"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

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  • Re-use and re-furbish, whenever possible, tired out-of-date household items (e.g gate handles / light fittings, etc);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 http://www.choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com/ 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(http://www.goinggreen.co.za) 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 (http://www.thegreenguide.com) 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