"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

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Involve the family in making a difference

I think it is safe to say that in 90% of households, womenfolk lead the way in trying to make a difference in what is sent to landfill, how to reduce power consumption in the home and in teaching our children how we can help heal our planet.

What would the world look like in 100 years if we don't all do our bit?  Would there, in fact, be a planet left - a planet which is still able to provide for man and all the living creatures which inhabit this planet?

These are just a few of the ways that we are trying to "do our bit"...

Recycling - waiting for collection
We, in Cape Town, are extremely fortunate in that we have a weekly collection of our refuse and a separate collection of all recyclable goods.  Separating recyclables from general refuse is easy, and it takes no more time than walking to the dustbin to throw out the garbage, because our recycling bin is next to our dustbin - so no excuses for throwing away something which can be recycled.

I have taken recycling one step further too - I try and re-use all plastic containers which pass through this house. Unfortunately, the suppliers in this country are trying to cut their costs, which means they package their goods in plastic jars / bottles, more than in glass. I re-use plastic milk bottles for my seedlings, and any other plastic jars are used for storing dry goods - I even store seeds in them, once they are thoroughly dry.  And, in place of shelf liners impregnated with an insecticide, a sprinkling of bicarbonate of soda on the back of the shelves or a sprig of Bay Leaves placed inside the container (and replaced every 3 - 4 months) will keep the weevils at bay :-)

Our small compost bin - for all the kitchen scraps
Grow your own produce - if one practises an organic approach, your homegrown fruit and vegetables are guaranteed to contain no chemicals, and will retain all the goodness for which they are grown - goodness which will not leeched out in the time they have spent being transported from farms to markets, and then sitting in supermarkets fridges / shelves waiting to be purchased.  Also, I think it is safe to say that if one grows ones' own vegetables, then one will also have a compost heap.  Which means each week less refuse goes to landfill, where it produces methane.  A well managed compost heap will not emit anything near as much methane as a landfill site, and whatever is added to the compost heap (vegetable scrapings, shredded paper, egg shells, egg cartons (for those of us who don't have chicken - yet) coffee grounds, tea bags and tea leaves, lawn clippings, garden trimmings) will break down to become the most wonderful addition to the soil of your garden.  It is easy to create a spot in your kitchen for all the compost ingredients - this is what I have:

A small container for the vegetable peelings
(with a lid to keep the flies away)
and another to collect the recycling goods - right
next to the draining board
Once that is full, off to the compost heap with it :-)

Why should each and everyone of us avoid using chemicals in our gardens?  Do you really want to add unnecessary chemicals to your diet - which are indisputedly harmful to you?  Have you tried an eco-friendly solution of boiling chillies and garlic in water, taking that boiled water and diluting it down and adding a drop of dishwashing liquid and sparying that on your affected / munched plants?

In addition, whatever chemicals we carelessly add to our lawns or beds, a large amount of it is washed down into the drains where it is captured into our water system when it rains.  Not to mention the animal / plant life that we are unconsciously affecting.

The knock on effect of what we selfishly do, will live on far longer than our time on this planet...

And how many people are aware that the water provided to households in Cape Town since December 2010 is recycled effluent?  Should we be proud of that achievement?  Another reason to install a rain barrel to catch all the water from your gutters - ideal for your garden, and, in an emergency, if it is properly sterilized prior to consuming, it can support human life too!

Owl electricity monitor - instant reading
of your current power consumption

Have you tried monitoring your electrical consumption through the use of an electricity monitor such as the Owl - the less electricity we use, the less has to be generated, and in South Africa most of our electricity is produced by coal fired power stations, or the dreaded nuclear power station at Koeberg, near Cape Town.  We have reduced our electricity consumption in our household by approximately 45% since I purchased our Owl as a Christmas gift for RMan in December 2009.  It is soooo easy to install and it monitors every watt consumed by your household every second, 24 / 7.  I kid you not - EVERY second!

Damp curtains create an air-conditioning effect
There are also various methods one can employ which don't involve using electricity - for instance, in summer when the heat becomes unbearable, we don't switch on our air-conditioning (we don't even own such a device) - all we do is hang wet towels at the windows, or dampen the curtains hanging at the windows / doorways - the draft wafting through the wet items immediately cools down the interior temperature.

We have even used the damp towel method
whilst driving in our car - it works a treat!
We switch our geyser on for 4 hours every three days - and the water stays more than hot enough to last the three days.  Obviously, in winter this will not be possible, but now, this last summer, we have reduced our electricity consumption by 9 - 10 Kw each day we didn't have the geyser on!  We have also turned our geyser down to 50oC (122oF) - add no cold water in winter and it is the perfect temperature for having a shower.   Unfortunately, as much as I'd love one, we are not in the position to install a solar geyser - maybe next year...

And you all know how much I use my solar oven :-)  My conventional oven has not been switched on for the past 10 months!

Similarly, in winter - an extra jersey and warm socks - even a beanie - they do the trick.  Save the heater for when you really need it - don't switch them on at the first sign of cooler weather.  We have all become so selfish in our use of electricity, that we think it is our right.  Yes, we pay for the use of it, but do we ever stop and think of how the planet is paying for it too?

I have also enjoyed sharing most of what I have learnt / researched with RMan. His understanding of my motivation and compliance in the process, is helping us achieve something amazing, but, just like a naughty child, I can still on occasion find plastic bags in our kitchen dustbin, not the recycling bin... :-)
I'm personally very chuffed that our refuse
is down to two small shopping bags in the dustbin a week.
But, what I am most proud of is I am doing as I say - which is the greatest teacher of all. Lead by example, your children will naturally follow, and, hopefully, their friends will follow them, and ...

I have touched on just a few ways of making a difference - I will share more in the weeks to follow.

How do you / are you trying to make a difference?


Dani said...

Thanks Mr H - don't know why my comment section was disabled.

Jane said...

I though it was just me that could not leave a comment. Dani, I wish everyone would do a fraction of what you do. That would be such a big start of moving things in the right direction. Keep up your good work and spreading the word.

Dani said...

Jane - thank you for your very kind words :-) All it takes is one of us at a time, firstly me, then you, then... :-)