Articles Posted in the Lifestyle category

Trendy organic shopping at the BluBird market

October 29, 2010
Posted in Lifestyle

The past couple of years have seen a boom in the number of organic markets in Johannesburg, from the long running Bryanston Organic Market to the relatively new Jozi Food Market, which we wrote about some time back.

This past weekend we headed out north, to the BluBird Wholefood market in Birnam, to take a look at what this market had to offer.

The food market is held at the trendy new BluBird shopping centre which is just off Corlett Drive and down the road from Wanderers cricket ground.

The food market is held every Sunday morning from 9am to 2pm and has a range of foods available from fresh breads to home-cured biltong and cheeses to pates, spices and olive oils. There’s Thai food, Indian spices, samoosas and croissants, all gathered together under the architectural eves.

Although relatively small there is still a wide enough selection of foods in offer at the market to make it worth a trip on Sunday morning. It’s perfect if you’re looking for something for a light Sunday lunch.

Our personal haul this time around included a couple of loaves of bread (including a fantastic rye loaf), a jar of sweet pate, a bag of biltong which was finished before we left the market, and some haloumi cheese.

The BluBird centre is unashamedly upmarket and you’ll have to mingle with the well-heeled enjoying Sunday breakfast, but for the food it’s worth at least one trip.

Week that was: April 3 2009

April 3, 2009
Posted in Green News


Environmentalist protestors at the G20 summit in London by celesteh licensed under Creative Commons

  • LEADING BY EXAMPLE: The G20 summit disappointingly didn’t produce a green recovery package, but US President Barack Obama did say that the United States would lead by example in combating climate change. “If China and India with their populations had the same energy usage as the average American then we would all have melted by now,” he told a news conference. “China and India … justifiably chafe at the idea that they should somehow sacrifice their development for our efforts to control climate change.”
  • IT’S NOT ENOUGH: Draft climate legislation unveiled in the US this week was reportedly welcomed by green groups at the UN climate talks  in Bonn. The law calls for a cut of 3 percent from 2005 levels in greenhouse emissions by 2012, 20 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050. The European Union has agreed cuts of 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and of 30 percent if other developed nations followed suit. Obama’s cuts would to only take emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, say reports. The UN climate panel says developed countries would have to cut emissions by between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the worst of climate change.
  • IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS: Scientists have trained a genetically engineered virus to make a more efficient and powerful lithium battery. More on and BBC
  • yellow-maize

  • GM MAIZE PROBLEM: Of the 1,000 South African farmers who planted Monsanto’s GM-maize this year, 280 suffered extensive crop failure, writes Rapport. The plants, grown from three varieties of GM maize, apparently looked healthy but failed to produce seeds. According to the report, Monsanto said a mistake had been made in the laboratory and the company immediately offered to compensate farmers in Mpumalanga, Free State and North West. Marian Mayet, director of the anti-GM Africa Centre for Biosecurity, called for an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods.
  • COTTONING ON TO ORGANIC: Global sales of organic cotton clothing and home textile products rose by 63 percent last year to $3.2 billion, according to the Organic Cotton Market Report. The amount of organic cotton farmers grew worldwide in 2007/08 increased by 152 percent. Organic cotton is grown without the use of fertilisers, pesticides or genetically modified seeds. (Reuters)
  • FISH OIL AND FLATULENCE: Researchers at an Irish university have found that adding fish oil to the diet of cattle reduces the methane emissions they emit via flatulence. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. More than a third of all methane emissions, about 900 billion tonnes every year, are produced by  bacteria in the digestive systems of ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats, the researchers say. (Science Daily)
  • DOLPHINS: THE GOOD NEWS: A stronghold of rare Irrawaddy fresh-water dolphins, numbering nearly 6,000 individuals, has been found in Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangrove forest by researchers from the World Conservation Society. Last year the dolphins were listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list.
  • ... AND THE NOT SO GOOD NEWS: Mass dolphin and whale beachings could become more frequent because of climate change, say researchers in Australia. More than 500 whales and dolphins have beached in southern Australia in the past four months. Scientists say that changing ocean current cycles are at the root of the beachings. (AFP)
  • SASOL CDM PROJECT GETS A NO: A United Nations panel has rejected a Clean Development Mechanism application for a Sasol project to replace coal with natural gas piped from Mozambique as a feedstock for its Secunda synthetic fuel plant. Sasol had argued that the project would result in a significant reduction of greenhouse gases. (Engineering News)
  • SA SETS CARBON CAPTURE TARGET: South Africa expects to build its first carbon capture and storage pilot by 2020, Bulyelwa Sonjica, the minister of minerals and energy, was reported as saying at the launch of a new carbon capture and storage centre. Sasol and Eskom, the country’s biggest emitters, Anglo American’s coal unit, Exxaro, Xstrata Coal and the British and Norwegian governments are all part of the project. The centre has R25-million in funds. (Reuters)

Green revolution needed to feed the world, says UN

February 19, 2009
Posted in Food

Changing the ways in which food is produced, handled and disposed of across the globe – from farm to store and from fridge to landfill – can both feed the world’s rising population and help the environment, a new United Nations Environment Programme study has found.

More than half of the food produced today is either lost, wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain, says the report entitled “The Environmental Food crises: Environment’s role in averting future food crises”. The report was released this week at a UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum meeting in Nairobi.

“There is evidence within the report that the world could feed the entire projected population growth alone by becoming more efficient while also ensuring the survival of wild animals, birds and fish on this planet,” says Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director.

The UNEP report lists some sobering stats about food:

  • Food losses and waste in the United States are estimated to be as high as 50 percent. Up to a quarter of all fresh fruits and vegetables in the US is lost between the field and the table.
  • In Australia food waste makes up about half of landfill.
  • Almost a third of all food purchased in the United Kingdom every year is not eaten.
  • In Africa, the total amount of fish lost through discards, post-harvest loss and spoilage may be around 30 percent of landings.
  • In developing countries, food losses in the field between planting and harvesting could be as high as 40 percent of the potential harvest because of pests and pathogens.
  • A third of the world’s cereals are being used as animal feed and this will rise to 50 per cent by 2050.
  • An estimated 30 million tonnes of fish are discarded at sea annually.

The report shows that many of the factors blamed for the current food crisis – drought, biofuels, high oil prices, low grain stocks and especially speculation in food stocks may worsen substantially in the coming decades.

Add to that climate change and the fact that the world’s population is expected to grow to over 9-billion people by 2050, from about 6.7-billion at present, and trouble lies ahead.

“We need a Green revolution in a Green Economy but one with a capital G”, says Steiner.

“We need to deal with not only the way the world produces food but the way it is distributed, sold and consumed, and we need a revolution that can boost yields by working with rather than against nature.”

Simply ratcheting up the fertiliser and pesticide-led production methods of the 20th century is not the answer, says Steiner.

“It will increasingly undermine the critical natural inputs and nature-based services for agriculture such as healthy and productive soils, the water and nutrient recycling of forests, and pollinators such as bees and bats.”

The report says that increased use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides, increased water use and cutting down of forests will result in massive decline in biodiversity. Already, nearly 80 percent of all endangered species are threatened because of agricultural expansion, and Europe has lost more than 50 percent of its farmland birds during the past 25 years of intensification of European farmlands.

Organic agriculture is highlighted as holding promise. A 2008 UN study of small-scale African farms found that organic practices outperformed traditional methods and chemical-intensive conventional farming and also found strong environmental benefits such as improved soil fertility, better retention of water and resistance to drought, says the report.

Organic agriculture is predicted to continue to grow, despite the economic crisis, says UNEP. Sales of certified organic produce could reach close to $70 billion in 2012, up from $23 billion in 2002.

Some of the findings in the report are:

  • Food prices may increase by 30-50 percent within decades.
  • Continuing to feed cereals to growing numbers of livestock will aggravate poverty and environmental degradation.
  • The removal of agricultural subsidies and the promotion of second generation biofuels based on wastes rather than on primary crops could reduce pressure on fertile lands and critical ecosystems such as forests.
  • The amount of fish currently discarded at sea could sustain a 50 percent increase in fish farming and aquaculture production, which is needed to maintain per capita fish consumption at current levels by 2050 without increasing pressure on an already stressed marine environment.
  • Up to 25 percent of the world’s food production may become lost due to ‘environmental breakdowns’ by 2050 unless action is taken.
  • Water scarcity may reduce crop yields by up to 12 percent and climate change may accelerate insects, diseases and weeds, reducing yields by another 2-6 percent worldwide.
  • Continuing land degradation, particularly in Africa, may reduce yields by another 1-8 percent.
  • Croplands may be swallowed up by urban sprawl, biofuels, cotton and land degradation by 8-20 percent by 2050.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, population growth is projected to increase from the current 770-million to over 1.7-billion in less than 40 years, and climate change, land degradation, water scarcity and conflicts mean that unless a major economic, agricultural and investment boom takes place, the situation may become very serious indeed.

“The Environmental Food Crises” report offers seven major recommendations:

  1. To decrease the risk of highly volatile food prices, price regulation should be created to buffer the tight markets of food commodities and the subsequent risks of speculation in markets.
  2. Encourage the removal of subsidies for first-generation (food crop-based) biofuels and promote environmentally sustainable higher-generation biofuels (based on waste) that do not compete for cropland and water resources, but also do not compete with animal feed.
  3. Reallocate cereals and food fish used in animal feed and develop alternatives to use in animal feed by developing alternative feeds based on new technology, waste and discards.
  4. Support farmers in developing diversifed and resilient eco-agriculture systems.
  5. Increase trade and market access by improving infrastructure, reducing trade barriers, enhancing government subsidies and safety nets, and reducing armed conflict and corruption
  6. Limit global warming
  7. Raise awareness of the pressures of increasing population growth and consumption patterns on ecosystems

Source: UNEP

Image: by JBloom, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Organic farming could feed Africa, says UN report

October 23, 2008
Posted in Food, Green News

The potential of organic farming to meet Africa’s growing food needs may have been underestimated. Britain’s Independent reports that a new study by the UN Environment Programme, which it says was released yesterday, shows that organic farming methods have increased crop yields by up to 128 percent in East Africa and provided much-needed income boosts for small farmers.

The UN’s findings provide a counterargument to increasing calls for genetically modified crops and industrial agriculture on the continent in the face of the global food crisis. Organic farming is seen by many as a Western lifestyle choice rather than a practical solution to feed Africa’s many hungry mouths. [See UK government’s former chief scientist David King’s remarks on the subject in the Guardian]

Read the full report on the Independent