Energy Diet

My name is Cecilia and I am married to Mark. We have a little three-and- a- half month old baby girl, Hannah. I am an architect, but am currently on maternity leave. We live in Johannesburg, South Africa and recently moved into an 80-year-old house in an established suburb in the heart of the city.

The house is not geared for green living at all, having lofty steel-pressed ceilings, a tin roof with no insulation and creaky steel framed windows that don’t seal properly. Our long term goal is to renovate (I have a seven-phase master plan!) and to fit the house with more environmentally responsible systems as we go. At the moment, however, we will have to work with what we’ve got. We are on the cusp of the Highveld winter, and things are going to get interesting as we try to stay warm without running astronomical electricity bills.

In South Africa, for the most part, attempts to conserve energy are more driven by economy than the environment. Two years ago, we saw the worst of rolling blackouts or ‘brown-outs’ because our electricity infrastructure is overloaded. Now we are expecting another 30% price hike for electricity, on the back of a previous 25% increase. Increasingly in our residential projects, we are seeing clients ask for solar water heaters as well as power generators and gas appliances.

Our family started recycling a while back. We sort paper, plastic and glass, and I drop it off at our local refuse center. The garbage removal services went on strike a few weeks ago, and the city reeked with the garbage piling up on sidewalks in black plastic bags. Recycling is not yet the priority it should be. If it were, the strike would not have been as obvious or devastating!

Fact is, for the most part, we know what to do, we just ain’t doin’it! If this project will get me to remember my grocery bags when I go shopping, I will consider it a rousing success. The recycling thing also needs a little more enforcing. Many a yogurt tub has landed on the wrong pile. I think it will be an eye-opener to look at our expenses to see how and where we can spend more wisely (i.e. local or organic produce, cutting back on packaging).

Oh, and I definitely want to explore some avenues for greener baby-raising. I cannot believe the amount of disposables that come with the baby package. Our friends and family raised their eyebrows with a ‘good luck with that’ when we said we were going to try cloth diapers for Hannah. She is almost big enough to fit into the six trial ones we got and it is a matter of personal pride to make it work. Also, wipes! What did our grandmothers use before them? There must be an alternative.

Aside from our own personal incentives, the plight of polar bears and the dwindling of honeybees are two things that did it for me in terms of deciding to take action and join this diet. And frankly, I just thought that having a new house, a new baby and a new job just weren’t challenging enough. Seriously though, we have always known that we can put a bit more into our effort to be environmentally responsible. Blogging about it should crystallize the desire into action. And it sounds like fun!

Hopefully we shall find answers to these compelling issues soon! Will keep you posted!


  1. john
    May 24, 2011, 12:21 am


  2. Monia
    May 24, 2011, 2:19 am

    Hi Ceclia, I´m Monia, one of the contestants, and I also have a baby girl. When I was pregnant I bought a full package of cloth diapers (24) and was really convinced it was going to work. It didn´t, not in the first months. They leaked more than disposables did and I quit. I think my baby might have been to small to wear them, altough they say you can use them right after birth. I guess the quality of the diapers has also an important role, so buy the best ones if you can. Ines is now 5 month-old and I am slowly going back to cloth diapers, using them at home. So far so good! Good luck with that! 😉

  3. boudour
    Abu Dhabi,UAE
    June 2, 2011, 3:24 am

    Hi Cecilia, Take it from an ex- challenger u will defiantly have fun, day by day u will learn new things. Good luck