Book Review: Wise About Waste – 150+ Ways To Help The Planet

Helen Moffett


Review: Brian Joss

Greenies have been reciting the R mantra for years: reduce, re-use, repair, repurpose, recycle; refuse, resist, revolt, restore, rewild, rehabilitate, with very few people taking it to heart. Which is why the planet is rushing headlong to the edge of the environmental cliff. However, it’s not too late, postulates Moffett who also wrote 101 Water Wise Ways (The Gremlin, April 23 2018), which she says, was easier to produce because Cape Town was in the grip of a severe drought, the worst in decades.

The rush to Day Zero, according to Moffet, started with the convenience (read disposable) industry which it easy to buy a new toothbrush, replace an old light globe, buy ink cartridges for your printer, toss out that old laptop, buy single-use plastic to sip your drinks through a plastic straw (however, I read that a Stellenbosch University student has developed an edible straw in different flavours).

What can we do to prevent environmental suicide, asks Moffet. Not much individually as only 100 corporations are responsible for 70% of carbon dioxide emission, and only ten rivers, in developed countries worldwide, are responsible for plastics being carried out to sea.

However, there are some things that you as individuals and families can do to help prolong the end-days of the planet.  

Moffett asks several questions, among them are: how is going green good for your health? Good for your pocket?; Going green and reducing waste good for your marriage (a la Simon Gear, who was once a familiar face on TV as a weather forecaster) and who wrote a similar book, Going Green: 365 Ways to Change Our World, several years ago.

There is a lot of philosophical discussion in 150+ Ways To Save The Planet. That’s to be expected because Moffett, apart from being a writer, is also a renowned academic who lives in Cape Town. Her thinking is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. There are 150+ practical ways to guide you on your way to a greener you (and environment). You’ll find the practical stuff in the chapters Head Start; Saving Electricity (energy) and water; Consuming, how to be a less hungry caterpillar; Recycling; Plastic Ain’t Fantastic; Clothing and textiles; Home and Family; Food; Celebrations and Festivals; Out and About in the World; The Radical, Unpopular and Downright Weird Stuff; and; The Fun Futuristic Stuff. Here are just a few tips: don’t waste time arguing with climate-change denialists or sceptics, use low energy light bulbs, switch off all electric appliances, don’t leave them in stand-by mode; look for green shopping initiatives in your neighbourhood, beware of green washing: an eco-label on a product doesn’t make it so. Almost all detergents can be replaced with bicarb and spirit vinegar, tax the rich, hard. Finally shine a light into the darkness: plastic bottles filled with water and fitted to roofs will refract sunlight into the shacks that proliferate wherever there is an empty swathe of land.

Some weird ideas in the offing that may become a reality are urinals that fertilise school sporting facilities (and golfing greens). Bacteria that eat plastic, tree-planting drones that fire seeds, and, humanure start-ups, where she would buy shares, Moffett writes.

If you want to help save the planet (and yourself) Wise About Waste is a good place to start.

There are checklists for shopping, decluttering, recycling, the neighbourhood, avoiding food wastage, help with plastic waste,  online groups and lists of website and entertaining bloggers.

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