Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Green Meme

Charlotte is suffering from unseasonably mild weather in Germany and was inspired to start this Green Meme from a Newsweek report.

1. What do you for the birds and the bees? According to the report, we need to plant a pollinator garden to counteract the effect pollution, pesticides and habitat destruction are having on birds, bees and insects. Bees, for instance, like yellow, blue and purple flowers.

This part we can polish haloes on if nowhere else. We live on a smallholding, so have loads of space to plant trees – indigenous ones that support local bird and insect populations, plus lavender for the bees. There are loads more birds around, than when we moved here, when the land was overgrown with Port Jackson, an invasive alien that crowds out all the indigenous fynbos.

2. Household products. Chemical or organic? Household chemicals contribute to indoor and outdoor pollution.

Not so great here – I’ve tried switching to Ecover products, but they don’t work so well - the laundry didn’t smell fresh, the dishes were greasy. I’m interested in finding out from Zia about her lye soap recipe, which she says works great and is soft on the skin.

3. Do you junk?

We get very little junk mail and no catalogues at all. Most of my junk comes via email so is eco-friendly junk!

4. Air-dry or tumble-dry? Line-drying saves money and stops carbon emissions.

Always line dry. In South Africa there is enough sun to dry most of the year round. If we have a rainy spell in winter the dirty laundry just builds up until the sun shines again.

5. Old gadgets. Recycle or toss ‘em? According to the report, we have to find a way not to fill up landfills with electronic objects.

There are so many people here on the poverty line that if an appliance breaks we can give it away to an employee, who will know someone to fix it and sell it on. That goes for a lot of things we’d otherwise throw out.

6. Lightbulbs - incandescent or fluorescent? Fluorescent light bulbs use 70% less power and last ten times as long.

We changed over to the fluorescent ones a long time ago. We are bad at leaving lots of lights burning in the evenings though and several all night long, for insomniacs to wander the house.

7. Meat or veg? Meat production is energy inefficient. It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.

We do eat meat, several times a week, but the price of meat here has soared recently, so I usually alternate, one day meat, the next pasta, rice or soup.

8. Loo paper. Virgin or recycled? The paper industry is the third largest contributor to global warming. If every U.S. household replaced one toilet-paper roll with a roll made from recycled paper, 424,000 trees would be saved.

We totally fail the eco-friendly test here. For one thing recycled loo paper isn’t that widely available here and for another I have a family of delicate bottoms, who require two ply comfort. It’s not worth it for the sake of domestic harmony.

9. Tap or bottled water? According to Newsweek, it takes a lot of oil to make and ship water bottles, and most end up in landfills.

Always tap water from our borehole, which is the nicest water around anyway. Occasionally I buy a bottle of water when we’re out, then it usually gets reused multiple times. There are no facilities for recycling plastic bottles around Cape Town, that I know of. The worst offender here is our plastic milk containers, which build up into a mountain very quickly.

The only downside on the water front is the amount of electricity needed to drive the pump that sends the water from the borehole to the houses. Solar panels would make us much greener.

10. Dating - metrosexual or ecosexual? Newsweek says two recyclers are better than one.

Theoretically we’re both into being as green as possible. We’d like solar panels to heat our water, a reed bed to recycle our grey water and all the rest - money to install these things is the issue. Having said that though, lack of money is the greatest incentive to recycle, mend, reuse and save energy

Our straw bale house is very energy efficient and well insulated. We don’t need too much heating in winter and have no air-con in summer. That hopefully offsets the amount of energy used in other areas like the water pump.

We do a fair amount to live greenly but there is still room for improvement. As we live on a farm far from urban recycling facilities, we don’t always manage to recycle all we should, plus once you’ve factored in the petrol to get there, it doesn’t always make sense. South Africa is also way behind Europe on what can be recycled. Rubbish is usually burnt here at municipal dumps. Our worst offence is burning our own rubbish in a pit, but we do then plant a tree over all the ashes once the pit is full. The tree usually does brilliantly so that salves our conscience a little.


  1. just arrived here and pleased to meet your blog !

  2. Our garden is more a question of survival of the toughest - thorn trees, karee willows and wild plums survive, as do plumbago, Cape honeysuckle/Tekoma and several other hardy things. It is so hot and the soil so sandy that everything else including the grass needs a lot of pampering, which we're not great at, so our "lawn" is patchy at best!

  3. At my daughter's school there was a test given to show the teens how much they cost the planet. My daughter beamed thinking her score would be proud to show...we are vegetarrians, we only use paper products in the bathroom, she uses public transport most days, we recycle, heat our home with a chimney...etc etc.
    BUT the test showed that her type of lifestyle uses three times the world resources! She was shocked. In fact flying uses tons of resources, and we fly back to the States once a year. She learned that living in our Western world regardless of our good habits, still taxes this planet exceedingly so!
    It was an eye opener to see that we have plenty to change in how we live!

  4. Nice to meet you!
    "Air dry or tumble dry", put a smile on my face as I have just had my parents visit for a month and she was complaining that I do not have a washing line and that my clothes need air and sunlight! I live in the UK now for crying out loud! :-)

  5. Hi Kit,

    I posted the soap making stuff on my own blog, but decided to cross post. Not sure if you saw it.

    Here's what I wrote:

    Making soap is soooooo easy, and it’s very addictive too. I haven’t made any soaps from animal fat–not because I have a prejudice against it, but mainly because vegetable oils are more readily accessible than lard. I think it IS smellier and there’s not much you can do about it.

    Getting started is the toughest part of making soap. Detailed instructions (and recipes too on the site) here:

    But once you get started, you’ll marvel at how easy it is, and wonder why you never did it before. It took me ten years to work up the courage to work with lye. Now, I’m just careful about wearing protective gear and it’s fine. Good luck!

  6. What? You live in a straw house? Oh wow! I've been trying to convince my husband that if we don't do his berm house we could do my straw house ... but he wants to live where it's cold and I want to live where it's warm.

    I seem to be winning no matter where we move.



  7. I am wondering if some of you have ever tried a lye soap recipe from Zia that was mentioned on this blog here. Where can I read about Zia recipes? If the soap is soft on the skin, I would like to add Zia's recipe to my new collection of soap recipes here. Thanks!


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!