Low-carbon living

Lifestyle and consumption

Because we currently live in an extremely fossil fuel-intensive global economy, most consumption contributes to fossil fuel usage. Broad guidelines for reducing your carbon footprint in South Africa would include:

  • eating little or no meat
  • buying locally and sustainably produced food (locally produced food does not have to be transported using fuel, less fertiliser and pesticide use means healthier eco-systems and less use of fossil fuel-based chemical feedstocks),
  • driving less (cycling, ebiking or using public transport)
  • flying less, or not at all
  • cutting Eskom electricity consumption (through, for example, better home insulation, more efficient fittings and appliances or turning to home wind/solar)
  • consuming less in general (most manufactured good represent ’embodied carbon’, the carbon footprint of the energy used in their manufacture)
  • when you do buy, aim to ‘buy me once’ – get things that will last
  • support progressive politics that will reduce social and gender inequality (educating girls and providing access to birth control hold massive potential for reducing global carbon emissions)
  • perhaps consider where you buy petrol, if you have to buy petrol. Of the energy companies operating in South Africa, Total appears to have the most genuine commitment to renewable energy, holding a 66% share in the world’s second largest solar company, SunPower.
  • Divest!

But it’s not just up to you! We understand that all too often, system-level changes are needed for us to make changes in our own lives. If Eskom is beholden to the coal industry (and it is), it will resist giving us the option to buy only solar electricity. If government is beholden to Sasol, it will resist cutting the subsidies that make Sasol so profitable, and that make liquid fuels harder to dislodge from our transport economy.

Divestment as a campaign is guided by the recognition that the kind of system change required to swiftly address climate change is beyond the reach of personal changes in consumption, especially given the degree to which fossil fuel companies actively block change.