I’ve just finished writing an article for Red: the Green Magazine about a rather personal issue. Friends and relatives scoffed and chuckled when they heard that I was researching the environmental implications of toilet paper, but by the time I was finished I saw my father-in-law carrying a 9-roll pack of greener loo-paper home from the store. My wife has also switched to the environmentally friendly option.
So which paper is best? Good ol’ cheap 1-ply. Any brand will do because they are virtually all made from recycled paper, but if you want the added benefit of knowing that your roll hasn’t been rolling down the highway accumulating a carbon footprint, Twinsaver is made in Cape Town, Durban and Gauteng, so you are virtually assured of a local roll if you buy it in one of those areas. Carlton is only made in Gauteng. Otherwise, look for a local manufacturer.
I’ve heard all the arguments against 1-ply. People say it actually costs more because you have to use twice as much. This is wrong on three counts. For starters single ply is more than half as thick as double ply, 5/8s as thick to be precise. And there are 500 sheets on a 1-ply roll—or should be—and only 350 sheets on a 2-ply roll. Finally, research suggests that people use about the same number of sheets regardless of the thickness.
The other argument against 1-ply is that it is rougher. I cannot deny that it is not quite as soft. So keep one roll of extravagant, environmentally noxious, virgin 2-ply on hand for those moments when some unmentionable condition makes you tender down there. And let us know if you find a 1-ply that you think is softer than most.
Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on any high-priced bog roll purporting to be “green.” If you want to know why, you can read the full article from Red below:
"How many trees have you flushed down the toilet in your lifetime? The South African paper industry is equipped to manufacture 4.7 kilograms of tissue a year for every man, woman and child in the country. So it is a reasonable estimate that consumers of tissue made from virgin wood will consume about a tree every decade.
Fortunately, South Africans have a large and growing range of options to reduce their loo-print, ranging from toilet paper made from sugar-cane fibre to 100-percent-recycled, 2-ply rolls. With choice comes confusion, however, and paying extra for green marketing may not help the environment. Often the cheapest rolls are also the greenest. When buying toilet tissue, saving the environment and saving money can go hand in hand.
For decades, most South Africans have been using 100 percent recycled toilet paper—without paying an extra cent. These shoppers did not even know they were making the environmentally friendly choice, though they might have noticed a few speckles in the paper that suggested its former existence as office paper. Three-quarters of the toilet rolls sold in South Africa are single-ply rolls that are usually tree-free, something shoppers would never know from reading the labels. The more expensive, two-ply toilet tissue is mostly made from virgin wood pulp.
The problem with virgin toilet paper is not the lost trees—they generally come from forest plantations where each harvested tree is replaced by a seedling. But toilet paper from wood pulp unleashes a host of other assaults against the environment for a product that gets used for only a few seconds. Tree farms take up land that could otherwise be home to diverse natural forests. The conventional pulping and pape-rmaking process uses twice as much water and far more energy than recycled toilet paper. And logs, pulp and tissue are regularly shipped all the way across South Africa, adding to virgin paper’s expansive carbon footprint. Recycled toilet paper, by contrast, is often sourced, manufactured and sold all in the same city.
In the past year, Woolworths has decided to turn these secret virtues of single-ply tissue into a marketing advantage. The packaging on their rolls now proudly proclaims that their toilet paper is “made from 100% recycled material” and is “as kind to the environment as it is to your skin.”
Another product to begin addressing environmental concerns about toilet paper is Essential Green, from Esspack. Sold in Cape Town pharmacies and at “green” stores such as Enchantrix in the Cape and Wellness Warehouse in Gauteng, Essential Green is made of 60 percent sugar-cane bagasse fibres.
Bagasse sounds like the perfect raw material for toilet paper. Sugar cane grows fast, the bagasse fibre is a waste byproduct of milling, and compared to wood it requires less energy to process. In addition, the paper mill that makes bagasse-based tissue, Sappi Stanger, uses one of the better bleaching processes: chlorine dioxide with hydrogen peroxide. These are the features that give Essential Green’s distributor, Esspack, the confidence to say: “Now you can have luxury, and care for the environment.”
But compared with 100 percent recycled tissue, sugar-cane toilet tissue does not seem quite so sweet. To add softness that bagasse lacks, Sappi adds 40 percent virgin wood pulp. Recycled tissue uses even less water and energy. And though bagasse may be a byproduct, Sappi is not rescuing it from landfills. Sugar mills normally burn the cane residue to produce the heat, steam and electricity they need. In fact, sugar-cane biomass is one of the few sources of renewable electricity in South Africa. The main sugar mill that supplies Sappi with bagasse actually has to burn more coal to compensate for the lost fibre.
Since the bagasse paper is produced by only one mill, it also travels farther. A 9-roll pack of Essential Green sold in Gauteng first had to be milled in KwaZulu-Natal and then cut and rolled in the Western Cape. Environmentally conscious shoppers are beginning to wise up to the importance of buying locally-farmed produce. Do they want to buy toilet paper that has traveled 2000 kilometres? (If you want to buy closest to home, check the label for a manufacturer in your province, or buy Twinsaver single ply which is made in three locations near major markets.)
Bleaching is another serious issue where recycled paper holds the green edge. For decades, paper mills turned brown wood into white paper and tissue by using pure chlorine, which results in carcinogenic dioxin, the pollutant that led to a ban on fishing and swimming in the Mvoti River downstream of a Sappi mill. Today almost all South African mills have switched to bleaching with chlorine dioxide, which eliminates most—but not all—dioxin pollution.
Consumers who want totally chlorine-free toilet paper have a few options. Much recycled one-ply paper, especially the cheaper, greyer grades, are unbleached. Nampak brightens its single-ply Twinsaver tissue by de-inking the recycled fibres with air bubbles and then brightening them with a totally chlorine-free process. Must Paper Industries of Nelspruit supplies a light-brown, unbleached virgin Enviro Toilet Paper. (Marketed in Cape Town by www.greenhome.co.za.) Brown toilet paper has not taken South Africa by storm, however. As the owner of Must Industries, Michiel Jansen, says, “the funny thing with toilet paper is that the whiter it is, the more acceptable it is to the market. It doesn’t matter what’s in it or how you get it white.”
Finally, imported Seventh Generation 2-ply recycled toilet paper has arrived on the shelves of Wellness Warehouse and other specialty stores. It costs a little more, and after traveling 15 000 kilometres from Canada, must have the worst carbon footprint of any toilet paper sold in South Africa. But it does at least prove that if South African tissue manufacturers saw a market for a reasonably soft, green, two-ply recycled toilet paper, they could make it. Gert Nell, corporate purchasing manager for Kimberly Clark makes the same point. Says Nell, “If consumers demand it, we will make it.”
Thinking of renovating or building a new home? Here are a few tips from Simon Gear to keep things green and sustainable.
1. Build Appropriately
Next time you’re in the Eastern Cape, do yourself a favour and stop by Grahamstown. Have a wander through the town and pause to think about the fact that many of the buildings you see there pre-date your grandparents’ births by half a century or more. And because they’ve lasted so long, every one of those buildings is inherently more eco-friendly than any modern development. Somewhere after the Second World War the building industry lost its pride and soul. Sure, there are a couple of worthwhile projects going up here and there, but I have yet to see anything that can compare to the quality of materials and craftsmanship used more than a century ago. So next time you build, be realistic. If you envisage this building being a testament to your time on the planet, do your bit. Pick decent, long-lasting materials. Employ the best builders you can afford and take your time and do it right. If you have something more temporary in mind, look at building with wood (or indeed straw, little pig) and thus dramatically reducing the footprint of the structure.
2. Think About What You Build With
Everything material has embodied energy. That is, energy that went into the creation of the material, and this energy needs to be taken into account when making decisions on the ecological footprint of a building. For example, the amount of energy (and associated emissions) that goes into making fired bricks or cement is substantial, whereas natural stone or wood will obviously have very low embodied energy. There are a host of green building techniques and materials on the market these days but you still need to do a little bit of research to confirm which is going to be best for your area and application. As a general rule, the closer to the site you can source your material, and the fewer production steps it has had to go through, the better. Same principles as green food, really.
3. Permeable Paving
One of the most difficult to manage side effects of our love for paved surfaces is the additional power created by water run-off that isn’t slowed by soil infiltration. This increased run-off means that water courses downstream have to cope with larger and faster flowing volumes of water than they would otherwise have to, often leading to quite severe erosion problems in places. By laying down permeable paving, surface run-off is slowed down as it slowly permeates the paving and seeps into the soil below, better mimicking a natural system and thereby maintaining a more natural cycle. You may not notice the difference immediately but a wetland a few blocks away may continue to receive its water flow in a more natural manner, making the knock-on effect enormous.
4. Leave Your Geyser Alone
Concentrate your power savings elsewhere. Geysers seem to come in for an awful lot of attention when it comes to power-saving ideas. Unfortunately, most geyser management plans are either geared towards shifting power demand away from peak periods, which doesn’t necessarily save you anything, or decreasing the effectiveness of the thing by turning down the thermostat. If you’re a showering household (and you should be) then lowering the temperature of the water will likely save you money as you will simply use less cold water to compensate. But if you bath, you’ll simply empty the geyser with the first draw, leaving no hot water for the second bath. As far as insulation is concerned, your geyser should already be well insulated, and there is some evidence that during our hot summer, insulation may land up increasing your electricity demand because you aren’t taking advantage of the hot roof space in which your geyser sits. One thing you can do is to switch it off when you go away for a few days but apart from that, you’re probably better off spending your time and money making savings elsewhere.
1. Expose Your Kids To Nature
A recent study of kids with attention deficit disorder (ADD) found that a 20-minute walk in a park made significant differences to things like attention span, hyperactivity and concentration. The researchers used a walk in a street as a control so they were able to prove that it was the environment that made the difference, not the exercise. That’s a big deal. Think back to your own childhood. Almost all my best memories seem to involve being left to get up to my own devices outdoors somewhere. We have a huge tendency to over-schedule our kids, both during term time and on holiday when really, what they most want, is to explore things for themselves. The good news here is that it is probably enough to take your kids somewhere unspoilt on holiday, without having to think of things to do once you get there. They’ll take care of that themselves.
2. Have Dirty Kids – And Fewer Allergies
Talk Radio 702’s tame radio doctor, Dr Harry Seftel, sums up parents’ responsibility to their children’s health perfectly: ‘Let them eat dirt’. We are way too precious with the little sweethearts these days, with the net result that our kids are a snivelly lot, prone to higher rates of allergies than ever before. Boot them out into the garden, encourage them to poke sticks (gently) at slugs and crickets, and generally just behave a little more like the sorts of kids Enid Blyton was always writing about. Kids who grow up dirty have a far better appreciation of the world around them and are generally healthier too. I should know; I was filthy then and am often barely presentable now.
3. Read To Your Kids
Reading to your kids at night is like getting free karmic parenting points. It creates a rhythm of getting them to go down at the same time each night, it decreases your stress levels by forcing you to actually stop what you’re doing for a bit and it has been shown to improve their health and their scores on a whole range of tests. And while you’re at it, you may as well try a little subtle propaganda. The stores are bursting with good, green kiddies books but I still haven’t seen one better than The Lorax by good old Dr Seuss.
4. Buy Battery-Free Toys For Your Kids
Go and have a look through your kids’ bedroom cupboard (or all over their floor if cleaning their room is their responsibility). How many of the electronic toys still work? 10%? And yet they still play with the things, unless they’ve been so badly designed that all their functionality is lost once the batteries are out. I remember very clearly realising at the age of about 5 that battery-powered toys just limited the scope of play that your imagination allowed. Toys that don’t contain batteries last longer, are easier to play with and are far more likely to still be in a condition where they can be passed on to someone else once your child has finished with them . And your kid won’t even notice the difference as he’ll be too busy playing with the box it came in anyway.
5. Green Your School Lunches
A huge amount of research has gone into linking school children’s diet with issues such as concentration, behaviour and attention spans. The correlation between school lunches that are good for the environment and lunches that are good for your kids is almost perfect. A good first rule is that just about anything that comes pre-packaged in single helpings ‘just right for the lunch box’ is unlikely to be good for either. Apart from that, nature provides the perfect pre-wrapped food in individual fruits. And leftovers are brilliant. Last night’s mince makes a solid sandwich filling. Low-GI sandwiches, some fruit and some protein in the form of a stick of biltong or some cheese, and you’re providing them with a serious head start over their sugar-stoked peers.
Going green can often seem like a daunting task, but the easiest and most efficient way to go a little greener, is to start at home. This doesn’t necessarily mean investing in new energy-efficient appliances or solar panels, although these are great ideas. Small changes in your home encourage daily practices and one place to start is in the kitchen.
Making the following changes can help you to save electricity without having to invest in new appliances:
- Match your pot or pan size to the size of the stoveplate. This ensures that the plate is not wasting energy by heating up the air around the pot. Similarly, avoid using a pot or pan that is too large for the plate.
- When you use the stove or oven, turn the heat off slightly before the food is ready to allow the heat remaining in the pot, stove plate or oven to finish cooking the food.
- Use a kettle to heat water. It requires only half of the electricity as boiling water on the stove. Ensure that you don’t boil more water than is needed, that the element is always covered, and that the kettle is turned off when it starts to boil.
- When you cook legumes, such as beans and lentils, let them soak overnight to soften up first and save on cooking time.
- Regularly check that the rubber seal on your oven is intact. Perished seals can allow heat to escape, which results in increased electricity usage.
- As a general rule, use the smallest appliance that you can for your cooking needs to save on energy and always check the energy efficiency ratings.
- Defrost frozen food overnight by leaving it in the fridge rather than using a microwave to defrost it.
For more tips on how you can save energy and costs every day,
With the holiday season quickly approaching, here are a few tips from Simon Gear on making your holiday season a little bit greener.
Buy Simple Presents
Too many of us allow the whole holiday gift-giving thing to become far too much of a strain and we invariably land up buying gifts for the sake of it, rather than finding things that are actually going to be used and appreciated. The best possible piece of advice I can give here is to make a list of everyone you will be gifting and then take yourself off to your local organic market. In about half an hour you can fill up with the most fantastic range of sweets and preserves, all of which will be appreciated and all of which will cost neither you nor the planet much at all.
Give Green Year-End Gifts To Your Workforce
The opportunities to change people’s lives with fairly simple gifts are boundless, particularly if you employ people who live well outside the big city centres. Start by chatting to your workers and getting a sense of what sort of lives they lead back home. You may well find that a simple gift like a basic solar-powered LED lighting system or a hot box cooker could make a huge difference. Other opportunities include a seed set for a trench garden (plus a company training day to teach people how to plant it); ceiling boards for RDP houses; or water barrels to keep veggie gardens hydrated. Expand the footprint of your business out into the lives of the people who work with you.
Reuse Wrapping - Buy Gift Packets/Bags
Words cannot express the joy I felt when, about a decade ago, the fashion arose of no longer wrapping gifts but rather just plunking them in one of those gift packets. I’ve never been able to wrap any package without it coming out looking like a parcel bomb post-explosion, so to spend a little extra and just pop it in the packet right there in the shop, felt like a personal blessing from the Ghost of Christmas Present. And then it got even better. Because you don’t really do anything with the bag but carry it straight over to your girlfriend’s house and hand it to her, everyone now has a collection of these packets in near mint condition. We should never have to buy wrapping paper again.
Buy Gifts Online At Charity Sites
You never think of it until it’s too late so I’m suggesting it now. Probably the best way to give great gifts that also have a sustainable aspect to them is to start doing your gift shopping online at charity websites. These days almost all of the large charities have some form of online shop. The merchandise available ranges from stuff very specific to the work of that organisation to pretty comprehensive collections of guide books, organic products and clothing. If you're in South Africa, browse around, but www.ewt.org.za and www.panda.org.za are good places to start.
If you celebrate Christmas, www.paperlesschristmas.org is great fun. It is a virtual advent calendar with video clips and so on behind each door. The site is run by BRF, a British church-based charity, and the site is a good example of crossing the boundary between tradition and technology. The clips are very kiddie friendly and the whole site is slick and well managed. The thinking behind it is partially to set up paperless alternatives to traditional Christmas favourites, such as advent calendars and cards. Of course, I found that it served to remind my son of his chocolate-filled real word calendar, rather than to distract him from it. But it still proved a fun way to start the day together throughout the Christmas period.
Get A Real Tree...But Not A Whole One
I’m not a huge fan of pine trees. They are completely wrong for the South African landscape; always looking somehow dirty and bedraggled, and their habit of poisoning the soil at their base makes them an appalling choice for a garden. But when compared to a plastic tree, they sneak in above bottom. The thing about Christmas trees is that there is no reason to have a whole one. Assuming you want to go traditional and have something pine-like in the first place, simply finding a pine tree and sawing off a lower branch provides you with a perfectly sized tree for the living room. Otherwise, finding an interesting piece of drift wood or just bringing in an entire pot plant is likely to work just as well. The nice thing about fetching a likely pine branch is it rapidly becomes one of those annual Christmas memories for dads to share with their kids.
As part of its commitment to being a sustainable bank, Nedbank supports its clients as they take steps to reduce their impact on the environment.
In following this philosophy, Nedbank has released the Carbon Footprinting Guide and the Nedbank Green Living Guide, to enable both businesses and individuals to participate in reducing carbon emissions and committing to sustainable living. Even the smallest change can make a difference, when enough people make that change and greening the home is an effective place to start.
How Do I Green My Home?
Did you know that around 29% of the average energy consumption by middle-to-upper-income households is used to heat water in an electric geyser? There are several solutions to this, which will see electricity savings and, of course, more money in your pocket. Start by looking at water heating options that offer immediate savings:
- Solar Heating – Solar water heaters can save you between 25% and 40% of the electricity used by conventional geysers. There are various options for homeowners to choose from to take advantage of Africa’s abundant sunshine.
- Heat Pumps – These use between 50% and 70% less energy than a traditional electric geyser, and do not require roof space of direct sunlight.
- Geyser Settings, Timers and Insulation – For homes with geysers, reducing the temperature at which the geyser is set can save you around 10% for every 1℃ you reduce -. Installing a geyser timer means you won’t have to pay the costs of your geyser maintaining a high temperature all day, but will enjoy hot water when it’s needed. You could also turn your geyser off manually and back on again an hour before you need it. Whichever method you choose to save on electricity, a geyser blanket is an ideal way to save electricity and cash, as the insulation keeps the geyser hotter longer.
Space Heating And Cooling
With temperatures dropping drastically during winter nights and rising considerably in summertime, using electric heaters and air conditioners is commonplace – and costly. There are ways of heating and cooling living spaces without overdoing electricity usage. Here are some of them:
- Ceiling insulation – In 2011 it became compulsory for new homes to have ceiling insulation, but adding insulation to older homes is a simple job and can save you a lot of money. Call in a reputable company for a quote and ensure they offer you sustainable options.
- Draft proofing – Gaps in your doorways and windows allow cold air in and heat inside to escape. Sealing tape is easy to use, inexpensive and effective at keeping drafts out.
- Window dressings – Thicker curtains in winter can help to keep the cold out and leaving them open for the sunlight to enter during the day warms up a home – providing you close them as soon as the sun goes down to retain the heat.
- Air conditioners – Electric air conditioners are massive electricity hogs and should be used sparingly, if at all. Use a floor fan when necessary – they use about 100 watts on the highest speed, where an air conditioner can use up to 1 500 watts. If you must use an air conditioner, set it to no more than 10℃ lower than the outside air temperature.
- Use the breeze it’s free – Open windows and doors at night to let hot air out and make sure they’re open on both sides of your home to encourage a good through-draft. During the hot summer days, blinds and shutters can help to keep direct sunlight out of your living space; and light coloured curtains won’t absorb as much heat as dark ones.
There are many simple ways to use less electricity – which means a cost saving to you while also lessening your impact on the environment. Share these easy-to-implement tips with your family, and have all family members play their part.
For more tips on how you can save energy and costs every day,
Set your washing machine to 30°. Go and have a look at your washing machine. No rush, I’ll wait … Any idea what all those dials and settings mean? No, me neither. If you’re anyone other than an R&D specialist for one of the big washing machine companies, I’m prepared to bet that apart from some early fiddling when you first got the thing, you just leave your machine on one setting and be done with it. So if you’re going to leave it on one setting, it may as well be a green one. Modern washing powders are such that you can get away with washing clothes at much lower temperatures than was needed in the past. A whole movement has sprung up in Europe encouraging people to set their machines to wash at 30°. This simple act should save around 40% of the energy used to wash your clothes.
Only run dishwashers when full. Your dishwasher is actually an energy- and water-saving device provided you only run it when it’s full. Then you’re deriving maximum benefit as it uses the same amount of water and energy whether you’re cleaning the detritus from a debauched dinner party or just one tea cup. And limit the amount of rinsing you do before you pack the dishwasher (you can see a husband is writing this, huh?). I’ve seen plenty of very sweet, well-meaning little old ladies who insist on just about polishing plates until they glow before popping them in the washer. If you’re going to do that, you may as well cut the washer out entirely and do your dishes by hand. Dishwashers are actually pretty good at what they do, provided you pack the stuff properly. Let them do their work.
Don’t overload your fridge The more stuff in your fridge, the harder it has to work at keeping everything cold. Don’t pack your fridge with bottles and jars that haven’t been opened yet or scraps of food and leftovers that you know you aren’t going to eat. Rather than waste the energy required to keep it cold, be honest with yourself about the stuff that you know is going to land up as compost and direct it straight to the earthwormery without storing it lovingly for four days first. On that note, allow food to have cooled naturally first before refrigerating it. All you’re achieving by putting warm food into the fridge is forcing it to work a bit harder and running the risk of cracking any glass panels, as the shelves try to expand from the heat and contract from the cold at the same time. Also, leave space between items in your fridge to allow efficient cooling. The more spread out everything in your fridge is, the more efficiently it’s cooled, thus saving you power. This is also true of leftovers. Rather than keeping food in a narrow pot that will be difficult to cool, decant food into a thinner flatter Tupperware, which will retain less heat and probably be easier to store too.
Small Appliances vs. Your Stove
Use small appliances rather than your stove whenever possible. If your recipe calls for boiling water, it is much more efficient to boil the water in your kettle and then transfer it into your pot on the stove rather than to boil water from scratch on the hot plate. Using smaller appliances rather than larger ones will save you energy. Boiling using a kettle, reheating small amounts in the microwave and blending or liquidising using a hand-held mixer are all better than using large appliances for the same functions.
Connecting people across continents. Delivering breaking news. Enabling government transparency. Facilitating social revolutions. Stopping global warming?
The Internet is capable of doing so much, but perhaps the idea that it can help rescue the planet from runaway global warming comes as a surprise to you.
Every time we post a Facebook status to our friends, watch the latest episode of our favorite show on Netflix, or tweet to our followers, that information is housed in giant data centers which require a lot of electricity. These data centers are a key part of the cloud, and a single one can require as much energy as a medium-sized city.
If cloud computing were a country, it would rank sixth in the world on the basis of how much electricity it uses, and the amount of data shuttling around the world is expected to triple in the next few years as more and more people get connected.
The Internet we love, and the companies that run it, are at a crossroads in terms of where their energy comes from. Many of these companies have already chosen the road to a green internet and a sustainable future. Facebook, Apple and Google have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, in response to users around the world who have asked them for a greener internet. Other fast-growing technology companies, like Salesforce, Rackspace and Box, have joined them in making the same commitment, proving that 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible for any company with the will.
By contrast some of the most popular online companies, including social media sites that we use every day like Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, still power their platforms with fossil fuels and nuclear energy. The largest cloud company currently is Amazon Web Services, a division of Amazon.com, and hosts the data for some of the most popular online brands in the world. But unlike other major online brands like Google and Apple, Amazon is still primarily powering its digital empire with the dirty sources of energy that threaten our communities and our climate. Of course, Amazon doesn't have to remain stuck in the energy sources of the 1800s. Energy sources like wind and solar made up for more than half of all the new electricity in the United States in 2012.
Meanwhile digital pioneers are making our world greener, both online and offline. Apple is operating the largest privately owned solar installation in the U.S. at one of its data centers. Facebook pushed a U.S. power company to supply its data center with 100 percent wind energy. Google has pioneered the use of clean power purchases, buying wind energy to provide electricity for its services like Gmail and YouTube, as well as the rest of the power grid.
If Amazon and others want to stay innovative and relevant, it's high time they made the switch to the abundant, sustainable, renewable energy of today.
Simply put, we need a greener online to preserve a greener offline.
The Internet has helped move the world to more freedom, transparency and democracy. It's only natural that it moves the world to a clean energy revolution that will last for generations to come. These companies can make that happen, but only if they hear from you.
Join me in asking our favorite Internet companies to commit to 100 percent renewable energy for their data centers.
I am turning 40 this year and I’ll admit that even at this age, I often battle with the fact that I’m a person challenging convention which means I’m often the more ‘abnormal’ in a group.
Despite undoubtedly being classified as proper grown-up now with a pocket full of competencies and coping skill to call on in difficult situations, I still often find it uncomfortable that I’m just not the same and face the wrath of people whom I irritate because the information I disperse about food challenges the norm, makes people have to look at their attitude to nutrition and it can and does sometimes make people defensive. This is often a huge pity because it is meant to be an empowering journey toward claiming greater health but that’s a story for another day.
The point is that you’ve got to be quite powerfully connected to your own internal compass to face the rejection you risk when you challenge convention in order to lead the change you believe in and stand for.
You’ve also got to be mindful that the modern day mother’s context particularly is pretty heavy and complex.
Woman are fed up in spades of feeling inadequate on some level and carry guilt as a matter of course, they’re guilty if they work, they’re guilty if they don’t, they face a juggling act between home and work and a busy modern day world, self esteem can run pretty thin, most woman are not up for anymore messages that say that they aren’t good enough or that make any further demands on their time. Most woman I meet, somewhere, don’t feel like that they quite measure up to some virtual ideal out there of what a modern day successful woman should be.
You can see then why having to deliver the message that the convenience that they get from being relieved of having to spend time in the kitchen, through industrial and refined foods, isn’t actually as convenient as it appears isn’t an easy message to deliver.
The convenience of outsourcing your pantry to big food, is going to end up in less energy, more trips to the Doctor ultimately and the inconvenience of disease down the line. This is no exaggeration – the global stats show rising levels of cancer, heart disease and diabetes in more affluent societies.
This generation faces the most industrial and toxic environment yet – what our immune systems have to contend with now compared to even 50 years ago – isn’t the same.
We know how rare ‘real food’ has become when we try to source organically grown, untainted fresh farm produce and find it scarce. We know how rare naturally raised meat is to find because we see how difficult it is to find farms that can afford to raise animals in a true free-range environment on a diet they are most naturally to.
I know this only too well because I have tried to build up a business selling organic food and still battle to create a shop with anywhere near enough in, the produce is scarce. If I wanted to sell industrially which now also means conventionally farmed produce with artificial fertilizers, pesticides and in a way that harms the environment, erodes biodiversity and pollutes the soil – I could fill a shop in a tick. In a heartbeat. The difficulty would be service and establishing a brand and a store people want to head to, my difficulty would not be with supply. There is an abundance of conveyor belt and conventionally farmed toxic food out there – it is our normal.
If it is this difficult as an adult to be abnormal and go against the grain by eating real food, we need to be mindful of what our children are put through when we assert their right to proper nutrition amongst a ‘norm’ that has somewhere between 50 and 100 tsp. of refined sugar a day, chemicals, additives and preservatives laying the foundation for diabetes and ailing immune systems in adulthood, as a daily matter of course in their lives.
If this is the ‘norm’ and we know it is and we know how much courage it can take to challenge convention and stand out, what is it like for children who are eating healthy food who have radically different lunch boxes in the classroom?
Do they get ostracized for being different? Do they find it difficult to manage the contradictions they see and hear? If we tell them that we aren’t feeding them unhealthy food because we love them, does that mean in their little minds those children who eat refined junk foods have parents who don’t love them? Do we mean to tell them that when we know this isn’t true. Might it confuse them mightily? They know their friends are loved and yet some of their friends are eating foods we demonize because we are aware of the strain these food burdens their systems with. What are little brains and hearts to make of this? What happens when they go to parties and want to eat the sweets and rubbish that the other ‘normal’ children are eating, food they have been told is ‘bad for them’ – what are they to do with the guilt? It’s a tough enough minefield to manage as an adult; do we need to think about how our children are managing this? I know we do because of the challenges I face navigating through this with my daughter.
When I want to see my friends, there’s a fair amount of very non-organic food and alcohol flowing, friendship means the world to me and is a large part of my emotional health, I am adamant that to not spend good time with them – including eating what they are eating and stay home with my organic green juice alone – would not be healthy. I have that t-shirt and I won’t ever be putting that one back on.
We have to talk very seriously about children. As much as we talk about the impact of refined food, chemicals, sugar and preservative on their health – we have to cast a lens at the emotional landscape of eating with them – particularly when we know that rightly or wrongly – eating healthy food in our current landscape is actually not normal. That’s how severely dysfunctional our nutritional world is right now.
I’ve really been worried about this lately and had to find a way to navigate myself and my daughter through a difficult issue but just yesterday morning we had a break through. I’m going to share this with you because it’s a vital part of the Jozi Real Food conversation with regards to children.
My daughter is the daughter of a food activist really, for all of her life; she has had the experience of eating food very different to what her friends eat. I can’t divorce her from this reality any more than I can get her a new mother. It’s a part of our household and I’ve walked some interesting paths on this topic and it has not been easy and remains challenging.
Along the way, I have had to adapt and throw some of my most informed principles down the toilet in order to allow her breathing room to be normal and to reduce the tension around food that can crop up when her friends are running around with blue fizzers and I’m offering blueberries.
This surprises people, but I am not one of those people anymore who will stick to a principle if it causes too much tension for my loved ones. I used to be. Nowadays, I don’t attach half as much weight to my need to be right and principled as my need to be flexible and open enough to give others the space to be regardless of what I believe. I guess that’s another great topic actually for another day- but let’s just say we live in a more relaxed household nowadays. I still only buy organic food from farms I know but I’m far less rigid, far more flexible and when Kiara is in scenes where my friend’s children are eating rubbish that she wants to eat too, I breathe, let go, relax. That doesn’t mean I let go of the principle, it means I love my family more than my principles.
But there are lines in the sand, there is a point beyond which I can’t relax without compromising myself too much and there must always be boundaries around that. That’s a very delicate tightrope to walk at times.
Anyhow – to the heart of the story – finally. I’ve been worried about my daughter’s lunch-boxes. She doesn’t get lunch-boxes like the rest of the class. White bread doesn’t enter our house. Actually we don’t do bread at all because I just don’t see any great nutritional reason to do so and far too many great reasons to avoid it, unless it’s sourdough. But that’s not soft, white, fluffy bread with softeners in, it’s real bread, it’s different.
She does not get chocolates and packets of anything off a conveyor belt in her lunch-box. She gets fruit and dried fruit and chopped up bits of peppers, tomatoes, cheese or cucumbers as additions to her main lunch, which is always leftovers from the night before. We always have an abundance of great organic cooked dishes around our supper table and we always cook enough and make enough salads that they can fill lunch-boxes the next day so that there is no need for sandwiches.
The thing is, this automatically makes her different. It is not cool for a 7 year old to be different. At 7, you’re trying your level best to fit in, not stand out.
So when I found out recently that Kiara gets teased sometimes for her lunches and has children mock the smell that comes out of her lunchbox with cooked food in, I found myself back on that delicate tight-rope feeling quite miserable.
I have a line in the sand about sandwiches and bread that isn’t negotiable. I am not having my daughter eating a mouthful of preservatives and chemicals in a fluff of dead industrial wheat containing additives linked to ADHD that are banned in other countries. That’s a line. Having her teased though and feeling embarrassed about her lunch-box, is another line. Over my dead body am I going to be let her go through that either so we’re making some adjustments.
Yesterday morning though, we were chatting about it in the kitchen and we came up with this breakthrough together.
We were chatting about this lunch-box issue because I was packing cottage pie for her and we were thinking about how we can handle the kids that tease her because she isn’t eating sandwiches and has meals for lunch. I wasn’t lecturing her; it was a real sort of chat where both her and I were exploring how we can handle this. So I asked her whether there are other children who have different lunches, so she said ‘yes, a girl called Nosipho has chicken and mielies and gravy and salad for lunch.’ So I said to her the thing is Kiara, we can’t start giving you unhealthy food that we know isn’t good for you just because the other kids are eating it and are teasing you. We have to teach them, we can’t let them make you unhealthy, what do you think? She was happy with this idea. So I said ‘what if, you start making a fuss about Nosipho’s lunch?’. Whenever Nosipho opens her lunch-box why don’t you say something like ‘oh wow Nosipho, that looks really delicious, what a great lunch, it looks so much tastier than sandwiches, you’re so lucky’! The child was beside herself with amusement at this idea. Then she got all comical and dramatic and we started dramatizing this idea into something ludicrous until we were both in hysterics. We had her yelling ‘OH WOW NOSIPHO, YOU HAVE THE MOST AMAZING LUNCH, EVERYBODY COME SMELL IT’, we then took it too far as 7 year olds just love doing – and we were sketching scenes of teachers and the whole class coming to see Kiara and Nosipho’s lunch – it got very funny, the tension of the topic is eased and now Kiara has a new strategy to help her deal with the fact that her lunch is different that actually empowers her and better still – if she can find the courage to pull this off, can make space for new norms in the class-room.
We need to be mindful, this taught me, that if we are going to be out there challenging convention – which is what the Jozi Real Food Revolution is all about – we must equip our children with the skills they need to manage it. We need to be sensitive to the burden it places on them to be different and to empower them in these conversations and we need to know when to relax a principle in the name of love. We need to know where our boundaries are, white bread and coke are 2 of mine that come to mind – and we need to keep open dialogue with our children and help them creatively manage the spaces they find themselves in. My daughter is particularly feisty and can assert herself but what about children who can’t, they may need more support.
It might sound dramatic to be putting it like this – but it really is – in my experience – that serious out there – that if your child eats healthy food and has real food in their lunch-boxes – they are in the minority. The majority of lunch-boxes contain food out of packets – they just might be taking some strain about this. Let’s take care with our children.
Whilst their physical health is mightily important and affects their cognitive ability, their energy levels throughout the day, the strength of their immune systems, their ability to focus and participate – their social health is equally as important. Their ability to integrate into society is paramount to their relationship with their world. Even if society is wrong, and we know this is true when it comes to the food that has become normal – the value of being right is negligible if it cause social harm and disease and if you’re sitting too far removed from society, you’re going to battle with emotional health – I’m adamant about this.
Let’s be mindful that the energy around food must be joyful and nourishing, once it gets too tense, let that be your guideline that something needs to be adjusted and let’s be very, very kind to our children and help them stand up and for real and healthy food in a way that empowers them and provide open arms and ears to the challenge that being different can bring to them.
A landmark study conducted by animal science researchers in California now demonstrates that feeding dogs fresh, healthy, whole food diets instead of highly processed kibble and cans results in improvements in measures of health.
The true judge as to whether a diet is “perfect” for both dog and human is based on whether they are able to provide the correct pH balances, with a leaning towards alkalinity. Thus, when one looks at popular human diets, this important formula is always fulfilled.
The Banting Diet, promoted by our own legendary Professor Tim Noakes, fulfils these requirements. Often his proposed diet is misunderstood. He is actually advocating a high fat diet with low refined carbohydrates, rather than a high meat protein diet. Looking thoroughly into his diet and recipes, the contribution of his veggies (predominantly alkaline) supersedes and balances the acidity from the meat content. Remember, fat, mostly has a neutral impact on PH.
Therefore, when preparing diets for our pets the same considerations should be applied as to the way we prepare human nutritional foods. A Banting Diet for Dogs would be an exceptional dietary plan suitable for the whole family.
Looking at commercial pet foods in pellet/kibble form, it is quite clear why such diets cannot perform. The main ingredients are refined carbs - brewers rice, wheat and corn gluten, potato meal, soya meal and animal meals. As a matter of fact, such refined carbs are rated as “extremely acidic” and their contribution way overrides any alkaline ingredients that may come from this diet.
The same arguments follow for diets that contain copious amounts of meat (raw or cooked). In the last few years, there has been a trend to feed our companion animals a high raw meat diet. Meat too is classified as an “extremely” acidic.
Acidosis will lead to inflamed cells, reduce immunity and lead to an array of health ailments like skin disorders, arthritis and the formation of kidney stones.
The recent landmark veterinary studies from West Hollywood California support what human nutritionists have been advising for decades – “stay clear of heavily processed foods, and eat wholesome, balanced meals that are prepared fresh from the highest quality ingredients available, are lightly cooked, and have no preservatives. This same advice appears to be true for our canine best friends.”
Based on these findings, let’s see how Professor Tim Noakes’s Banting Diet would fulfill the nutritional requirements of our dogs by looking at some of his golden rules:
- This is not a high protein diet. It's a high fat, medium protein, low carb way of eating
- Choose real foods that look like what they are, and cook them from scratch
- Fat is not the enemy. Enjoy it! – Fat is essential for our dogs
- Eat only when you are hungry; eat until you are satisfied we control the feeding of once or twice a day
Therefore, whether you are preparing a meal for yourself and children or your four-legged companion members, The Banting Diet, is recommended for the entire family.
Banting diets are well established already and there are hundreds of recipes to follow. It is lifestyle choice. What we are saying is that if you are a “banter” or follow any popular human diet, they are all appropriate and excellent for your dogs.
Guidelines and Recipe
There are only two considerations in formulating a natural and nutritious home cooked meal for your companion animals. The first is the ingredients that you use and the second is the method used to cook these ingredients.
- Your recipe should include up to third meat, a third wholesome grains (non refined)gand a third vegetable and greens. The meat can be beef, chicken (pref free range), mutton and/or ostrich.
- The grains should include brown rice, lentils, barley and soup mix. Your vegetable mix should include blended raw carrots, garlic, a variety of fresh herbs and cold pressed olive oil.
What is important to note when cooking, is that the grains must be cooked thoroughly. This will make them easily digestible and maintain all there nutritional values. Only afterwards, once you have turned off the gas/electricity will you add your meat content.
Finally you mix in your vegetable blend. Herbs like mint, sage, lemon verbena are also very useful herbs for treating the skin.
by: Paul Jacobson
Paul Jacobson is a regular guest on Radio 702 and Capetalk Radio and writes for many health and animal publications on natural and holistic pet care. Paul is a pet food nutritionist, qualified chef and owner of Vondis Holistic Pet Nutrition. Vondis was a finalist in the Nedbank Capetalk Small Business Awards for their contribution to animal welfare and care.