Lifestyles are becoming greener in South Africa, according to online traffic reports

South Africans are becoming more aware of the environmental benefits of reusing and upcycling unwanted goods.

April 29, 2014

South Africans are becoming more aware of the environmental benefits of reusing and upcycling unwanted goods, says Claire Cobbledick of Gumtree South Africa.

“The motivation for selling and buying second hand goods aren’t purely driven by financial pressures,” she states. “Upcycling and reusing items have become trendier and more socially acceptable.”

Upcycling reuses or refurbishes old materials as opposed to manufacturing new ones, reducing emissions and preserving natural resources. For example, every ton of discarded textiles (such as clothing) that is reused prevents 20 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. According to Cobbledick, there is an active and creative subculture that enjoys turning unwanted goods into highly sought after furniture. “We’ve seen individuals buying old pallets and turning them into designer coffee tables or garden boxes that are resold,” she says. “The sellers are literally turning one man’s junk into another man’s treasure, and the buyers love owning unique, customised items.”

Moreover, the process is consider to be “greener” than recycling. “Of course we should all recycle, but that generates energy and resources to collect, sort and process these items. Upcycling and reusing items are the most environmentally friendly way of preserving resources.”

Cobbledick also says that South Africans are slowly embracing the concept of “freecycling” online. “We see people using our site as a means of donating unwanted items, not just selling or swopping them.”

She says that the online site (that receives visits equal to a quarter of the population of South Africa every day) has noted a remarked trend in “greener” transacting. The category devoted to carpool and rideshares. In the year 2013, this category saw over 19 000 ads posted across the country, a positive 5% increase on the previous year. Sharing transport not only reduces carbon emissions (great news for the environment) but also saves on fuel costs, ensuring commuters have extra rands in their pockets at month-end. Carpools and rideshares are especially popular in Kwa-Zulu Natal – the province accounts for over 50% of ads posted in this category – with Gauteng and the Western Cape accounting for 26% and 20% respectively.

Between January 2013 and November 2013, the number of hybrid cars advertised on the online classifieds site increased by a remarkable 721%, indicating that in a relatively short period, consumers’ automotive vehicle preferences shifted dramatically. The majority of the ads for these eco-friendly vehicles were listed in the Western Cape, closely followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal. Interestingly, the most popular brand listed in Gumtree’s hybrid car inventory was Honda, which produces eco-friendly editions of its popular Jazz and Civic models.

Over 1 000 ads for solar panels and geysers were listed throughout 2013 (interestingly, 22% less than the previous year) and although they are popular year-round, ads for these appliances saw a surge in popularity in January, possibly as a result of sunlight hours being at their highest and the opportunity to maximise this power. Claire Cobbledick, Head of Marketing for Gumtree SA, believes that data from the site reveals that consumers are becoming more and more environmentally-conscious.

“We’ve seen a continued increase in ads posted in this sector but also key searches for terms such as ‘eco-friendly’, ‘environmentally-friendly’ and ‘green’. Buyers and sellers are fully aware of the benefits of trading in second hand goods – both economically and environmentally.”