• Homegrown: sustainability starts at home.
    This evocative term, ‘homegrown’ can mean many things, from the single tomato plant in a pot on a high-rise balcony, to the organic market, to the family farm, to quirky people’s philosophies of life, to the real movers and shakers who take the bull by the horns and become homesteaders, lacking for nothing routinely bought in a shop. Every little bit of home-grown produce is a step towards healthier eating and better living, and to achieve any of this one needs to start by learning that it is not hard work! Growing one’s own is not a competition, nor is it a race. It is a life-style choice which is each individual’s to make. Resolve to learn about ‘no dig’ gardening! There exists an intricate network of microscopic tunnels which facilitate the movement of nutrients, water and air, in undisturbed soil. These microscopic tunnels form the basis of root penetration by plants, and earth worms can also thrive in it. All redundant vegetable matter is left in situ, to feed and aerate the soil, roots are not dug up, new plants are just planted in between. Composted matter is added on top of the beds where vegetables are to be planted. The conscientious gardener will continue to add to the soil in this manner, with the result that the soil continues to improve, the water-holding capacity of the soil is increased, yields continue to be healthier and more substantial, and harvesting periods continue to be extended beyond normal expectations. Should […]
  • Putting the “O” back in optimal growth
    We have all heard of organics, but what is it and what is the natural function of soil? Are chemical fertilizers the devil and is organics going to save the world? The modern farming revolution was built on NPK – the three most important components for plant growth. This golden ratio has become synonymous with chemical fertilisation. These varying ratios for different varieties of plants and trees, allowed commercial agriculture to push production and yields. But what is NPK and how is chemical fertilisation different to growing organic? The modern food revolution focused on chemicals and their NPK values and it was the cheapness of chemicals that made them the agricultural wonder drug of an earlier era. The three numbers represent the values of three macro-nutrients used by plants, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) or NPK for short. The height of the number represents the quantity of one in relation to the others, for example, 20:5:5 would have four times more nitrogen in it than phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen – nitrogen in largely responsible for leaf development. Phosphorous –  root growth, flower, seed and fruit development. Potassium – promotes strong stem growth and supports the overall functions of the plant. NPK is simply the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium given to plants; this can be as organic or inorganic forms. Organic can be in the form of dead plant waste (or what we commonly call compost) and animal waste (manures or organic material that has passed through […]
  • Building an eco-house
    As I drive down the dusty path of The Oaks road, just outside White River, a collection of smallholdings and plots appear all around me. I enter a gate, park my car under a tree and stroll down towards one specific house. A stylish rectangular earth home with a grass roof appears in front of me. Michael Matthews, creator and owner of the house,greets me at the start of his walkway, which slopes down gently through his garden. Michael is the Program Director for the Casterbridge Music Development Academy (CMDA) in White River. He also has a background in broadcast journalism and engineering. Michael designed and built this unique home eight years ago, winning an AfriSam innovation award for sustainable construction. The eco-house features rammed earth walls, geothermal cooling, grey water recycling, solar water heating, it has the potential to be completely off-grid and is passive by design. “I went through a very passionate enviros phase, so I built something which was low in energy,” Michael explains. His focus was on this, because he believes everything is about the use of energy. “Modern houses use vast amounts of energy, whether it is electricity or something else. You are using energy to heat it and to cool it”. Michael learnt very soon that his house works extremely well when the sun shines.   The shape “The biggest thing about it is the shape, it is basically a straight rectangle”. While pointing to the front north facing side of the house, Michael […]
  • CT water crisis: heading for ecological suicide?
    BY ANTHONY TURTON OCTOBER 23, 2017 I recently tried to explain the current dire situation in Cape Town in a non-technical manner. That piece was written with the intention of generating an informed public debate, because all things being equal, Cape Town is potentially the first city in South Africa to experience total system failure in 2018. To take this debate to the next level, I hope to crystalize out some very clear cause-effect linkage, because this is needed when making the correct decision about future strategy going forward. In my view there are three distinct “things” that need to be profoundly understood for adequate policy-reform. I will try to explain them in non-technical terms so that the layperson can understand their relevance. The first of these “things” is that the core problem confronting the Western Cape in general, and Cape Town in particular, is what is known in the technical literature as “hydraulic density of population” (HDP). Developed by highly acclaimed Swedish scientist Prof Malin Falkenmark, this is now accepted globally as a key indicator of sustainability. It is widely used by various intelligence agencies as an indicator of social stability / cohesion in a given country. Stated simplistically, there is a direct relationship between human population, water availability and social cohesion. Seen through this conceptual lens, the WC problem is the interplay between population dynamics and water resource availability, with social cohesion being the result of this interplay. I recently did a confidential peer review for an investment portfolio that […]
  • superfood article
    Conscious consumerism is a lie. Here’s a better way to help save the world
    As a sustainable lifestyle blogger, my job is to make conscious consumerism look good. Over the course of four years Instagramming eco-friendly outfits, testing non-toxic nail polish brands, and writing sustainable city guides, I became a proponent of having it all—fashion, fun, travel, beauty—while still being eco-friendly. So when I was invited to speak on a panel in front of the UN Youth Delegation, the expectation was that I’d …….
  • Khi-Solar-small
    Khi Solar One near Upington achieves a technological milestone
    Abengoa, together with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Khi Community Trust, has successfully completed 24 consecutive hours of commercial solar thermal power plant operation, solely powered by solar energy, in its Khi Solar One plant near Upington. According to Abengoa, the 50 MW, steam-driven solar thermal plant which recently began commercial operation in early February 2016, supplies enough clean energy to power around 45 000 South African households……
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