Planting Trees For Special Occasions

tree plantingPlanting indigenous trees is one way we can all make a difference. Whether it is because we want to reduce our carbon footprint, restore a bleak landscape or just because we love trees, a tree planted and looked after will most likely outlive us, a positive legacy that we can be proud of.

Planting a tree is a great way of marking a special occasion: a birthday, an anniversary. Now that the autumn rains have started it’s a great time for tree planting and our girls were determined to plant a tree each for Easter, not so much for their carbon footprint, it must be admitted, more because the Easter bunny has always left eggs in their special trees! Even though you don’t need to wait for an occasion to plant a tree it is lovely to have a growing memorial to a special birthday or event, and kids love having their own trees to look after. Continue reading

LED Lighting Rebates From Eskom

LED-light-bulbs-eskomHave you been thinking of going greener at home but haven’t got around to it yet. Eskom’s latest residential rebate program might be just the incentive you need. They are offering to replace existing halogen downlighters with LED lighting alternatives for free! If it seems too good to be true check out the details as laid out by Eskom’s service provider on this project. Continue reading

Buying Local

buy local vegetablesFood miles have been one of the green catch phrases in the last few years. How far has your food travelled before it reaches your kitchen?

If reducing your carbon footprint is a priority then looking for locally produced foods whenever they are available can be one solution. Out of season produce may have flown thousands of miles to get to you, but don’t forget that even the humble cauliflower in season in the middle of winter may have got around a bit before it reached your plate.

Our neighbour grows a couple of fields of broccoli and cauliflower in winter. It is usually all ready over a couple of weeks, so she has an intense period of picking twice a week and driving it into Cape Town to the wholesale market, where it can be purchased by shops, restaurants and supermarkets. The very same cauliflowers may well drive all the way back out to a shop in our local town, where I drive once a week and purchase my groceries. So I could end up with a cauliflower that was grown next door, but which actually has about 150km on the clock.

So what are our options when it comes to sourcing local produce? Sometimes it’s easier when you live in a well set up town or city than in rural areas.

Weekly farmer’s markets
If you have a weekly farmers market near you, then buying locally is simple and enjoyable. Go there weekly, buy whatever is in season from small local producers and feel good!

Vegetable Box Schemes
Another option is to find a vegetable box scheme in your area. Don’t just assume that everything is locally grown and organic. Ask questions and find out exactly what you will be getting, where it comes from, how freshly it is all picked and so on.

If you live in a rural area as we do, you may have to create your own network of local suppliers. We are lucky with a local monthly market where you can buy organic produce, take a stall to sell your own produce or crafts and enjoy a day out. But for the rest of the month we have to either grow our own, drive 25km to shop, or get creative…

Create a neighbours network
Why not establish a network of neighbours to buy and sell, barter or just share excess produce? This can be an informal arrangement or a more organised one. Gather a list of email addresses of those interested, so anyone that has produce to sell, swap or share can let everyone else know. Or set up a Facebook group, or use sms messaging. It’s a great way of building community and getting to know your neighbours.

School community
If you have school age kids, see if you can use the school community as a network. Perhaps once a week at the end of school there could be an informal market or produce swap, or a shared email list to let everyone know what is available and take orders.

Eskom Offers Businesses Rebate for LED Lighting

replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDGreat news for South African businesses that want to go green: Eskom is offering rebates on the initial costs of changing over to a more energy efficient system, including purchases of LED bulbs and downlights. This great offer applies to businesses, retail outlets, guest houses, industrial and commercial properties and would be a great way to fund a total change over from conventional lighting to LED lighting. The rebate is of up 85% of the total cost.

There are many businesses that would like to become more environmentally friendly but haven’t yet been able to afford the total investment of changing over – this is the perfect opportunity for them.

There are various conditions to qualify for the scheme, one of them being that the changes must save a minimum of 2Mw per annum. This can be a tricky thing to work out for yourself so it is strongly recommended to get the advice of a specialist supplier of LED lighting. They can assess your energy usage and work out the savings that would accrue from a changeover to LED, as well as guiding you through the process of applying for the rebate.

While you are looking at LED lighting don’t forget about your display signs too. Switching over from fluorescent light boxes to LED lightboxes, from neon signs to LED signs can also add to your energy efficiency, cutting costs in the long run.

Photo copyright © Joshua Huber | Dreamstime.com

Earth Hour 2012 in South Africa

earth hourEarth Hour looks set to soar to new heights of enthusiasm and participation this year. Their ‘I Will if You Will’ campaign has attracted a huge amount of interest. South Africa has been particularly inspired with celebrities pledging all sorts of crazy or fun things for Earth Hour in return for various pledges of eco-friendly actions in return.

The focus for 2012 is on promoting long-term changes in behaviour to help the planet. Turning off your lights for one hour may not save much electricity in itself, but becoming aware of what you are using and committing to saving energy in the long term is the ultimate goal.

solar lanternAnd have fun while you’re doing it! Earth hour encourages people to switch off all unnecessary lighting, but not to compromise safety and security.

While it is tempting to celebrate with a candle-fest, remember that ordinary candles are made from petroleum products, so have their own effect on the environment. Either use natural beeswax or soy candles which are less polluting, or go for the clean energy of solar lanterns if you want to create a romantic low-light atmosphere for the occasion.

So start getting ready for Earth Hour by equipping yourself with natural candles or solar lighting and then as a bonus you’ll also be ready and prepared for any involuntary power outages that come our way this winter!

Live Christmas Trees

live christmas trees

© Gingergirl | Dreamstime.com

If you are about to go out and buy your Christmas tree, think twice about buying a cut tree that will barely last through the festive season in South Africa’s hot Christmas weather.

Buying a live tree, that you can plant out in the garden when Christmas is over, is definitely a green alternative. Some people have one that they plant out and dig up year after year successfully.

But why not go one step further along the alternative tree route? Does your Christmas tree even have to be a traditional pine or spruce? Why not buy a large indigenous tree in a container, ready for planting out in your garden in the New Year, one that will take a permanent place in your garden.

While not all indigenous trees can take the strain of being loaded down with Christmas ornaments and sparkling lights, some of them are sturdy enough to consider, especially if you go for a more stylish and minimal style of decoration!

An important thing to consider if you are going for a live Christmas tree – it will need watering regularly over the Christmas period to keep it healthy enough to plant out later. Make sure that you position a drip tray under its pot so that your pile of presents doesn’t get sodden before Christmas Day!

Another issue in the winter rainfall area of South Africa is that mid-summer isn’t really an ideal planting out time for large trees. Your Christmas tree will need lots of TLC after Christmas, with regular watering to help it adjust and settle in through the hot weather. Consult your large tree nursery to get advice on how to make this work for you.

With all that said however, there is something lovely about choosing a  Christmas tree that makes a positive contribution to the environment and isn’t just a seasonal throwaway. Enjoy your green Christmas!

Dreaming of A Green Christmas – Tree Gifts

tree gifts for urban greeningWe’ve suggested large trees as gifts in our useful green gift guide, but what if you’d like to give a tree, but the recipient doesn’t have space for one?

Greenpop has the solution. You can buy a tree from them and they will plant it for you in one of their urban or rural greening projects. Choose from a fruit tree to be planted in a school, an indigenous tree to green up an urban area or reforest a rural area. They will send a certificate in the name of whoever you are giving the tree to, with the GPS co-ordinates of your exact tree. They follow up on the tree care to make sure it is sustainable, so your gift will last for years and make a real difference to a community and to nature

You both have the satisfaction of your gift contributing positively to the environment, instead of loading you with the guilt of more stuff to de-clutter a few weeks after Christmas!

The tree gift offer is currently deal of the day on CityMob, or buy direct from Greepop. It costs R75 for an indigenous tree and R100 for a fruit tree.

Hemp House Anyone?

House made of hemp, South AfricaAlternative building materials are gaining support everywhere: straw bale houses, cob houses, sand bag houses… but the latest alternative house I’ve come across is made of hemp! About 70% hemp in all including the furnishings, in this stunning hemp house in Noordhoek, Cape Town. Built by Tony Budden, of Hemporium, advocate and campaigner for hemp in South Africa, it is a perfect demonstration of  hemp’s infinite number of uses.

I knew hemp was a versatile material, now being used to make clothing and a wide variety of other products, but until now I’d no idea that it could be made into bricks, hardboard, insulation and more.

Hemp has the huge eco-advantage of being quick to grow and naturally pest resistant. It can be processed into hundreds of useful products without the harmful by-products of most industrially produced, petroleum based fabrics and materials. The hitch is that it’s still not legal to grow hemp in many countries, including South Africa. There is a dedicated online campaign in progress to get government legislation to allow hemp as a cash crop in South Africa, which could mean a whole new generation of affordable, eco-friendly and sustainable building methods… and houses that are totally bio-degradable when you’ve finished with them!

And no, you can’t smoke them! This variety of cannabis is very low in this substances that make you high, so it is not the same as dagga!

Who’s Saving Energy with LED Lighting in Cape Town?

I’ve just been checking out LED lighting in Cape Town and was delighted to discover that some of our favourite Cape Town places to visit are getting serious about going green – not just in a token recycle-a-few-plastic-bags way either. Top of the list is the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, closely followed by Fairview, the makers of delectable cheeses and wines and another new discovery is luxury guest house Parkers Cottage.

Two Oceans Aquarium wind turbineThe Two Oceans Aquarium have recently won recognition of its sustainability efforts from the Heritage Environmental management Company: it’s efforts include a wind turbine cleverly installed at its entrance, solar panels to power its administration block and LED lighting in all its ablution facilities. It has also designed a solar outreach van to take its exhibits to disadvantaged schools in the area – the van isn’t fuelled by the solar energy (one day!) but the solar panels power all the electricity needs of the mobile aquariums keeping all the fish alive, saving on all the electricity previously used to charge batteries to run the systems.

Fairview Cheese Factory are getting sustainable with solar panels installed on the roof, an economiser to  reduce energy used in heating water and many other energy measures. I’m not sure if LED lighting is included in their list, but I’m sure it is being implemented as it certainly makes sense in their overall plan to become carbon neutral.

Last but not least is Parkers Cottage in Tamboersklooof, central Cape Town, who have set out to prove that luxury and heritage historical properties can be eco-friendly and sustainable. Their grand plan aims at being off-grid by 2015, and while not without a few hiccups and trial and error in some stages of the plan, such as the photovoltaic panels,  they are hugely pleased with the success of their LED lighting sourced from CandelaLED, which is already making savings in the electricity bills.

I’m sure that there are plenty more wonderful places in and around Cape Town that are going green and using sustainable LED lighting, so tell me about any that you know of know in the comments, so I can add them to my list.

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 www.cleanup-sa.co.za. 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.