Buying Local – SA Milk In Crisis?

Local milk is lekke!According to this article from the Financial Mail, dairy farmers in South Africa are under threat of extinction. So many small dairies are going out of business, it implies, that soon there will be no more cows to produce milk.

While I think this is an extreme interpretation of the statistics, it is true that small dairies are being pushed out of business by ever more competitive prices and rising costs.  The tendency is however for big dairies to take over the small ones, until we have fewer and fewer independent producers. The danger is not that we will run out of milk, but that we will be dependent on a very few huge multi-national companies to supply us with all our dairy products. Good bye diversity, hello monopoly.

So choosing to buy from your small, local dairy is one of the better green shopping choices you can make right now. They may not be organic, they may not be the cheapest, but keeping them in business supports  a diverse local economy, the heart of green living when you come down to it.

In the Western Cape we are lucky to have several independent dairies on our supermarket shelves. Most of them guarantee artificial hormone free milk (look for the rBST free logo on the bottle), some of them also offer good quality value added products such as yoghurt. So it’s no hardship supporting them. Check out Fair Cape, based near Durbanville, which offers free range milk.

If you live in an area that doesn’t have a local dairy supplying milk direct, inform yourself about the milks that are available to you. A little bit of internet research should show you which of the medium-sized South African dairy companies deserve to win your support.

While buying local and organic isn’t necessarily always the greenest option, as pointed out in this article, when it comes to South African milk it makes good sense, both for a strong local economy and for the environment.

LED Light Bulbs – Research Before You Buy

LED light bulbLED light bulbs are moving into the main stream now – anyone looking for energy saving light bulbs for the home, can now choose between CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) which used to be the only alternative to the old incandescent bulbs, and LEDs, the new kids on the block.

LEDs have plenty of advantages – they use much less energy even than CFLs, 30-50%more efficient; they last a whole lot longer, up to 50,000 hours as opposed to 10,000 hours, ten years of more of average use; they are far less fragile, being a solid lighting system – no delicate filaments or glass to shatter when the cat sends the lamp flying.

With regard to the cat disasters – we’ve found that the CFLs that we switched over to several years ago almost never have the life span they advertise. If the cat doesn’t knock over the lamp, scattering shards of glass and fragmenrts of mercury under the fett of kids and animals alike, then the all too frequent power surges or power outages put paid to several light bulbs each time – CFLs just don’t like extremes of temperature or being switched off and on too much. LEDs apparently are much more resilient.

The main disadvantage of LED lighting, now that the light quality is every bit as good, and often better than, CFLs, is price. LEDs still cost considerably more than CFLs. Even though LEDs work out to be the cheapest option long term, once you work out their life span and energy savings, it is still quite an initial expense to equip a whole house with LEDs. So the answer is to do your research before you buy.

While prices are coming down, it doesn’t work just to buy the cheapest brand from a supermarket shelf. As with any new technology there are cheaper, lower quality versions that don’t live up to the LED promise, and which are sure to disappoint. You need to inform yourself about the quality brands of LEDs first of all. In South Africa, some of the reliable brands available are CREE, Edison, Bridgelux and Epistar.

Next work out your requirements – do you need overhead dangling light bulbs, or spotlights, reading lamps or tube lighting. You will need to read the labels attentively to get an idea of light output, whether it is omni-directional or focussed light, warm or cool temperature.  Check out this article written by a journalist trying out LEDs in his own home. The brand names available are different in SA but the choice is about as wide.

Next compare prices among the better quality brands. You will probably find they vary a lot, so find a specialist supplier that stocks the top brands at a reasonable price. Bargain basement is not a good idea when you are shopping for a product that you hope will last you 10 years or more.

One of the most reasonably priced suppliers of LED lighting in Cape Town that we’ve found is CandelaLED – they source direct from the manufacturers so are able to supply their LED  light bulbs and general lighting at an affordable price. Because they specialise in LED they can also advise on the best product for each lighting situation.

And while replacing every light bulb in the house with LEDs is probably beyond the budget of the average householder, there’s no reason why you can’t commit to buying ,say, one or two LED light bulbs per month and gradually introducing a more sustainable lighting system in your home. That’s our plan at least!

International Coastal Clean Up Day

coastal-cleanup-dayThis Saturday 17th September has been designated International Coastal Cleanup Day. It’s an annual event raising awareness of the problems of marine pollution and doing something practical to help.

Volunteers not only collect litter from disposable cups to fishing nets to cigarette butts and so on, but catalogue the data so that action can be taken to try and reduce the amounts of litter in the ocean and on beaches. Last year there were 9 million people involved worldwide and they managed to collect more than 3.2 million kilograms of litter from beaches in more than 100 countries.

If you’re in Cape Town you can join the Aquarium’s coastal cleanup in Muizenberg, or contact for details of other cleanup events happening on the same day. We’ll be heading to Big Bay for the cleanup event there.

Electrolux Vac from the SeaAnother recycling initiative we like is Electrolux’s Vac from the Sea. They have created several signature vacuum cleaners made from recycled plastic collected on beaches and oceans around the world. They are now in the process of making a South African model. Unfortunately these cool vacs are not for sale, but for awareness and promotional campaigns, but they’ve got the idea right and are aiming to increase the amount of recycled plastics in their retail range.

Green Living Vegetarian Braai in Cape Town

vegetarian-braaiIf you’re a green living vegetarian, you may not be all that excited about the recent hype leading up to South Africa’s National Braai Day on the 24th September. Braais after all generally feed off the over-the-top South African meat culture, with old jokes about chicken being the vegetarian option. If you’re lucky you’ll get a braaied mealie, otherwise it’ll be salads again.

Not so if you head to Deer Park Cafe in Vredehoek, Cape Town on Saturday 24th September. Here you can revel in a full on braai with not a trace of meat to sully your vegetables – braaied mushrooms, mealies and a whole lot more will be on offer, in a delicious braai buffet. The proceeds go to Beauty without Cruelty. More information available in National Braai Day for Vegetarians.

And just to prove that the South African braai isn’t all about meat here is a whole batch of vegetarian braai recipes. And a recipe for butternut, foil wrapped and cooked on the braai. Vegetables taste great braaied, especially if you can keep them away from the boerewors!

Here’s another green event happening on National Braai Heritage Day – this time all about tree planting.

September is Tree Planting Month In SA


© Yury Shirokov |

If you haven’t planted any trees yet this winter, now’s the time, while spring is still mild and occasionally wet and before summer heat sets in. Arbor Day has been celebrated here since 1983, encouraging individuals and communities to plant trees in their own gardens, in schools, along pavements on community land and wherever there is space. Arbor Day then became Arbor Week in 1999 and now the events go on all month, so there’s no excuse to miss it!

I still need to decide on what trees to plant on our farm, having promised my daughters to plant them each a tree. And should I plant a small tree that will take a while to settle in and find its roots, but then should grow well once it has established a deep enough root system? Or large trees that we can enjoy in the landscape from the start, but which will generally take a lot more careful looking after, especially through their first two or three summers?

Whatever trees you plant this month, it’s not just about the planting. Someone needs to make a commitment to tending the trees, giving regular watering through the first few years until they are properly established. But it’s worth it as trees can transform a garden or a dull community space. And trees are one of the most basic but also the most beautiful ingredients of green living.  Besides the huge benefits to the environment on a global scale!. So get planting.

Check out this list of indigenous tree species, designated as trees of the year, if you want inspiration of what to plant.

Check here for more green events in South Africa this month.