2010, Magazine: Longevity

The 7-Day green challenge

How seriously do you take the state of our environment? Challenge yourself to go green in one week, starting Monday!

Day One: Green your eating habits!
Mondays always start off with a new diet to ease the conscience of all the baddies eaten over the weekend. Start your green week challenge with an overhaul of your eating habits that will benefit your waistline, as well as the environment. 
Step 1: Go for organic, seasonal greens
“It isn’t necessary to become a vegetarian overnight, but decreasing your consumption of animal protein can definitely help you to become more eco-friendly,” says registered dietician, Lila Bruk. “Eating organic food may improve your health and help the planet, as organic food is less likely to contain harmful additives, which would be added in processing.” Bruk adds that eating seasonal produce can also ensure that you get the maximum amount of nutrients from the food – and this is good for the environment, because a lot of the fresh produce on shop shelves have been imported. Eating seasonal fruit and veg means that the food was grown locally and did not have to be brought in via air travel, which means you lower your carbon footprint. 
Step 2: Make a green girly cocktail
Smoothies are a great way to get your daily quota of fruit and veg servings. Dice your favourite seasonal fruits and vegetables and add to a blender with two cups of ice and blend together for about 30 seconds until your reach your desired consistency. Find a perfect spot outdoors where you can enjoy the beauty of nature while sipping on your eco-friendly drink!

Day Two: Clean up your act!
Yesterday’s veggie smoothie binge has left you feeling lighter on your feet and happier about your role in saving the planet. Go a step further and learn about separating your trash and composting in your backyard. Be brave, for worms are involved in the process…
Step 1: Separate your trash
Incorporate the three R’s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce the resources you use, Reuse recources as much as possible and Recycle when you can. Implement a recycling programme in your area by contacting a local recycler who will pick up recyclables of paper, glass, plastics, metals, foil-lined juice boxes (tetrapak) and batteries. “Across South Africa, we are fast running out of landfill space – a waste crisis is looming! We can all play our part,” says Bertie Lourens, MD of Waste Plan. “By recycling we can drastically reduce the waste we landfill. Try a simple exercise at home: separate out all plastics from your rubbish – including plastic bags, bottles, containers as well as polystyrene – and see how little rubbish there is left! And this is just one of the recyclable waste streams.”
Step 2: Make your own vermicompost system
“A vermicompost system is very easy to build – or one can buy a ready-made system, for as little as R150.00, excluding the worms,” says owner of Worms R Us, Denise Cowan. “To make one, you need a sealed black container, shredded paper as bedding for the worms to live in and the leftover food you wish to recycle. Drill some holes in the container and place it onto a catchment container to collect the ‘worm tea’. This is the nutrient-rich fertiliser, which can be used for watering plants by mixing one part to ten parts of water. It’s as easy as that!” Cowan says that most vegetable kitchen waste can be used, but to avoid citrus and onions as it can cause the system to become acidic. Egg shells, coffee grounds, teabags and garden leaves are also good additions to your system. “I find nothing better than making a salad out of my own home-grown produce, as I know what I have used on them and am not putting dangerous chemicals into my body. It is also guilt-free and earth friendly!” she adds. 

Day Three: Entertain the earth-friendly way!
It’s time for some mid-week entertainment, so why not invite close friends over for a eco-braai and good coffee. Eating out isn’t always earth-friendly. And, make your party bloom without cut flowers using greener tablescapes.
Step 1: Enjoy a eco-braai
The Swanniebraai uses old newspapers and other paper, crumpled into balls to braai boerewors and meat within six to ten minutes of starting the fire. “So many newspapers that are not recycled end up in landfills, which are polluting the planet. Usually a braai uses charcoal, which is less eco-friendly than paper – and it takes a longer time to get to the point where meat can be placed on the grid. The Swanniebraai cooks the meat through in a much shorter time,” says Willem Landman, owner of the Swanniebraai. A gas braai is often preferred by environmentalists as it emits less pollution than charcoal. 
Step 2: Liven up the party
Liven up your braai with colourful, decorative touches such as fruit or vegetables for table displays. About 80% of cut flowers come from Ecuador or Colombia and are grown with about 12 different pesticides, which pollute the earth and water. Finally, don’t forget to buy organic foods for your braai, including organic coffee from a Certified Fairtrade coffee producer and roaster. “Organically produced coffee means that the coffee trees have been farmed and cared for without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides,” says director of Bean There Coffee Company, Sarah Robinson. “Bean There is South Africa’s first roaster of Certified Fairtrade coffee that is of single origin, exclusive, optimally roasted and organic.”

Day Four: Observe the ‘less is more’ rule!
If last night at the braai left you a little tender from slight over-indulgence, it’s time to realise that sometimes, less is better than more. If we could each reduce our carbon footprint on the earth by just a tiny bit, the state of the environment would be greatly improved. 
Step 1: Reduce your carbon footprint
Take action to reduce your usage of electricity, water, paper and fuel. “South Africans are generally not too preoccupied with saving natural resources, unless it hurts us financially,” says owner of Recycle Now, Gina da Silva. “Cut down on electricity by, for example, opting for sleeping socks instead of an electric blanket. Change to energy-saver bulbs. Cut down on wasting water by being more mindful of when you use it. Reuse paper where you can and think twice before printing documents. The basics apply to everything you consume, including fuel. Opt for public transport or organise lift clubs. Perhaps even take a walk or cycle to where you need to get to.”
Step 2: Make the change to green fuel
Roy Dibley is an inventive South African of note. He modifies cars so that they can run on vegetable oil, sourced from food outlets that have been filtered of any food fragments. “The system I’ve designed has been fitted to over 70 cars over the past three years and I have been driving on green oil for the last five years. It is very cost efficient as I am using a waste product that would have to be disposed of in another way if I did not use it. Almost everything we consume can be used again or recycled, but most people are too lazy to do this. It’s a conscious choice to move to a green fuel. Stop doing things the easy way and make a small effort for a big difference!”

Day Five: Old is the ‘new’ new!
Instead of a cocktail party out in the town, arrange a swop night with girlfriends, where you exchange clothing and other items you no longer need in the house. Show them around your place, sharing innovative greening tips, such as using tyres in the garden as pot plants. 
Step 1: Implement a funky clothing exchange
“It’s a win-win situation to exchange clothing with friends, because not only does it reduce your carbon footprint, it also means that new items don’t have to be manufactured to satisfy your need for something new,” says owner of the Hermanus Swop Shop, Marilyn van der Velden. So, top up on tea and swop out that funky flower skirt you no longer wear. 
Step 2: Change something old into something new
Thinking creatively goes a long way and can benefit the environment in many ways, says van der Velden. “Old tyres are one of the world’s biggest problems for landfill sites.  They have been successfully turned into playground equipment and surfacing for roads but I use them for worm farms, planters and aids to conserve water in my garden.” Simply take something old, like blue jeans and turn them into patchwork tablecloths, blankets, skirts, cushion covers, skirts and sofa covers. 

Day Six: Go shopping!
Saturday is usually the perfect shopping day to restock the food cupboard. It’s all about considering your purchases carefully, buying in bulk and focusing on greening your pantry. 
Step 1: Buy less, buy smart
Farmer’s markets are brilliant for shopping for fresh produce that is locally produced, artisanal and often organic. Another smart shopping tip is to buy green cleaning products like Enchantrix that use ingredients that are not toxic or harmful to the environment. “This also goes for toiletries. The Victorian Organic Skin Care Company has an organic skin and body care range of products recreating recipes from the Victorian era using traditional ingredients from the English countryside, sourced and made in South Africa.” says owner of Green Space, an online shopping information portal, Theresa Wilson. “Reduce is key – rather buy a few quality products that will last a long time than lots of cheap goods that will only last a season or a few years – and that pollute the environment . We also need to add another ‘R’ to the 3 R’s; Respect for all life forms.” Buying local products not only supports the local economy, but also the environment, as they also require less transportation, storage and packaging. 
Step 2: Save money, save the planet
One of the latest trends when purchasing a cell phone contract is to upgrade your current phone to one of the newer models on the market. The same goes for car models. “Instead of buying or upgrading to a newer model, stick to the one you’ve got for as long as you possibly can, because more often than not, the old one will end up in the landfills,” says Wilson. Any kind of battery or e-waste rusts and the contents seep into the earth and contaminate the water. 

Day Seven: Step out into Mother Nature!
What better to do than spend a Sunday filling your lungs with fresh air, enjoying the great outdoors. The only downside to this is when these areas are polluted or spoilt because of litter or other forms of degradation. Sundays are family days – so go outdoors and make sure those environments are clean for generations to come. 
Step 1: Educate the young about cherishing earth
Take young family members out into natural surroundings – either a beach, forest or park and encourage them to value the beauty of the area. Children are the future – and greening the planet continues through the actions of the young. “If everyone picks up three pieces of litter every time you go to a beach, it’ll add up to a huge difference,” says Ocean Minded brand manager, Tim Starke. “Never before has our earth been under so much pressure, the human race is stretching the earth’s resources to all ends. It’s going to be in our generation that we either destroy our earth beyond repair, or protect what is left for our descendants. Education is key to emphasising this to our children. Apart from its life-sustaining nature, we derive so much pleasure and enjoyment from our outdoor environment. It’s essential that we protect our chosen playgrounds.”
Step 2: Get involved; volunteer and clean the planet
“Cleanliness starts at home, so explore your area to see where help is needed. The Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa, as well as your local aquarium, zoo, museum and municipality often organise local clean-up programmes which you can volunteer for,” says marine biologist, Siani Tinley. “It is important now to realise that the environment encompasses the world that we live in and that every daily action we choose to make has an effect on our environment.” 

Ordinary South Africans doing the extraordinary for the planet

  • Mary Honeybun (76) collects bread tags for wheelchairs when she isn’t helping her 10-year old grandson with his homework. For one wheelchair to be secured, about 50 kilograms or 141,400 bread tags need to be collected and given to the recycler, which amounts to about R1550 per wheelchair. “This is not just about wheelchairs for the less fortunate – it is also about saving the environment,” says Honeybun. “Service to other people is the rent we pay for our room on earth – and this is what makes living worthwhile.”Contact Mary Honeybun on 021-789-1831 for more information on this worthy project. 
  • Designer, Adri Schütz started the Mielie Workshop in 2002, providing employment to over 40 talented crafters in Khayelitsha and other townships in Cape Town, by handcrafting handbags, accessories, homeware articles and 2010 soccer balls – all made from recycled materials. “We make something beautiful out of recycled materials that are usually thrown away by factories.” Contact the Mielie Workshop to find out more about their innovative products and how you can purchase them at 021-686-2026.
Author: Charlene Yared-West, Longevity Magazine, August 2010, p44.

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