A Greener Home – 3 Small (or Big) Changes You Can Make Now

How many of us would like to make our homes greener, but are put off by the cost? There are lots of great things we could do if we only had an unlimited budget… we dream of going off-grid but never take a step towards it as we just can’t afford the investment.

While it would be great to take giant steps towards a greener lifestyle, there are plenty of small steps that we can take now, instead of waiting to win the lottery. Here are a few suggestions:

Showerheads-water-savingWater Saving
Small Step: The simplest, cheapest and quickest way of saving water is by switching your regular shower head to a low flow, water efficient shower head. Typically you can cut your shower water consumption by half. In an average household where three showers are taken a day, this would save 38,000 litres a year. The cost of a low flow showerhead can be anything from R100 to R1000, so do your research first to find the right one for you. 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 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

Green Intentions for the New Year

New comfrey leaves growingNew Year’s resolutions are all too often made only to be broken. There’s something about a list of must and must nots that stirs up the rebel in all of us. So I’ve long since changed to setting intentions, and not just at new year. However the beginning of a new year is a great time to look at what you are doing with fresh eyes and see if there are any steps you can take to improve on things.

My green intentions are all about building on where we’ve started to go greener. 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

Beat the Heat – Cool Lighting from LED bulbs

LED-light-bulbSummer has arrived with blast in Cape Town and we’re all wilting. Any way of keeping the house a degree or two cooler would be a blessing. So we have another reason to look at switching to LED bulbs to light up our homes: they are much, much cooler than incandescent light bulbs.

The old incandescent light bulbs are very inefficient in the way they convert electricity to light, giving off quite a  bit of heat in the process. This means that several bulbs lit for an hour or two will contribute to the heat build-up in a room quite significantly. Statistics I’ve seen estimate that just one bulb lit in a small, closed, unventilated room would up the room temperature by 6C over one hour. Now normally the room would be ventilated so the heat rise would be less but even so, who wants even one more degree of heat when it’s already sweltering?

LED bulbs on the other hand remain cool when lit, using the electricity far more efficiently to produce light not heat. So they aren’t adding to the sultry summer temperatures; besides the fact that they use far less electricity to run. Find out more about switching to energy efficient LEDs by contacting a specialist in LED lighting, who will be able to give you more idea of the best options currently available.

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

Consol Solar Jars

Consol solar JarI first saw these fun solar lamps on urban sprout. I thought it was a great idea but then promptly forgot all about them.

A little while later my sister-in-law returned from the Design Indaba in Cape Town with one for us as a present, saying it was the best thing she saw there.

So last night in addition to our usual candle at supper we had the glow of our very own solar jar. It came already charged, so I haven’t had time to assess how long the light lasts for on an average solar charge, but last night at least it shone surprisingly brightly for several hours.

The jar is now charging outside on the grass – it’s a lovely sunny day so hopefully it should reach its maximum charge to shine again tonight. A great idea, only depending for maximum efficiency on us remembering to put it outside to charge.

Solar jar lampEdited to add: Two days later it has been recharged outside and is still shining brightly for as long as we need it every evening. The ‘boys’ took it apart and approved of its construction, sturdy batteries and LED light bulbs, so altogether we think it is great value for money. And pretty cool too!

Buy solar jars online direct from Consol’s Solar Jar website if you want to try them out for yourself. Or they are available from the Consol retail outlets in Stellenbosch and Woodmead, Gauteng.

Beat the Heat Without Air Con

cool airWhen summer temperatures soar, the air con companies rub their hands with glee, as people rush to buy something, anything, to keep themselves cool and sane in the heat.

Before you join the throng, think about the costs involved, not just to your pocket but also to the environment. Air con isn’t only an initial outlay but will also push up your electricity bills considerably and make your carbon footprint a whole lot heavier.

So first try some of these tips to stay cool without raising your electricity bills this summer.

Open windows strategically.
The cool of early morning and late evening is the time to throw open every single window and let the cooler air flow through your home. As soon as the sun burns off that morning cool, close all the windows up tight again, shade sunny windows with blinds and hang on to that cool air as long as you can. Train family members to close doors too in the middle of the day and your home will stay cooler for longer naturally. As soon as evening cools down throw everything open once more. It’s worth getting up before the sun, just to enjoy that early morning freshness and flood your home with the precious cool air.

Use fans
A ceiling fan does use electricity it’s true, but far less than air con. The gentle breeze helps cool you down and helps air flow in the home. Get clever with standing fans too. Try hanging a dampened muslin cloth over the front of one, for a breeze cooled further by water droplets.

Do your baking at night
Having your oven on during the day is bound to warm up your house unbearably on hot summer days. Any baking that needs doing can be done in the evening with doors wide open for the heat to escape. For the same reason use other heat producing appliances at night: dishwashers give off quite a bit of heat as they dry. You probably don’t need your tumble dryer in the summer anyway, with clothes drying on the line in no time, but if you are still using it out of habit, switch to line-drying for the duration of the summer heat, saving electricity and keeping cool.

Switch to LED light bulbs
In small rooms the heat given off by incandescent light bulbs can be considerable over the course of a day. Switch to LED light bulbs which are much cooler and use a fraction of the electricity.

Plant your garden for shade
Shade the sunny side of your house with trees planted cleverly. Notice where the sun comes from in summer and compare it to where it comes from in winter. You want the winter sunshine to reach the house for warmth, so get the right angle to block summer sun and allow winter sun through. Plant deciduous trees which will be in full leaf in summer, so nice and shady, but lose their leaves in winter to let in more light and warmth when it is needed. This is a longer term solution, as trees do take time to grow, but for quicker results buy mature large trees from a specialist nursery. Not only will you save energy in cooling the house but your tree will lighten your carbon footprint too.

Switch to iced tea and coffee
Make yourself a supply of iced tea or coffee and stash it in the fridge. Not only will this save boiling the kettle (more heat and electricity) but it will keep you feeling cooler to sip at iced drinks instead of hot ones.

Photo: © Dan Ionut Popescu | Dreamstime.com

Green Gift Ideas – Useful Gifts

Green Christmas gifts

© Stuart Miles | Dreamstime.com

Useful gifts used to be frowned on. It was better to give something frivolous and decorative than something the recipient could really use. Gifts were supposed to be inessentials, luxuries, prettinesses.

Nowadays we reckon it’s time those restrictions went out of the window. With everyone tightening their belts and cutting budgets, or else going minimalist and decluttering, most frivolous gifts end up being a waste of money and a waste of precious resources.

The truly green gift is useful.

Useful is defined as being something the recipient will actually use – it doesn’t have to be dull – socks again, Dad? Not that there’s anything wrong with socks!  So here are just a few suggestions of useful gifts that would be welcome at our house.

Gourmet cooking ingredients
I love cooking and baking and am always sorely tempted by the gorgeous but expensive ingredients on display next to the regular ones at the supermarket. So a hamper filled with Nomu cocoa and other goodies, real vanilla extract, organic stoneground flour and other organic and gourmet ingredients would be used and appreciated.

LED light bulbs
Like many families we want to go greener but can’t always afford the materials. We’ve had LED light bulbs on our shopping list for ages, but haven’t been able to afford to make the switch. So for the aspiring green family a selection of top quality LED light bulbs would make a thoughtful and very green gift.  Just check what light sockets they have before you buy and consult with an LED specialist about the best options.

Trees or Plants
If someone in your family enjoys gardening, or is about to redesign their garden, how about buying plants or trees. One of my best gifts last year was a whole selection of herbs to re-stock my herb garden, a gift that I am still enjoying over a year later as the herbs continue to flourish. Depending on their garden think of getting a couple of large trees, together with the planting service (no-one wants to spend Christmas holidays digging enormous holes and hefting about large trees!) Or else give them a voucher for a plant nursery near them so they can choose their own selection of plants.

Craft materials
This is a great one for kids – instead of getting yet another plastic toy, get craft materials for them to create with. Don’t get a set in a box (just more for the recycling and often cheap and nasty materials inside) – rather buy a stack of felt squares in a rainbow of colours together with needle and embroidery silks. Or buy a blank canvas with a set of paints or a stack of good quality painting paper with a selection of art materials.

Natural Candles
If you’re still struggling with the useful concept a candle would be the perfect gift for those that love candlelight. To make sure it is green make sure it is a soy, beeswax or hemp candle, not the usual paraffin/petroleum wax. Candles made from natural materials are more expensive, another reason for them to make good gifts, but they are better for the air quality  in the home, better for the environment and smell much nicer too!

I could go on and on, but you get the idea – find something that the person would like to buy regularly but which is a bit of a luxury. Everyone has something different. When I was a kid it used to be tobacco for pipe-smoking uncles or a favourite brand of whisky – nowadays my biggest vice is chocolate, so I’d be more than happy to be bought a bundle of slabs of Lindt chocolate… useful, maybe not… appreciated definitely!

More green gift ideas for gifts that aren’t just stuff. And green gifts that aren’t just clutter.