Monthly archives "October 2010"

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!

Can I eat breakfast cereal and be green?” read the headline. The article itself was of little interest, but the headline got me thinking again about the way we use identity. How can we BE green? Buy this tumbledryer and be green. Eat how I eat and be green. He’s not green because he drives a particular car.

Why are we so drawn to labels? We identify ourselves in all sorts of ways as a prop for the ego. I’m “green” therefore I’m good, I’m worthy.

It’s all nonsense – together we’re journeying through life, shaped by different experiences and prejudices, but at our core, we’re compassionate and loving beings. Sometimes we choose clearly from these motivations – choosing our food out of compassion for our own bodies, and all those involved in producing it. And sometimes our choices are driven by other things – a desire to have others see us wearing the right label, or the fungal infections in our body calling for a quick fix, or just unconsciously – tired, taking what’s right in front of us.

We spend too much time judging others, and judging ourselves. By freeing up all the energy wasted on judgement, things that seem complicated can become simple, as we see our own, and others, motivations more clearly. Then, when we see the organic farm, vibrant with life, and the warzone farm continually coating its inhabitants, human and otherwise, in a toxic haze, the choice of food becomes easy.

Sunny Days
A few days ago I came across an article entitled “US approves world’s biggest solar energy project“. 1000 megawatts (1 gigawatt), six billion dollars, the project is giant in scale, and will be built in California. Interesting news, I thought. Six billion dollars not spent on another coal plant is a vast improvement.

That same day, I came across “SA unveils plans for ‘world’s biggest’ solar power plant“. No measly 1GW, the project aims to achieve 5GW capacity. Nor would it cost a measly $6 billion, rather “up to” R200 billion.

The difference is that the US plan is concrete, and has been given actual approval, and is underway, while the South African one is still little more than talk. Coming as it did a few days after an equally light-on-detail government announcement of 4 million new jobs, 8 times more than the half a million announced last year which haven’t yet materialised, it’s easy to be skeptical.

But it can only be a matter of time before the Northern Cape, which has the world’s best solar profile, begins to supply some of our electricity. And hopefully, not too far in the future, we’ll all be watching the demolition of the obselete Mpumalanga coal power stations.

Okinawan Surprise
We have a few old favourites back in stock. Surprisingly, baked beans is one of our most requested items, and these are back, along with the sparkling drinks, and, just in time for summer, soup stock.

Looking into baked beans, I came across the combination kombu and beans. We have kombu, a seaweed commonly eaten in Japan and Korea. While I’m struggling to imagine traditional Okinawan cuisine mixed with the finest traditional Western student fare, why not. If anyone gives it a try, please let us know!

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team.

La La La La Niña

El Niño and La Niña may sound like hit songs from the 80’s, but they’re terms to describe a climatic pattern that’s been going on through the ages. El Niño (the boy) occurs when the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean is warmer than usual, while La Niña, the girl (an early attempt to name the opposite of the boy “the old man” didn’t catch on!), refers to cooler than usual temperatures. The effects are felt worldwide. In Southern Africa, El Niño is associated with periods of drought, and La Niña with higher rainfall. The cycles last from 3 to 7 years.

Within these cycles there are greater cycles – for example the 20-year period of strong El Niños and weak La Niñas from 1978 to 1998.

Right now we’re experiencing a strong La Niña. That means higher than normal rainfall over Southern Africa, but drought in the Southern US and western South America. Throwing greater levels of greenhouse gasses and disappearing vegetation into the mix, trying to predict what will happen is tricky. But so far most of the models indicate stronger and longer droughts for Southern Africa. Right now, when rainfall is high, we should be preparing. We can easily cut water consumption with the use of rainwater tanks, waterwise gardens, and more efficient toilets and showers. If not, the miracle of going to our kitchen and bathroom and turning on a tap, something undreamed of a few generations ago, won’t be available much longer.

Organic farming too will become a necessity, as organically-grown plants are more drought tolerant, and the lack of water brings focus back onto the health of the soil.

Monsanto’s woes
It’s been a tough year for Monsanto, the giant biotech and seed company. Last year, facing mounting resistance to their bovine growth hormone, given to cows to increase milk production, but resulting in higher pus and antibiotic levels in the milk, they sold the division. Even so, to the outrage of many, they were awarded “Company of the Year” by business newspaper Forbes. Since then it’s all gone wrong for them.

I’ve written before about the superweeds that are emerging in the Southern USA, a result of the high levels of herbicide use by farmers growing genetically-modified crops. The superweeds are now becoming so devastating to farmers that opinion is turning against the company. In an attempt to minimise the effects, Monsanto has now teamed up with rival Dow AgroSciences, and released a seed that now contains resistance to two herbicides. Farmers are now encouraged to spray both Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide as well as Dow’s Liberty herbicide. The seeds cost more, will result in even more herbicide use, and, in a few years when nature inevitably responds, no-one should be surprised.

The new seeds, contrary to the marketing hype, actually produce a lower yield.

Working with nature results in successful, sustainable farms producing healthy food. Seeing nature as an enemy to be subsumed, the principle so many modern farms follow, can work only in the short-term.

Tulsi Teas
Organic India’s Tulsi green and plain Tulsi teas are back in stock, and there’s also new flavour – Tulsi pomegranate. Tulsi, better known as “Holy Basil” in the west is one of the prime herbs used in Ayurvedic treatments, and is used for a wide range of ailments, including diabetes, colds and headaches, cataracts and even radiation poisoning!

Have a great week, fit and healthy, and free of radiation poisoning!

Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to

Eggs and summer veg

We’re very happy this week to be able to offer certified organic eggs from Bloublommetjies biodynamic farm. Certified eggs are normally hard to come by, as they require certified organic feed for the chickens, and this is expensive in South Africa, with its small certified organic market. However, when you have a thriving biodynamic farm there’s ample foraging for grass, seeds, herbs, fruit. The chickens are also as free range as can be, roaming the farm, and sleeping in a tree outside at night, making the egg hunt an interesting experience. And the best news of all is that the eggs are great value.

As with all of our egg suppliers, we only have limited stock, so they’re normally sold out quickly. In fact, as I write this on Friday afternoon, they’re already all sold out! Hopefully we’ll have more available next week.

Drifting into Summer
Even if you’re too late for the eggs, you haven’t missed out on everything new. Appelsdrift Farm, now Drift Farm, are back, with a wide variety. We’re coming out of winter and early spring, and the variety of local, seasonal veggies is picking up again.

The Majestic Plastic Bag
This week’s video is a mockumentary, “The Majestic Plastic Bag”, charting the humble plastics bag’s hazardous journey across the urban jungle, into the river, and eventually the ocean, where it heads home to the Pacific Garbage patch. View it here.

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

To order, head on over to

Fields of barley

Barley is perhaps these days best known as an ingredient in beer, and is believed to be the first alcoholic drink developed by Neolithic humans, but it’s a widely-eaten grain in its own right, and highly nutritious. Barley is high in fibre and selenium (vital to the immune system, and very low in South African soils), and a good source of phosphorus, copper and manganese.

Not only people appreciate it fermented though. It ferments in the digestive system, forming butyric acid, the main fuel for the cells of the large intestine, and it feeds the friendly digestive bacteria. It’s also highly efficient at binding to bile, which in turn drives down cholestorol levels, since bile is formed by breaking down cholesterol.

It originated in Ethiopia and Southeast Asia, and is one of the first-known grains. A Babylonian recipe for barley wine dates back to 2800BC, and in ancient Greece, where barley was seen as an important component of athlete’s strength, gladiators were known as hordearii, or “eaters of barley”, while in ancient China barley was a symbol of male virility.

The English folklore character John Barleycorn is named after the grain, and the song traditionally associated with him sees John, as the personification of barley, suffering various indignities associated with the harvesting, reaping and so on.

Barley’s another of the grains affected by this year’s heatwave, and the Ukraine, one of the primary barley exporters, has severely limited exports as a result.

But, we still have barley available, and, being flakes, there’s no need to heap further indignities on John Barleycorn – all that’s left is the eating.

New collection Point
We have a new collection point, but an old face, in Kommetjie this week. Rebecca, who used to be the Scarborough collection point has now settled in to her new Kommetjie home, and it will be open for collections this week.

I’ve heard many great excuses for not making a better choice. They usually involve cost, or effort, but this week there’s a new one to add to the list. PepsiCo ran widespread campaigns touting their “green choice” in April 2009 when they offered their Frito-Lay’s SunChips in plant-based biodegradeable packaging. This week, after announcing they’re going to be offering all but one of the flavours in oil-based plastic again, they justified the decision on the bags being too noisy.

I haven’t noticed a flood of complaints about our compostable bags. Perhaps next time you’re debagging your bulgar you’ll be deafened by the noise? Or perhaps not…

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

To order, head on over to

Rhino horn and essene bread

I was reading an article about the increase in rhino poaching today. Many of the comments raged against the Asian buyers, using rhino horn for medicinal purposes, without any consideration for where those products come from.

It’s easy to blame others without looking at ourselves. Many of us eat meat in a similar, thoughtless way, and many of us buy heavily-sprayed food without any consideration for the farm labourers breathing in the poisons, or what we’re supporting buying food from patented seeds.

So many of us don’t know where our laptop comes from, where our food comes from, where our car is made. We’re profoundly disconnected, mindless consumers lured by the bright lights of the catchy advert.

Even those of us who think we’re taking better choices aren’t always aware of what we’re buying. A study into a “farmers market” in the US found that a number of suppliers were pretending to farm ethically and were simply reselling conventionally grown food at a higher price. Even when buying from the Ethical Co-op, how many of us have read the “more info” for the products, and followed up?

Blaming others for their consumption choices doesn’t help – what are we doing?

What’s wrong with our food system?
In this week’s video, 11-year old Birk Baehr describes what’s wrong with our food system, and how he wants to be an organic farmer rather than a football player. View it here.

Essene Bread
I’m very happy that we’ve started offering Essene Bread. Essene bread is made from sprouted wheat, and the sprouting process vastly increases the nutritional content, as well as breaks down the gluten present in the seeds, making it suitable for those intolerant to wheat or gluten. Named after the Essenes, a religious sect who were strict vegetarians, and believed Jesus to be too, essene bread was originally heated by being left on hot stones in the sun.

It’s become a popular raw food choice, and our essene bread, made at a temperature of 45 degrees celsius, is produced by Rawlicious, who provide a range of raw foods, such as cracker-style oat breads and chewy “biltong” mushrooms. They were sold out quickly last week – I hope we enough stock this week!

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

To order, head on over to