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

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

LED Lighting – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

LED-Light-bulbs-rangeWe’ve all heard the claims by now – LED lighting uses far less electricity, saves costs, lasts much longer and is a far greener solution than either the old incandescent bulbs or the newer ‘energy-saving’ bulbs.

So as good green consumers we go out to buy some, only to be brought up short by the price. At R200 for a light bulb our green principles suffer a set-back. Maybe we find a cheaper version, try it out for a while and are disappointed in its performance: the colour is harsh, the light is too dim or it just doesn’t last as long as the claims. 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.

10 Ideas For Re-using Old Business Cards

book from old business cardsDo you have a stack of old business cards that you can no longer use? When your phone number changes, or your job title, or you leave that company altogether, what can you do all those spares? Just throwing them away is almost a crime in these eco-conscious days; recycling them is one option; but as always re-using and re-purposing them is best of all.

If you think creatively there are loads of ways to make use of old business cards, almost enough for you to wish you had some handy, because they can be used in a thousand different ways. Here are just ten ideas.

1. Gift tags – glue the printed side onto some pretty coloured paper or once-used wrapping paper. Punch a hole in one end for some ribbon or raffia and the blank side is all ready to write your To and From details. You can even trim the edges with scalloped craft scissors if you want to get fancy.

2. Mini note pads – Clip a small stack of cards together blank side up and keep them near the phone for scribbling messages.

3. Labels for filing cabinet drawers and hanging files.

4. Art canvases – let the kids make multiple pieces of mini-art on the blank sides and stage an art exhibition. Get creative yourself too with crayons and colouring pencils.

5. Playing cards – Make your own pack of playing cards by drawing the card suits and numbers on the blank side.

6. Stencils – Cut a shape out of the card and use it as a stencil, either for small details when home decorating or just as a fun art project. Also great when you are making home-made Christmas cards.

7. Cue cards – if you have to give a talk or speech, use a stack of cards as cue cards. They are small but discreet and have just enough room for a memory jogging sentence.

8. Revision notes – If you or your kids have an exam or test looming, use a stack of business cards to jot down notes of important points to remember as a memory aid.

9. Card houses – do you remember building card houses with playing cards – why not use business cards instead – see how tall a tower you can make.

10.  Punch a hole in the corner and keep a few on your keychain. Write notes, lists and reminders for the day on them.

Also check out this great idea for mini photo books made from business cards as in the photo above.

And when you get a new set of business cards printed, make sure you ask for eco-friendly recycled paper stock and non-toxic inks – get a design you know will last, so that you don’t end up with a huge stack of unused business cards to repurpose… unless of course you had such fun with this lot that you want leftovers!

How To Go Green With Business Cards

The green approach to business cards can benefit from the overall green mantra being applied to it: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Yes, business cards are essential in today’s business climate, but they don’t have to be wasteful, they can be functional and they should always be recyclable!

That means a big NO to the latest trend in plastic business cards – yes they last longer, but do you really want to be advertising your business 100 years from now in the landfill?

Reduce
Have fewer business cards printed. See if you can get a deal with a printing company whereby they will keep your design on record and print them off in smaller batches as you need them. There’s nothing more wasteful than a huge batch of business cards ordered one year, only for you to change some details and need a new one before you’ve even used half of them.

Re-use
Find ways of making your business cards re-usable. The obvious use would be as bookmarks and coffee mats, but you can get really creative with this. Here are some ideas we like
re-usable clothes-peg business cardre-usable elastic band business cardOr re-use old business cards and hand-write your details on the back to make a statement:

re-use old business cards
Recycle
It goes without saying that your business cards should be recyclable. Stick with paper and card and avoid the metallic and plastic effects that are becoming popular now. Even better go for recycled card and paper and vegetable based inks which are available at most eco-conscious printers these days.Here is one place to go for printing green business cards in Cape Town.

If your business is seriously green in mindset and a slick image is less important than an authentically green one, make your own cards by recycling cardboard from cereal packets, tea boxes and so on. cardboard stamped business card

Or re-use scrap office paper.

recycled scrap paper business cardIf you’ve got some great ideas or great pics of green business cards, please do share!

Use QR codes for Smart and Green Business Cards

Green QR code design for business cards

A QR code with a difference

While we’re not quite ready to get rid of business cards and go paperless, there are ways of making them greener. Hi-tech ways that don’t necessarily involve recycled paper and re-used packaging. QR codes are the latest ingenious solution. They are simply printed graphic codes, like bar codes but more complex, that can be scanned by a Smartphone with the appropriate app.

The code printed on your business card can contain all your contact details, to make it easier for a new contact to input them into their phone – one click of the camera button and it’s done. This can save on the number of business cards that you have to give out – once the details are inputted some contacts won’t bother to keep the card, so it can be re-used again and again for scanning purposes.

QR codes can also contain urls, so that with one click your contact can go straight to a web page, an electronic brochure, or whatever.

So, at business networking events, your business cards could save you needing to print off fliers or brochures altogether. Send your new contacts straight to a page that is updated regularly with all your latest offers or new services. The QR code doesn’t need to change, all you have to do is update the page it links to, according to the event you are attending.

If you have several different lines of products or services, you might consider having different versions of your business card printed with QR codes linking to different websites or pages. The great thing about these codes is that they can become effective design elements in themselves, making it easier to differentiate between them.

Talk to a designer or printer who is experienced in QR codes to get the best ideas for your smart and green business cards.

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.

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!