Worm tea – a key ingredient in our organic gardening

Have you ever heard of worm tea? It doesn’t sound great, does it? Thing is, it is amazing! It’s often misunderstood what worm tea actually is. It is not the leachate (water that has percolated through a solid and leached out some of the constituents) which gathers in the bottom bin of the worm farm.  This shouldn’t be used on your vegetables as it may contain pathogens and the PH  may be high, plus studies have shown that it has low nutritional value (so your plants will not thrive on it). Worm tea, however, is the key ingredients to your vegetables and plants thriving!

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“Inspire, Nurture, Cultivate”: Working with ECP

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Etienne Basson is a Earthchild Project facilitator in our environmental programmes in Lavender Hill. Read what he has to say about working work our Eco-Warriors as part of the Earthchild Project team…

Six months ago I started my journey with Earthchild Project. I was excited to be part of this inspiring organization. I want to teach people to fall in love with nature and not nature as we know it, but human nature and what comes naturally to them – and with Earthchild Project’s motto being “Inspire, Nurture, Cultivate” it felt like the perfect fit. The idea of connecting with the kids and sharing and teaching them about what I love – nature – brought a certain joy and smile to my face. To think, I could shape how they think and feel about nature through the lessons and maybe, just maybe, inspire one of them to be the next top ecologist or biologist.

I remember walking into my first class and the excitement of the 35 kids immediately overwhelmed me. All they wanted to do was learn about worms and they couldn’t stop talking about what they already knew. I went into all my classes with this excitement and joy and thought about how I can stimulate their curiosity through the practical experience that worm farming and gardening has to offer.

As the months passed and I got to know the children and teachers, I got a different insight into what Earthchild Project was really about, and this was particularly evident at the 8-day Earthchild Alumni Camp in Greyton. Most of the participants have been part of the Earthchild Project Programme for more than 5 years, from the age of about 7 or 8 years old.

At the camp I got to spend more time with the Alumni group and during this time this group of young people really inspired me and changed the way I see and think about Earthchild Project. What really stood out about the group was the way they stood up and took responsibility and promoted the idea of positive actions and initiatives to support their fellow young people.They participated fully, asked questions, and gave valuable opinions and thoughts on important topics and activities presented at the camp. They openly shared their fears, struggles, and obstacles – and worked on their visions, goals and intentions. They helped, supported and encouraged one another through personal issues, struggles and illness that came up at the camp.

As the camp closed I came to the realization that Earthchild Project is not “just” about teaching yoga and worm farming in schools and shaping the next ecologist or yogi. It is truly about this idea of “Inspire, Nurture, Cultivate” – as the slogan says.

Through learning about nature and practicing yoga they get a sense of who they are, and all the positive contributions they can make to their lives, the lives of others, and to nature. And when we look at what’s going on in our communities and country, we need to know that somewhere, somehow, someone will start making positive changes in their lives and in the lives of others. I am proud to be part of the Earthchild Project Team that are making a difference in the lives of so many young people in Lavender Hill and Khayelitsha.

Etienne.

Eco-Warriors for Our Planet

Agbogbloshie: a polluted district in Accra, Ghana that is used as an international dumping ground for electronic waste – nicknamed “Sodom and Gomorrah” by locals due to its harsh living conditions.

“I don’t believe that the solutions in society will come from the left or the right or the north or the south. They will come from islands within those organizations, islands of people with integrity who want to do something.”
Karl-Henrik Robert – Founder of The Natural Step

This is part of what we hope our impact is at Earthchild Project – we hope that we are making an island of people who will grow up and start demanding change in their society, and in their world. By educating our earthchildren – our “eco-warriors” – in our schools on the environment and their impact upon it, we hope that this future generation will grow up and contribute to a global attitude of preserving our planet. We hope these children will grow up with a fire in their belly for environmental justice – especially since Africa is one of the most negatively affected continents when it comes to waste.

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Waste-Free Solutions in Yoga

I will admit – in the yoga world, practitioners are for the most part, simply trying to practice self-love and care for other living beings – this is after all, the spiritual ethos of yoga – to “do no harm.” We’re doing the best we can in using yoga for health and goodness. Right?

We could do better. First of all, we can start the painful journey of looking inward and realizing that most of us are, to a certain extent, hypocrites in our yoga world bubble. When we begin our yoga class, we sit our toned bums (thanks yoga!), dressed in plastic material, on our PVC mats. Our practice of yoga is at the heart of our good health – and yet in the first few seconds of our daily practice we are breaking some SERIOUS health rules, not to mention the spiritual ethos of yoga – to “do no harm.”

Not only our clothes, but also the very physical foundations on which we practice are doing monumental harm. I’m talking about our mats. The more I research, the more disturbed I’ve become. Most yoga mats are made from PVC, short for polymerizing vinyl chloride. Simply typing that word – “chloride” – makes me think of that new mat smell – and subsequently feel a bit ill at all the times I’ve deeply inhaled it. Not only are PVC mats bad for our own health, the production of this material can be deadly for others. Yes, you read that right. PVC plants pump an excruciating amount of vinyl chloride into the atmosphere. When its entire life-cycle is considered, PVC releases more cancer-causing dioxins into the atmosphere than any other product. Each kg of PVC requires about 17kg of abiotic materials, mostly petrochemicals, as well as 680 liters of water and 11.6 kg of air (which of course is converted into greenhouse gases). PVC plants contaminate water around their facilities, causing serious damage on whole communities – most commonly increased risk of cancer and reproductive damage. All this so that your yoga mat can later go sit in a landfill for the rest of time. Woohoo!

Sorry guys. This is all quite depressing I know. Depressing but also crucial to meditate on when we consider our impact on the lives of others and our Mother Earth. But let’s cut to the positive part shall we? In terms of sustainable yoga mats, there is an increasing plethora of options out there. There are several companies completely dedicated to eco-friendly mats – most made from natural rubber from rubber trees, jute (a natural fiber), organic cotton, or thermoplastic elastomer (synthetic BUT has high potential for recyclability and uses less energy to manufacture). We have got to commend these brands for really trying to find a more sustainable options for our beloved mats. However, what if you could kill two birds with one stone?

Anna and Sophie, the founders of hejhej-mats, are doing just that. These two young women have managed to create a closed-loop, fully sustainable yoga mat – creating a healthy sustainable mat that ALSO uses old waste. Most of us are slowly waking up to the reality of waste on our planet – the landfills, the islands made entirely of trash. The hejhej goal: to create a mat in which the production alleviates the excessive exhaustion of resources. No new materials, only the use of old waste – “thereby tackling the problem of waste production and resource scarcity of our planet.” While other sustainable mats are still using natural rubber – which requires cutting down rubber trees – hejhej-mats makes use of one of our planet’s increasingly growing resource – waste itself. Completely closed-loop, hejhej-mats are made from waste, used long-term, recyclable, and then used for production again. What’s also great about their mats? They’re functional (not missing that much-needed slip resistance that many sustainable mats lack), and also quite beautiful. Because they are made from varying types of waste, each mat differs slightly in its appearance, making each unique.

When we sat down with Anna last week, the crowdfunding campaign for the production of hejhej-mats had just met its initial goal that morning. When we asked her about the conceptualization of hejhej mats, she told us of her and Sophie’s completion of their Masters in Leadership for Sustainability in Sweden (not only charming but intelligent too!) as well as their visit to an exhibition by Turkish artist, Pinar Yolda. Yolda’s artwork accused yoga practitioners of acting hypocritically since most of them practice yoga on unsustainable plastic mats, which end up in oceans or landfills. The exhibition impacted the two women, and they immediately set to work with the conceptualization of the circular hejhej-mat. Talking to her over coffee made it obvious to me how passionate and driven these two young German women were. You know those people whose entrepreneurial spirit captivates you and makes you want to jump onto their boat? Anna and Sophie are that.

I’m excited for where hejhej-mats will go. I’m inspired, and jumping onto that ship. Or I guess in this case, a hejhej-mat.

Go check them out on their website or crowdfunding page to donate, support, or simply learn more about hejhej-mats and sustainable closed-loop designs.

https://hejhej-mats.com

https://www.startnext.com/en/hejhej-mats-closed-loop-yoga-mats 

Say “no” to single-use plastic

I hate to admit it, but as a child, one of my greatest joys was tearing the paper off of a new straw, dropping a splash of soda onto the wrapper and watching it wriggle open as a worm. I felt sophisticated using a straw. And it was always associated with the treat of a sugary soda drink (something else that makes me cringe). Fast forward twenty years and the idea that big franchises and educated people can still hand out and use straws blows my mind.

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Gardening for health, wealth and happiness

Gardening is one of humankind’s oldest practices, yet we seem to have lost the essence of this practice in the modern world. It is a given that growing your own veggies and fruits will improve your diet, but gardening also has a number of other physical and psychological benefits that will get you wanting to plant those seeds right away.

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Welcome to the team, Etienne!

Sharing environmental knowledge and stimulating awareness about, and care for, nature are core aspects of Earthchild Project’s practices. But finding the right people for this job can often be a challenge. The children need someone to look up to, someone interesting to learn from and someone willing to be with them every day and share their love for nature. In this light, we would like to welcome Etienne Basson, Earthchild’s newest team member

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Hey you, yes YOU! Be water wise at school and at home!

Pic :: EWN

After the much-needed storms in Cape Town, we still find ourselves in a worrying drought crisis, at the heart of which lies our everyday use of water. We have been working hard to save water, but we must still work harder in so many easy, everyday ways. Small efforts can go a long way. And apathy never gets anyone, anywhere very fast.

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What exactly is worm farming?

Worm farming, something Earthchild has implemented in the schools in Kayehlitsha and Lavender Hill, is a method of using worms to process organic food waste in order to produce a nutrient rich soil. Food waste includes coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags, fruits and vegetables and even cardboard or paper. This is extremely beneficial for the environment in that the waste which would normally end up in a landfill is converted into compost for the garden.

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In the Heads of Our Living Classroom Teachers: Bruce Asia

The day that I got to interview Bruce Asia was one of those days when everything felt a bit upside down. At least for my colleague. When driving to the school she realised that she had put her pants on inside out and when we parked at Levana Primary I asked her quietly: “But hey, doesn’t Bruce work at Hillwood Primary?…”. After a short, confused silence, she answered “Yes, he does” filled with laughter. After lots of laughing between us, we arrived at Hillwood Primary and had a photo shoot to capture Bruce’s class with their worm farm. Bruce has a love filled but firm manner with his students and you can tell that he cares dearly for them all. He has a special relationship with Earthchild Project, and he is involved in many other projects to develop Hillwood Primary, too. Bruce is an inspiring person and I am so very happy that I was able to sit down and talk to him.

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In the Heads of Our Living Classroom Teachers: Vuyelwa Rola

This charismatic woman, Vuyelwa Rola, does not leave anyone untouched. She truly has the power of words and she proved this during our interview at Yomelela Primary, where Vuyelwa is a teacher. We sat on two chairs in the school’s beautiful garden that is run by local “mamas”. So much beauty around us with all leafy greens sprouting and so much beauty in Vuyelwa’s Earthchild Project story.

“The society we’re in, it’s a society that has a lot of noise…The children come from homes that are abusive so when they are with Earthchild Project they really feel calm, they really feel different.” – Vuyelwa Rola

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In the Heads of Our Living Classroom Teachers: Hayley Robertson

Not only do we work with amazing Earthchildren, but our living classroom teachers are the ones who actually make our work possible. I had the luck to interview some of our star teachers. First out is Hayley Robertson, a dedicated teacher and environmentalist who does not hesitate to bring her class’ worm farm home for the holidays to keep it running. I have had the luck to meet and talk to her several times during my time in South Africa. Hayley really gives so much energy back to her students as well to the Earthchild Project team!

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Earthchild Spotlight: Katlego Shaloma

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Our Earthchild Spotlight number eight is Katlego Shaloma who is 11 years old and in Grade 6 at Sakumlandela Primary School in Khayelitsha. Each time that I have joined the Eco-Warrior Club in Khayelitsha, Katlego has been present and shown herself to be eager to learn. She also has some wild and unruly energy shining through her eyes. You will notice her from a distance, she is definitely something special.

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Earthchild Spotlight: Chriswin Christians

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Our Earthchild Spotlight number four is Chriswan Christians who is 10 years old and in Grade 4 at Hillwood Primary School in Lavender Hill. More than just a beautiful name and an absolutely charming face, Chriswan is a bright young student who realises the value of the environment in his life and the need to keep it safe for future generations. Such young eco-warriors continue to inspire us in our work and daily lives.

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Earthchild Spotlight: Athenkosi Khulu

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we will be highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. We present to you the third Earthchild Spotlight : Athenkosi Khulu. Athhenkosi has been a part of the Earthchild Project family since the very beginning of our journey. This young man is currently studying at college and will start his very own hiking club with the Earthchild Project in 2017. I had the honour of interviewing him last week.

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yoga and meditation for kidsConnect

We teach children to connect to self, each other and the earth through yoga and life skills.

organic gardening worm-farming for kidsCultivate

We teach children to cultivate practical skills for life through gardening and worm farming.

hiking with kidsInspire

We're inspiring a new generation of young leaders through hikes and holiday programmes.

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