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Articles Posted in the Garden, Green tips category

Putting plastic bottles to work in the garden

November 12, 2010
Posted in Garden, Green tips

Struggling to keep your seedlings alive without watering them constantly? Try this guaranteed-to-work tip:

Find a couple of clear plastic cooldrink bottles. The big 2-litre ones are ideal for the job. Cut the bottom off the bottle, remove the lid and put a bottle over each of your seedlings.

It work like magic. Because they are clear plastic they allow in sunlight (which the little seedlings need) but they also help to keep the plants from drying out. Even if you don’t water them every day the condensation in the bottle keeps the seedlings from drying out.

The bottles also keep out the snails which love to chew on fresh, baby seedling leaves.

Even better, the seedlings grow substantially faster in their plastic homes than they do in the hot, exposed sun. These lettuce plants were planted out in the garden about ten days ago but were all raised from seed at the same time. The bigger plant is the one growing under a plastic bottle dome. The ones in the tray are drying out faster than I can water them.


Clean and green

October 19, 2009
Posted in Green tips, Lifestyle

drainKeeping your home sparkling and clean could be damaging the world around you. Each day we pour untold amounts of chemical cleaners and solvents down the drain adding to the growing toxicity of our city water. The good news is that there are many things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment next time you’re cleaning.

Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), for example, makes an easy all purpose cleaner which can be used to clean kitchen and bathroom surfaces. So too does ordinary white vinegar. Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar together form a mildly explosive mix and can be used effectively to clear blocked kitchen and bathroom drains rather than pouring litres of toxic drain cleaners down them.

Green your home improvement

July 23, 2009
Posted in Green tips, Lifestyle

The BUDD green home-improvement “rule”:
B = Buy only what you need,
U = Use everything you buy,
D = Donate any leftover materials,
D= Dispose of waste responsibly.

This came in an email from Friends of the Earth UK and is so simple and sensible it just has to be shared.

Green tip: Get away for a weekend

April 3, 2009
Posted in Green tips, Lifestyle


Swimming in the river at Mountain Sanctuary Park

The best way to appreciate nature is to get out there and experience it. This may seem obvious, but it’s very easy to get caught up in the daily grind and suddenly you realise that you haven’t been out of the city for so long you can’t remember when you last smelt fresh air or woke up to the racket birds make in the morning.

My husband and I work mostly from home and, although there are many benefits, like not having to sit in traffic for hours every day, one of the few disadvantages is that the work day never ends. It’s not like you can leave your work at the office, it’s there all the time, seven days a week. It’s hard to stop yourself from quickly checking your email.

So we’ve decided that we need to try to get away once a month and our mission is to find nice places to stay that are within 200km of the city. We’ve also opted for camping because it’s cheaper and, with no TV or laptops, we can fully appreciate the joys of nature.

Our first trip was to Mountain Sanctuary Park in the Magaliesburg, about 120km from Jozi. It’s one of those places I’ve been hearing about for years, but never got round to visiting. I’m sorry now that I took so long to “discover” it because it’s lovely for a weekend break.

The campsite is big with lots of shade trees and grass and you can book a site with electricity if you struggle without an electric kettle. There are braais and clean bathrooms, a gorgeous pool with a view and a small shop that stocks a few basics. It has quite strict rules about noise and cars, which means you won’t be kept awake till all hours by somebody else’s loud music.

You might be kept awake be somebody else’s children though. It seems to be a favourite weekend spot for families with young children.

You can burn off pent up energy walking in the mountains. You’ll encounter lots of groups wearing sensible shoes and hats and carrying walking sticks. It seems to be popular with mountain bikers as well. My favourite excursions are short and end at one of the two rivers that run through the park. One has easily accesssible shallow pools with natural rock slides that are fun for kids to swim in or for adults to wallow in. The water is crystal clear and tastes delicious – as only a mountain stream can.

The other river is less child friendly, edged mostly by steep cliffs. It’s very pretty and great fun to explore, and there are pools you can bathe in. But tread carefully, the rocks can be very slippery.

We only camped for one night, but next time – which I have no doubt will be soon – we’ll stay for two. Camping has a way of forcing you to slow down and a weekend of mountain air and exercise charges your batteries.

If you don’t like camping, you have the option to stay in a chalet.


A view down a footpath to the campsite among the trees

Make a change 10: Watch that hot tap

January 29, 2009
Posted in Green tips, Lifestyle

hot taps

Here’s an interesting fact from Scientific American’s recently published Earth 3.0 magazine.

“Running hot water at a sink for five minutes uses the same amount of energy as burning a 60-watt lightbulb for 14 hours.”

I did a test at home using an electricity monitor I bought called The Owl and found that after running the hot tap for about 20 seconds, the Owl registered an increase in my household electricity usage of around 1,800 watts for 2 minutes. That means my electric geyser had switched on for 2 minutes.

Save electricity and lower your carbon footprint (electricity in South Africa is mostly generated by carbon-belching coal-fired power stations) by being mindful of the amount of hot water you use. Make sure your hot taps are switched off properly and don’t use hot water for things like washing your hands or rinsing dishes when cold water will do the job just as well.

Japanese ecofriendly gift wrapping

December 11, 2008
Posted in Green tips, Lifestyle

Furoshiki gift wrapping from RecycleNow on Vimeo

Here’s a tree-friendly way to wrap your gifts this Christmas. With Japanese Furoshiki you can use a pretty scarf or any piece of beautiful material rather than paper – and it’s 100 percent reusalbe. Watch the video from RecycleNow (the UK’s official recycling campaign) for a few wrapping ideas, or download the pdf below for more instructions. You’ve still got plenty of time to practise.

Thanks to Jennifer for the idea.

New carbon footprint calculator for cellphones launched by WWF

October 22, 2008
Posted in Green tips, Lifestyle

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has launched an easy-to-use carbon footprint calculator for cellphones in partnership with BULKSMS.com – the first of its kind in South Africa.

Called MyCO2Print, it is far simpler than the carbon footprint calculators on the web, says Carolyn Cramer of the WWF. “This is intentional. We wanted a tool which would enable South Africans to measure their carbon footprint in terms of travel and energy use and to try to improve it on a monthly basis.”

MyCO2 footrprint asks just five easy questions:

  • how many people there are in your household;
  • how many kilometres a month your household drives and in what kind of car (small, medium or large);
  • what’s your household air travel in kms;
  • how much you spend a month on electricity; and
  • how many kgs of gas you use.

It will then calculate how many kgs of carbon your household produces per month; how much carbon you as a member of that household contribute per month, which you can compare to an average user; and what your approximate cost to the environment is per month in rands. (This calculation is based on figures derived from the Stern Report, the WWF says.) Then it’ll tell you whether you’re doing well or not and offer a useful energy saving tip.

A very handy feature is that it remembers your data so next time you use the calculator you can compare your results, this is a quick and easy way to measure how lifestyle changes you and your family make benefit the environment.

The WWF hopes the MyCO2Print will appeal to young people in particular. “We envisage school teachers using it as a innovative tool in the classroom to educate on climate change and the environment,” says Cramer.

To try out the MyCO2Print calculator, sms CO2 to 34017. Your phone must be wap-enabled. SMSs are charged at R2.00.

Eat less meat and take a load off the planet

October 1, 2008
Posted in Food, Green tips, Lifestyle

Want to do something to help combat global warming? Eat less meat. This is the sage advice of the head of the world’s top scientific body on climate change, the IPCC.

“Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there,” Dr Rajendra Pachauri, was recently quoted in The Observer as saying.

This is one of the most effective lifestyle changes you could make to decrease your carbon footprint. Meat production is responsible for about a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, says the Food and Agriculture Organisation. Read more

Enviropaedia’s online green guide is a stunner

July 30, 2008
Posted in Green tips, Lifestyle

I’ve seen the Enviropaedia book in shops and it’s never grabbed me, but their online Sustainable Lifestyle Guide is a completely different story. It looks beautiful and is packed with all the info you need to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Best of all, you don’t have to pay for it and no innocent trees have to die for you to read it. Take a look and start to change your life.

Don’t forget to feed the worms

April 9, 2008
Posted in Green tips, Lifestyle

Wormery outside a Cape Town restaurant For all the eco-minded people in Johannesburg thinking of “semigrating” to Cape Town, here’s a little something to whet your apetite. Not only is the stately Mount Nelson hotel practising vermiculture, even little restaurants tucked away in shady Noordhoek are using worms to recycle their kitchen scraps. This wormery stands outside a restaurant in a little shopping centre near the start of Chapman’s Peak Drive. The headline on the information board reads: “Earthworms can teach us a thing or two about recycling!” Yup, so can Noordhoek’s restaurants. Even the one next door has its own wormery, so the waitress told me. What’s more, Cape Town’s corner shops sell Coca-Cola in those refundable 500ml glass bottles. I haven’t seen those in Joburg for years.

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