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Namrata Zala

May 27, 2024

5 Rules To Live More Sustainably (And Save Money)

In today's world, the allure of sustainability often seems to come with a hefty price tag and a labyrinth of complexities. Many of us might associate eco-friendly options with expensive organic produce and gadgets, leading to confusion and hesitation. And then there’s the concern around greenwashing - is this truly sustainable or just marketed as such? 

However, I’m doing my best to challenge this perception, highlighting that by following just 5 simple rules, you can make sustainable choices that not only benefit the planet  but also lead to substantial savings in the short and long term.

Carrying Out Sustainable Intentions

Like many, I've found myself caught between wanting to make eco-conscious decisions and feeling overwhelmed by the perceived expense and complexity of sustainability. It's easy to get lost in the sea of information.

The key takeaway? Being environmentally conscious and budget-friendly aren't mutually exclusive.  In fact, a little research opened my eyes to the many small local South African brands creating sustainable goods, often at lower price points. The challenge? They sometimes fly under the radar. It made me realise that maybe we, the consumers, are partly to blame for inaction. Sometimes we're willing to do more as long as it's convenient.


Initially, I looked at my shopping habits - what am I buying that could be swapped out for a more sustainable, and in many cases, cheaper alternative? 

To help make your switch to sustainable shopping easier, I've compiled a list of key considerations when choosing products, along with some examples I've discovered on my own journey of replacing generic items with eco-friendly alternatives. These are my five rules when looking to shop sustainably:

Rule 1: Look for Products Made From Sustainable Materials:

These products are made with eco-conscious materials, for example, bamboo or sugarcane instead of paper, or fairtrade chocolate or coffee beans instead of regular products. When it comes to clothes, this means recycled materials instead of cotton or synthetic fabrics. 

Conventional: Plastic Toothbrushes

Sustainable: Bamboo Toothbrushes

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Bamboo is a fast-growing and biodegradable material, unlike plastic that takes ages to break down. Plus, you eliminate the plastic handle waste altogether.
  • CO2e savings:  21.34 KG CO2e 
  • Cost savings: Savings: R20.04 per purchase

Conventional: Cotton Canvas Sneakers

Sustainable: Reefer's Cork Sneakers

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Cork oak trees are a renewable resource with low environmental impact, while cotton canvas production is extremely water-intensive. 
  • CO2e savings: 8.3kg CO2e (source).
  • Cost savings: ~R339 per pair

Conventional: Toilet Paper (Wood Pulp)

Sustainable: Toilet Paper (Sugar Cane)

  • Why it’s more sustainable: This is a great product. It’s local and uses sugarcane which is a by-product of the sugar processing industry and would otherwise be wasted.
  • CO2e savings: 1.04 KG CO2e/ KG
  • Cost savings: R3.00 per roll

Conventional: Plastic Based Cotton Buds

Sustainable: Paper Stemmed Cotton Buds

  • Why it’s more sustainable: These earbuds use recycled paper stems instead of plastic.
  • CO2e saving: 1.9kg of CO2e/Kg (source)(source)
  • Cost savings: R17.99/ pack

Conventional: Bottled Body Wash

Sustainable: Body Wash Bar

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Bar soap’s manufacturing process requires less water and avoids the energy-intensive production of plastic bottles. All things considered, hard soap leaves a 25% smaller carbon footprint than liquid soap and it lasts you longer (source).
  • CO2e savings: 1.9kg CO2e/KG
  • Cost savings: Savings: R34/soap

Conventional: Handy Andy

Sustainable: Natural All Purpose Spray

  • Why it’s more sustainable: This natural multi-purpose cleaner avoids harsh chemicals and is kinder to the environment. Plus, its versatility allows you to clean various surfaces without needing multiple products.
  • CO2e savings: 0.14kg CO2e/KG
  • Cost savings: R8 per 500ml product

Rule 2: Where You Can, Choose Second-Hand Products

Buying second-hand reduces resource consumption, lowers landfill waste, and shrinks your carbon footprint by giving existing items a new life, all this whilst saving money.

Conventional: Brand New Phone

Sustainable: Second-Hand Phone

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Choosing a second-hand phone reduces electronic waste by keeping a functional phone in use and avoids the resource drain and carbon footprint associated with manufacturing a brand new device. 
  • CO2e savings: 77.31kg saved when choosing second hand according to this source
  • Cost savings: R4140 for the same iPhone 12

Conventional: Shein

Sustainable: Thrifting

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Thrifting extends the life of clothes, reducing resource waste and landfill clutter compared to buying new, fast fashion. Thankfully, the landscape of sustainable fashion is changing. The rise of online platforms like Yaga, Facebook Marketplace, and dedicated Instagram accounts in South Africa means pre-loved clothing is more accessible than ever.  
  • CO2e savings: Each person that buys second-hand clothing can prevent more than 500 pounds of CO2 every year, reducing one’s water, waste, and carbon footprint by more than 80% (source).
  • Cost savings: ~R90 per garment

Rule 3: Look For Locally-Made Products

This is an easy one. By choosing to shop locally, you're not only supporting your community but also reducing your footprint. Local sourcing reduces transport emissions, cutting the products carbon footprint by up to 5%. For fresh goods, like cheese, butter, or veggies, it’s even higher (up to 40% reduction) as these products are usually flown. 

Conventional: Kelloggs Bran Flakes

Sustainable: Heartland’s Bran Flakes

  • Why it’s more sustainable: It’s local which means less transport and it’s cheaper than the conventional brand!
  • CO2e savings: 1.47 KG CO2e/ KG
  • Cost savings: R20 per purchase

Conventional: Imported Cheese

Sustainable: Locally Made Cheese

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Locally-produced cheese boasts a much smaller environmental impact compared to imported cheese as it’s flown in, while also supporting South African cheesemakers and saving money.
  • CO2e savings: 12 kg CO2e/KG
  • Cost savings: ~R30

Conventional: Imported Oat Milk

Sustainable: Buttanut Oat Milk

  • Why it’s more sustainable: By choosing locally produced oat milk, you're reducing your carbon footprint and it tastes nicer.
  • CO2e savings: 0.017kg CO2e/L
  • Cost savings: Savings: R25 per 1L

Rule 4: Look Out For Anything You Can Reuse

Prioritise reusability — it helps conserve resources and minimises waste (as long as you actually reuse the product!).

Conventional: Cling Wrap

Sustainable: Beeswax Wraps

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Made from natural materials, beeswax wrap biodegrades unlike clingwrap's plastic prison. Plus, it's reusable, significantly cutting down on waste compared to single-use cling wrap and it seems to promote better food preservation with its breathable properties!
  • CO2e savings: 0.5kg CO2e/KG
  • Cost savings: R6.7/per beeswax wrap

Conventional: Buying Bottled Water

Sustainable: Water Filter Stick

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Worried about the water quality? Invest in a water filter instead of buying bottled water. A single KURO-Bo stick can filter your tap water for over 3 months, eliminating the need for constantly purchasing new plastic bottles. This translates to significant cost savings in the long run.
  • CO2e saving: 0.28kg CO2e/kg (source)
  • Cost savings: 
    • 3 months of purchasing one bottled water (1L) per day: R1,552.5 (R17.25 x 90 days)
    • Savings: R1,353.50

Conventional: Buying Coffee Pods

Sustainable: Reusable Coffee Pods

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Made from stainless steel, this reusable capsule option eliminates the plastic waste generated by single-use pods. Plus, it's kinder on your wallet. 
  • CO2e Savings: 14g CO2e/ serving (source)
  • Cost savings: 
    • Reusable Coffee Capsule: R365 
    • 250g of Ground Coffee: R84.99 
    • Nespresso Pods: R459
    • Savings: ~R10

Conventional: Disposable Razor

Sustainable: Double Edged Razor

  • Why it’s more sustainable: This reusable razor is significantly more sustainable than buying disposable razors made of plastic.
  • CO2e savings: 43g CO2e/ use (source)
  • Cost savings: R40.95 

Rule 5: Look Out For Energy Efficient Products

Choosing energy-efficient products offers helps you make a positive impact on the environment while saving money on your utility bills. These products are designed to consume less energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving valuable resources. 

Conventional: Regular Outdoor Bulbs

Sustainable: Solar Powered Outdoor Spotlight

  • Why it’s more sustainable: This eco-friendly option ditches electricity for free solar power, reducing your carbon footprint and saving you money on bills in the long run. 
  • Cost savings: 
    • Solar Outdoor Light: R299
    • Electric Outdoor Light: R349 
    • Savings: ~R50

Conventional: Regular Lighting (Incandescent, Halogen)

Sustainable: LED Lighting

  • Why it’s more sustainable: LED lights use up to 80% less energy than traditional bulbs, meaning less energy wasted and fewer greenhouse gasses. Plus, their long lifespan cuts down on production and disposal of bulbs, making them a clear winner for the environment.
  • CO2e savings: 130.19 CO2e/ bulb 
  • Cost savings: Savings: ~R15

Conventional: Normal Shower Head

Sustainable: Water Saving Shower Head

  • Why it’s more sustainable: This innovative shower head utilises advanced technology to deliver a powerful, satisfying spray while reducing water usage by up to 10 litres per minute. This translates to a significant 50 litres of water saved during a standard 5-minute shower.
  • Cost savings: ~R150

Conventional: Naked Geyser

Sustainable: Geyser Blanket

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Use a geyser insulator to trap heat so your geyser works less, lowering your electricity bills and reducing your carbon footprint. The blanket traps heat in, meaning your hot water takes longer to cool.
  • Cost savings: It is estimated that geyser blankets can help you save between 10-20% on your electricity bill.

Conventional: Eskom

Sustainable: Tweak’s Solar Solution

  • Why it’s more sustainable: Going solar is probably the best way to reduce your footprint, avoid loadshedding and save money in the long run. Solar relies on energy from clean sunlight which reduces your dependence on Eskom’s coal-based electricity generation. Check out Tweak’s solar solution, starting at only R1,100 a month, in partnershipwith Old Mutual and Rubicon
  • CO2e savings: CO2e saving depends on your electricity usage and the number of solar panels you will add but on average a household will reduce their CO2e footprint by 5000kg/ annum.
  • Cost Savings When Switching To Solar: Cost saving will depend on your monthly electricity bill but for a home with a high electricity bill, you can expect to save up to R2000 / month by getting solar. 

Get a quote here.


To track my impact over time, I’ve been regularly using the Tweak app to observe how my carbon footprint changes as I adapt my behaviour to become greener. It’s helped me cut back on certain costs, and in turn, my carbon footprint.

In general, it’s become increasingly clear that embracing sustainability is beneficial for more than just the planet - in making the green choice, I’ve saved a few thousand Rands over the years. I hope that my findings and my journey encourages others in rewriting the narrative, that sustainability isn’t a luxury or a lifestyle only for those earning above a certain bracket, but rather a smart financial decision for everyone.

Make the easy sustainable swap with Tweak’s suggestions here.

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