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10 Things YOU can do to Save our Planet

Sorry for my absence, I bought a run down 12m yacht in 2013, and since then have dedicated my life to fixing it up, living aboard and travelling the Pacific with my partner. I have started another website to reflect our life on the sea. Go to The Little Shipping Co. to find out more.

While going through my computer, and decluttering to make more space I found some blog posts I had written with the hope of finishing them off at a later date. The following is what I wrote with the aims of making a short film back in 2006. Life got in the way, and I never got around to making that film so here are my notes below (May be a little outdated!)

10 things you can do to save our planet

Its true. The proof is there that the planet is getting warmer at an alarming rate due to human activity. According to the IPCC (intergovernmental panel on climate change) we need a reduction of 60% by 2050 if we are to stabilise our climate and head off catastrophic effects. At this rate if we leave things to the politicians we might well have to wait for a catastrophe before we see any action. You may think little old you can’t make a difference, and that it is up to industry, big business and politicians to make change, but by making a lifestyle change you can cut your lifetime contribution to global warming by over 1000 tonnes of greenhouse gas… WITHOUT becoming a hermit or a hippy!

 

1. Plant a Garden.

By planting a vegetable garden, not only will you have the most nutritious fresh food at your fingertips, but you will connect with the earth just a little more and learn more about the planet and it’s intricate interwoven nature.

2. Don’t buy Made in China.

It may be cheaper but buying ‘Made in China’ supports the growth of China as a developing nation, yet they are still so poor so cannot afford to supply ‘clean’ energy so instead to support this rapid economic growth they are building old technology coal-fired power plants that emit tonnes of CO2 and acid-rain causing sulphur gas.

Would you prefer your health or money?

3. Buy Locally.

Instead support local businesses…

Importing goods from other places uses trucks, planes and other forms of transport that emit CO2. Buying locally not only supports the wellbeing of our own region or country’s economy but also abandons the need to use polluting forms of transport.

Eating locally can reduce food related greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.

4. Get out of the Car and on your Bike/Feet.

Using public transport cuts 60% of greenhouse emissions out of your travel.

Better still, biking or walking creates no carbon emissions at all!

…if not, change your driving habits or better still your car

5. Change your Driving Habits.

By driving 8 kms under the speed limit you save fuel and reduce emissions. Trade in your gas guzzler to a smaller-engined car, keep car serviced regularly and car pool and you can halve your greenhouse gas emissions.

6. Think About Your Appliances.

By choosing the most efficient appliances when you buy them, and using low-energy light bulbs you can lower emissions by 30%.

7. Support Renewable Energy Sources eg Wind, Water and Solar Power.

Do your research into which electricity providers use renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal and make the switch. Better yet get your own solar panels or go off grid.

8. The 3 R’s and 1 C.

R educe

R euse

R ecycle

C ompost

Reduce is the most important, so resist all those products and packaging you don’t need.

We are producing on average, 10 times our body weight in rubbish every year, and this rotting mass produces methane. Two thirds of household waste can be composted.

9. Dress for the Weather.

One of the easiest cheapest and fastest ways to cut back on your energy consumption is to reduce the amount of heating and cooling in your home.

40% of the greenhouse gases emitted from private homes come from climate control systems.

10. Avoid ‘Gassy’ Foods.

Eating less meat and dairy products means less methane-belching cows and sheep.

 

Not only will you be feeling ethically good about yourself but by easy lifestyle changes you can save the world from certain destruction.

 

There are many more things you can do to live a less destructive lifestyle, but these were the main 10 I came up with back in 2006.

I would love your comments with some of the things you are doing to help save the planet (and ourselves!)

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Kindergarten Food Forest Design Part 1. What is a Food Forest?

There is a kindergarten in Tauranga, New Zealand, that really cares about the health of it’s children. They are keen on putting in a self-regulating food forest or forest garden, that will provide a variety of nutrient-dense  and organically grown, fruit, nuts, berries, vegetables and herbs all year round, without the high maintenance and inputs of a conventional orchard.

A forest garden in winter in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, was planted 10 months ago during a local Permablitz. The trees and plants have been planted along water harvesting swales that are filled from the overflow of the nearby water tank. The paths among the swales have remained grassed.

A ‘food forest’ is exactly like the name implies – a forest of food, and it should mimic a natural forest which has various ‘layers’ and is self-regulating, but the difference being, most of the plants within the food forest produce food or useful materials for us!

The Layers

A key component of creating a food forest or forest garden, is to include all seven layers of a natural forest ecosystem.

  1. ‘Canopy layer’ consisting of the original mature fruit trees.
  2. ‘Low-tree layer’ of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
  3. ‘Shrub layer’ of fruit bushes such as currants and berries.
  4. ‘Herbaceous layer’ of perennial vegetables and herbs.
  5. ‘Rhizosphere’ or ‘underground’ dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
  6. ‘Ground cover layer’ of edible plants that spread horizontally.
  7. ‘Vertical layer’ of vines and climbers.

credit: Wikipedia/Graham Burnett

Generally they are perennial plants, and by including all layers there is less opportunity for undesirable ‘weeds’ to get established. We must include maximum diversity and maximum interconnections. Each plant plays a different function within the food forest, and supports the other plants whether it is through providing shade, providing mulch through leaf drop, breaking up compacted soil with a deep tap-root, ‘mining’ minerals from deeper in the soil or fixing nitrogen from the air and making it available to other plants. One thing is for sure – it is a regenerative, soil fertility building system.

Kay Baxter from the Koanga Institute, New Zealand’s Permaculture Research Institute recently held a workshop around the country – “Design Your Own Forest Garden”. The workshop was based around an amazing little booklet by the same name that draws on Kay’s extensive gardening experience, and information relevant to New Zealand’s climate, gleaned from various forest garden textbooks.

Through a series of charts and tables, the booklet takes you through a step-by-step process of how to design your backyard forest garden and can be summarised by:

  1. Measure and analyse the area for wet and dry spots, cold and prevailing winds, sun path, soil pH etc
  2. Choose no more than 50% of the total forest garden area to be taken up by the mature fruit tree canopy. Select the fruit trees you want taking into account canopy size, fruiting times (to get fruit all year round), rootstock for the right soil conditions, and climatic factors such as wind and sun.
  3. The fruit trees need nitrogen to grow bigger, so nitrogen fixing legume trees are planted around each fruit tree. For heavy feeding fruit trees such as citrus and apples, 80% of their total canopy area needs to be planted as the canopy area of nitrogen fixing trees such as tree lucerne or tagasaste (Chamaecytisus palmensis).
  4. To supply the potassium needs of each fruit tree, 1 comfrey plant should be planted for every square metre of canopy area. For example, a 30m2 peach tree should have 30 comfrey plants around the north-facing dripline. As well as supplying the tree’s potassium needs, the comfrey makes an impenetrable border to invasive grasses.
  5. The rest of the space should be filled with ground covers, small shrubs, and vines of the specific guilds to make up the seven layers. Guilds are a group of plants, animals, insects and fungi that have co-evolved together in the same regions and climates, and act like companions.

Guilds

In New Zealand we can divide our main fruit and nut trees into the following guilds:

  1. Temperate Guild
  2. Mediterrannean Guild
  3. Citrus/ Loquat Guild
  4. Feijoa Guild
  5. Subtropical Guild

Each of these guilds are suited to a certain set of climatic and soil conditions, and when choosing plants for each guild a good guide is to choose the conditions the plants like best and group these plants together, whilst trying to fill each layer and role in the food forest.

The Koanga institute have created a database of suitable forest garden plants for New Zealand- an amazing resource for those of us wanting to design a forest garden. It is constantly evolving and can be downloaded here as a spreadsheet file:-

Food Forest Database for New Zealand

We have designed the Kindergarten food forest using this method and permaculture principles, and will be blogging about the design and the rationale behind it in our next blog post, “Kindergarten Food Forest Design Part 2. The Design”.

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Make a Natural Body Scrub at Home

Slough off those dead and dry winter skin cells and give your skin a natural and healthy looking glow ready for bikini weather this summer! Using a body scrub not only smooths your skin but also improves circulation, brightens and softens the skin and possibly reduces cellulite.

You can make a body scrub at home with ingredients in your cupboard, so it doesn’t need to cost you a thing! And if it is edible is is usually not toxic like some skin care ingredients in commercial products.

Coffee and Coconut Body Scrub

I made a body scrub with coconut oil, used coffee grinds, and used chai herbs to give it a yummy spicy cinnamon smell. I used about 2/3 cup of coconut oil, about 2 heaped tablespoons of used coffee grinds (or whatever is in your percolator), and a teaspoon of used chai herbs from my last cuppa.

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Make Mozzarella Cheese in 30 mins. No Microwave Needed.

photo: creative commons/ paPisc on Flickr

I was surprised at how easy it was to make low-cost fresh mozzarella cheese in only 30mins and without the dreaded microwave oven. As long as you follow the directions closely your cheese should turn out wonderfully. I learned how to do this at the local farmers market with the guidance of Debra from Cheeses Loves You who teach cheese making.

The basic principal is to gradually heat the milk until it is warm, and then add rennet which helps the milk to separate or curdle. The curd is the milk solids and the whey is the watery yellowish liquid, which is by the way nutritious and too good to throw out. Mozzarella is formed from heating the curd, stretching and making a ball with your hands. The remaining whey can be added to soups, curries, dough, or anything that requires a slightly salted liquid. Apparently animals like dogs and chickens and pigs will gobble it up too.

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Yacon – The Uses are Many and Varied [HD video – Harvesting]

About 8 months ago I noticed an interesting looking plant with large furry leaves that had started growing in our garden. It had obviously been planted before we moved in and lay dormant until conditions were just right for it to burst forth from the ground.

The Yacón is still an unfamiliar food plant to many gardeners, but its popularity is rapidly increasing due to it being quite hardy, adaptable to a variety of soils and climates and with a unique flavour.

This is all from 1 plant!

The Yacón is yet another one of South America’s gifts to the food world. It is a root crop that has an incredibly sweet and crispy tuber that can be eaten raw or be prepared in a multitude of ways. In a sub-tropical climate like ours, we have a long growing season and it can be considered to be a perennial. When we harvested our Yacón, the leaves had started to die off. We made this short video to show you the difference between the edible tubers and the parts of the root that can be divided and replanted to make more Yacon plants!

I couldn’t resist peeling it straight away and tasting it for the first time. It was exactly how it had been described from internet searches I had done – juicy, with a delicate crunch, a sort of ‘underground pear or apple’.

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Sustainable Streets in the Byron Shire [HD Video]

Sustainable Streets Organic Gardening Workshop

The Byron Shire Council in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia are providing the framework to empower residents to reconnect with their neighbours and to build resilient and sustainable communities.

The ‘Sustainable Streets’ program provides sustainable living information through a series of monthly sustainable living workshops where residents can also connect with neighbours, receive energy audits, free water-saving showerheads and shower timers and share seeds and surplus home grown produce.

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