Of fires, soap nuts, green shops and a life in balance

Fire Season

It’s fire season again in the Cape. It’s just over a year since Kirstin, who sources our dry and dairy, was packing her bags and preparing to evacuate her house in Kommetjie as a fire raged down the mountains. This week it was the turn of Eduardo, our fresh buyer, packing his bags ready to evacuate his new house in Somerset West.

Fortunately in both cases the fire never made it through the front door, but not everyone has been so lucky. The fires devastated Jannie Nieuwoudt’s farm. We’ve offered products from Jannie before, and he plays a vital role in the organic supply chain in the Western cape. In true community spirit, his neighbours, many in financial difficulty themselves, have rallied round and helped him with new irrigation systems, pipes, fertilizer, mulch and so on.

Another farm affected was Honeywood, where 300 bee hives were destroyed. This, coming after the spring weather severely impacted their production means we won’t have any of their popular honey available for a while, but you can still buy Bloublommetjies and limited stock from Cedarfruits.

Our thoughts again are with the animals and plants destroyed by these latest fires, the firefighters battling the blazes, and everyone affected.

Life in Balance diary and newsletter

Next week we’ll be giving away copies of the 2009 Life in Balance diary.

Printed on recycled Reviva paper and with a cover made from recycled board, it contains a collection of quotes from leading architects of ecological change, reference charts and a resource guide.

With the recommended retail price R188, 270 lucky randomly selected customers who place an order will be getting it free. We can’t guarantee that everyone will get one, but your chances are better than winning something on the lotto!

If you were ordering last year, you may remember receiving the Life in Balance newsletter in your box. The good news is that they’ll be back again, also starting from next week’s delivery.

Soap Nuts

A colleague recently told me that when he first got involved in the organic industry everyone would be looking out for each other, working together for the greater good. Unfortunately that’s not the case, and greed, ego and misinformation and are as prevalent as elsewhere.

Soap nuts have recently been getting bad press from a particular so-called ‘green washing product’, recently-launched in South Africa, and which unfortunately, in good faith, we also offered for a short while. This product claims in their marketing literature that soap nuts cause “massive deforestation” in Nepal and India.

Luckily this is not the case, and the soappod tree, from which the soap nut comes, lives up to 90 years, and is widely and sustainably grown in Asia. They also, unlike some other products, actually enhance the natural washing effects of water and clothes in a washing machine, as they contain saponin, a natural detergent.

We still get requests for the other product, and it seems to be selling well and in demand, but our goal is to offer the most ethical products we can find. One that badmouths rivals and claims to clean laundry by ’emitting powerful infrared rays’, in other words heat, the same as a plastic coathanger, is not it.

But on to positive things. Soap nuts are completely natural and biodegradeable. Put between between three and five in a bag or an old sock and add to the washing load. They can be re-used up to four times, and then composted thereafter. They don’t add a scent, but you can add a few drops of essential oil if you want your washing to have a fragrance.

You can also use them for general household cleaning. Click on the product name on our site for more information, or do some searching on the internet – they have quite a few uses!

Besides certified organic soap nuts, we’re also offering certified biodynamic and organic soapwort laundry liquid from Bloublommetjies, and a laundry liquid from Enchantrix.

Green Shop

We’ve also been selling a range of solar and windup lanterns, chargers and toys from Green Shop. They sell consistently, but in small quantities. We’ve decided to cut our time burning up fuel on the road for only a few toys, by offering these only once a month. We’ll be offering them for delivery and collection in the last week of the month.

So, if you want a solar lantern, a windup shaver or the like, take a look at our offerings from Green Shop. They won’t be available again until the end of March.

Remember you can click on any of our products for more information.

And to order, head on over to www.ethical.org.za.

Have a great, and hopefully cool and fire-free week,
the Co-op team

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Comments ( 3 )

  1. neal kernohan

    It would seem that your comments above about deforestation NOT being true have yet to be corrected within The Green Shop which sells the Bio Wash Ball here > http://www.thegreenshop.co.za/pBWB/Biowashball.aspx. I think people will need some clarity on this. Africa is already rife with 'mend-all' medicines and products and I would not like to see this move into the green market. There either is mass deforestation or there is not, and it is up to the manufacturers to provide the source of their claims. Any and all claims from manufacturers, however good their intention, must be backed by accurate and referenced sources and surveys.

  2. Ian Gilfillan

    I agree, it is difficult to know what's true when most of the information is provided by manufacturers. It's important though for information and claims to be open and transparent, and for us to insist on this from manufacturers. You can see the contact I had trying to get more information from the biowashball distributors, as well as some of my own findings, here, and a followup here. Biowashball have removed the claims they made about the soapnuts from their marketing material, and instructed their distributors to do so as well, although it seems the green shop haven't yet updated theirs. I have found no references to soap nuts causing deforestation except from the (old) biowashball marketing material, and quite a few references to them doing the opposite, as they are harvested from a living tree. We've made our decision of which product to stock for now, and our products are always chosen on ethical, not financial, criteria, but as always these decisions are based on imperfect or incomplete information, and we're always open to having mistakes corrected, or learning more. If you do find out more in your own research, please do share it with us and others!

  3. Stuart Thomson

    I find the claims made by the suppliers of the Biowash ball, false and misleading, to be honest as a scientist who works with ceramics and environmental issues, I just cant believe people can get away with making such claims.