Is Your Toilet Paper Destroying Forests?

fsc logoNext time you are buying toilet paper, or any paper product for that matter, check for this little logo somewhere on the packaging. The FSC logo tells you that the wood used to make that paper comes from well-managed forests and is traceable to source.

Too many forests around the world, particularly in the Congo and Indonesia, are still being devastated by illegal logging. There’s not a lot we can do about it directly, but we can choose the products we buy just a little bit more carefully, so that suppliers are encouraged to use wood from sustainable, well-managed sources rather than supporting the illegal timber industry. Continue reading

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

Green Living Adventure

green scooterIf you’ve ever felt bad about the carbon footprint that seems inevitable when you travel, this is for you. A carbon neutral scooter safari all round South Africa is the brain child of environmentalists, Melissa Andrews and Christopher List, a husband and wife team dedicated to green living.

They are using energy efficient vespas, “packing light and going slow” on a mission to raise funds for Food and Trees for Africa. As experienced permaculture experts they will be volunteering at environmental projects on their way, as well as planting trees to balance out their carbon footprint, so that the whole trip will be carbon neutral.

A huge amount of planning has gone into this trip, including sourcing of sponsors for their technical needs, green travel planning, maps, eco-friendly printing and more. We’re looking forward to following their blog, seeing what they get up to and how the carbon neutral journey works out. They’re leaving on 1st June from Cape Town. Happy green travelling!

Photo © Vladimir Ivanov | Dreamstime.com

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

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.

Drive Green, Save Fuel, Plant Trees

drive green save fuel

© Creativei | Dreamstime.com

Going green is about changing your mindset, so that everything you do is geared towards minimizing your carbon footprint. We try, but there are some areas where it’s hard to live the green ideal. Driving is one of our biggest Achilles heels.

So it was great to see this article on saving fuel by changing your driving habits. I already do several of the things advised on the list, but there are points where I could do better – checking the tyres for one! With the price of petrol constantly on the rise, anything we can do to cut consumption has to be good, not just for the environment but also for our pockets.

Living on a farm you’d think would be a very green way of living, and in many ways it is. We can grow our own vegetables, compost much of our waste and so on. But when it comes down to transport it is the opposite of green – distances are further for schools, shopping and face to face meetings. This is when it starts to seem like a greener choice to live in a town or city…There is little or no public transport in rural areas, it’s too far to walk or bicycle to the nearest town… so until  the solar powered car becomes a reality, we just have to ease our consciences by combining trips, sharing lifts and planting trees to try and offset our carbon footprint.

But now I have something else on my eco-conscience – a planned family reunion that involves flying halfway across the world with our children. How many large trees are we going to have to plant to make up for that I wonder?!

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.

September is Tree Planting Month In SA

planting-trees

© Yury Shirokov | Dreamstime.com

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.