Celebrated conservation journalist and TV presenter Michelle Garforth Venter has made a name for herself as one of South Africa’s leading ‘green’ activists.
Over the years she’s starred in a number of environmentally orientated programmes including Bush Radar, Spirit of Africa, Wild Ltd, Greenline and Love & Mortar. Putting theory into practice, she’s built her own eco-friendly home at Avianto Estate with husband Riaan Garforth Venter and written a book called The Green Line.
She’s also proved that ‘going green’ doesn’t necessarily have to be a labour intensive affair and in many instances only requires a few simple behavioural changes. “Every aspect of our daily lives exacts some kind of environmental toll,” says Garforth. “The good news is that sustainable living simply requires a new way of thinking. Indeed, it’s easy, accessible and not necessarily expensive.”
If while reading this you think that climate change and environmental degradation won’t affect you, think again. According to Garforth, South Africa is already feeling the impact of man’s wanton misuse of the planet. Local climate and ocean temperatures are increasing; a number of species such as ragged tooth sharks and puff adders are adapting their migratory behaviour in response to climactic changes and it is estimated that the African Penguin will be extinct by 2030.
Additionally, according to Garforth, approximately 1,700 South African plant species are currently threatened with extinction, mainly due to urbanisation and alien plant introductions.
“South Africa ranks among the world’s 20 biggest greenhouse emitters and is the highest emitter in Africa. Happily, South Africa showed moral leadership in 2009 in Copenhagen when Jacob Zuma announced the country’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 34 percent by 2020 and 42 percent by 2025.”
There are ways in which you can help contribute to the country’s low carbon path. Garforth’s ‘Eight Easy Steps to Sustainable Living’ are a good place to start.
• Switch from plastic bags to fabric shopping bags.
• Aim to decrease your landfill contribution. A shoe-box size of waste (per family) each week should be your ultimate goal.
• You can achieve a decrease in waste output through recycling and establishing a wormery. Installing a specialised wet waste system such as a sink-grinder is another good option.
• Install rainwater harvesting tanks.
• Create a doorframe sized vegetable garden and consider keeping a few hens: your own home-grown vegetables and eggs are a great way to live more sustainably.
• Only plant indigenous plants that support 50 percent more wildlife than exotics. Pass on the grass. Grass is heavy on water, money and chemicals. Replace with water-wise options such as veld grass and wild flowers.
• Check your fridge and freezer temperatures. Your fridge should be set on 4°C and your freezer should be set at -19°C.
• Install a solar geyser.
• Change your old incandescent light bulbs to CFL’s and LED’s.
Our eating habits also affect the environment says Garforth. “Every purchase you make has either a direct or indirect effect on the environment, climate change, animal welfare and your long-term health,” she explains.
By considering a few pointers your consumer impact can be a positive one she says. For instance, ask questions like:
• How is it grown?
• What pesticides and chemicals were used to process it?
• How far has the food travelled?
• Does it look fresh and if so, what is keeping it looking fresh?
Garforth says another way to ‘eat green’ is to eat sustainably harvested fish. You can find out if the fish you want to buy or eat has been sustainably harvested by contacting the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). SASSI is working to help restore over exploited fish-stocks off our coastline. All you need to do is sms 079 449 8795 to SASSI with the name of the fish you intend to eat. You will receive a response stating that your intended fish falls into either a red, orange or green category.
Red indicates an unsustainable species or species that is illegal to sell in SA. Orange is linked to species with a worrying decrease in population trends because of negative environmental issues associated with the fishing methods employed to catch them. Green is the most-sustainable species which SASSI encourages consumers to buy.
Prescribing to ‘Meat Free Mondays’ is another eco-friendly eating option. This campaign was launched in 2010 by Fry’s Vegetarian Foods and urges all South Africans to make a difference by not eating meat every Monday in a bid to create awareness of the negative impact that the meat industry has on the planet.
In closing Garforth says: “While you’ve been reading this, more carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere, more acres of oxygen replenishing forest is being felled and more species have been lost to extinction. Every minute that we fail to take action we are jeopardizing our eco-system still further. So use less, share more and reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink.”
For more information on these and other green tips go to www.thegreenlinetv.com