Green Cheese – Fairview Doing its Bit for the Environment

Fairview goatsSolar panels may not be the answer for every energy application, but they sure do make a difference, especially in a sunny country like South Africa.

I was really happy to read that my favourite wine farm and cheese making establishment – Fairview – is just installing a flotilla of solar panels in its cheese-making factory. They need huge amounts of hot water in the process to turn out their delicious goats and cows milk cheeses. The fuel used to heat the water will be reduced by two thirds once the solar panels are up and running –still not quite carbon neutral but a huge improvement.

A big thumbs up to Fairview and here’s hoping that more businesses will follow their lead!

Greener Business Cards – Eco-friendly Alternatives

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, business cards are still necessary for business networking. Only the techies seem to have got the hang of digital business cards so far and even then it’s not simple with so many different apps and platforms to choose between.

But determined eco-freaks can find a way around anything and more and more creative ideas are coming into play. One of my favourites is this:

The business card stamp
Design yourself a business card stamp and have it made up either as a self-inking stamp or a simple stamp to use with an ink pad. Make sure it uses non-toxic soy based inks, of course – we’re talking eco here not cheapo.
Now you have the freedom to stamp your business card on any paper or card you like – empty cereal boxes, thick cardboard boxes rescued from the recycling pile, re-used envelopes, even sturdy leaves gathered in your garden. You can also stamp your info directly into a contact’s address book or note book, so it is less likely to get lost.

Pros:
No wastage of paper. You only print the cards as they are needed.
You are making an eco-statement.
You can vary the recycled paper you print the cards on according to the networking event.
Cheaper than having a stack of cards printed.

Cons:
Design has to be simple, so can’t fit in lots of additional information.
Can look too home-spun for some, not suitable for a slick image.

Green Printing Services
Of course if you are looking for something more traditional for your business cards but want to make sure they are green, look out for a green printing service in your area. You can then have slick design and a green ethos, by using post-consumer recycled paper, vegetable-based inks and more from a company with a carbon neutral standing.

Do your research first to find a genuinely environmentally friendly company. And don’t forget to to have  an eco-statement printed on the back of your business cards, such as ‘printed on 100% recycled paper’ so that everyone knows that your slick company image is still eco-friendly. If you are Cape Town based check out Deep Design’s business card printing service for plenty of green printing options.

Green Living With Herbs

Start a little patch of herbs in your garden for really green living. If you don’t have a garden, a cluster of pots on a balcony or window sill will do – herbs are generally quite hardy as long as they get enough daylight and some sun. There’s no need to get fancy – just start with the basics from the Scarborough Fair song – parsley, sage, rosemary  and thyme.
And what’s so green about growing your own herbs… besides the fact that they are green, of course!

There’s far less wastage when you grow your own herbs instead of buying packets of them at the supermarket. You just snip off exactly what you need and it’s fresh and bursting with flavour. No packaging, no leftover quantities to wilt in the fridge and you’re saving money all the way.

Herbs are full of vitamins and minerals – in fact parsley is a multi-vitamin and mineral in leaf form, so you can keep healthier by having a steady supply of fresh leaves in your cooking and on your salads. If you eat plenty  and eat healthily anyway you can probably get away without taking any further vitamin supplements (note that this is an opinion, not medical advice!)

Herb teas are good for you. Read up about the medicinal effects of parsley and rosemary, sage and thyme and you will find that you have a natural medicine chest on your doorstep – perfect for treating coughs and colds, digestive disorders, flagging energy levels and more. Here is a great post on the uses of herbs, researched from my favourite Margaret Roberts book – she is the South African authority on growing herbs and highly recommended reading if you are going to start growing them.

If you only have a small garden, start mixing up the herbs with the ornamental flowers for a pretty cottage garden effect and get the satisfaction of knowing that your garden is feeding you as well as looking beautiful.

Energy Efficient Lighting – LEDs, CFLs or halogens?

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If you’re confused by the latest developments in the energy efficient light bulb field, check out this article just published in the New York Times. In Almost Time to Change the Bulb, the writer, pen name The Pragmatist, examines what all the new lighting terminology means and then goes shopping for a variety of the latest energy efficient light bulbs to test in his home.

It’s very readable with plenty of humour and some user-friendly advice for anyone else about to embark on the great switch over.

LED’s score well for overhead and directional lighting, while he finds that some of the new halogens, though less energy-efficient, provide a better diffuse light . CFLs are also on his recommended list for some applications.

Of course all the brands mentioned in the article relate to the U.S., so if you are looking for more specific advice on the latest LED lighting technology available in South Africa, check out Candela LED, who have a good range of top quality brands.

Remember too that LED technology is developing rapidly, so we should see more advances in lighting quality and versatility,  as well as a gradual reduction in price over the next while.

Newspapers – Reuse Before You Recycle

© Oleg Pidodnya | Dreamstime.com

Recycling newspapers is easy enough to do, and recycled paper can be made into many products but, before you recycle that stack of papers, think about re-using them.

In fact there are so many ways of using old newspapers around the home, that I am dreading the day when there is no-one left in our family actually reading the things. My husband gets his news electronically, so we never buy them and rely on the older generation for our supply, my mother-in- law, who still buys a daily paper to keep in touch. What we will do if she gives up the news habit, I really don’t know! Any ideas?

Here are just a few of the uses that they can be put to.

1. Soaking up spills, pet urine and other unfortunate puddles.
A few sheets of newspaper will quickly soak the liquid up away from the floor, making the clean up easier. Our three dogs lose all their house training when there are storms and we wake up to puddles in the house, so this is a frequent need, going through stacks of paper in no time in winter. The paper can then be added to the compost heap, if you can bear to tear it into slightly smaller pieces so that it will decompose properly.

2. Lighting fires.
Newspaper is an essential kindling for any fire. Twist a few sheets lengthwise into loose screws and place under the rest of the kindling (small slivers of wood, pine cones etc), to get your fire going without any need for fire lighters.

3. Lining pet cages
Bunnies and guinea-pigs need regular cleaning of their cages. It makes it a whole lot easier if you place several sheets of newspaper at the bottom of the cage to soak up urine and water spills. The whole lot  can be lifted out when dirty and discarded on the compost heap.

4. Wrapping paper
Large items can be tricky to wrap and require huge amounts of expensive new wrapping paper to cover. Go retro and pick out the best pages of newspaper for wrapping Christmas gifts. Choose the cartoon pages for kids, fun headlines for adults and so on. Tie it all with re-usable ribbon or raffia, saved from last Christmas, and you have a totally green, recyclable wrapping for free.

5. Planting trees
Trees planted in light sandy soils need help to retain moisture around their roots, especially in hot, dry climates, such as the Western Cape in summer.. Torn newspapers added to the base of the planting hole before the compost will help moisture retention and give the tree a good start. This is especially important if you are planting large trees which need all the help they can get to settle in.

These are just a few of the things we use newspaper for. What about you? Share any great green tips with us in the comments.

Re-use – 3 things you don’t need to recycle

© Kit Heathcock

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by all there is to do to make my lifestyle as green as possible, I go back to the fundamental  mantra for green living: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.

Recycling is essential, but first on the list is Reduce. Reduce the amount of non-essentials you bring into your home in the first place, in the way of packaging, cheap plastic freebies from supermarkets and take-away food chains, promotional leaflets, junk mail and so on.

Then comes Re-use. Re-use anything you can possibly think of before it hits the recycling bin. This is where you need to get imaginative and creative. Re-using jam jars for your own preserves is one obvious example, but there are so many other things that will keep resources in use for longer and so reduce the carbon footprint of each item. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Jam jars – besides your own jam making, jam jars have a multitude of possible uses: vases for posies of herbs and garden flowers; water glasses when you break the last of your conventional glasses; funky containers for party jellies/jellos; lanterns for festivals; pen-holders….

T-shirts – worn T-shirts can also be re-used in many ways: holey ones can be cut up into squares for all-purpose cleaning cloths; they can be cut into strips for rag rugs; they can be used for stuffing cushions or toys. T-shirts in reasonable condition can be re-purposed as skirts, nighties or kids dress up outfits.

Envelopes – Plain envelopes in good condition can simply be re-used with a blank label covering the address. Envelopes that are slightly worn can make good receptacles for collecting your receipts together every month. Torn envelopes are the perfect size for telephone notes or for shopping lists; simply use a paper clip or other clip to keep them all together in a handy place and grab one whenever you have the urge to make lists.

Got any other great ideas for re-using common household items? Let me know in the comments, so we can share all our  best green living tips here!

3 simple tips to save water in your home without spending a cent

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Going green doesn’t need to be a huge mission. You don’t have to go out and spend a fortune to convert your home to green living in one fell swoop. Often it’s more a question of gradullay changing your everyday habits. It’s true this can be harder than just going out and buying a clever green gadget, but ultimately it is changes in our behaviour that make the most difference.

Saving water is a good example of this. You could go out and buy water saving devices for every tap in the house, you could install a grey water filtering system to re-use water for irrigation and toilet flushing. Those are all great ideas but what if you can’t afford to invest in them right now?

Here are three simple ways of saving water in your home without spending a cent. In fact they are so simple that it seems crazy to be repeating them again, but it is surprising how easy it is to forget and lapse back into the bad old water-wasting ways.

1.  Brushing teeth
So many of us still let the tap run while we brush our teeth. I know in my family it still happens, despite frequent nagging. If you brush your teeth for 1-2 minutes as recommended by the dentist, just think how much water goes down the drain unnecessarily as you carefully negotiate each molar. Try getting each member of your family to fill one cup with water and just use that one cup for the whole brushing and rinsing cycle. Your water savings will be huge over the course of a year.

2. Bathing and showering
Small kids love sharing baths turning the whole washing process into an extended playtime. So as long as they are happy let them share baths adn save water. Once they get too old to share introduce them to short showers instead. It’s so easy to stand for ages enjoying the flow of hot water in the shower, losing track of time and of how much water is flowing over you and down the drain.
If you really want to save water use one of those old fashioned hourglass egg-timers to keep in the shower – they usually take four minutes for the sand to run right through. Four minutes should be long enough for an everyday shower, especially for the kids. Get everyone used to using the egg timer and then switching off the shower as soon as the time is up. And if you haven’t already got an egg-time (I did after all promise tips that wouldn’t cost a cent) you are bound to have a timer somewhere in the house – perhaps on a discarded digital watch or an old cellphone. Once everyone has got used to the idea of shorter showers you may no longer need the timer and you will be saving water as well as the energy used to heat that extra hot water.

3. Toilet flushing
If you have an older toilet cistern it probably uses far more water than is necessary to flush. You can turn it into an eco water saving toilet simply by putting a brick into the cistern. This will decrease the amount of water stored in the cistern and so the amount used for each flush. Don’t have a brick to hand? Then something as simple as a plastic 1 liter/pint milk bottle filled with water will do the same job.