Eco hints and tips

We haven't suddenly "seen the light" and changed our ways since we bought our plot - this has been an on-going process. It occurred to me this morning that I should also share some of the eco-friendly changes we have made at our home in Cape Town.

In our home:

  • We have replaced all our incandescent light globes with CFL's;
  • Turned our geyser down to 50oC - for summer and winter use ~ we only use the hot water tap in winter, and add just a small amount of cold water in summer;
  • Installed low flow showerheads throughout the house;
  • Installed an Owl wireless electricity monitor which we purchased at 'thegreenshop' (which is based in Cape Town) online which has thus far resulted in a saving of 30% on the previous months consumption;
  • Replaced all our normal batteries with rechargeable ones;
  • Indoor drying of washing
  • Started by switching to environmentally-friendly laundry detergent and dishwasher powder, and
  • Replaced the dishwasher rinse aid with vinegar;
  • Stopped using the tumble dryer completely ~ our laundry room also houses a fridge, so we have installed rails under the top hanging wall cupboards - any wet clothing is hung on these rails, on hangers, and the heat generated in the confined space of the room dries the clothes perfectly overnight
  • Re-use and re-furbish, whenever possible, tired out-of-date household items (e.g gate handles / light fittings, etc);
  • Re-cycle all household plastic, paper, tins and glass;
  • Now make my own handsoap, laundry detergent and fabric softener (1/2 cup baking soda added to the fabric softener compartment or 1/2 cup of vinegar with a few drops of essential oil) and dishwasher detergent (recipes are available at the top of my blog under the "How to make, cook, anything" page or on the web);
    Hotbox / haybox
  • Severely limit the use of my oven, relying on my homemade solar oven and hot box to cook those foods which require longer cooking times;
  • Use LED and dynamo torches when necessary;
  • Purchased gas heaters for winter use and ditched our old electric oil heaters. Putting on another jersey also does the trick;
  • Dry used tea bags which are then soaked in literally just a smidge of paraffin in sealed jar - and used as firelighters - they work a treat;
  • I have even used dry empty teabags in artwork!;
  • Save candle stubs and use as firelighters;
  • Eliminate a chemical from our household as soon as it is finished and replace with an eco-friendly alternative: e.g. to clean:
  • Silverware: place a piece of silver foil on the bottom of a plastic container. Pour boiling water on the foil and add 1/2 a cup of bicarbonate of soda. Put the silverware into the container (ensuring that it makes contact with the foil) and stand back and watch the silverware come clean in 5 - 10 minutes. Wash with warm, soapy water and dry with a soft cloth; or for brass put 1/2 a teaspoon of salt into a bowl with 1/2 cup of vinegar. Add enough plain flour to make a paste, then cover the item with the paste. Leave for 5 - 10 minutes, then rub each item with the paste and rinse in warm soapy water. Buff with a soft cloth. It couldn't be easier!!;
  • Also, from ashes from a wood burning stove are brilliant at removing tarnish - just apply a little bit of cold wood ash from your fireplace with a damp cloth, rub a little, and then wipe clean - so easy;
  • Odd socks, which all washing machines seem to produce, are used as furniture polishing cloths;
  • The Going Green( is a website which lists companies who supply eco-friendly products. They also have a couple of eco-friendly tips - we will probably be using their grey water trap concept for the kitchen & bathroom drain pipes, although I will also add a small piece of shade cloth under the grass clippings - it will make the grass easier to remove when the clippings need refreshing;
  • Also at ( there are fantastic tips on how to keep your house clean in an ecologically friendly way - I have already employed many of the tips in our home in Cape Town;

  • Our meat intake is limited to once a week;
  • I have joined Freecycle in Cape Town and decluttering couldn't be easier;
  • Only purchase local, preferably organic, produce - I can wait until that imported avocado available this summer is available next winter during our avocado season;
  • Collect all remaining leftovers and freeze - then create a large pot of soup for the homeless once a week, cooking it in the hot box;
In Our Garden:

  • All our kitchen waste scraps, egg cartons and shredded newspaper is placed on our compost heap;
  • Garden cuttings / prunings and weeds (not seeding) are added to our compost heap;
  • All fertilizers and pest control is done using environmentally friendly methods / items and recipes which I sourced on the Net;
  • We have a veggie patch which provides some of our produce - not as complete as I'd like, so I have to supplement with shop bought organic produce, but it is a start and one which I intend to expand;
  • A couple of vegetables are permitted to go to seed in order to obtain the wherewithall for next year's crop;
  • Roof drainpipes are diverted to lawned / flowerbed areas;
  • Grey water from our bathrooms and laundry is diverted to lawned / flowerbed areas;
  • Old pantihose is used either to contain drying seed heads or used to support plants when necessary;
  • Egg shells are crushed and either added to the compost heap or used to deter snails round delicate plants;
  • Empty loo roll holders are used to grow seedlings - when the seedlings are mature enough the entire loo roll holder is planted in the ground - that way the plants are also protected from cut worm;
  • Cut the bottoms off empty plastic bottles and use the bases as seedling pots and the tops as a mini greenhouse for seedlings / cuttings, etc. (see pic on Burglar and weather proofing post - June 2010