Fixing the damage done by our consumerism

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Palm Oil

Why has palm oil become the big bogey of western products?

Well it’s not because we’re harmed by it; it’s because in order to satiate the huge demand for this product vast tracts of native forests are being felled in equatorial countries which many of the great apes call home.

OrangatanBabies

The masks are worn to protect these babies from human disease

Source Wikipedia: “Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Its use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is buoyed by its lower cost. … “

Why do manufacturers use palm oil?

In search of profits, companies producing a range of consumer products base their ingredients on the lowest possible cost. Palm oil has been shown to be a very useful product because it remains close to a solid at room temperature. This property makes it useful as a means of holding other ingredients together, and for ease of packaging.

Consequently manufacturers of the following products may use it in:

Dairy Products:
  • Most Butters and Margarines so check labels before purchasing
Candy and Snacks:
  • Rolo’s by Hershey
  • Skittles
  • Nestle Chocolate products
  • Mars Chocolate products
  • Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
Personal Care Items:

Keep in mind that many companies have Palm free versions (according to labels) so check labels thoroughly!

  • Some organic ‘natural soaps’
  • Dove lotions and soaps
  • Aveeno Daily Moisturizers
  • Nivea Original
  • Oil of Olay
  • Vaseline
  • Pearl Probiotics
Food Items:
  • Skippy peanut butter
  • Many Granola Bars (check the ingredients)
  • Chocolate Chip Granola Bar
  • Cluster Crunch Cereal
  • Thin Crust Pizza (check the ingredients)
  • Flatbread Pizza
  • Chocolaty Nougat Bar with Peanuts and Caramel
  • Honey Mustard Pretzel Sticks
  • Milk Chocolaty Delight Bar
  • NutriCrunch Chocolates

Hidden sources of Palm Oil

Palm oil is called many things other than Palm Oil: Unmask Palm Oil is the Australasian campaign for mandatory palm oil labelling on all products. Currently palm oil can be labelled as any one of 200 different scientific names making it impossible for consumers to not buy palm oil.

See more at: Unmask Palm Oil

In New Zealand where Unmask Palm Oil is based, the current Government refuses to consider changing its policy to expand the ingredients list where another product of combined ingredients includes palm oil products. However, the campaign has enlisted the support of opposition parties such as the Greens, New Zealand First and the Maori Party. …Unmask Palm Oil recently presented a petition of 7,500 signatures to the New Zealand parliament.

Plight of the Orangutan

Source Wikipedia: “The use of palm oil in food products has attracted the concern of environmental activist groups; the high oil yield of the trees, attractive to profit-driven investors, has led to the clearing of forests in parts of Indonesia in order to make space for oil-palm monoculture. This has resulted in significant acreage losses of the natural habitat of the orangutan, of which both species are endangered; one species in particular, the Sumatran orangutan, has been listed as “critically endangered.”

For an overview of what one Orangutan rescue mission is up to, take a look at this video:

What can you do to help?

Check the ingredients on the products you use regularly and change brands to one with out Palm Oil. When consumers (that’s us) stop buying products, manufacturers stop making them.

Write or email your politicians and put the case for reduced or eliminated use of pal oil on a large scale. If enough people express their views on any subject, politicians become uncomfortable and start listening.

Donate to a charity supporting conservation of the remaining populations of orangutans and other apes, such as The Orangutan Project.

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Bee-Safe Garden Practices

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

In my last post I wrote about the findings of scientists in identifying the world-wide crisis in bee farming and their investigations into why up to 80% of beehives are dying each year.

black-eyed-susans1-400x265  lavender-rows

In this blog I want to share what I have found out about good practices in your garden for maintaining healthy bees that help you produce a bountiful crop. At the end I introduce some flowering plants that will have the bees flocking … er … buzzing!

Natural sprays

Tomato Leaf Spray (from About.com)

Tomato plants, as members of the nightshade family, contain toxic compounds called alkaloids in their leaves. When the leaves of tomato plants are chopped, they release their alkaloids. When the alkaloids are suspended and diluted with water, they make an easy to use spray that is toxic to aphids, but still safe around plants and humans.

Ingredients
  • One to two cups of tomato leaves
  • Two cups of water
  • A strainer or cheesecloth
  • Spray bottle

To make tomato leaf spray, simply soak one to two cups of chopped tomato leaves in two cups of water. Let it steep overnight. To make the spray, strain the leaves out of the liquid using cheesecloth or a fine strainer. Add another one to two cups of water to the liquid and add it to a spray bottle.

To use the tomato leaf spray in your battle against aphids, spray the stems and foliage of the infested plant with the spray, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves, since that is where aphids most commonly congregate. The tomato leaf recipe, above, won’t harm beneficial bugs like ladybirds.

Garlic Oil Spray

Organic gardeners have long relied on garlic as part of their pest-fighting arsenal. Garlic contains sulphur, which, besides being toxic to pests, is also an antibacterial and antifungal agent. The dish soap in this mixture also breaks down the bodies of soft-bodied pests, such as aphids.

Ingredients
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Mineral oil
  • Strainer or cheesecloth
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Water
  • Spray bottle

Mince or chop 3-4 cloves of garlic finely, and add them to 2tsp of mineral oil. Let this mixture sit for 24 hours. Strain out the garlic pieces, and add the remaining liquid to one pint (600mls) of water. Add one teaspoon of liquid dish soap. This mixture can be stored and diluted as needed. When you need to spray, use two tablespoons of the mixture added to one pint of water in a spray bottle.

To use your garlic oil spray, first test by spraying an inconspicuous part of the plant to see if your mixture harms it at all. If there are no signs of yellowing or other leaf damage after a day or two, it is safe to use. If there is leaf damage, dilute the mixture with more water and try the test again. Once you have determined that it won’t harm your plant, spray the entire plant, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves.

Warning: Garlic oil is a non-selective insecticide, which means that it will kill beneficial insects (such as lady bugs, who are natural predators of aphids) just as easily as it kills the bad guys. It’s best to keep as many beneficials around as possible. This spray should only be used if you haven’t seen any beneficial bugs in your garden.

Rhubarb insecticide Spray

Rhubarb garden spray is an effective spray for controlling aphids and other sucking insects, as it suffocates them. It is excellent for plants such as roses, which tend to suffer from aphid problems.

Ingredients
  • 1kg / 2.2lbs rhubarb leaves (not stems – use the stems for cooking rhubarb for dessert)
  • 2 litres / 67 fl.oz water
  1. Place the rhubarb leaves into a large pot
  2. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes to half an hour
  3. Strain off the leaves
  4. Dilute. The solution should be diluted 1 part solution and 9 parts water; in other words, add 9 litres / 2.3 gallons water to create the spray.

Note: This spray should not be stored but should be used within 24 hours to achieve the best effectiveness.

Feed the bees

Here are some flowers you can plant in your garden to ensure bees have plenty to eat, while you attract them in as pollinators. Try to plant a range that flower at different times of the season from Spring through to Autumn.

bergamot-bee-balm-400x300  black-eyed-susans1-400x265

Bergamot/Bee balm (left) and Black-eyed Susan blooms (right) attract bees

Bee Balm

Bright flowers and a minty fragrance make bergamot (Monarda) plants ideal for perennial borders. Bergamot is known by several other names, including bee balm, monarda and Oswego tea.

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia

Black eyed Susan plants are drought resistant, self-seeding and grow in a variety of soils. Growing black eyed Susans prefer a neutral soil pH and a full sun to light shade location. They can be propagated from seed heads. Blooms late spring through summer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA           lupin-flower-foliage

The flowering currant (left) and Lupin are two old-fashioned bee attracting blooms

Flowering currant

Flowering currant or Currant Ribes (above) is a breath of heaven as Spring warms up. the scent spreads and is a signal to honey bees that nectar is around.

Lupins

Lupins are later bloomers, but can be planted in autumn for winter soil conditioning. Keep a plant or two to flower on over the season and then collect the flower seeds for another blooming.

Penstemon  PurpleConeFlower

Penstemon (above) blooms in Spring and Purple Coneflower later in the season

Penstemon

Penstemon is in the foxglove family and blooms in spring. It grows from 2-5 ft.  and is a robust perennial topped with stalks of clusters of white, tubular, unevenly-lobbed flowers. Inside the flowers are purple lines especially to attract bees.

Purple coneflower Echinacea

A perennial plant with purple petals around a domed spiny centre.  A highly attractive nectar source frequently visited by butterflies and bees.  A good choice for mid-season blooms.

Sage1  pineappleSage

Sages like Variegated Sage (left) and Pineapple Sage have enticing trumpet-like flowers

Here are some other examples of bee-loved garden flowers
  • Basil Ocimum
  • Cotoneaster Cotoneaster
  • English lavender Lavandula
  • Giant hyssop Agastache
  • Globe thistle Echinops
  • Hyssop Hyssopus
  • Marjoram Origanum
  • Rosemary Rosmarinus
  • Wallflower Erysimum
  • Zinnia Zinnia

Visit the the website below for a list of plants to grow in New Zealand for bee fodder.

National Bee Keepers Association

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Follow Michelle Obama’s lead in saving honey bees

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

She might be tainted by her connection to a leadership that has not met our hopes, but Michelle Obama is taking a lead in the White House protecting bees.

She has planted a garden with bee fodder. We could do well to follow her example and show our support by signing this rather positive petition.

Sign the Petition Here

If you visit the petition page you’ll also read some of the facts about the appalling decline in bee numbers.

Other ways to inform yourself

HoneyBeesHive

1. View the trailer for:

      More Than Honey – Official Trailer

Then see the film – and take action

2. Watch the documentaries:

BBC Horizon What’s Killing Our Bees A Horizon Special BBC Full Documentary 2013 Full Movie

BBC Documentary Who Killed The Honey Bee

The possible villain?

Contact versus systemic pesticides

Contact pesticides are usually applied to crops after they’ve developed their fruit/leaf growth. These pesticides kill chewing insects. Because they are applied after flowering, bees are less susceptible to them.

Systemic pesticides are applied to the seed. As the plant grows all parts of the plant are affected. When they produce their flowers bees feed as normal. The fear is that the bees are affected by the tainted pollen and nectar.

Scientists are now investigating if low levels of systemic pesticide that a bee might ingest from these pesticides are affecting the bees’ navigation systems so that they cannot find the way home to the hive.

So what else can you do personally?

Stop using pesticides across your garden. Use only natural sprays that discourage non-beneficial insects chewing on your produce after it has developed.  Organic Spraying Oil; Caterpillar control. Here are some ideas on organic, non-harmful products used in the US

  1. Grow on your vegetables until they seed naturally, then gather and use the untreated seed
  2. Join a seed bank or buy seed from reputable organic sources
  3. Ask your neighbours to join you in banning non-organic sprays from their gardens
  4. Grow supplementary food plants for bees, choosing plants that flower at different times of the spring to autumn season
  5. Have a diversity of plants flowering all season. Have several plant species flowering at once planted in clumps.
  6. Plant where bees will visit. Bees visit sunny spots more often.

In my next blog I will bring you some Bee-Safe Garden Practices

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author