By Georgia Carter
Our Earth is not only holding the weight of the human world but also the hefty load of human waste we produce. Our environments are littered with plastic, our air is gassed with pollution, and our waterways are flooded with chemicals.
Caption: Cleaning product chemicals have been found in over 60% of America’s rivers, lakes, and dams.
Credit: Jeshoots, Unsplash
Trying to mitigate these harrowing facts can often feel like a hopeless mission. However, we as individuals hold the power of change within our palms. We can grasp certain habits and behaviours that can positively impact the planet and those who reside on it.
One of the ways to curb both plastic and water pollution is simple - do it yourself. Making your very own cleaning products is a simple yet extremely effective sustainable solution to decrease waste of all kinds.
In this post, we unearth the dangers of store-bought cleaning products, why making your own at home is better for the environment, and six recipes for different cleaning and hygiene products.
Easy, accessible, and affordable, this is your guide to homemade non-toxic products.
The dangers of cleaning products
Cleaning and hygiene products, such as all-purpose cleaners and toothpaste, generally contain harmful chemicals that pollute our waterways. Many of these products come in plastic packaging, often of the type that is seemingly impossible to recycle, not to mention the destructive process required to make the products themselves. These products can also have harmful impacts on humans as we indirectly ingest particles of these chemicals.
Most importantly, toxic cleaning and hygiene items lead to an increased amount of chemicals that seep into our waterways. These hazardous chemicals enter ecosystems and cause devastation, eating away at the foliage, polluting the water, and becoming a part of the food chain. In fact, over 60% of rivers and lakes in the United States of America have been found to contain chemicals that derive from disinfectants. The problem is clearly becoming more prevalent.
Eventually, the chemicals that fail to break down make their way into the systems of fish and other marine and water animals. This causes havoc with biodiversity, ecosystems, and the health and wellbeing of all life on Earth. Not only do humans consume the very fish that they poison, which then poisons them, but we are also drinking up the discarded toxins. More than 250 different types of chemicals are found in our drinking water that none of us even know is there.
Caption: Cleaning products cause harm in many ways, including to our waterways, marine animals, and air quality.
Credit: CDC, Unsplash
The benefits of homemade cleaning products
Making your own hygiene and cleaning products has numerous benefits for your health, the planet’s wellbeing, and your wallet.
Below are the top five reasons DIY products are better:
1. Control over ingredients: You never know what’s really added to products made elsewhere. However, when you make your own items, you have complete control over what goes in them. This can help alleviate allergies in the house and mitigate the leaking of harmful toxins into the environment. It also means you won’t be passively consuming particles of harmful toxins that store-bought cleaning products are composed of.
2. Healthier home air quality: As mentioned above, when you have control over your own ingredients, you can choose healthier options. This often results in cleaner air quality as you’re less likely to opt for hazardous ingredients.
3. Cost-effective: Supply and demand for cleaning products are in a constant loop, and prices, therefore, rise with the years. However, when you make your own cleaning and hygiene products, you will only need a small measurement of certain ingredients which you can use to create more of the product you’ve made. This ends up being cheaper in the long run. You’re also reducing the demand for cleaning products, hopefully contributing to an overall end to the production of harmful products altogether.
4. Safe for the environment: When you have control over what goes into your cleaning products, your air, and your waterways, you have a say in what seeps into the environment. By creating your own products, you have the freedom to choose items that are healthier and less toxic for the environment as opposed to choosing ignorance.
5. Reduces plastic pollution: Many to almost all cleaning and hygiene products come in non-recyclable plastic packaging. Most of this waste is tossed after usage and ends up in landfills or the ocean. But when you curate your own products, you will not be contributing to plastic pollution. You can recreate your items in reusable containers and no waste is necessary.
Caption: DIY and homemade cleaning products are substantially better for the environment and one’s health.
Credit: Good Soul Shop, Unsplash
The best five DIY cleaning product recipes
Below are some of the easiest, most affordable, and eco-friendly recipes for homemade cleaning and hygiene products:
1. Coffee Exfoliator
Instead of purchasing a body or face exfoliator from the store, which often contains harmful chemicals that negatively affect both you and the environment, why not make one yourself? If you’re a filter coffee lover or have a friend that is, this is the perfect recipe for you.
Mix all together and voila!
2. All purpose cleaner
This is for those grimy countertops, the discoloured bath, and the stained floors. You don’t need a fancy product with tons of harmful chemicals to wash away any of this dirt.
Caption: An effective all purpose cleaner can be made with just three affordable and accessible ingredients.
Credit: Creme Joe, Unplash
Mix together and now you have an effective yet unbelievably simple and cost-effective all purpose cleaner! Pour your mixture into a spray bottle and shake before use. Bonus tip: for those really grimey surfaces and tough-to-clean stovetops, add a sprinkle of baking soda before topping with your all-purpose cleaner.
This hygiene product is detrimental to our health as well as the environment. The packaging is unbearable while the chemicals that stick to our skin eventually make their way into our waters. However, there is an easy fix for this!
Smoosh all of these together in a glass jar and now you have an effective paste that forms the perfect zero-waste deodorant!
Caption: Make your own deodorant paste with your favourite essential oils and smell as fresh as a bouquet of flowers!
Credit: Jennifer Chen, Unsplash
4. Dish Soap
This harmful product directly runs into our waterways. It’s important to have clean dishes, but these toxic-paced products are not necessary.
Mix together and your dishes will be clean and fresh in no time!
One of the worst things about toothpaste is the plastic waste that is near impossible to recycle, often ending up in landfills or polluting the ocean. To lessen this plastic plague of which toothpaste waste is a contributor, make your own!
And that’s it! Now you have toothpaste that is both safe for the environment and effective for you.
ernearmedev. (2020, July 30). The Benefits of Homemade Cleaning Products | 2020. Ernearmetx.com. https://ernearmetx.com/blog/the-benefits-of-homemade-cleaning-products-in-2020/
Lederle, D. (2015, July 10). DIY Natural Deodorant...That Actually Works! The Healthy Maven. https://www.thehealthymaven.com/diy-natural-deodorant-that-actually-works/
Meredith, D. (2018, November 15). This DIY Body Scrub Is the Best Thing to Do with Leftover Coffee Grounds. Taste of Home. https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/coffee-scrub/
News-Medical. (2018, December 20). (How to) Make Your Own Toothpaste. News-Medical.net. https://www.news-medical.net/health/(How-to)-Make-Your-Own-Toothpaste.aspx
The Environmental Dangers of Using Cleaning Products | AspenClean. (2018). Aspenclean.com. https://www.aspenclean.com/blog/the-environmental-dangers-of-using-cleaning-products
By Georgia Carter
Clothing has become a necessity in society. Unclothed, we are deemed as highly inappropriate. But more than what is simply expected, dressing up is a form of one’s identity, a concept of expression, and certain items can become part of a widespread trend.
Different styles make their way into the public eye, gain popularity, and cause a spike in consumer demands. But then the trend is tossed, and while most of us forget about the existence of the faze, the products themselves continue on. In fact, the influx of clothing items thrown away means that 85% ends up in landfills, laying waste to the Earth and further polluting it with harmful dyes and chemicals.
Caption: The fast fashion industry contributes to 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions.
Credit: Becca Mchaffie, Unsplash
But even before our clothes make their way to the landfill, they cause tremendous harm. The resources required to produce an item of clothing can prove detrimental to the environment. To date, clothing and fast fashion contribute to 20% of the world’s wastewater and a whopping 10% of global carbon emissions.
While it’s important to understand how fashion is produced, transported, and disposed of, it’s equally as significant to start taking the relevant steps to mitigate the dangerous impacts clothing can have. One of these ways is to shop second-hand.
How Fast Fashion Pollutes
Let’s start from the very beginning. Clothes require a combination of different materials to create. These resources come from numerous places, either grown, shaved from an animal, or synthesised from other extractable materials. Harvesting any of these requires fuel, land, and water - all of which are precious, limited resources.
Moving on to the next phase, clothes then need energy and water to produce. Once the basic item has been created, harmful chemicals in the form of synthetic dyes are utilised for aesthetic purposes, which later seep back into our waterways. Then, when the clothing has reached its final form, it’s transported to many different locations before ending up on the shelves. Ships, trucks, and cars are often used for this job and the Earth pays an extremely heavy toll for this as carbon emissions are continuously released into the atmosphere.
Finally, once the clothing item is purchased, worn, and then discarded, it most likely ends up in a landfill. Here, it wastes valuable space and further pollutes the environment. It will remain here for years to come. In fact, most of all clothing ever made still exists today.
Caption: Fast fashion and the clothing produced from the industry pollutes the Earth and uses up vital resources at every step of the production line. More often than not, clothing is made in harmful work environments too.
Credit: Rio Lecatompessy, Unsplash
If you’d like to learn more about the effects of fast fashion, read our article here.
There are myriad benefits to vintage shopping, both for the planet and your wallet. Firstly, and most obviously, you are reducing waste. If there were no demand for already-used clothing items, all would end up in a landfill and take up a large area of space. In addition, when clothes slowly biodegrade, they release microplastics - and we all know how detrimental those are to the planet and animals who call it home. In the same breath, second-hand shopping preserves vital resources. It’s estimated that 600 kilograms of used clothes on the market equates to saving 220 kilograms of carbon emissions, nearly 150 trees, and over 3.5 billion litres of water. Now imagine what we could collectively save if we all made second-hand shopping a priority.
Secondly, when you decide to purchase clothing second-hand, you’re giving that item a new lease on life. Just because someone was finished with the product, doesn’t mean the product itself is just going to disappear. It could end up being your new favourite sweater, dress, or jacket. And this works both ways. If you no longer want an item of clothing, don’t throw it out! You can either sell it off to a second-hand clothing store to continue the cycle or donate it to those in need.
Finally, second-hand clothing is more affordable than brand-spanking-new clothing items. If you turn second-hand shopping into your own trend, you’re guaranteed to save some money. If we continue to purchase clothes that are byproducts of the fast fashion industry, we’re constantly contributing to the increased demand and supply chain, further spurring the rapid production of harmful clothing products. This, in turn, deeply costs both wallets, our planet, and the entire population.
Caption: Second-hand shopping is one of the most effective yet easiest ways to reduce the negative impacts of the fast fashion industry and reduce clothing pollution.
Credit: Samuel Ramos, Unsplash
Additional Ways to Reduce the Impact of Fast Fashion
As we can see, purchasing second-hand clothing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to mitigate the harmful effects of the fast fashion industry. But there are a few more healthy habits we can all adopt today that will aid in the battle to end this pollution:
- Buy Less: We really don’t need that much, and it will save more than you ever expected if you abstain from giving in to those consumer cravings.
- Support local and sustainable brands: Clothes will always be created and produced, so why not increase the demand for clothes made from sustainable only materials? This not only helps the local economy and the environment as a whole but also shifts the reliance from fast fashion to sustainable trends.
- Repair: Instead of tossing out that torn T-shirt, mend it! This will save money and the environment and you can still keep the clothing!
- Donate: With the global population continuously rising, so too is the unemployment and homeless rate. There will always be someone in need. The landfill does not need that item of clothing, but a person does. Don’t toss, DONATE.
- Recycle: Some materials and textiles can be recycled. While this should be a last resort, it’s important to consider recycling before ever throwing away your clothes.
Caption: One way to reduce the emissions and overuse of resources from the fast fashion industry is to simply consume less.
Credits: The Blowup, Unsplash
Eva. (2020, August 19). How Second-Hand Shopping Can Save The Planet. Green with Less. https://greenwithless.com/second-hand-shopping-planet/
How can we reduce our Fashion Environmental Impact — SustainYourStyle. (2014). SustainYourStyle. SustainYourStyle. https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/reducing-our-impact
Kellogg, A. K. (2016, April 5). Is it better to buy second hand or new and sustainable? Going Zero Waste. https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/is-it-better-to-buy-second-hand-or-new-and-sustainable/
Vincenti, P. (n.d.). Second-hand clothes are good for the environment and economy | SmartGreen Post | news from the environment. https://www.smartgreenpost.com/2019/10/19/second-hand-clothes-are-good-for-the-environment-and-economy/
By Georgia Carter
The plastic pollution crisis is a plague to our planet. Today, human waste litters almost every corner of the Earth. From the deepest spaces in the sea to the summits of Mount Everest, evidence of our carelessness is seen everywhere.
While the matter seems almost hopeless, hope is not lost entirely. Many actions can be undertaken to mitigate the harmful effects of our waste - one of which is recycling.
Caption: Human waste is becoming more noticeable - and even more toxic. It’s now of the utmost importance that we make proper waste management a priority.
Credit: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash
What is recycling?
Recycling is the system or process of taking already-used products, such as plastic bottles or containers, and stripping them down to their bare materials in order to reproduce new objects.
Recycling can be an extremely efficient way of managing both our domestic and commercial waste, but it’s important to remember that it is the last order in the familiar phrase, ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.’ Always follow through with the first two actions and turn to recycling as a last resort.
The benefits of recycling
There are myriad advantages to recycling, both on an individual and global level. Not only will you save space in your rubbish bag by reducing your waste, which in turn saves landfill space, but you will also feel better about your contribution to the wellbeing of the environment.
Below are a few of the key benefits of recycling:
Caption: Recycling has numerous benefits, both on an individual and global level.
Credit: James Lee, Unsplash
The recycling process
The system of recycling can be easy or extremely complex depending on the type of material being processed.
As mentioned before, there are two groups of recycling: domestic and commercial. Domestic is considered as common objects and waste materials we deal with in our daily lives, whereas commercial refers to large production companies such as mining and medical waste.
Once the recyclable waste items reach the centre, they are sorted into categories based on their plastic levels. In some cases, products are placed on a converter belt where a magnet attracts all metals and separates them from plastics. Once categorised, the product is stripped down to its bare and raw material form. The leftovers are melted down into remouldable structures, ready to be used again.
While this system seems simple and effective enough, it can prove complicated. Local waste management companies therefore charge high rates for the sorting, stripping, and melting process and, as a result, many of our ‘recycled’ items don’t end up going through the operation.
To shift this common occurrence, we as consumers hold much of the power. We firstly need to reduce our demand for newly-made packaged products and instead increase our global demand for items that come in only recycled packaging.
Caption: One of the most significant ways to encourage recycling is to increase the demand for products that only contain recycled materials. This, in turn, will decrease the recycling rates and bolster the need for recycling worldwide.
Credit: Marcell Viragh, Unsplash
What can be recycled?
You’d be surprised how many items can be recycled. However, the ease of recycling is determined by the materials that make up the product.
For example, plastics come in levels ranging from one to seven, with one being the easiest to recycle. More often than not, a level seven plastic is too complex to recycle or there is no demand for a level seven plastic material and it often gets dumped into a landfill. It’s therefore of the utmost importance that we understand the different levels and separate our recycling into similar labeled groups.
Below is a graphic outlining the various different plastic levels:
NOTE: You can determine the level of plastic an item is by searching for the indented sign, usually located on the base of the product.
If you’d like to learn more about plastic, read our post here.
There are some universally and generally accepted recycling items. However, some recycling centres only accept specific materials. It’s therefore important to check your local recycling deports guidelines before you begin.
Here is a list of generally accepted recyclables:
Rules for recycling at home
Now that we’ve been able to glean a deeper understanding of the recycling process, we can begin unearthing the recycling guidelines for home systems. There are some significant things to keep in mind to ensure your waste management doesn't go to waste itself.
Caption: Always separate your recyclables into categories of similar material. Don’t forget to clean then crush items to ensure your efforts don’t go to waste.
Credit: Nick Fewings, Unsplash
How to recycle at home
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot recycle your goods by tying them up in a plastic bag and trusting that the bag itself will be recycled too. That plastic bag will have to be re-sorted in the recycling port, and more often than not, will still end up in a landfill laying waste to the earth.
Rather, reduce your consumption of plastic bags by purchasing a reusable bag for your shopping. If you do buy a plastic bag, reuse this plastic bag as much as possible before disposing of it.
Pro Tip: Keep your reusable bag in your car or sitting next to your front door so you don’t forget to grab it on your way out.
Plastic bottles are one of the easiest recyclable goods. However, the lid of these bottles are not. Made from polypropylene, the caps melt increasingly faster than the bottles themselves, and when recycled together, often contaminates the plastic bottle and renders it useless for recycling.
Instead, remove the bottle cap and crush the bottle as much as possible. This will not only give you more space in your rubbish bin, saving an extra black bag, but will also aid in the recycling process when handed in.
You can, however, recycle the caps separately, which will be grouped together in the recycling port and managed separately and more efficiently.
Caption: Plastic lids are a different type and level of plastic to their bottle counterparts. ALWAYS remove the lid before recycling the bottle.
Credit: Jonathan Chng, Unsplash
Pro-Tip: Plastic bottles, especially the 1.5 litres and 5 litres, are great for making eco-bricks too. An eco-brick is a plastic bottle filled with clean and dry non-biodegradable waste, like plastic bags, and often waste that can’t be recycled, such as crisp packets and polystyrene. Eco-bricks are used as a building materials, putting the plastic to good use as well as being affordable and aiding in the lack of housing issues around the globe.
Luckily, glass is also one of those fabulous items that can be recycled and made into various other container goods. However, there’s still a certain way to recycle glass.
Always colour code your glass items when recycling. The greens stick with the greens while the clears get a whole separate box to themselves.
Unfortunately, glass derived from mirrors or crystals cannot be recycled, so take care of those items!
Cans, which are made up of aluminium, are 100 percent recyclable. Much like with plastic bottles, compress your cans when you prepare them for recycling.
Metals also include foil and trays – yes, these can be recycled! Just ensure that they’re as clean as possible without residue from oil as risks contaminating all the recycling items being sorted.
Purchasing coffee from a café is great, but the cups are not. Despite seeming to be made entirely of cardboard, these takeaway cups often contain a thin layer of plastic around their centre body to keep the cups waterproof.
While some may be recyclable, we must remember to always reduce before hitting that recycling button.
Another alternative comes in the form of a reusable cup. Many are made of bamboo and can be cleaned and made good as new even after a few uses. These are sold at many coffee shops and often these coffee shops will give you a discount on your coffee when bringing your own cup.
Pro Tip: Keep your reusable cup in your car at all times, in case you forget it at home and have to use a disposable cup when ordering your next drink.
Pro Tip: When ordering a coffee from a take-away cup, ditch the attachable lid. It’s made purely of plastic and you will be able to navigate to your next destination without spilling your entire coffee – trust me, if I can do this, so can you.
Styrofoam, or expanded polystyrene, comes in the form of chip packets and many disposable food containers that are made from multiple layers of polymer materials.
Styrofoam is extremely hard to recycle as the material is flammable and can be contaminated easily.
Some recycling stations have specific drop-off centres that accept styrofoam, but the best bet to save the environment from this devastating material would be to avoid buying products that come in styrofoam packaging altogether.
This may seem daunting, but there are alternative products that use eco-friendly packaging and may change your perspective on mindful consumerism. Examples include but are not limited to MicroGREEN and EarthAware packaging, who use plant-based material. But with more research conducted every day, many more alternatives are being discovered.
Ignitable, toxic, and reactive chemicals sit inside many of the items we use today. Paints, batteries, pesticides, and cleaning products just to name a few. These are incredibly harmful to the natural environment.
Luckily, many of these items can be recycled. It’s a long, complicated process, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
There are many drop-off centres and recycling ports that accept these hazardous leftovers, and the best thing to do is separate them by item. For example, keep only the batteries together while grouping the cleaning products separately.
The other option is - you guessed it - reduce. Try diluting your cleaning agent with water to make it last longer, using less and prolonging your next buy. Next time you need batteries, purchase rechargeable batteries so a one-off use is not even in the question.
Then, there’s always an alternative. Swap out your general cleaners for a more eco-friendly inclined brand.
Pro Tip: Look up online how to make your own cleaning agents! Some ingredients include baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, and your favourite essential oils.
Caption: Hazardous and toxic waste is extremely challenging to recycle, but not impossible. Remember to check if your local recycling centre accepts such products before dropping off your recycling load.
Credit: Roberto Sorin, Unsplash
Food Waste/ Organic Waste
Generally, households pack about 215 kilograms of food scrap and waste a year. That’s an incredible amount of edible products that are simply being thrown with the rest of the garbage. But there is so much you can do with your food waste that can not only help you but also aid in the betterment of the planet.
Sending your food waste off with your trash means it will end up in a landfill, taking up space and releasing the vile methane gas that contaminates the atmosphere. Instead, if you have space, why don’t you start a compost heap? It is one of the easiest, hands-free ways to help save the planet.
To start a compost heap, all you need is a large bin, bucket, or tub placed outside or stored away if kept indoors. This is what you can throw into your compost system:
Greens: Fruit, veg, and coffee grounds are ideal for composting as it enriches the soil.
Browns: Dead leaves and fireplace ash make suitable members of the compost heap.
Papers: Newspapers, cardboard, and regular pieces of paper can be added to the mix.
Leftovers: Teabags and eggshells can be composted with the rest of the ingredients to make up a healthy load of soil for repurposing. DON’T throw in your meat. It will attract pests and take longer to break down. Rather, keep it as organic as you can.
If you’d like to learn more about composting or are looking to begin your own compost heap, read our Ultimate Guide to Composting here.
Pro-Tip: If you don’t have enough room to incorporate a large compost dome, why don’t you take your food waste to a local farmer! They will be thrilled to receive the extra nutrients for their hard-working soil and you’ll be getting rid of your waste in the best possible way.
How to start recycling
You really don’t need much to begin your at-home recycling system. To begin, find a few containers like small bins or crates. Label each according to material, such as level one plastics or tin cans only. As you move through your day, clean your recyclable waste objects, separate them, and store them in the correct bin/container. Once you’ve gathered enough recyclables, take them all to your local and nearest recycling centre! It’s as easy as that!
Now that you’ve gained a deeper understanding on the recycling process and how to start your own system at home, here are the next actions to take:
Enviro Inc, Ultimate Guide to Recycling
By Georgia Carter
Water - the gift, cause, and fuel for life itself. While it makes up most of the Earth, only 3% of it is freshwater that’s safe enough for human consumption, and only one third of that percentage is accessible.
Today, a harrowing amount of more than one billion people lack access to clean and drinkable fresh water, while over two billion people suffer from a lack of hygiene and proper sanitation.
It’s now estimated that by 2025, two thirds of the world will suffer from lack of fresh, clean, and safe water. That’s right, two thirds. Since our population is rapidly rising, this is an issue we need to tend to immediately.
What is water scarcity?
Water scarcity is the lack of sufficient clean water, whereby people have little to no access to safe water supplies.
Water scarcity has an impact on everything: from the food we eat and the electricity we use to power our homes to the plant and animal life and the planet as a whole. Water is connected to the health and wellbeing of the entire world.
Why is water scarcity a problem?
Water forms the basis and foundation of all things, living and not.
We need water for food, from the very root of growing crops to the act of cooking. We also need water to produce electricity, which is further used to power almost all that we do.
Caption: Water is one of the most, if not the most, precious resource we have - we require water for almost everything we do, yet we don’t take proper care of it.
Credit: Markus Spiske, Unsplash
We require water for our hygiene and sanitation, which protects us from numerous diseases. In the bigger picture, water creates jobs, helps circulate the economy, and bolsters the quality of life as a whole.
As you can see, everything relies on clean, healthy, accessible water.
But today, scarcity is an ongoing problem. Over 2.4 billion people have inadequate sanitation, and many more are exposed to a wide range of harmful and even fatal diseases, such as cholera or water-borne diarrhea.
An estimated two million people pass away every single year from such diseases, with the majority being children. In another perspective, that equates to a child dying every 2 minutes from a lack of clean, safe water.
A lack of clean water also hampers education, especially among girls. Menstrual cycles require water to be adequately managed, and where there is none, people suffer. One out of four girls miss school as a result of water scarcity, making the achievement of their full potential all the more difficult, and alleviating poverty nearly impossible as a result. That’s not to mention the devastation of hunger and starvation that a lack of water causes.
Without this understructure of water, everything collapses. The wheels of life break down, and the cycle of struggle keeps spinning.
Caption: Water scarcity harms every life form. We need to begin adopting sustainable solutions to lack of water and make water conservation a priority.
Credit: Matthew Feeny, Unsplash
Economic water scarcity is linked to the same issue - where there are not enough resources or funds to supply clean water. Universal access to water and sanitation would produce about $18.5 billion in benefits, most of this resulting from a prevention of water-related deaths.
Instead, as the problem persists, we lose around $260 billion globally from water scarcity.
But it’s not only humans who suffer - both animal and plant life are impacted by water scarcity too. Water is home to myriad plant and animal life forms, providing refuge, hydration, and nutrients for a wealth of species. Stressed water systems harm biodiversity, alter ideal living conditions for flora and fauna, and ultimately cause an increasing loss of life.
The higher the demand for water, the more supply is required. Coupled with inadequate water management, as well as unsustainable practices in many industries, this has caused the drying up of water resources and therefore the homes of millions of plant and animal populations. Today, 64% of the world's wetlands have disappeared, and this causes more problems than you can imagine.
Caption: Wetlands are among the richest and most diverse biomes on the planet, but since 1990, we’ve destroyed 64% of the global wetlands.
Credit: Usug, Unsplash
If you’d like to learn more about the importance of Wetlands, click here.
What causes water scarcity?
Pollution: This is one of the leading causes of unclean water. Water is polluted by toxic substances and harmful chemicals that derive from human trash. Another form is water waste - the sewage, pesticides and fertilizers that leak into precious water systems.
Agriculture: Unsustainable farming practices, which make up the bulk of our agricultural systems, use around 70% of the world’s fresh water to produce the high demand of crops.
Population Growth: As mentioned previously, when the human population grows, so does the demand for water, often that which cannot be met.
Climate Change: An increase in global temperature causes dramatic shifts in weather patterns, spurring natural disasters of all kinds which hamper water accessibility.
Caption: Agriculture is the leading industry in both water usage and water waste disposal. It’s of the utmost importance that we seek and implement more sustainable farming practices across the globe.
Credit: Red Zeppelin, Unsplash
Sustainable methods to combat water scarcity
While these actions and changes demand global and societal shifts, there are a few things we as individuals can do at home to combat the existing water scarcity issue and prevent further harm.
These actions include:
If you’d like to learn more ways to conserve water, read our blog post here.
Caption: Save our water - it’s the power and force behind all life on Earth.
Credit: Jack Anstey, Unsplash
Written By: Georgia Carter
Exploring the world is a dream many of us hold. We have the whole world practically at our fingertips, and we’re longing to reach the extended hand of adventure and welcome its embrace. But travelling can take a hefty toll on the environment.
From plane rides to single-use plastics, tourism can be littered in environmental damage. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. While we will still be taking planes to reach our desired destination, there are various habits and behaviours we can adopt to mitigate the dangerous impact travelling can have.
Caption: While travelling is a lifeforce for most of us, the negative effects of certain actions harms the very environment we seek to immerse ourselves in.
Credit: Niklas Weiss, Unsplash
What is sustainable travel and ecotourism?Sustainable travel can be simply defined as making simple choices to lessen your environmental impact. It's finding ways where travel and tourism can be maintained without harming natural and cultural environments.
Ecotourism is the encouragement of environmental preservation, where wanders and travel-related businesses and services aim to minimise the negative impacts of tourism and instead adopt healthier standards of sustainability within the tourism trade.
Modes of transport and their carbon emissionsUnfortunately, travelling requires various modes of transport - and transportation contributes to one fifth of the global carbon emission. While the world will continue to rely on transportation, and until we glean significant sustainable evolution in the field, we all need to do our best to travel mindfully.
Caption: Planes are among the worst forms of transportation in terms of carbon offset.
Credit: Ken Yam, Unsplash
Below are the different carbon offsets produced by each mode of transport:
How to lessen your carbon emissions when travellingWhen it comes to your personal carbon offset in terms of transportation, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your emissions.
Below is a list of 5 actions you can implement when travelling that will help decrease your carbon offset:
Caption: Riding a bike is one of the most eco-friendly modes of transport, and it helps you better witness, immerse, and understand the new destination.
Credit: Netbike, Unsplash
What is eco-accommodation?24% of all carbon dioxide generated from tourism comes from accommodation. This transpires through the overuse of water, electricity, and plastic.
Eco accommodation refers to a place holding a strong commitment to mitigate harmful practices on the environment. It’s an airbnb that runs off solar power, a bed and breakfast that uses homegrown, organic produce, and a hotel that encourages recycling.
Caption: Eco accommodation is defined as a space that’s dedicated to maintaining the health of the environment.
Credit: Jared Rice, Unsplash
Here are a few ways you can check if your chosen accommodation is an eco-friendly option:
An estimated 40% of all carbon emissions by 2050 will be caused by tourism. While travelling is almost essential to many of us, it’s important to remain mindful of your actions and shift your focus on maintaining a sustainable lifestyle even while abroad.
12 tips for environmentally friendly travel
Caption: Camping is by far one of the best and most thrilling ways to experience a new destination. It’s also the most affordable and healthiest form of accommodation for the environment.
Credit: Pars Sahin, Unsplash
By Georgia Carter
The concrete jungle is where most of us dwell. In the confines of cities, between the margins of towering buildings and congested streets, many of us find ourselves exploring the man-made and inorganic realms of life.
Over half of the world’s human population lives in cities. While society deems this a normality, it’s almost against our natural ways to be so disconnected from the natural environments that surround us.
Caption: Over half of the entire globe’s human population inhabits cities.
Connecting, immersing, and simply being around nature has myriad benefits. From physical and health aspects to mental and spiritual impacts, nature not only nurtures us but helps us thrive.
In fact, nature is ESSENTIAL to our existence.
The basic and bare necessities we require to simply survive all come from nature. We retrieve food from the Earth, water from the streams, and oxygen from the trees. Without these three vital components, life would not exist. Nature curates the trifecta of survival.
Caption: The Earth provides us with a seemingly unlimited supply of food and soil from which we can grow our own.
Source: Tania Malrechauf, Unsplash
Nature forms the foundation of our society. Agriculture, consumerism, materials, energy - everything we need for our machine of societal existence to continue turning its cogs heavily relies on the natural environments surrounding us and what these verdant landscapes provide in abundance.
We need soil to grow our crops, we need bees to pollinate plants and create a haven of diversity, and we need water to nourish not only the land but our very cells that craft the essence of our physical being.
Caption: A bee seeks hungrily for some sweet nectar. Bees are among the world’s most significant pollinators.
Source: Georgia Carter, Mindful Meanderer
Venturing into nature, whether on an extended hike, taking a day trip to the park, or simply rooting your feet into your garden ground, is vital in creating a healthier lifestyle.
In young children, nature is another parent. It teaches without words, revives and encourages curiosity, and embraces each and every unique quality found within oneself. Children who spend time in nature tend to experience a healthier development, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and mentally.
Caption: The developmental growth of children is accelerated when they spend time outdoors, connecting with and learning from nature.
Source: Crema Joe, Unsplash
In terms of the chemical impacts nature has on our bodies, the benefits are paramount. Nature improves all five senses, reduces blood pressure, eases the pains of long-term illnesses, and improves one’s memory span. A connection to the Earth and spending time outdoors vastly improves one’s quality of life, provides cleaner air, reduces obesity, and alleviates mental fatigue.
While physical health allows us to flourish in the physical realm, mental health is just as important in helping us shine throughout our human experience. And, of course, nature bolsters our mental health in a number of ways too.
Wandering in a forest or taking a leisurely stroll on the beach reduces stress levels and invites peace, calm, clarity, and tranquility. Nature acts as a vehicle of inspiration, further influencing our actions, behaviour, and cognitive pathways for the better.
Caption: Wandering through the woods helps alleviate stress and improves mental health.
Source: Lukasz Szmigiel, Unsplash
In fact, nature is the greatest motivator, helping sculpt cultures, identities, and ways of being. It increases productivity, acts as a muse for all art forms, and connects people to the essence of their existence.
Nature has a profound effect on one’s mental state - so much so that hospital patients who have a view of nature heal 30% faster than those who don’t. Simply witnessing nature first hand has exponential positive effects on one’s mental disposition, paving the paths of success in every field of life.
Belonging - that is what a connection with nature is all about. We are all from the Earth, we all call this planet our sole home and lifegiver. We are actually just the universe experiencing itself. And since we are all one, all connected on the most basic of levels and existence, we feel right at home when we’re in the welcoming grasp of nature.
A connection with nature is a reconnection with our core. When immersing ourselves into a natural environment, we invite the intention of not only going within, but zooming out. We’re able to reflect on our lives and life as a whole, just like peering into a river and seeing not only our reflections, but what lies beneath the surface - a powerful force of something unknown but innate.
We as humans are constantly searching for the answers to questions we might not even be able to formulate. What are we doing here? What is reality? What is my purpose? While we don’t have these answers, and while we may never retrieve them, nature is the unspoken truth, the starting and ending point, the cycle of life incarnate.
However, nature is free and we, therefore, overexploit it. It gives to us because we are nature’s children - an extension of itself. It’s time we learned to appreciate it and help it thrive alongside our human evolution and progress.
Caption: Spending quality time in and exploring nature helps develop a healthy relationship to the world and existence itself.
Source: Source: Georgia Carter, Mindful Meanderer
At least you’re trying, right?
Well, yes... to an extent. While it is important to acknowledge the effort that we make to preserve the Earth, it is also extremely important to keep empowering ourselves to do more and to do better. The rate of human destruction upon Earth is not slowing despite our current efforts – which indicates that we are not doing nearly enough.
Environmental work, big or small, is not something that one should engage in to create an egocentric feeling of superiority. This attitude only creates divides and pushes ‘non-greenies’ further away. Environmental work must be done humbly, with joyful purpose and with cultural sensitivity – that is the cornerstone.
Besides engaging in the real work ourselves, it is extremely important to inspire others to take action as well. In order to make a real difference, we need to get lots of people doing their absolute best. One can do this by using an inclusive and empathetic attitude and tone when engaging in conversations about environmental awareness. Belittling and condescending others does the movement a total injustice by pushing questioning people further away. In fact, leading by example is the single most successful way to inspire others.
Once one’s ego is in check, it is important to look within and to improve on every aspect of one’s impact. Seemingly small things like refusing plastic straws have a huge impact, but should continue to be viewed as small acts and not focused upon as if it is all an individual can do. Refusing plastic straws and as much other single-use plastic as possible must become second nature, as must minimising the use of electricity and water, driving less, buying local, eating more plant-based and opting to buy second hand as much as is viable. Allowing these things to become a normal part of one’s life, and leaving no room for lapses, is a good example to others and gives one the space to focus on making bigger changes.
As consumers, we hold more power than we know. It is important to learn about the convoluted topic of environmental destruction so that we can make informed choices when buying.
Recycling plastic is a great start, but it is very flawed. Recycling does lessen the need for new plastic, but it requires energy, factories and machines. The biggest action to take is to drastically reduce our plastic consumption – refusing unnecessary single-use plastic like: plastic shopping bags, produce bags, straws, plastic cutlery and take-away containers needs to become commonplace to all consumers who can then focus on improving even further by working towards a zero-waste lifestyle.
We simply cannot afford to put our stomachs first anymore.
Food is a massive contributor to most consumers’ carbon footprints and the best ways to change this are: to eat far less animal products, to buy organic and beyond organic, and to support local producers.
The meat industry is one of the top contributors to climate change, biodiversity loss and deforestation. Western consumers eat far too many animal products which degrade their health as well as the health of the Earth. Focusing on reducing animal product consumption is a must, as is looking for better, local, small farmer sources of animal products and fresh produce. Buying local reduces transportation-linked emissions and keeps small farmers going.
Making electricity and water saving practices second nature allows one to consider alternative energy sources and going off-grid. This wouldn’t be possible if one’s sole focus was on switching off lights and shaming others for failing to do so.
The world is in a major crisis and big companies and governments are not making nearly enough effort to mitigate it. As citizens of this planet, it is our duty and responsibility to do our utmost best to encourage others, to educate ourselves and to put mass pressure on governments and companies to implement necessary policy changes. If we rely on big industry and governments to do it for us, things will not improve and climate change will continue to worsen. We must grasp the magnitude of the situation.
It is up to the individual to bring back the care and reverence of the Earth that is necessary to save humanity.
Writeen by: Kelly Steenhuisen
In Ramsar in 1971 February second, The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was adopted. 2021 is the 150th celebration of World Wetlands Day.
A wetland area identifiable by water being the main characteristic of the landscape. It is an area where the soil is covered with water all year or for varying periods, particularly during the growing season, always retaining saturated soil and act as a natural carbon sink. By regulating streamflows, they are responsible for the reduction of droughts and floods. They also serve the purpose of purifying water through trapping sediments and removing pollutants, which helps to purify water, as well as providing habitat for a diverse array of plants and animals.
Wetlands are crucial for climate adaption. Peatlands are a type of wetland that covers 3% of the world and store nearly a third of all land-based carbon. Salt marshes, mangroves, and seagrass beds are categorised as Coastal wetlands and are one of the most carbon-dense ecosystems. Inland wetlands absorb excess rain to slow down the movement of water and distribute the water over the floodplain more evenly, thus preventing flooding from occurring and delaying droughts.
Even though there is plentiful scientific evidence suggesting the importance of wetlands over the past 45 years a third of the wetlands have been lost, disappearing three times the usual rate. With global warming being a risk factor, the loss of wetlands has turned these areas into emission sources due to the burning and draining of peatlands for a tenth of the annual fossil fuel emission.
Indonesia has the third-largest area of peatlands worldwide, homing the most tropical peatlands in the world, storing 60 billion tons of carbon. Indonesia is part of the Global Peatlands Initiative, with plenty of mangroves on the continent, storing 3 billion tons of carbon.
In South Africa wetlands cover only 8% of the land area, and provides 51% of the populations’ water source, and support 64% of the economy.
11 percent of Uganda’s landmass is covered by wetlands, sustaining the country’s water sources and agricultural productivity, such as creating breeding grounds for large scale fisheries. They are facing encroachment, overexploitation, and degradation of its wetlands. Population growth is contributing to major water depletion and increasing the chances of flooding, through the increasing encroachment on swathes of urban and rural wetlands. Over 15 years Uganda has lost 30% of their wetlands which has contributed to the damage of the ecosystem, such as the silting of water bodies. To counter the deterioration of Uganda’s wetlands they have signed onto the Paris Agreement and placed goals for themselves to strive towards with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by introducing a three-pronged approach which is dedicated to restore wetlands and enhance communities’ climate change adaptation capacity and resilience.
Did you know our favorite childhood movie ‘Shrek’ lives in a freshwater swap which is a type of wetland. Swamps are flat land around lakes or streams majority woody vegetation and are nutrient-rich environments with slow run-off. Homing river otters, all the way to freshwater shrimp.
Written By: Charlotte Mostert
Gov.za. 2021. World Wetlands Day 2021 | South African Government. [online] Available at: <https://www.gov.za/speeches/world-wetlands-day-2021-19-oct-2020-1048?gclid=CjwKCAiAu8SABhAxEiwAsodSZFmt1NnB0tWSug26vGFio8GKTFtqp6pLkx6wieWBzll8evlm4zq6vhoCbDgQAvD_BwE>
Worldwetlandsday.org. 2020. Story detail - WorldWetlandsDay. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldwetlandsday.org/story/-/detail/wetlands-are-a-natural-solution-to-climate-change?redirect=/stories>
Worldwetlandsday.org. 2020. Story detail - WorldWetlandsDay. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldwetlandsday.org/story/-/detail/wetlands-are-a-natural-solution-to-climate-change?redirect=/stories>
Worldwetlandsday.org. 2021. Story detail - WorldWetlandsDay. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldwetlandsday.org/story/-/detail/indonesia-creates-expert-wetlands-team-to-revitalize-development-goal-efforts?redirect=/>
Worldwetlandsday.org. 2020. Story detail - WorldWetlandsDay. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldwetlandsday.org/story/-/detail/south-africa-integrating-water-management?redirect=/stories>
Worldwetlandsday.org. 2020. Story detail - WorldWetlandsDay. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldwetlandsday.org/story/-/detail/preserving-uganda-s-wetlands-secures-a-brighter-future-for-country-and-planet?redirect=/stories>
The Wetlands Initiative. n.d. What Is a Wetland? — The Wetlands Initiative. [online] Available at: <http://www.wetlands-initiative.org/what-is-a-wetland>
So, you didn’t use a condom because they’re single-use. Woops! Now you have a baby on the way that could become a mass consumer before it is even born, or he/she could grow up to be a world-changing environmentalist! Here’s how to get started on the right foot:
In the Early Days:
Later in Pregnancy:
Written by: Kelly Steenhuisen
Drought, desertification, water contamination, dead zones, depleted soils, species extinction, malnutrition, food scarcity, bankrupt farmers – these are all symptoms of the degenerative farming system that has been in use to grow most of humanity’s food since World War II.
The current crop and animal farming methods adopted across the globe steadily removes nutrients and life from the soil whilst releasing carbon into the air and killing insects, small animals, endemic and indigenous plants, and marginalising larger animals and indigenous people in their continuous quest for more land to plow up. Agriculture, as it stands today, is the largest polluting industry in the world.
Animal agriculture is a huge problem as not only do feedlots create large dead zones, concentrating waste unnaturally, but the feed for the animals is grown off-site in monocrop fields that are sprayed with pesticides.
Regenerative Agriculture is a method of farming that increases yields whilst building top soil, restoring the water cycle, sequestering carbon dioxide and restoring biodiversity. Regenerative farmers use methods learnt from observing nature and indigenous practices to optimise their farms’ outputs and minimise environmental impact, simultaneously. These methods include: rotational and intensive grazing, diverse cover cropping, restoring natural grasslands for grazing, rotational and diverse crop planting, no-till and constantly adding organic matter to the soil.
The main focus of regenerative agriculture is soil health, including that of soil microorganisms, which provides a solid foundation for the abundant system to build itself upon. The use of closed loop systems means that regenerative farms produce zero waste, and the natural carbon sequestration that occurs makes it one of the best methods we have to fight climate change and global warming. It is possible to increase soil organic matter by 0,5% - 1% annually by using regenerative agriculture. An increase of 0,4% in soil organic matter of all agricultural soils across the world would sequester enough carbon to negate all current carbon dioxide emissions.
Rotational Grazing systems mimic natural herd-grazing to grow abundant fodder for animals. This negates any need for feed lots and mono-crop feed growing, as well as cultivated and sprayed pastures. This means that absolutely no synthetic nitrogen input is required for regenerative livestock farming, a huge win for soil and water health! Water, the most important resource for life on Earth, is contaminated at an alarming rate by nitrate run-off from farms and waste run-off and dumping from feedlots. Regenerating soils causes rainwater to be absorbed better and held for longer, naturally filtering it through the soil and returning clean water to the greater water system. Less surface run-off also means less topsoil loss and the recharging of aquifers.
Bees are a common talking point in environmental and agricultural circles, and for good reason: 70 of the 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world’s population rely on pollination by bees. Besides this, honey bees make many important medicinal products that are used cross-culturally, including: honey, beeswax and propolis.
The issue of Colony Collapse Disorder is massively increasing each year, resulting in beekeepers losing about 30% of their hives annually. This mass bee death is caused by viruses and the mites that spread them, as well as by crop pesticides that kill bees and lower their immune system, climate change and the decreasing access to bee’s natural medicines. These bee medicines we are referring to include a variety of pollen available from diverse plant sources, as well as secretions of polypore mushrooms that grow in forests. Pesticides on plants further exacerbate the problem by compromising the bees’ gut microflora, which they use to ferment pollen into ‘bee bread’ – a main food source for worker bees and larvae.
Interestingly, the same mushrooms that can be used to treat a variety of human illnesses are also used by bees to strengthen their immune systems and as natural antivirals. The most well-known examples being: Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum), Amadou (Fomes Fomentarius) and Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus).
These bracket fungi grow on dead wood and trees that have sustained damage to the bark (often from bear or wild cat scratches). Bees dig into these mushrooms to feed on the mycelium beneath their surfaces. In studies done by famous mycologist, Paul Stamets, bees fed with medicinal mushroom extracts showed significantly improved chances of overcoming viral infections.
Bees are going through a tough time in the 21st Century, navigating the mass use of agricultural chemicals, noise and air pollution, purposeful extermination by scared and uneducated humans, monoculture and habitat loss. The most well-known honeybees, as well as the lesser known wild bees like bumblebees and solitary bees, are all in serious decline. Some effort is being made to curb this but it is really not nearly enough, especially considering that human beings would likely face extreme famine if bees became extinct. This would be due to the lack of plant pollination as well as the knock-on effect up the food chain.
Global warming is compounding the problem – as unusual temperature changes cause bees to remain in hibernation at the crucial time in the beginning of Spring when flowers first open. This results in the first wave of flowers receiving little to no pollination while the bees become weakened by an unnaturally extended period with no food.
In short, the usual suspects are to blame: bad agriculture, habitat loss and climate change. As conscious consumers, we must focus on these mega-problems by looking at our personal choices and by working in groups to fight destructive practices by large corporations and governments.
Here are some steps to take in one’s own home to protect bees, and their medicinal mushrooms:
It is up to each of us to take responsibility to preserve the incredibly intricate relationships of the natural world.
Written By: Kelly Steenhuisen
At the dawn of time, before plants, insects, animals and humans – there were mushrooms. These mushrooms, Prototaxites, looked very different to the little toadstools that we know today - they were 6-foot tall, trunk-like formations whose mycelium (root-like structure) was said to be one of the very first living things to begin converting our hostile rock planet into the lush green paradise that we now live on.
Mycelial hyphae spread out as single-cell thick root-like structures, breaking down rock and retrieving nutrients. This is what created soil and allowed the first primitive plants to take root. It’s easy to see why plants and mushrooms still nurture a symbiotic relationship in modern times.
Permaculturists and organic farmers know that it is important to honour the mycelium in soil. Many enlightened farmers actually focus mainly on nurturing the mycelium and allow that to take care of the plants for them. This is due to the fact that 90% of plants benefit from a relationship with fungi, and because mycelium draws down and stores carbon in the soil – adding nutrients and combating the high carbon dioxide levels that cause global warming.
Fungal hyphae colonise the roots of plants by forming a sheath around the root tips, or by sending tiny tendrils into the surface of the root, which opens up the exchange highway. The fungal hyphae then rapidly spread out into the surrounding soil, searching for and delivering important nutrients back to the plant while the plant feeds and ‘thanks’ the mycelium by giving it carbohydrate molecules – which plants are very apt at making. The mycelial network reaches much farther than the plant's roots are able to, and breaks down many nutrients that the plant would not be able to absorb on its own.
This mycorrhizal fungus also strengthens the immunity of plants naturally by triggering their defense mechanisms with root interference, ‘priming’ them for any later battles with pests and diseases – similar to how fighting off mild illnesses strengthens human immunity in the long-term.
This is merely the tip of an incredible iceberg of fascinating relationship benefits between plants and fungi. Unfortunately, modern agriculture completely disregards these relationships by essentially killing soils and then inadequately attempting to mimic the intelligent processes that naturally occur beneath the surface.
The practice of tilling soil destroys fungal networks whilst turning it and exposing it to the sun kills all micro-life present. Fungicides, as the name suggests, kill all fungi – including the beneficial fungi that feeds plants. Herbicides are one of the worst – negatively impacting beneficial fungi whilst allowing non-beneficial fungi to thrive and attack crops. It’s a vicious cycle: break up fungal hyphae by tilling, plant selected herbicide-resistant crops and spraying with herbicide to prevent weeds, allowing non-beneficial fungi to thrive and then spraying fungicide to combat this. This decimates everything besides the ailing, chemical laden and lonely plants that are then sold to us as some  watered-down version of food.
Not only is this terrible for fungi on fields and the surrounding environment – as well as insects and small animals – but also the low-immunity, drug-addicted plants that are no longer able to go through the normal processes that would result in the creation of nutrients within themselves. Combined with the lack of diversity in monoculture, this creates food crops that are lacking in nutrients which means that people need to eat more to feel full, severely exasperating the obesity issue facing society.
In order to fight these near-sighted, money-driven practices – we must make every effort to support not only organic agriculture, but small, local farmers that are going beyond organic – regenerating soils and honouring natural biodiversity. Growing one’s own food will also have a huge impact. It is our duty as environmentally conscious consumers to be aware and to make the changes necessary to protect fungi – the life-bringers.
TRUTH BOMB! I love it
By Kelly Steenhuisen
Permaculture – an amalgamation of the words ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’ coined by scientist Bill Mollison and his student, David Holmgren – is a system that offers us the tools to design our way out of numerous crises facing humanity.
Permaculture has become a widely used and extremely misunderstood term. Before one can harness the ancient wisdom behind the ethics and principles of Permaculture, one must truly understand what it is – at its essence.
In order to understand what it is, it may be helpful to acknowledge what it is not. Permaculture is not gardening, nor is it living sustainably; it is not a cult or a religion, nor is it a hard set of rules. One cannot say that their vegetable patch is ‘a Permaculture’ – it is not a noun. It is not an ego trip for one to boast that they know better than another and it is no longer common sense in the Western world. Lastly, Permaculture is not a system created by old, white men. Permaculture is old knowledge that was formulated and has been used by indigenous people for millennia – Mollison and Holmgren simply structured this knowledge into an accessible and usable format for the modern human, and they have stated so often.
As a design system, Permaculture is about action – it is a mindset and therefore, one could say that they live their life or have designed their home and garden or village using the teachings of Permaculture. It is the intricate connections between the elements that make up the designs of entire human settlements, it is systems thinking. It can be highly complex, if one dives deep, or extremely simple. A garden fits into the Permaculture system as it fulfills the human need to eat – it creates food security. That being said, one could design their life according to the principles without growing a single plant – social Permaculture.
Permaculture asks us to live without excess (to reduce our waste and transform it into a resource), to view ourselves as connected to all things and to cultivate a solution-based mindset. Using the tools that the principles of Permaculture provide, it is possible to shape our individual lives and to redesign the destructive systems at play to morph the current apocalyptic narrative into something regenerative.
Through the lens of Permaculture, one will realise that sustainability is not enough – regeneration is key – and manicured lawns are not beautiful, but rather wasteful and ridiculous. The lens magnifies what corporations gloss over and shows us that the current norm of destructive agriculture is catapulting humanity towards the precipice of environmental catastrophe. Permaculture shows us that the destruction of the natural world is a tragedy disguised as ‘progress’; it shows us that the creepy crawly creatures we so often fear are, in fact, an important part of biodiversity.
Many simplified definitions of Permaculture can be found: Bill Mollison has described it as “a persistent system that supports human existence”, and as “a philosophy of working with, rather than against, nature.” Marit Parker describes it as something that “joins the dots between different areas of our lives, different interests and different issues that affect us,” while Heather Jo Flores describes it as “community, human and non-human, interconnected.”
Personally, I see Permaculture as a call to action, an empowering body of fascinating knowledge and a workable set of solutions in a world of problems. I see it as accountability for our role as Earth custodians, enabling us to design our mindsets in favour of the natural world, so that the paradise of Earth may naturally regrow.
Written by: Kelly Steenhuisen
Resources and Further Reading:
It is an unusually hot morning for early May, and we are clustered on the western side of the half-complete, skeletal structure of Heartland’s new school building and community center. At our feet is a fluffy heap of barley straw, to our right is a halved, recycled water tank, awash in a deliciously smooth clay and water concoction: slip.
In a day and age of vast overuse of energy-intensive building materials, the only logical place to turn, when it comes to the recreation of the Garden Route’s infrastructure, is towards sustainable building techniques. When I say recreation, I mean the mass rebuild which had to take place after the 2017 fires ravaged a 300km stretch of South Africa’s pristine south coast.
With the intention to both minimise negative ecological impacts and maximise the use of locally produced renewable materials, eco architecture aims to incorporate sustainable design practices which involve the integration of the building into its natural environment.
Heartland School of Self-Sufficiency was burned to the ground when the fires swept through the back-to-back farms and smallholdings just outside Sedgefield. In their case, when it comes to working closely to their environment, they’ve made use of clay harvested from a small deposit on the banks of their dam, locally sourced barley straw, and a generous assortment of materials both donated or salvaged from the wreckage left from the fire.
All bricks used for the foundation were sourced from previous buildings on the land which burnt, while the turf roof, which is now planted generously with sour fig, actually survived the fire. This new building will not only be the new school space but also a community center, comprising of a pottery studio, music room, and yoga space utilised as an engaging, co-creative learning environment.
The partly-finished building is a delightfully creamed-honey colour and is veined in the texture of the straw. Fine green shoots are beginning to sprout from the older walls as they dry out beneath the autumn sun. This is natural and important to the process. As the remaining barley and wheat seeds in the straw sprout, the tiny roots assist in further binding the wall, and their dying-off is a natural indication of moisture levels in the wall, marking an apt time to begin the final process of plastering.
The design of the building primarily incorporates a timber framework and light straw clay infill. The process of the infill is swift and simple, once all core aspects are in place.
A fine slip is made by roughly sieving the clay and combining it with a 2:1 ratio of water to clay. The clay mixture can then be sieved again through a fine mesh to eliminate any large clumps. The final consistency should be that of thick cream - it looks good enough to eat, and certainly good enough to bathe in.
This slip is then combined with the straw (barley or wheat, whichever can be locally sourced) until lightly coated. The quantities equate to roughly four litres of slip for enough straw to stuff into a 25 litre bucket. The final product should only be wet enough to clump when squeezed, and is then put aside to cure overnight.
Then to build the walls.
The tamping process is equally straightforward. Wooden form-work is applied to either side of the timbre framework and light straw mixture is applied in layers or ‘lifts’ - approximately 20cm when loosely packed - before it is stamped firmly down, either by foot or with a wooden tool.
Depending on the width of the panel and the height of the wall, this is a process with varying degrees of difficulty. I brace myself alongside a crossbeam and work my feet up and down the narrow space, as the damp straw compresses delightfully beneath my toes. By the time we’ve worked the wall halfway up however, I am half wedged against the roofing, awkwardly suspended by one arm tucked around a broad beam. It’s almost time to abandon footwork entirely.
Any gaps or spaces found within the infill once the panel is complete can be plugged with ‘chinking’ - a denser mixture of river sand, clay and straw which can be stuffed into or smoothed over the areas. Give it a couple of weeks to dry out and sprout, then a plaster of lime and cow dung smooths things over for your light straw clay home. Voila!
This is a process which finds all the elements in motion. Earth and water in their physical form; as well as air and the sun’s heat, intrinsic to the drying and crystallisation of the walls final structure.
Although it is one one of the lesser known methods of sustainable building - which sits in the shadow of the more common cob or adobe techniques - Light Straw Clay is likely one of most cost-effective, simple, and yet highly durable techniques when it comes to building naturally.
More information on the building technique can be found in Essential Light Straw Clay Construction, available on Amazon.
Heartland School of Self Sufficiency is now up and running once again, and you can see more about them on their Facebook Page.
By Skye Mallac
According to Natural Resources Canada, transportation makes up 23% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. If each of each student/employee in training spends 30 minutes and one litre of petrol on commuting every day, they release approximately 11.5kgs of greenhouse gasses per week. By shifting to online education, you skip the daily commute to learn from home, reducing your personal carbon footprint, save on petrol money and save the Earth from an additional 2.3kgs of emissions per day.
eLearning spares non-renewable resources
Another environmentally costly reality is that cars require oil, a non-renewable fossil fuel that is formed in the Earth over millions of years and is made up of decayed plants and animals. Oil can’t be readily replaced by natural means at a quick enough pace to keep up with the global consumption of it, so cutting down plays a large role in resource conservation.
eLearning ditches the paper trail
According to the Rainforest Alliance, deforestation causes roughly 10% of global emissions. To make matters worse, the same trees we are felling are crucial allies for combatting the accumulation of greenhouse gasses because they capture carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen. By migrating online, old-school training booklets and written notes become a thing of the past. Digital copies of learning materials, including personalised learning platforms from New Leaf Technologies or educational apps such as MemoTrainerTM, replace the paper waste and reduce the demand for chopping down trees.
In addition to all the good you’d be doing the environment by taking your corporate training online, there’s something in it for your company, too. eLearning can save you hordes of time if you hire professionals to get the job done, which is not nearly as costly as you might think. New Leaf Technologies has a free Training Cost Calculator that gives you an indication of how much you can save by taking your corporate training online.
Shifting to eLearning is a wise move from a marketing perspective because consumers generally tend to choose an environmentally friendly option over an ecologically inconsiderate alternative. A reduced carbon footprint makes for a polished corporate image.
‘Going green’ is not just another trend, it’s a responsibility that comes with advantages, and it may be as simple as switching to eLearning. With or without a global pandemic, eLearning is an excellent educational option that comes with quite compelling positive impacts. Something that saves time, money, materials, and the planet from CO2 emissions is a win/win by our standards.
By Emma Nylah
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainability is the management of Earth's ecosystems in a way that promotes the wellbeing of all species and future generations. To ensure environmental stability, we need to establish the use of resources within the natural boundaries of the planet.
The environment is influenced by a number of systems - namely social, economic and ecological - all of which contribute to the promotion or reduction of environmental stability. For social and economic sustainability to occur, there needs to be a sustainable environment - it is a prerequisite for the maintenance of diverse life. Human beings are part of the biosphere, but we are rapidly exploiting it. Our species is currently consuming more than Earth's ecosystems can withstand.
The climate emergency is a threat to all species on earth, including humanity. It is exacerbating the rate of biodiversity loss, and has resulted in the unfolding of the sixth mass extinction: the Anthropocene.
With rapidly growing urban areas and a global population size of approximately 7 and a half billion people, our consumption rates are increasing exponentially. We are depleting Earth's resources, rapidly resulting in an environmental and ecological emergency.
The exponential growth of the human population means that the increased consumption rates are pressurising ecosystems and are exceeding their functional thresholds.
Figure 2: https://www.kateraworth.com/
Once an ecosystem has passed its threshold it can no longer revert back to its original state. We are pressuring a number of ecosystems beyond their functional capacity and are exacerbating our anthropogenic impact on the environment exponentially. This is why we, as a collective, need to rise to the challenge of changing our behaviour in order to ensure our actions and choices promote sustainability so that we can preserve the planet and all the creatures who call it home.