boring. I always tell them yes, it’s a real snooze fest. At which point they give me a smug, I thought so smile and wait for me to defend my position.

I’ll usually wait a couple of seconds and then add, “If you’re accustomed to indulging in TV dinners and takeout and believe Oreos to be a perfectly acceptable breakfast option just because you’re dunking them in milk.”

They invariably give me a How the hell did you know I eat Oreos for breakfast look, which is priceless, so I’ll wait another couple of seconds before saying, “Yip, that was me 15 years ago,”

Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

Well Sporty is of German descent (think cold meats, frankfurters and cheese by the truckload) and I’m half Afrikaans on my father’s side (think roast everything, chops and boerewors). So yes, not only can one teach an old dog new tricks, you can literally reprogramme its taste buds.

Is Vegan Food a Snooze Fest?

No, it’s anything but. There’s a reason why they say: Anything you can do I can do vegan. And with the plant-based lifestyle becoming more mainstream you don’t even have to be a freak of nature in the kitchen to eat well. Vegan restaurants are maybe not the norm yet, but neither are they the outliers they once were. Even here in South Africa, birthplace of the barbecue (or our version of it anyway), the days of people thinking chicken is a vegetable are in the past. Well, mostly.

Is a Vegan Diet Healthier?

Hell yes! Eating a plant-based whole food diet is much easier on your body’s digestive system. And in case you think all vegans are pale and skinny, check out these plant-based athletes busting the protein myth. The movie Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods, so it’s definitely a good one to watch if you’re considering coming over to the ‘green’ side.

And if you’re out of shape and at a loss as to how to fix yourself then Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is a must watch. It takes us on a journey with a very overweight Joe Cross and culminates in him losing a massive amount of weight, healing his many ailments and getting off his meds. Brilliant.

Is Plant-Based Eating Better For the Planet?

Yip, it sure is. You just have to read the excerpt below from the Cowspriacy website to understand what our obsession with meat and animal products is doing to our planet. It’s another must watch no matter what movie, so go and make yourself some organic fair trade popcorn and start streaming.

“Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.”

If you want more, Rich Roll, author of Finding Ultra, Rejecting Middle Age, offers 10 reasons to consider a plant-based diet for yourself and the planet and the guys at One Green Planet explain why plant-based foods will win the sustainable food race.

And Finally, What About the Animals?

You only have to look at how happy these rescue animals at the Farm Sanctuary are to know a vegan diet is not just the best way to eat, it’s the only way. Most vegans will try and shock you into not eating that BLT or drinking that grandé cappuccino, but I don’t reckon showing you sad pictures of animal factory farms is going to do the trick. Instead I’ll point you in the direction of Esther the Wonder Pig and let her snork for herself.

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
—Mahatma Gandhi