Green Gifts For Valentines Day

So red roses are out as a romantic gift, if your love is a green, green eco-warrior… so what would he or she like instead, as the ultimate romantic gesture that shows that you are equally committed to their environmentally friendly ideals?

soy heart candleNatural heart candle
A heart shaped hemp and soy candle with a gorgeous scent ticks all the boxes for a romantic token.  The oils are totally natural and beautifully silky so that you can use them as massage oils after you’ve enjoyed your candlelit dinner. This candle is available from Hemporium in several fragrances and is 100% vegan. 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.

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.

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