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Dani Nieckau has chronicled her family’s transition to an off-grid, more self-sufficient and eco-friendly lifestyle.

Dani Nieckau, a grandmother who lives on a farm near Swellendam, has chronicled her family’s transition to an off-grid, more self-sufficient and eco-friendly lifestyle on her blog to encourage others to do the same. 

Married for 36 years to “RMan”, she says she passionate about leaving as small a human footprint on this planet as she possibly can. “The greatest threat to this planet is plastic waste. Plastic is too prevalent – too convenient, too cheap to produce and too easy to transport. And far too damaging to the environment and all the creatures who share the planet. 

“Living out of town, we buy groceries on a weekly basis. I try to ensure I buy goods which are in bulk, in paper bags, glass or tins. “Any plastic or tin that enters this house is dropped at the recycling depot in Swellendam each week before we go shopping. 

“All glass that enters this house is reused – for homemade jams, cordials, pickles, tomato sauce. My husband uses the larger ones to store nails and screws. 

“I use my bread machine to make bread, banana loaves and cakes. However, being off grid, when we do not have sufficient solar power to use my solar oven or produce enough power to charge the batteries to run the machine, I have to buy bread. Every bread bag tag is kept, and is then dropped off in town at the local pick up point. One million tags means someone in South Africa receives a free wheelchair. 

“Onion and orange net bags are re-used in my garden to protect the fruit we grow or as pot scrubbers. Foil containers are brilliant to deter birds. 

“Unfortunately, milk is not available in glass bottles, so apart from those plastic bottles which go to recycling, I re-use some as bird feeders, or as plant propagators. 

Transform paint containers into chicken feeders. Picture: ecofootprintsa

“When we built our house five years ago, all the 25l paint drums were kept. These have been turned into chicken feeders and tubs for growing sweet potatoes, and are also used as buckets round our smallholding. “Left-over bathroom tiles were made into mosaics or used as drainage chips at the bottom of pot plants. 

“Paper and cardboard are shredded and added to my worm farm. Apart from citrus, onions, bones and left-over food, all our kitchen waste is placed in the worm farm. Citrus, onions, prunings and non-seeding weeds are placed in a hole in the ground and covered with a light layer of soil until the hole is full. 

“That filled hole, with the addition of worm casings (the by-product from the worm farm), becomes the basis for vegetable plantings. 

“Growing many of the vegetables we eat ensures that much of what I need is free of packaging. 

“If what we usually eat is out of season, and I have run out of home preserves, I try wherever possible to buy loose tomatoes, potatoes, apples, oranges, onions, bunches of carrots, and whole cabbages and cauliflower.” 

Put kitchen waste and shredded paper in a worm farm. Picture: ecofootprintsa

“I save seeds to negate having to buy them (and their packaging). Used cooking oil is added to a bucket of sand and that is used to store garden implements. This oily soil prevents tools from rusting, especially at the coast. 

“I use beeswax wrappers to replace clingwrap and together with re-used glass jars, this is used to store all leftovers in the fridge. 

“I blush to say that I even recycle my hair. Marie Claire’s “Kindest Cut” Campaign has been the recipient of a few lengths of my locks. Finally, coins (especially those no longer in circulation) have been used as a kitchen splash-back.” 

Nieckau says plastic straws should be banned outright and shopping bags are a real problem. 

“Consumers have the power to effect changes. We just have to be united in our demand. To assist us all to become more willing to recycle plastic bottles, a deposit system should be internationally required, such as in Norway. If one is willing, the possibilities of reducing personal waste are infinite.” 

Read her blog:

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