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Articles Posted in the Green tips, Lifestyle category

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

Join a community drive to clean up the Jukskei River

April 2, 2009
Posted in Lifestyle


Stretch of the Jukskei River. Photo by NJR ZA. Licenced under Creative Commons licence

A group of volunteers in Douglasdale in northern Johannesburg have decided to start a clean up campaign on the Klein Jukskei River and want other people in the community to get involved.

“It is in a state of absolute filth. The banks of the river are disgustingly littered with household rubbish,” says Candice Smith, who organised the clean-up campaign.

Candice is a firm believer in the idea that if a group of people work together for the collective good then change is inevitable.

“I am rounding up support in my complex, trying to get the residents involved and I would like to extend this to the rest of the community that makes use of the area (dog walkers, kids, etc). Although currently not many people want to use it and, frankly, I don’t blame them.”

But think of the “Broken Windows” theory, says Candice. If a building has a few broken windows that are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building. The same could apply to a river where litter accumulates. Eventually, people may even start dumping bags of rubbish there.

“What impact would this have on the surrounding community?” Candice asks. “We can’t continue to sit back and allow it to be someone else’s problem.”

Candice has gathered together a team of volunteers who will meet once a month to clean up the river banks. It’s not just a chance to do something for the environment, it’s a great way to get to know the people in your community, she says.

The first community clean up effort is going to be on Saturday, April 4, at 9h00.

If you’re interested in joining in, the group plans to meet outside the new Covenant Church Complex along Hornbill Road. You can contact Candice on 082 442 0068 or candice.smith[at]caterplus[dot]co[dot]za.

“Small acts can and will lead to big changes!”

Get out the house, go to a green market

March 31, 2009
Posted in Lifestyle


Pretoria’s botanical garden is a fabulous place to spend a lovely autumn day. There are hundreds of big trees to sit under and picnic and, just outside the entrance gate, there’s a restaurant with an outside balcony that has a great view over a pond and the gardens.

This Saturday morning you have the perfect excuse to visit the gardens because the Green market just happens to be on (April 4). It happens on every first Saturday of the month.

This week’s theme is Reduce.Reuse.Recycle and the organisers are calling on all artists/entrepreneurs to come and sell/exhibit all their creative arts products made from recycled materials. “We need revamped clothes (clothes made new with old clothes etc), scrap metal arts, handmade paper, plastic, tin, glass and electronic waste arts and products … and so much more,” they say.

So if you’re interested in taking part or know of someone who might be interested – you may want to give a speech on recycling or give a creative educational demo, for instance – send an email to Melissa at greenmelilly [at] gmail [dot] com. Or just pack a picnic basket and go and commune with nature for a while.

Earth Hour was fun, let’s do it more often

March 31, 2009
Posted in Lifestyle

Tapei 101 building, via Boston.com

I decided to measure my household’s contribution to Earth Hour on Saturday to get an idea of what switching off my lights for an hour could potentially mean for the planet. (I have an energy monitor called The Owl.) Turns out that my household consumption dropped by 250 watts. In South Africa, this means that 24kg less carbon dioxide was pumped into the air because of me. (In SA, 0.978kg of CO2 are emitted for every 1 kWh of electricity).

To be honest, we did go a bit further than switching off the lights. We also switched off two PCs and the television. We lit some candles inside the house and sat on the back steps looking at the stars, enjoying a very peaceful evening – and a family conversation! It’s amazing what can happen when there’s no TV.

In fact, it was so nice that we’ve decided to do it more often.

My 250W saving is apparently the equivalent of planting 0.1 trees. So if I switched off my lights for an hour once a month for a year, it would be the equivalent of planting a tree.

Apparently more than 1,000 cities took part in Earth Hour. Click here for an amazing collection of Earth Hour “before and during” pics from around the world.

State electricity utility Eskom says that South Africans “contributed 400MW of electricity savings to Earth Hour”. That’s 10 percent of the output of a whole power station – Witbank’s Kendal power station, for example,  produces around 4,100MW.

It’s also a saving of 400 tons of carbon dioxide, 224 tons of coal and some 576 kilolitres of water, says Dr Steve Lennon, Eskom’s MD for corporate services and its “climate change champion”.

“The 400MW translates to about 4 million 100W bulbs or 6,7 million 60W bulbs switched off on Saturday. This shows a concerted effort by approximately 1 million households,” he said.

Can anyone seriously say that it isn’t worth taking part in Earth Hour?

(Update: Corrected a typo to read: That’s 10 percent of the output of a whole power station – Witbank’s Kendal power station, for example, produces around 4,100MW)

Green market at Pretoria botanical gardens

February 4, 2009
Posted in Lifestyle

flyerThis Saturday (Feb 7), pack your picnic blankets and head over to the National Botanical Gardens in Pretoria for the Green Market.

There’s live entertainment: Leon Ecroignard from ‘Optelgoed is Dansgoed’ will make music from recyclable trash (which should be interesting) and you can see fun interactive demonstrations of the Nia technique, which is a combination of dancing, martial arts, yoga etc, and much more.

Products on sale range from natural raw foods and drinks, green baby products, natural make-up and skin care, solar products and other energy saving products, worm farms and recycled art.

There’s also a recycling station where you the public can bring your clean recyclable trash. You can bring plastic; polystyrene; dry, clean paper; glass; cans and electronic waste like cellphones, old broken printers, CD’s and any electronic device you want to get rid of.

The market is a way to educate and raise awareness of the importance and the benefits of a greener lifestyle, say the organisers. So they urge people to bring their families and friends together with their picnic blankets and shopping bags for a nice eco-conscious day in the gardens.

If you need more info or if you’re interested in supporting the event or participating, you can contact Melissa at greenmelilly [at] gmail [dot] com

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.

Winning designer thinks ‘out of the bag’

January 23, 2009
Posted in Lifestyle


Pick ‘n Pay chose 24-year-old graphic designer Charlotte Coetzee’s entry as the design for its new limited edition ecofriendly bag. Coetzee won R20,000 for winning the web-based competition, which drew 386 design entries and nearly 55,000 votes. The bags will be manufactured by Township Patterns, a group of women from Cape Town Townships, and will be made from locally sourced natural materials. The bags will reportedly be available in Pick n Pay stores around the country from March.

Learn the story behind the stuff you buy

December 13, 2008
Posted in Lifestyle

story-of-stuffHave you every wondered where the stuff you buy comes from and what happens to it when you throw it away? Annie Leonard did, but she went further than most of us and decided to find out. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute film that tells you what she discovered.

Leonard is an activist who has spent the past 10 years travelling around the world fighting environmental threats – she’s apparently even been to South Africa – so she knows a thing or two.

In the Story of Stuff she looks at the real costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal, and she isolates the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began. She manages to be very informative, without being preachy, and the cute graphics keep things light and highly watchable.

The film underscores the importance of recycling and CONSCIOUS consumption.

This is a good little film to watch before you do your Christmas shopping because it might make you pause and think a bit more carefully about what you spend your money on.

If you’ve got an ADSL line and lots of bandwith you might want to watch it straight off the site, or you can download a copy (50MB) and share it with your friends.

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.

Design an ecofriendly bag for Pick n Pay

December 2, 2008
Posted in Lifestyle

Pick n Pay is looking for amateur designers to create a design for new ecofriendly bags that may be sold in stores around the country. You have until January 5 2009 to come up with something stylish and desirable. Thousands of rands worth of prizes are up for grabs. For everything you need to know about entering or voting for your favourite design, go to Pick n Pay‘s website.

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