Monthly archives "April 2010"

Blow baby blow

I hope you enjoyed a blissful long weekend, soaking up some of last of the autumn sun before winter strikes. We all know that sun in moderation is good for us, and new research suggests a link between inadequate Vitamin D levels (we form Vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight) and diabetes. Not that I’m suggesting your weekend tan will allow you to start mainlining sugar like you were a patron of my high school tuckshop…

Drill baby drill
The Exxon Valdez oil spill was one of the most devastating in history. In 1989 the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground, and 40 million litres of oil poured into the surrounding sea. Up to a quarter of a million seabirds died, as well as eagles, orcas, otters and seals. But memory fades, the dead fish rot away, and times change. Still, it’s surprising that in spite of the trauma this event caused to Alaska, the territory still produces politicians with the slogan drill baby drill.

The rest of the country is infected too, with even the US president approving more offshore oil drilling as the frenzy to cash in on the rising oil prices continues.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is different. Caused by a sunken oil rig rather than a tanker, oil is pouring out of a leak 5000 feet below the surface, and the spill is threatening to become even more devastating than Exxon Valdez’s. The coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are all potentially in danger – Louisiana alone contains 40% of the threatened wetlands in the entire US. BP, the company responsible for the spill, has proven unable to do much besides speculate as to why their safety valve didn’t work, and the US military is now involved as the potential scale and threat of the spill becomes known.

In a ray of light, BP will be forced to pay for the cleanup, and perhaps this will put a oil rig in their plans to dredge up the Arctic for more oil. Also, the current Florida senator, Charlie Grist, previously a supporter of offshore oil drilling, has reversed his stance, and other prominent “drill baby drill” supporters are also reconsidering their stance.

Blow baby blow
At the same time as the oil spill is going on, the first offshore wind farm in the US has been given approval. Many believe offshore wind is a better bet than land-based windfarms, as, although they’re initially more expensive, windspeeds are higher and more consistent than over the land, and there’s less difficulty with landowners not wanting it in their back yard.

While the first US offshore windfarm has only been granted approval, Germany’s first offshore windfarm went online this week. Many European countries are taking strides to cutting their reliance on coal and combustion in general, though Germany is unusual in that it’s also cutting its reliance on nuclear power, thanks in part to a brief stint in government by the German Green Party. Germany is a world leader in solar power, although it’s likely to generate more energy from wind in the future with advanced plans to quickly roll out more offshore windfarms.

Perhaps this will herald the emergence of new class of populist politicians, the phrase “blow baby blow” their trademark?

It’s Amaizin
We have the Amaizin organic corn chips back in stock this week. I have a reputation for devouring these in huge quantities – totally undeserved I assure you. The 40 bags I was once delivered was all a horrible misunderstanding. Even without my contribution, they fly off the shelves, so you may want to get your order in quickly!

Price cuts
We have a record number of items on the site this week, but while you’re deciding between goji snacktubs, black sesame and psyllium husks, you may notice that we’ve managed to cut prices on quite a few lines, in some cases substantially. You’ll find the Pro-Nature non-toxic paints, many of the body and home care lines from Bloublommetjies, and selected herbs and spices from Good Life in particular are now much more attractively priced.

Why is nobody listening?
Have you been sending mails and not getting a response? While some suggest there’s a black hole at the centre of the universe, we’ve had our very own black hole in the email system, and some mails have gone missing. If you’re waiting for a response and starting to feel it’s in vain, please send it through again – especially if its a compliment!

No fly zone
We don’t fly in any of our products, and of all our fresh produce is local. At least we that’s what we thought. Thanks to an eagle-eyed customer (whose email did get through) we discovered to our horror that two of our mushroom lines were being flown in from China. We should have spotted this ourselves, but this shows again that, as long as things are transparent, the eyes of many are always better than the eyes of a few. We’ve now dropped the lines.

So, keep as vigilant as ever, posting your comments on the blog (where they can’t get lost and everyone can see!), and help us keep the best source of authentic and ethical produce.

Have a wonderful week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team

Eyjafjallajokull and Eskom

Earth Day
Happy Earth Day to all! The Earth needs all the love and attention she can get this time round, and isn’t being helped by a sunken oil rig off the US coast spewing thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean.

Volcanos vs people
Faced with might of the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption, what effect do humans have? After all, with the belching volcano spewing out thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide and other gasses, what’s a few aeroplanes or coal power stations in comparison? At least, that’s another lie used by some industry lobbyists in their ongoing attempt to prevent any annoying legislation.

The volcano looks dramatic, all the smoke pouring from one crater, and it’s had a dramatic effect on European air travellers, but its effect on overall greenhouse gas emissions is quite small. It’s emits roughly one quarter of the greenhouse gasses of the European airline industry alone, an industry that runs all day, every day, not just a couple of times a century. Overall, it amounts to just less than a third of one percentage point of global emissions of greenhouse gases.

Volcanic activity has had marked impact on climate over the millenia. The airline industry, in Europe alone, is equivalent to four Eyjafjallajokull’s, running continuously.

Picture all those aeroplane fumes, all those car exhausts, all those coal power stations, all those smelters – all combined into one belching crater. Eyjafjallajokull pales into insignificance against the destruction we’re causing every day.

Eskom energy
I was in Darling this weekend, and drove past the 4 wind turbines there. Although there was only a light breeze, the turbines were turning. For years, this was the only wind generation capacity in the country. 4 turbines that produce a pitiful fraction of the total amount of electricity, and a fraction that’s due to fall further as South Africa becomes one of the world’s worst polluters. While most of the world at least crawls to roll out renewable energy, Eskom is obstructing any progress here.

Eskom’s secret pricing has long been a concern, but now it appears there’s a number to the speculation. A leaked document indicates that Eskom supplies electricity to the multinational mining company BHP Billiton at 12c a kilowatt hour, less than the cost of generating it. Eskom has a similar contract with Anglo American, and together, the two mining companies alone consume 10% of South Africa’s electricity. As a result of these huge losses, Eskom has had, to put it mildly, financial difficulties

So, what we thought of as “our” electricity company is in effect working for the World Bank and various mining multinationals, providing them with below cost electricity, all while using the most polluting form of generation possible, and blocking attempts to introduce renewable energy.

Micronesia vs ?
In an interesting legal development, the small island nation of Micronesia, one of the most threatened by rising sea levels, lodged a legal challenge against a huge Czech coal power plant, on the grounds that its chronic pollution threatens the island nation’s existence. It’s a tall order, a tiny, impoverished nation against the might of the world’s oil and coal corporations, but perhaps we’ll soon be seeing Eskom challenged on its disgraceful decision.

Tuesday pickings
Although we notice many orders are only placed on Tuesday, there are quite a few things unavailable by then. Milk, and many of the dairy and fresh lines are all unavailable by Tuesday morning, so place your order as soon as possible if you want the widest range. Remember, you can always change your order up until closing time on Tuesday.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team

Meat, coal and shiny white gnashers

No-meat day
Cape Town recently became the first African city to declare one day a week meat-free. That’s doesn’t mean you get locked up if you eat meat on a Friday. Rather, thanks to Compassion in World Farming and the city’s Health Portfolio Committee, the city has endorsed a call to make one day a week meat-free.

The main goal behind the call is to encourage people to eat more healthily, as well as the associated environmental benefits with eating less meat.

South Africa gets dirty coal
South is poised to race even further up the world’s worst polluter per capita charts after the World Bank approved the $3.75 billion loan to Eskom for a monstrous coal power station. All it took was one “No” vote according to the World Bank’s consensus rules, but although there were quite a few abstentions, nobody wanted to rock the boat. In a country with one of the best profiles worldwide for renewable energy, we have instead chosen the worst of options, one that will be poisoning the air and the water for generations to come.

While we’re forced to breath ever-dirtier air, we’re at least not condemned to ever-dirtier teeth! We’ve always offered a number of toothpastes (Enchantrix and Nature Fresh currently), but this week sees a new range of oral care products – Olgani herbal brushing salts. The idea of brushing my teeth in salt seemed strange at first, but after a week’s testing I’ve found something I’m very happy using. Salt is antibacterial and antifungal, and the three different varieties all contain different herbs for different focus areas.

Find them all in our “Personal Care – Oral Care” section. As always, you can see a more complete description, and full ingredient listings, by clicking on “More Info” above the product name on the left of the screen.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week.
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team.

I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts

April Fools
Thanks to everyone who wrote in to reprimand us for stocking Coca Cola Herbal. The good news is that it was an April Fools joke – I’ve been waiting years for the Thursday newsletter to fall on April 1!

Peak what?
Most of us have heard of peak oil. Peak oil is not when oil “runs out”, but when production starts to drop as the oil wells reach full capacity. As production drops, with demand still high, prices increase, and oil becomes unaffordable for most people who want to use it. We’re likely to have just passed, or be fairly close to, that point. Oil prices were increasing steadily until they dropped at the start of the recession, when demand plummeted. However, prices have recently picked up again, and the dependence on oil so many of us take for granted – importing foods from all over the world, plastic wrapping, driving our cars, will soon be coming to an end. The pessimists predict chaos, the optimists a smooth transition to more a local, less wasteful society, but, as the famous 60’s bard said, ‘the times they are a changin’. Willingly or not, we’ll be weaned off our high oil lifestyle.

But peak oil isn’t the only “peak”. Any resource we use more quickly than it gets replaced will peak. Some predict uranium, used in nuclear reactors, will peak in 2035. But there’s another “peak” that is far more serious for the world as it’s structured currently. Peak phosphorous. Phosphorous is one of the three key fertiliser additives in conventional farming, but by 2030 production may begin to drop. And that’s based on current trends. If Africa makes the mistake of moving to conventional chemical farming, and mimics the farming wastelands of much of the developed world, phosphorous reserves will be depleted very quickly.

However, there are alternative sources of phosphorous – compost and manure. And this strange system, the spirit of organic farming, involves waste from what’s taken out added back to the soil, and the system sustains itself in perfect health. Simple really.

Pesticide-free pasta
The list of fruit and vegetables with the heaviest pesticide residues are quite well-known now. The most heavily contaminated foods include peaches, apples, peppers, celery, nectarines, pears, spinach and potatoes. Non-authentic farms are warzones, toxic waste dumps for the workers and other creatures living nearby, and the smorgasbord of pesticides served up the produce isn’t great for your body either.

But what about grains, they don’t feature high on the list? Grains aren’t as highly contaminated, but while many of us can eat one sweet pepper a week, we can graze through bags of grain in the form of bread or pasta, and the end result is the similar.

For the pasta lovers, we’ve been expanding our pasta range, and have organic lasagne, macaroni, penne and spaghetti, in both wheat and spelt. To top it off, there’s even pesto to go with it!

There is also a range of gluten-free noodles.

New produce
While I’m waffling on about marauding oil companies and farming wastelands, there’s a growing list of new products being added to the site. One of my favourite fruits, satsumas, are back, and in recent weeks the list of organic produce we’ve added includes dried apricots, apple rings, currants, a range of mueslis, including gluten-free, snack bars, a great range of herbs and spices, and coconuts.

But for some of us, getting coconuts from Mozambique in a box is not good enough. Beryl, who’s been with us from our Diep River days, is off to Mauritius to laze under a palm tree for a few months, occasionally getting up to pick her own coconut. We’re fortunate to have Bhanoo leaping aboard to take her place, and she’ll also be the person who helps you when you ordered potatoes and got smash, or were charged for a 25 litre coconut oil instead of a bag of mint.

Thanks and fare well Beryl, and welcome Bhanoo.

Happy shopping at

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team

Coke Herbal, and Eskom’s coal trip

Great news this week is that we are the first local distributor to introduce Coca-Cola Herbal. Coke Herbal is a new formulation for the health food market, containing Calabar Bean, water hemlock and foxglove. Enjoy!

Coal and Eskom
After the failure of climate talks, and the lack of any binding limits, it’s business as usual for the coal industry in most of the world.

But not in South Africa.

We have higher per capita carbon emissions than many European countries, criminal considering that most people are living in relative poverty, not sitting in air-conditioned luxury apartments with the dishwasher going. Eskom has applied for a loan from the World Bank to build a new, massive coal power station. This coal power station would be the fourth largest in the world, as dirty as the two dirtiest power stations in Britain combined.

Meanwhile, as Eskom increases the electricity tariffs to the public, they’re being sued to reveal the preferential tariffs they offer to some of the dirtiest industries. Huge aluminium operations in Richards Bay and Mozambique use as much electricity as the cities of Durban or Cape Town, but Eskom is believed to be offering them below-cost tariffs.

The dirtiest form of power generation, and the dirtiest industries, all agreed behind closed doors. In 2008, Eskom shortlisted Laymeyer International to help them build new power stations. Laymeyer International is a German company blacklisted by the World Bank after being convicted of bribery. They paid a R2.5 million bribe to the CEO of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority.

The World Bank will vote in days, and all it takes is one “no” vote to veto the loan. Perhaps, when Eskom is given an unconditional “no”, it will realise that secrecy and fossil fuel is not the way to go, and will begin to embrace the abundant opportunities for renewable energy in this country.

You can add your voice to the mounting opposition by signing the Avaaz petition.

Collection Points
Please note that after the upheavals with the public holidays, collection points should be back to normal this week.

To order, head on over to

I’ve waited years to be able to send a newsletter on April 1st. I hope you read it in time! Have a wonderful Easter weekend,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team