Resilient Living for Climate Change Adaptation

How can one live sustainably in the 21st century? Through conscious consumerism, waste minimisation, energy and water efficiency, and having a sense of responsibility for others and for future generations and less focus on oneself.

By Sue Bellinger, Climate Reality Leader

Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce one’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources and personal resources. As a practitioner of sustainable living, I seek to reduce my carbon footprint by altering my consumption and use of energy and water. Here are a few tips of how you can start doing it at home!


I survive largely on greywater, distributed in evenings and early mornings, cup by precious cup onto plant roots, and I mulch madly. With this, there’s enough bounty to swop some with other locals. The kitchen sink is the only outlet linked to the sewer in my whole house. Hoses are attached to the shower/bath/basins and washing machine outlets to collect and distribute the greywater. They consist of several pieces, linked by connectors, so that I can shorten or lengthen them as required to reach various garden plants. Obviously, garden-friendly soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and cleaners are a must!

It’s also useful to know that the washing machine’s ‘woollens’ cycle saves significant water and energy.

A 750 litre rain tank deals with rain off one roof section. Perforated drainage pipes connected to other downpipes, including one belonging to neighbours, with their consent, distributes roof runoff directly to the plants.

I used only 2 Kilolitres of municipal water in heat and wind- ravaged December 2016 – this means a 30% consumption reduction, my contribution to our current stringent water restrictions.


I’m not vegetarian, but I do eat largely fresh fruit and salads. Growing in my very hot and windy Cape Town garden are most of the vegetables that I consume. I compost and have a worm bin for garden and food waste, which supplies me with free much-needed nutrients for my garden.

I consciously seek purchases with least packaging, and re-use much of what I can’t avoid (e.g. sand-filled litre containers as garden bed edging; strips cut from heavy duty plastic bags to tie up climbing plants). I recycle whatever is locally possible. My dustbin goes out for collection 1 time annually, unless I do a local neighbourhood clean-up – filling it up quicker! The municipality’s monthly waste disposal charge is my donation to landfill life extension.


Despite my PC being on almost all day every day, my monthly electricity bill is approximately R100 only, adding to about R10 per month for gas. I don’t cook much, but if I do, it’s on a single plate gas cooker, in conjunction with a hotbag if needed.  For appropriate dishes – except in winter when sun rays are too oblique, I use a solar oven in which I also dry fruits (i.e. no preservatives, no additives). It saves me time, labour and money.

The geyser in my roof is switched on for only 5-10 minutes in summer, 20-25 in winter. Why heat water to a temperature above what is comfortable, only to add cold water?

Home temperature control: my house is equipped with ceiling insulation made from recycled plastics. Through judicious use of windows, blinds, curtains and outside doors, I either block out or allow in heat and cold, depending on the season.

This experience and knowledge has me seeking local initiatives, NGOs and communities which could benefit from the learning. And help them too to adapt to climate change.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the African Climate Reality Project.