The truth about palm oil

The truth about palm oil

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Palm oil is one of those products that mainly pass by without you knowing it, even though it is included in a vast range of products that most people use every day. Many people do not know that it is also a large contributor to the alarming rate of deforestation of the already ailing rainforests that remain throughout Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and the likes. In many of these communities where these plantations are established small children are forced to do physical labour for long hours in horrific conditions. The big corporations funding these expeditions also lie, cheat and steal their way onto ground that belongs to the indigenous people with their empty promises of development and a better life for all. Many families are dumped into extreme poverty because they can no longer sustain themselves from their own land is forced to become plantation workers, not even earning enough to provide the basics for their families.

With deforestation also comes the endangerment of over 300 000 species of different animals, insects and plants across many ecosystems. Orang-utans are one example of a species that could be extinct in 10 years if their numbers continue to decrease at the currents rate. This endangerment is not only due to their habitat that is shrinking each day, but by the increase in poaching and black market trading of rare species that these foreigners bring with them.

Not to confuse coconut oil with palm oil. Palm oil can generally be found in products such as shampoo, lipstick, instant noodles, ice cream, margarine, detergents, and alarmingly, biofuels. It is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world at the moment, contributing about half of the vegetable oil used in America, Australia and England, and its use is expected to double by 2050.

The ripple effect of deforestation, poverty and endangerment that is left in its wake cannot be ignored any longer. There may be hope, it was estimated that about 18% of the world’s palm oil was certified as sustainable in 2014, even though there has been widespread controversy around this topic. The fact is that oil palm trees are capable of yielding more oil from less land than any other vegetable oil, if it is controlled and regulated properly.

Ever heard of the Tiger Challenge? Companies that have agreed to make use of sustainable sources of palm oil, which is tiger and forest friendly are;

  • Procter & Gamble
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • Ferrero
  • General Mills
  • Godrej
  • Johnson & Johnsons
  • Kao
  • Kellog’s
  • Libay
  • L’Oréal
  • Mondelēz International
  • Nestlé
  • Nice Group
  • PepsiCo
  • Reckitt Benckiser
  • Unilever

Think twice before you purchase a product, make sure you know where they get their resources from, and that you are not unknowingly contributing to the destruction of our precious rainforests. Make informed decisions.

For more information you can visit:

http://www.saynotopalmoil.com

http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/

http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/forests/palm_oil/

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/Campaign-reports/Forests-Reports/Cutting-Deforestation-Out-Of-Palm-Oil/

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/how-unilever-palm-oil-supplier/

How to be more sustainable

How to be more sustainable

What does it being sustainable really mean- (1)

Now that it is a little clearer on what it takes to live a sustainable life. I will share some of my tips and tricks on exactly how you can decrease your carbon footprint, conserve energy, water and other resources, and be more self-sustaining.

Conserve energy

There are many ways in which to achieve this, and it can be applied in all aspects of your life. Inside the house you can use energy efficient appliances, switch off lights that are not in use, make use of energy saver light bulbs, insulate your house and limit air conditioning (heating or cooling). For more tips on how to save energy in the house read: Five ways to save electricity this winter

Reduce your carbon footprint

This entails much more than just carpooling to work, or buying an electric car; if the electricity that you use to charge your car comes from coal based energy then it isn’t reducing your carbon footprint at all. In order to reduce your carbon footprint you need to make informed choices. You need to know the process that is required to produce a certain product; there are some solar panels that will not be able to recover the amount of energy that was used to produce them in their lifetime.

Be more self-sustaining

This is something more personal, and it will change from one person to the next, but I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that your contribution should consist of something that you enjoy and might see yourself doing for the rest of your life, something that could very easily become a habit or even a hobby for you.

Making your own compost, and using it in your own vegetable garden is a great way to be more sustainable, but if you do not have sufficient space it will not be practical, nor when it is not something that you could see yourself doing.

Re-use

Re-using is often much better than recycling because recycling actually uses a lot of energy. Re-using and re-applying something that you would normally throw out saves the time and energy that it requires to take that item to the landfill when it’s thrown out, as well as the time and energy to sort and recycle the recyclables.

There are, however, certain things that should be recycled, even if it is for the simple fact that the more of it gets recycled the less will hopefully be newly produced, like plastics, and aluminium products.

Certain glass product  are good examples of things that can be re-used, for example, a used glass bottle to keep water in the fridge, or re-using glass jars if you make your own jams, jellies and chutneys, or rather re-using a glass container in the kitchen instead of buying and using plastic containers.

Be water wise

Water can actually also be re-used, we re-use our shower, sink and washing water (from the dishwasher and washing machine) in the garden, you would be surprised at how much water is generated by the above mentioned activities, if you are interested in saving water in and around the house, you could read: 5 Ways to save water every day.

You could actually also design your garden itself to be more water efficient, by planting your flowers, fruits, and veggies in boxes or pots the amount of soil that needs to be watered is less and the area to where the water could possibly spread to is smaller, so it is applied to a more concentrated area, using only what the plant needs. You can read more on how to save water in your veggie garden here: Sustainable living: vegetable gardening.

Get with the BUZZ

It can be argued that bees form part of the backbone of the finely balanced equilibrium of all ecosystems, by pollinating millions of flowers each year they provide food and substance for the masses. They also have lots of other by-products that we humans use in our everyday life.

If you are not able or willing to have your own beehive, there are other options, like the ‘adopt-a-hive’ initiative. Read all about the Busy Busy Bees from this link.

Spread the word

Never underestimate the power of word of mouth, people tend to listen more to their friends and family than they do a stranger in an article. There are still too many people that think conservation and environmental issues are just hot air. What we need is as many people as possible to do their small part and the results could be huge.

What does it take to live a sustainable life?

What does it take to live a sustainable life?

What does it being sustainable really mean- (2)

Sustainable, green living and clean energy are all words that are trending right now, but what do they really mean? Truly living in a sustainable way is much more than just installing a solar geyser, which is still a great idea by the way. Green living requires a shift in mind set, habits, and perspective. Truly understanding why it is important is the first step, and probably the most important.

We as humans have, for many decades, over indulged in all that mother nature has to offer, we have driven species to extinction, set off a ripple effect starting with greenhouse gasses and globing warming, and taken earth’s ability to ‘bounce back’ for granted. But it is not too late for us to right our wrongs, and people need to realise that the sooner we start the better.

The first step in making a lifestyle shift to one that is more eco-friendly and sustainable is to realise that there are many luxuries that we can do without. Once we realise that we do not need to water our lawns and gardens every single day, for example, or that we do not need to heat the whole house in winter time, but rather just the rooms we are using at the moment, we will start to see how we have lived wastefully.

Step two is just as important, it is where we must realise the full extent of the effects that our way of life has on our environment. Many people are in denial over global warming and its effects, what makes it worse is that people of influence that feel they should express their uninformed opinions publically. Ignoring and denying it will not make it go away, people need to realise this is a real issue, and that our own quality of life will get a lot worse if we do not act now.

Lastly it is crucial that we act on it right away, the sooner we start making changes to decrease our carbon footprint and the effect on nature, the better our chances are to turn this runaway bus around. Making sustainable life choices means that we are ensuring a future for many generations to come; we are saving and re-using our resources, protecting and conserving all life forms (fauna, flora, oceans, and humanity).

For me the goal has always been to not live wastefully, to use only what I absolutely need and leave the rest for the next person, the future. Over the years I have picked up some skills from experience, and learned some tricks from others. Follow the link for my post on how to be more sustainable.

5 Ways to save water every day

5 Ways to save water every day

5 Ways to save water every day

  • Shower is key: Rather take a shower than a bath (if possible), also replace your shower head with one that is more efficient, and uses less water (like a faucet aerator). Take shorter showers. If you are not re-using your shower water, you could consider putting a bucket with you in the shower, and use that towards watering the garden.
  • Plant the seed: Make use of both indigenous and drought-tolerant plants in the garden and the house. They will need much less water to flourish. Succulents are a great option, there is wide variety and they need very little water. Also consider doubling up your fruit and veg garden as the feature garden.
  • Use water savvy appliances: Like a dishwasher, using a dishwasher can save you up to 21% on water used to wash the same amount of dishes. Just look for the WaterSense or the ENERGY STAR labels. These appliances are also quite energy efficient.
  • Want to keep cool? If you have a pool, ALWAYS keep it covered. If you don’t rather make friends with the neighbours that do, instead of getting your own. You can work out the total volume of your swimming pool with: length x width x depth = answer in cubic meters, 1 cubic meter is equal to 1000 litres of water. This means that if 1 cubic meter of water evaporates per month it’s a thousand litres of water wasted each month.
  • Re-use: By catching and re-using shower, bath, and any washing water for gardening, you could save on your irrigation costs, you would be surprised at how much water is used daily for those activities. Here it is key to switch to non-toxic, biodegradable soaps and cleaning materials.

What are you doing daily to save water?

Memel: A South Africa Gem

Memel: A South Africa Gem

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Over the Easter weekend I went to a small town called Memel with some friends of mine. Well actually we stayed on a farm, a couple of minute’s drive from the town itself. The weather had already turned towards autumn, and while the days were still nice and sunny, the evenings were quite chilly.

For those of you who don’t know it, Memel is a small farming town on the outskirts of the Free state. It’s rich in its own personality and history, and the people are charming and as friendly as can be. We stayed in a 100 year old farm house in the middle of the farm, surrounded by endless mountains, streams of water rushing through the bends, bass dams, and beautiful herds of cattle. Luckily our awesome photographer friend (Sam Supra at Supra Photography) was there to capture all the mesmerising moments, and as hard as it is to capture all of that beauty in a picture, she managed perfectly.

On the front porch of the sandstone house is an intriguing brass memorial  dedicated to the man who single handily built the house at the age of 75.

huis

With the first step in you could feel the character, and enchanting stories those walls must hold, which, by the way is as thick as my middle. There is no electricity, so you have to make do between the donkey for hot water, candles for lighting and a fireplace for heat (and atmosphere of course).

I can’t remember when last I saw the stars shine so bright, with not an electric light in sight to spoil it. The calmness and peace that washes over you with the dancing flames from the bonfire, the wind rushing through the grass, and the owl that hoo-hoo every now and then while just staring at the beautiful night sky, cannot possibly be described in words.

E N T E R H E R E

We spent the weekend fishing in the nearby bass dam, and I even caught my very first fish, which we had for dinner that night. Not to mention the hike further up the mountain that led us to the most beautiful view of kilometers of raw untouched nature. And even though we could catch some signal at one or two spots, no one really felt the need to even look at their phones, we were all just so glad to be rid of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, even if it was just for a few days.

the mountains are calling, and I must answer- John Muis

After the three very short days we found ourselves sad to leave, and even started planning our return trip. This place must be a little piece of heaven that got lost on earth somehow.

LOVE(ly) South Africa, 21 reason we love South Africa

LOVE(ly) South Africa, 21 reason we love South Africa

LOVEly South Africa 21 reason we love South Africa

  1. We have more floral species on Table Mountain than the whole of the United Kingdom.
  2. We have the longest wine rout in the world.
  3. SABMiller is the largest brewing company in the world (ranked by volume).
  4. SABMiller also produces 50% of China’s beer.
  5. We have eight World Heritage Sites:
    • The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
    • Robben Island
    • The Cape Floristic Region
    • The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape
    • Vredefort Dome (the oldest meteor scar in the world)
    • The Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and environs fossil hominid sites (AKA the cradle of humankind).
    • The iSimangaliso Wetland Park
    • The Ukhahlamba / Drakensberg Park
  6. The Kruger National Park has more wild life species than the whole of America.
  7. We have about 20% of the world’s Gold, and about 90% of its Platinum.
  8. The largest diamond in the world also came from a South African mine (Cullinan mine).
  9. We have one of the best Constitutional laws in the world.
  10. South Africa has the world’s largest telescope (SALT).
  11. The ‘Big hole’ in Kimberly is the world’s largest hand dug hole.
  12. South Africa has yielded some of the world’s oldest and most complete Archaeological and Paleontological artefacts and remains.
  13. The ‘Kreepy Krawly’, the ‘CT Scan’ and breakwater dolosse were invented in South Africa.
  14. The first heart transplant was done in South Africa (in 1967 by Dr Chris Barnard).
  15. We are the only country in the world to have hosted the Rugby, Cricket, and Soccer World Cups.
  16. Even though we are a democracy, we still have a hierarchical family in South Africa within the Zulu Nation. King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBekuzulu has 27 children and six wives.
  17. South Africa is also historically a leader in agriculture, and is the second largest producer of fruits in the world.
  18. After the Second World War, South Africa had difficulty acquiring oil, which lead to the research to turn coal into oil (by SASOL).
  19. Miriam Makeba was the first South African to  win a Grammy award.
  20. South Africa has three capital cities: Pretoria (Executive Capital), Cape Town (Legislative Capital) and Bloemfontein (judicial Capital).
  21. South Africa is the only African country that is a member of the G20.

 

What’s some of your favourite things about South Africa?

 

Five ways to save electricity this winter

Five ways to save electricity this winter

Takingbettertravelphotos

If you are like me and need to prepare yourself mentally and physically for winter, you definitely want to read this post.

Grab a blanket

I almost always have a blanket close by, I even used to keep one in my car when I was a student. Instead of switching on the heater, rather snuggle underneath a blanket when watching TV, its much friendlier to the environment, not to mention the romance factor. I even have a blanket at work, and if your work permits it, you should too. Not only do heaters use unnecessary electricity, but it’s also actually bad for you, it dries up the air, which is not good for your repertory system btw.

Do you remember the hot water bottle?

I never used to have one as a kid because my mom was scared it would burn me, but the ones you get today are much safer to use now. So as soon as I could, I bought my own and it is literally my best friend in winter. Plus you can recycle the water, so to speak, if you do not want to pour it back into the kettle to boil it. When the water gets cold you could use it to help water your garden, or even throw it in the toilet tank. So instead of switching on the electric blanket, rather fill up a hot water bottle, mine usually stays warm enough all through the night if I put it underneath the blankets with me.

Regulate the geyser

Lots of people are making the switch to a solar or even gas geysers but if you do not want to make that kind of financial commitment there are a couple of things you could do that will actually save you a few pennies. First off, you should insulate your geyser, this is a sleeve like ‘blanket’ for your geyser, and it helps the geyser keep its heat, so if the water stays warmer for longer, the geyser will work less to keep it warm. You can also coordinate everybody’s bath and shower times, and then only switch the geyser on for a couple of hours before the bath time every day. Since geysers are usually installed in the roof, it is much more exposed to the cold, and the water in the geyser will cool down faster, especially during the cold winter nights.

Gear up

This might seem obvious, but a bright pair of stockings and a cute knitted dress, might not necessarily be the best choice. If you dress warmer you will need fewer extras, like heaters, to keep you warm. And you do not even have to compromise on your sic style. A simple vest or a pair of skins, underneath your cloths will go a long way in keeping you warm. I also like to layer up at night time.

Also just replacing your normal sheets on the bed with winter sheets (which are much thicker) will help prevent the cold, from underneath the bed, to sneak in. I take it one step further though, I place an old blanket underneath the bed sheet.

Insulate

By insulating your house, you can keep a lot more of the heat inside and the cold outside in the long winter months, and the opposite for those hot summer days, so it’s a win-win situation. This might incur some initial costs, but once it’s done you can just sit back and reap the fruit. There are a few options to insulate your roof, most of them consist of a roll-able sheet of some sort (ie ‘think pink’), if you are a handy person you can actually attempt this one yourself, saving a few bucks.

Here in SA we do not really have the freezing temperatures to justify double walls, but there is a new trend doing the rounds of installing double layered glass windows, which actually makes a big difference, since windows are one of the big culprits in letting in the cold.

If you have mostly tiles or wooden floors in the house it could also be a major contributor to the chilly atmosphere. Investing in a few good carpets that you can always remove when summer comes might be well worth your while, even if it’s just for the living areas and bedrooms.

Keeping certain doors in the house closed can actually also make a huge difference, for example, a bathroom is generally colder than other rooms due to the fact that everything in it is a combination of glass, porcelain, and metal. Keeping the door of the bathroom closed at all times during the winter will prevent that cold air from spreading to the rest of the house.

On the door topic, another simple way to keep the frost from entering your bedroom during the night is to seal off the gap at the bottom between the door and the floor. I you do not want to go buy one of those very adorable teddies you could always just put an old towel in front of the door.

What’s some of your favorite ways to keep warm in winter?

10 things to do with your lemons when your tree is being an overachiever

10 things to do with your lemons when your tree is being an overachiever

Salzstein Province

Ever since we moved into our current home the tiny lemon tree in from of the house have been producing lemons non-stop for almost eight years now. After a while we even started giving them away to family and friends because we just could not keep up with the amount of lemons this little guy was producing. And so with time we started experimenting with the lemons, trying less conventional uses for them, and it turns out that there are a gazillion and one uses for lemons! I thought that I would share my ten favourites with you guys.

Health

  • For a sore throat; combine half a cup of hot water, a few squirts lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. This will help fight the bacteria in the throat that’s causing the discomfort, since both honey and lemon juice contains antibacterial properties.
  • For minor cuts and bruises; applying a dab of lemon juice to minor cuts and bruises, it not only disinfects the wound, but should also stop the bleeding. You can also apply it to bleeding gums to stop them from bleeding, but always remember to rinse your mouth afterwards as the acidic levels in lemon juice can be harmful to your teeth’s enamel with prolonged exposure.
  • Removing warts; the acids in lemon juice will eventually dissolve the warts with regular application.

Beauty

  • Great for skin care; you can either use it as an exfoliating scrub/rub (rubbing half a lemon in a circular movement on your skin for about 5 mins before rinsing it with warm water) , a nourishing mask (to remove blackheads), or as a treatment for dark marks or scars on your skin. Citrus is full of anti-oxidants and packed with tonnes of vitamins and minerals, which is great for all skin types.
  • It’s also really great for yellow and/or dull nails; combining a 3:1 olive oil and lemon juice mixture to your nails helps remove build up that acetone or other chemicals just cannot get off. Plus the oil nourishes your nails for a freshly manicured look, and super healthy nails.

Food

  • Next time you have no idea what to do with the chicken breasts you bought for dinner, try combing four table spoons olive oil, a teaspoon of mixed herbs, two table spoons lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic to taste, for the most delicious lemon and herb marinade. Leave the chicken in this for roughly two hours before cooking, to ensure it soaks up all the flavour. The lemon juice also helps break down the proteins in the chicken leaving it super tender and juicy when cooked.
  • Rosemary Lemon Rhubarb Spritzer …DELICIOUS

At home

  • Clean and disinfect wooden chopping boards; rub half a lemon on to the board until it comes clean, and rinse off.
  • To remove stains or to whiten your delicates; soak your clothes with a mixture of equal parts baking soda and lemon juice in water for half an hour before machine washing it, or for those tough stains make a paste of the baking soda and lemon juice and rub it on the stain before machine wash.
  • Rejuvenate brass, Polish chrome or cutlery; simply make a paste from lemon juice and creme of tarter and apply to the item, leave it on for five minutes before washing it off and polishing it.
DIY: At home composting

DIY: At home composting

DIY Compost

Composting!

What you will need

A box or container to put it in

When selecting or building your box, bin, barrel, or tumbler for your compost, there are a few things to keep in mind;

crate

  • If the box is going to be in place where it can be seen by guests, you might want to opt for a neater version
  • If not, you can go for a cheaper, but just as effective option, that you can even assemble yourself, within a matter of minutes
  • How much waste will you be generating for your compost bin, this will determine the size of the bin you will need
  • How quickly do you want to start using the compost, if you want a bi-weekly, or even a monthly supply, you would want to buy a compost tumbler, that has a lid and an aerator built in, these produce garden ready compost in almost half the time

mesh

Although, if you pile is big enough, you don’t really need a bin, we just pile all our waste onto one pile and move it to another pile once it’s ready to use.

Something to turn or aerate the compost (if your bin or tumbler doesn’t include one)

We just use a garden fork at home, but there is a very fancy tool, called a turning tool or an aerator tool, that you could use as well.

The perfect spot

Again this depends on how quickly you want to turn your waste into compost, the more sun it gets, the hotter the pile is, the quicker the good microbes  can do their job, and the quicker you will start to produce compost. Ours are in direct sunlight for about 75% of the day.

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Balanced ingredients

This is one of the most important tips you should take from this post. Your waste input should be a balance between brown and green, or carbon and nitrogen parts, to be more accurate. In the brown category there will typically be things like dried branches and twigs, shredded newspapers and brown paper bags, wood chips and dried leaves. In the green category would be grass clippings and kitchen waste. If you have more of the one than the other, you could always try to keep the one in a pile next to your compost bin, and add it whenever you get more of the other.

Lastly, you would also need to water your compost pile. This might need some practice to get right. Just try to keep in mind that it should not be too wet, where it gets to the point of being soggy and mushy. But on the other hand, too little water will actually slow down the decomposition process.

Best practice

  • The box or bin should be bottomless, so that the compost is placed directly on the ground. This way not only does that patch of earth get super infused with all the nutrients that soaks into it, but the good microbes from the soil also moves up into your compost, which helps the decomposition along.
  • Your very first layer should be made up of dried branches and twigs, stacked in such a way that it will allow air from the bottom into the rest of your pile.
  • You can now layer your brown and green materials; it is also advised that you add a layer of soil when first starting, to help the process along.
  • It is important that you regularly add new materials, always trying to keep a balance between green and brown materials.
  • Turning your pile once a week will help get air in, and also to mix all the materials together, that might be at different stages of decomposition
  • Also remember to check the moisture content, I prefer checking it by hand, after a while you will realise what the right consistency is supposed to be like, and it will get easier and easier to maintain that same consistency.
  • For quicker results, you can break up, or cut up, the materials before adding it to your pile, and then push it in between spots of half decomposed materials.
  • If it’s possible, try to place your bin as far as possible from your entertainment areas or from the house at least. They tend to give off a little bit of an odour sometimes, but no need to be alarmed.

Common problems

  • Too wet or mushy?

You can try to put the pile in direct sunlight, or add dryer materials, like wood chips, which will soak up some of the moisture. You should also water your pile less.

  • To cover, or not to cover?

I feel that this should be up to you. We do not cover our piles, but that is mostly because we just have too much to try and put it in a bin. Covering it up will contain most of the heat and moisture, which, again, will accelerate the whole process. Covering it up will also greatly help to keep away any unwanted guests, like rats.

  • What to put in?

I once found the most complete list  of things to compost, ever. And even though we do not put everything on this list in, this again, is up to you. We for instance do not put in pet hair, or any bones, or cooked food.

Benefits of composting

First of all by composting kitchen and garden waste you are significantly reducing the amount of unnecessary waste on land fill sites. You are also ‘recycling’ energy and nutrients back into your own garden and lawn.

Using your own compost in your garden also has quit a few benefits, like the amount of money you will be saving by not having to buy it from a store.

Other benefits, of course include nourishing you plants, grass, and veggies (if you have), thereby reducing the amount of water required to keep these happy and healthy. It also helps to control pests and plant diseases.

And maybe the most important of all, when you use it on your veggie garden you know the food that your family is eating is truly organic and 100% healthy.