It’s eco, it’s online, and it’s part of the new normal.

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Corn based, biodegradable dental floss packaged in glass

Near where I live there is a retailer that I used to frequent, where the doors remain closed after months, with no sign of change. While the harsh Lockdown regulations of a few months back have been eased more recently, this particular outlet has stuck to online trading only, and it seems they may keep it that way. From what I see, they are doing well and flourishing in the wave of online shopping that appears to be a big part of the new normal. Buying online is not something that has interested me much in the past: now and then I would order a book or two from overseas, or a DVD (although these days we use Netflix at home rather than DVDs), or something nice from Faithful to Nature in Cape Town. I have always enjoyed purchasing from FTN from time to time, because they sell the kind of products that I like and believe in from an ethical standpoint, and I love the way that they consider the environment and other pertinent issues as part of the normal run of their business. At a time where I sometimes feel that trying to get things done in an efficient and ethical way is like pulling teeth or jumping through hoops, it is  pleasure to find a local, home grown company that just gets it right in so many ways. Continue reading

Is there something wrong with this picture?

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Brown  MushroomsPexels.com

In the early years of microwave ovens, when I still lived at home with my parents, there was the adage of ‘don’t cover your food with cling film in the microwave, it will give you cancer.’ Whether the whole truth or not, a lot of people remain instinctively mistrustful of single use plastics, whether out of concern for personal individual health or environmental health. I for one choose not to use cling film. I have not used it for many years and never have it in the house. I prefer to find other ways of wrapping and storing my food. There is enough evidence to conclude that single use plastics ultimately do our health no favours, and it cannot be argued that it is wreaking havoc upon our natural environment as we speak. They remain however, a cheap and convenient kitchen and pantry aid. It is this convenience that attracts us, and keeps us coming back for more. October is breast cancer awareness month in South Africa. And while thankfully it has not affected me personally, I know plenty of women (it can affect men too), including a sibling, who are breast cancer survivors. Continue reading

Being an eco-considerate neighbour (despite the neighbours)

 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Out on the street, on the pavement at the driveway entrance of my neighbour’s property, water is flowing out unchecked from underneath a municipal water main’s cover. This has continued unabated for weeks. Our precious natural resources flowing down the street– wasted, unharnessed, unused. This particular neighbour and I have been trying to get the matter resolved: endless calls to the Municipality (COJ), some of which have gone unanswered; and most recently my calls and emails to our local Councillor who, with his own particular frustrations in being able to influence the matter, was yet hopeful that it would be resolved by last Friday 02 October. But still nothing. I have posted messages on our street’s Whatsapp neighbourhood group, suggesting that others jump in to call COJ and put pressure on them there. My thinking is that if others get involved, we may have a better chance of expediting a positive result. Continue reading

A quick post about a quick garden soup.

Freshly picked garden greens

 

I haven’t blogged about my garden in a while, and there is no time like the present as here in the global South we move steadily into Summer with temperatures in Johannesburg heading into the upper 20’s, and the first of our wonderful seasonal thunderstorms making an appearance. For me there is nothing that shouts Summer like  those lovely soothing Highveld rains, bringing moisture and nourishment to our thirsty gardens, and that unmistakable fresh earthy tang to the air. One of the tasks that I set myself as we go into our summertime here, is to try not to let anything go to waste, although our home grown compost heaps take care of any surplus anyway. Nevertheless, I like to make full use of all that we grow, so that it ends up on our plates as far as possible, and not on the compost heap. I grow a lot of Asian Greens here in our garden in the winter time. They grow beautifully here, in the relatively protected area under the branches of the  almond and the apple trees, safe from the harshest of the cold and the threat of overnight winter frost. But come the first weeks of the warmer weather, typically from late August and beyond, the greens will rapidly go to seed, with little yellow flowers appearing on long stems which suddenly ‘bolt’ almost overnight in the warm, dry weather before the rains come. Continue reading

Black Friday: where is YOUR money going this time?

 

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I have stayed away from the shops today, and I will not be going online to look for Black Friday deals. Yesterday on a local radio station the guest for the morning was a representative from SADAG, Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. She invited listeners to go to the SADAG website and make a donation. “Do Something Memorable This Black Friday: Save A Life”, says their Welcome Page. I went ahead and made my online donation, pleased to know that my contribution is enough to cover their costs for telephone counselling for 10 people in need over the holiday period, or any other time.

 

Amongst its many services to thousands of South Africans in need, the group manages a crisis and referral call-in centre, managed by volunteers. One of the things she discussed was the rise in numbers of calls that they can expect over the upcoming holiday season. For many people, whether they live with mental illness or not, Christmas brings stress, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and a sense of being unable to cope.

 

 

And even amongst the luckiest of us, who doesn’t feel like skipping Christmas sometimes?! I consider myself fortunate to have friends and family to spend time with over Christmas, but it can feel like a lot of hard work and sometimes an ‘alternative’ Christmas, one that you can appreciate on your terms, sounds like the way to go. Like watching series for the day, on the couch, on your own, with just the dog and the cat for company. Or floating in the pool with a glass of bubbly or a cocktail (Southern Hemisphere Christmas has that kind of climate, so we have the advantage on this one 😉 ). Or just being able, guilt-free, to turn down that lunch invitation because you just don’t feel like it! How many of us get THAT one right? …. Or how about donating your time for the day to a good cause? Five years ago my husband and I spent the day helping prepare  and serve a Christmas lunch for a special needs group. Thing is, there is always more than one way of spending our time and our hard earned money, whether its for Christmas or for Black Friday. So maybe spend a little on a good cause. Its worth the effort, and you will feel the better for it 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the packaging outweighs the product.

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I needed a mobile case for my new Samsung cellphone. My husband returned from shopping with this very nice phone glove which fits and showcases my phone perfectly. What’s not so perfect is the packaging (plastic and cardboard casing with a plastic hook) which weighs three times as much as the phone glove, 54 grams to be precise, as compared to the phone glove’s 18 grams. The packaging did include some information about the phone glove’s features, durability tests (apparently it has been drop tested to military standard) and short history of the company, Body Glove. Very little reading really, which could quite happily have fitted onto something far more size- appropriate considering the weight and dimensions of the actual item which it contained.

The casing was clearly designed for display; hung up as it was for viewing by its little plastic hook in Vodacom’s accessories section. I understand that companies need to showcase their products in a way that consumers can see what it is that they are buying, but surely they can do better than this? In a time when there is a groundswell of support for individuals and companies to refuse excess packaging, especially plastic, this just seems unnecessarily wasteful and makes me think that companies who use this kind of marketing are out of touch and irresponsible. I say: rather set the bar higher for yourselves and for other companies to follow, and consider the environment when it comes to packaging and promoting your products. Yes, items such as electronic devices and their accessories need to be well packaged for protection against damage; this too needs to be considered. However when it’s a single layer of flexible silicone to wear over your cellphone, surely a too-large, box-like casing containing a layer of plastic and another piece of loose moulded plastic and a plastic hook is excessive. Especially when the packaging weighs 3 times as much as the product. Something is just wrong with that picture. Maybe I should write a letter of complaint/ suggestion to Samsung. And Body Glove. And Vodacom. Where to begin…….. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The history of plastic, and why it matters

 

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In my garden: Indigenous South African Clivias

 

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“We made it. We depend on it. We’re drowning in it”. This is the opening statement of an article on plastic in the June 2018 edition of National Geographic. The statistics, facts and figures come hard and fast, the kind of worrying information that we’ve become accustomed regarding the impact of plastic waste on our environment. “How did we get here? When did the dark side of the miracle of plastic first show itself?” is one of the questions raised. And it is significant that something once regarded as a ‘miracle”, a solution to many of our problems, is now demonized to the point that in 2013, scientists writing for Nature magazine declared that disposable plastic should be classified as a hazardous material.

The history of plastic matters because it reminds us of how our individual and global needs are often met by technology, and how plastic did and still does offer many vital and positive uses.

 

Laura Parker, who wrote the article, presents some interesting facts and background information. As far back as the 19th Century, we see the noble beginnings of plastic in its very early use in the form of a celluloid (derived from plant cellulose) billiard ball, designed as an alternative to the original billiard ball which at that stage was made of a scarce natural material: elephant ivory. Many years later there are untold numbers of ways in which plastic has featured in ours lives and influenced world events. World War 2 in the 20th Century was war on a whole new level, with the aid of nylon parachutes and lightweight airplane parts. Since then plastic has helped us to make great strides in areas as diverse as medicine and medical apparatus, travel by road, air and into outer space, and even the now-hated plastic water bottle, used to deliver clean drinking water to people in poor rural areas.

 

The Darker side of plastic crept in perhaps as more and more uses were discovered, and cheaper manufacturing processes were realised. In the early 20th Century the ”plastic revolution” took hold, as chemists discovered that they could create plastics even more cheaply and abundantly by using the waste gases emitted by petroleum oil refineries. It seemed that anything and everything could be made from plastic, with the added benefit that it was cheap to do so. A whole new world of possibilities had opened up and in 1955 a photograph in Life magazine appeared, titled ‘Throwaway Living’ featuring an American family celebrating the convenience of plastic cutlery, plates and cups. Single use plastics were already becoming a thing.

 

Quoting directly from the article: ” Six decades later, roughly 40 percent of the now more than 448 million tons of plastic produced every year is disposable, much of it used as packaging intended to be discarded within minutes after  purchase. Production has grown at such a breakneck pace that virtually half the plastic ever manufactured has been made in the past 15 years……The growth of plastic production has far outstripped the ability of waste management to keep up: that’s why the oceans are under assault. ”

 

It is important to note is that all plastics cannot be arbitrarily labelled as ‘bad”. In many of it’s forms it fills essential functions and continues to save lives daily. On a positive note it is worth remembering that the plastic waste issue is gaining attention and that genuine efforts are being made to address the problem by individuals, corporations and whole countries. May this move continue from strength to strength.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a gizmo in my pickles: the problem of hidden plastic

 

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In my garden: Bullrushes in seed

 

There they were: lovely glass-packaged, tasty looking tidbits, all glossy and tempting in their see-through casing, just waiting to be opened up with that nice Pop which you hear when you first unscrew the metal top. I was unpleasantly surprised and slightly shocked to find a cheap looking piece of whitish plastic, all leggy and holey, looking a bit futuristic and not remotely related to food.

 

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The jar of pickles was a gift from a thoughtful family member and I was very pleased to receive it. The very same company makes a delicious red pepper chutney which I buy often. I like the brand: made locally in South Africa, using nice simple packaging, and always in glass. Their products are available on many supermarket shelves, but they are not really one of the mainstream brands, retaining a bit of a ‘niche market’ feel. So I like to support them. The last thing I expected was to find this plastic gizmo thingy when I first unpopped the lid. It took me a few moments to realise what it was: a little mini-sieve that fits in the neck of the jar so that the brine or oil can be poured out, leaving the whole pickles behind. I fished the ungainly little thing out thinking, “well at least it may be recyclable”. But that’s not the point. I object because:

  • It adds nothing to my life: I have plenty of reusable metal sieves and strainers at home if I need help in separating solids from liquids. I appreciate that others might find this quite a handy little tool, but I do not. Especially not in plastic.
  • I should have been given the option as to whether to purchase this item or not. If the manufacturer had thought to include in their labeling, “For your convenience this item includes a plastic mini-sieve”, I could have made an informed decision. (OK, this situation was different in that it was a gift, which makes things a bit more tricky)
  • I am doing my best to reduce the amount of plastic that I bring home from the supermarket, and I do not appreciate unwelcome packaging surprises which now become my problem to dispose of.
  • But most of all, I am generally just tired of irresponsible food packaging. Surely the manufacturers could have done better in this case!!? …Could they not at least rather use a more sustainable source of material than plastic? What about a nice, once-off little metal sieve as a promotional item to offset and enhance their product? This could have gone a long way towards showcasing themselves as an environmentally and health conscious brand who are setting themselves apart from the plastic brigade. And especially for an extraneous, non-essential item like this one which a lot of people will end up throwing in the trash, intentionally or otherwise: rather create something more hard wearing and attractive, not just another cheap, forgettable piece of plastic.

 

It feels like high time for food companies to dig deep and really consider the environmental impact of what they are using to package and label their products. And at the end of the day to think about the impression that their choice of packaging may be creating of themselves as a brand. Hopefully in the near future we will see more legislation in place to rule out this kind of irresponsible food packaging. In the meantime, I’m off to enjoy a light lunch: cup of tea, tuna salad, and pickles 🙂