5 Ways You Can Be More Mindful (Starting Right Now)

by | Oct 16, 2016 | Sustainable Living | 4 comments

5 Ways you can be more mindfulWe can’t all live in a twelve by twelve cabin. We can’t all live zero waste lives. We can’t all live off the grid with a carbon footprint the size of a field mouse.

And maybe we don’t want to either. Sporty and I are pretty hippie in our own way, but even we can’t fathom a life without movies and good coffee.

One thing we can agree on however, is that most of us (definitely readers of this blog!) would like to know we’re making a difference in some way. The thing is, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. Especially when we don’t have the celebrity reach of environmental activists like Leonardo DiCaprio or Emma Thompson.

Often we’ll end up doing nothing at all simply because we think our actions won’t matter. It’s easy to fall into that mindset when everywhere we turn we see more bad news about the state of the earth. Sticking our head in the sand and pretending there’s nothing going on around us makes more sense than attempting to push back at something too big to even comprehend.

Also, life is busy. Let’s not forget that. So while we know full and well that we should be doing something, the question is how, when? In between work, school runs, extra mural activities, getting to the gym, shopping, cooking and date nights (that hopefully end with sex rather than snoring), how the heck are we supposed to find time to be a good human?

It’s actually simpler than you might imagine.

The Starfish Story

The starfish story by Loren Eiseley sums up Mostly Mindful’s approach to life beautifully. (As does Mother Teresa’s quote at the end of the post.)

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

Your Turn to Save a Starfish

Give these ideas a try and let us know how they worked out for you. Just remember, it’s not about making a monumental difference, though that would be lovely. The idea is simply to ‘save that one starfish’. That’s all. Start small and see how you go.

The Starfish Story

#1 Say No to Plastic

(and Yes to ‘Free-Balling’ Produce)

Say a hearty and emphatic ‘No!’ to those see-through plastic bags in the fresh produce section and at the tills at the grocery store. Your body lotion or shampoo doesn’t need to be in its own plastic bag and neither does that one onion, that bunch of bananas or those three lemons.

You’re only taking the bag out of habit. Try just once to let your cosmetics rub shoulders with your fresh produce, I guarantee you the result won’t be nearly as terrifying as you might imagine.

Sure, you’ll be ‘that person’ at the weighing station as you try desperately to stop your lemons from rolling off the scale. But so what. The environment will thank you, even if the growing line of agitated shoppers behind you won’t.


#2 Say No to Balloons

(and Yes to Hugs and Homemade Cakes)

Balloons for adults definitely aren’t necessary. It doesn’t matter if your friend is having a baby, getting married, turning 21 (30, 50, etc.), graduating, getting divorced, or whatever, they don’t need a bunch of balloons to celebrate the occasion.

Bake them a cake (vegan, obviously), make them a card, give them a hug, celebrate with your heart. Letting balloons fly off into the sky might look pretty in that instant, but the consequences are anything but.

You only have to visit Balloonsblow.org to see the devastating impact balloons have on our environment. Plus, they’re a complete waste of money. Just think about how many vegan cupcakes you could buy or how many almond milk lattés.

Kids are also remarkably empathetic, way more than we give them credit for (watch this little guy tell his mom why he won’t eat meat). If your child wants a balloon just explain to them why plastic is bad for the earth and the creatures who inhabit it. Instill in them a love for things that matter from a young age. Spend time doing cool stuff together rather than buying them brightly colored junk.


#3 Say No to Bottled Water

(and Yes to a Bad-Ass Brita Jug)

According to Blue Living Ideas, the production of water bottles in America uses about 17 million barrels of oil each year. Add to that the fact that about 20 billion plastic water bottles wind up in landfills each year or are incinerated.

Sporty and I use a Brita jug at home (we have done for the last 15 years or so) and we’re very happy with it. A filter usually lasts about a month and costs in the region of R150, so in addition to saving the environment it’s also easier on our bank balance.

We always fill up our bottles before we go out and take them with us, but as a starting point why not try filtering your own water when you’re at home and only resorting to bottled water when you’re out and about?

If you’re a family with kids you may want to consider something a little more heavy-duty like a home water filtration system. While definitely the more costly option, going with something like this literally means always having clean, filtered water on tap. Finally, there’s the ceramic water filter. They work well, but they also demand a fair bit of countertop real estate.


#4 Say No to Meat on a Monday

(and Yes to More Plant-Based Yumminess)

For a lot of people the idea of eating a purely plant-based diet scares the bejeezus out of them. To be honest it horrified Sporty and I back in the day when we were first considering a life without knackwurst. But we did it, and you can too.

In the meantime follow our example and take baby steps towards a lifestyle that is healthier, more cost-effective, better for the environment and most importantly, doesn’t harm animals.

If you’re wildly carnivorous you could start simply by eschewing meat on a Monday. Check out Meat Free Mondays for inspiration. Another option is to become a weekday vegetarian, or better yet, a weekday vegan. Graham Hill’s TEDx talk will definitely sway you in this direction.

Another cool idea is to replace the meat in some of your meals with mushrooms. The South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association (SAMFA) commissioned a research study to confirm the essential role of mushrooms in a weight loss programme.

The study’s main focus was to swap meat for mushrooms for four meals per week as part of a healthy balanced diet. These were the recipes the study’s participants used and I think you’ll agree, they look quite tasty. One guy lost 6kg in six weeks, just from eating mushrooms instead of meat four times a week. That’s astounding.

plant based meal

#5 Say No to the Lift

(and Yes to Climbing the Stairs)

Unless you’re in a wheelchair or perambulate by means of a Zimmer frame then there’s an above average chance you can climb a flight of stairs. But much like those insidious fresh produce bags, taking the lift (regardless of how many floors we’re going) has become a habit. We don’t even think about it. Like robots we see the lift and immediately press the button. The fact that we’re only going one flight up or down doesn’t even cross our minds.

A few years ago Sporty and I lived on the 12th floor of a 20-story apartment block. Between load-shedding and out-of-service lifts, there were times when we found ourselves with no other option but to walk up. We’d been doing staircase training anyway, so we were fine even with our shopping. But there were a lot of people who were so unfit it took them a month to get home.

A lift requires a huge amount of electricity to operate. Taking the stairs reduces unnecessary consumption and makes us healthier and fitter at the same time. It’s your classic win/win, and you all know how fond I am of those.


Watch Ang’s TEDx talk!

Who are Ang & Sporty?



  1. Lisa

    Thanks for the Balloons Blow website. My son transferred to a parochial school last year and they release (degradable) balloons on the last day at school. It’s been bugging me ever since. I just sent a (hopefully) nicely-worded email requesting they find an alternative and offering my assistance as well. I hate litter. And within the last couple of weeks, saw not one, but two people roll their car windows down and throw trash in the road. Just thinking about it nearly gives me a stroke.

    • Ang

      Hi Lisa,

      You’re welcome, hopefully your son’s school is open to suggestion! Litter is a huge problem. We actually saw a really cool talk at TEDx Cape Town on Saturday by this guy who is on a mission to change the world one piece of paper at a time. He reckons if we each pick up just one piece of litter a day we can clean things up. I’ll share the link with you once the talks are published in a month or so. 🙂

  2. Jane

    Hi Angela! I read your real life minimalist story a couple of months ago and was a bit jealous of your hippie lifestyle, I would like to get there one day.
    Your suggestions are so important and easy for everyone to do. I do four of them but did not even think about the balloon one. Helium is in limited supply too and needed for far more important things than balloons. An extra reason to say no.

    • Ang

      Hi Jane

      Ha ha ha…it’s not often we hear people say they’re jealous of our hippie lifestyle. Usually we just get sideways glances from people when we tell them how we live. I’m so chuffed to hear you’re already doing four of the five suggestions, that’s amazing! Kudos to you for living lightly.

      To be honest helium never even crossed my mind either until I came across the balloons website. The thing is, balloons really are such a waste of money. There are so many other things you can do instead to decorate a party!

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


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