1001 Water- and waste-wise ways: Respecting food
Photo by Miriam Mannak

Photo by Miriam Mannak

There now, isn’t that a cheering image? And there’s a lovely story attached. Journalist Miriam Mannak takes water saving seriously, so all her washing-up water is poured onto her pot-plants. And there were obviously some tomato seeds in that water, and next thing, she was harvesting three different varieties of home-grown tomatoes…

A few days ago, I was in a mix of despair and disgust over perhaps the most (I hate to use this word, but it fits) immoral form of waste — food waste. But Miriam’s photo reminds me that sometimes we can do the opposite of wasting — that “recycling” food and water via seeds and soil is actually one of the most basic and necessary human activities. Taking part, even if it’s just a squash plant on our compost heap or a herb in a pot, is good for us and the planet.

The trouble with our throwaway culture is that we’ve extended it to food. You do not need me to tell you that this is just plain wicked (besides, I already did). But one problem is that the middle classes are no longer taught how to stretch food, use it thriftily, and work wonders with leftovers. My parents’ generation was excellent at this, because they grew up during or right after the deprivations of World War 2. Food was sometimes scarce, often sparse, and always seasonal — people cooked what was available, and every bite counted. But this takes a little skill (and a lot of common sense), and that skill has drained away with frightening speed in the last few decades. We may be addicted to TV cooking shows, but we have no longer have any idea what to do with a glut of lemons, or how to give leftover cheese sauce new life.

It’s surprisingly easy to turn ageing cabbage, turnips and radishes into pickles.

It’s surprisingly easy to turn ageing cabbage, turnips and radishes into pickles.

When I was sixteen, a change of schools meant that I started studying Domestic Science for the first time. Our matric textbook was a template for Christian National Education (it was assumed that only women cooked, that we were all white, and that we all had domestic workers — referred to as “servants”). I remember paging through the instructions on how to make our own preserves (OK, FAIRLY useful — I’ve always made my own chutney as a result), how to cater for “ladies’ teas” and children’s parties (including tricksy stuff like eclairs and Turkish delight), and the piece de resistance — making our own wedding cakes, right down to the marzipan and royal icing. “But this is useless,” I thought. “Where’s the section on how to stretch a pound of mince and a celery stalk into supper for six?” (I had to work it out myself: oats, grated carrot and lots of onion. It took several years before I discovered Indian shops and the glory of red lentils and proper spices.)

My parents were amazing in this regard: to this day, every third or fourth lunch or supper is an inventive combination of leftovers. From them, I learned the basics: runny or soggy leftovers (sauces, gravies, curries, cooked soft veg like cabbage, spinach, gem squash, marrows, mashed potatoes, carrots) can be whizzed into soup: fry an onion, toss in all the leftovers, add stock and maybe half a tin of chopped tomatoes, lots of herbs, garlic when papa isn’t looking, and blend. A stick blender is useful, but a fork and a strong arm will do the job.

Every now and again, I make “everything but the kitchen sink” soup, aka Worthy Minestrone. I round up the contents of the fridge, and add tomatoes, beans and pasta.

Every now and again, I make “everything but the kitchen sink” soup, aka Worthy Minestrone. I round up the contents of the fridge, and add tomatoes, beans and pasta.

More “intact” food (bits of chicken, sausages, cooked peas, beans, corn — along with cooked butternut, pumpkin, broccoli and cauli if not too soft, in which case, see soup above) can be sliced into salads, turned into sandwich fillings or (when all else fails) eaten cold with a dollop of mayonnaise. Hint: if you roast your veggies, they make wonderful salad ingredients the next day. To keep things interesting, put at least one fresh or new thing on the table as well.

So nothing edible in our house ever went into a bin: and if there were scraps, they went into the dogs’ bowls, the compost heap (and for several heady years, the resident pig). Thirty years on a smallholding nearly an hour from a town with shops also ingrained the very sensible habit of finishing the food in the house (barring a few staples) before replenishing supplies. And the spuds and cabbage from the veg garden were stand-bys, as well as fresh and delicious.

The holy trinity, both for reinventing leftovers and livening up carbs and legumes: onion, garlic, tinned tomatoes or tomato paste. I’d add a fourth: chillies. (And a handful of fresh herbs from that windowsill pot: mint, rosemary, basil, parsley, thyme, dhanya, wild rocket, garlic chives, lovage.) Millions of families do this routinely to stretch from payday to payday.

Avoiding food waste takes planning and thought, however, along with regular investigation of the fridge, the freezer (if you have one), and the pantry. You have to think 24 hours ahead, and plan menus. We’ve all been hearing about how women are saddled with what’s known as “emotional labour” even in households where domestic chores are supposedly shared. I sometimes wonder if one of the many things causing food waste is that women are fed up being the ones who have to remember to defrost the bolognaise sauce that’s been in the freezer for two months, and then check that there’s spaghetti to go with it. Since my papa’s retirement fifteen years ago, I’ve been most impressed at how both my parents have taken responsibility for shopping, food planning, and the composition of meals known as “seek and ye shall find”.

But the real expert on how to use your leftovers and fridge contents in the most economical but deliciously epicurian ways is my friend Megan Kerr. She has worked out a system so meticulous and scientific, it should win awards. It certainly delights the Food Gods. You can find it here; plus her blog has lots of excellent leftover ideas, all of which look delicious.

I may not be able to rise to Megan’s heights, but it’s from her that I learned to keep my fridge organised. This helps prevent that infuriating but familiar experience of finding something quietly mutating into a new life-form while lurking behind a jar of olives. Just making sure that the tallest things stand at the back, with the rest of the contents ranked by height, helps. Every other day, I open all the drawers/flaps to remind myself of what needs using up.

Bits of hardening cheese are grated, then frozen. Stale bread can be whirred into breadcrumbs (good for thickening soups and sauces) or turned into croutons. Or just toast. Elderly tomatoes can be roughly chopped and gently fried with lots of garlic and basil — they turn into a chunky sauce that can be frozen just about forever.

Baby tomatoes: snacks AND sauces.

Baby tomatoes: snacks AND sauces.

I’m no great jam-maker (too much sugar, too much fussing over pectin and jelling), but nearly all fruit can be turned into chutney or sauces for either sweet or savoury dishes (my plum and cardamon sauce is excellent with cheese, veggie burgers and pork — and also makes great ice cream). Ripe bananas can be peeled and frozen, then whizzed straight into smoothies. Wrinkly apples: peel, core and simmer with cinnamon, ginger and a spoonful of honey or brown sugar — the resulting fruit sauce can be spooned onto cereals or stirred into yoghurt. Berries and tropical fruits like paw-paw and mangoes can be blended with yoghurt or milk, as for smoothies, and then frozen. If you whir them up again before they’ve completely defrosted, you get rather nice slushies.

Buy only small amounts of green stuff like lettuce and cucumber that go off quickly (although one can make lettuce soup), and I turn cucumber into tzatziki as fast as I can, after which it keeps for five days or more.

As with many things, Google is your friend. If you have an unusual array of leftovers or pantry items, you can run them all into the search bar, and then add “recipe” — and see what comes up. This can be quite an adventure.

What are your best tips to avoid trashing food? Let me know!

Helen Moffett
1001 Water-and waste-wise ways: A bit of a rant about food waste
Salad leaves from the veggie patch. Fed by my compost, so a cycle…

Salad leaves from the veggie patch. Fed by my compost, so a cycle…

Researching waste is turning me into a misanthropist, and today I need to get a little rant off my chest.

I was working in a coffee shop the other day, at a communal table shared with two young women eating breakfast. One sent back half her meal uneaten; the other barely touched an enormous order. She ate one egg. Back to the kitchen went the toast, the butter, the jam, the tomatoes, a second egg, the cheese she’d ordered separately, the bacon, the potato. The waiter actually asked if anything had been wrong with the meal: no, it had been “delicious”.

My question is this: if all she’d wanted was an egg, why the sam hill didn’t she order just that? When did we get so blasé about wasting food? Why has it become ethically normative to ask people often earning minimum wages to prepare us luxury meals which we then expect them to chuck in the bin after we’ve taken a few bites?

Most especially, why do folk let their children do this? I’ve lost track of how often I’ve seen tweens slurp down most of a milkshake and then take one listless nibble of their burger and chips before pushing their plate away. What happened to the rule of “No sweets/treats until you’ve finished your main meal”? And even writing these words, I’m aware that my hair is winding into a bun and my mouth wrinkling into a prune. I DON’T CARE. This Mother Grundy has a bug up her nose.

I once tackled a twelve-year-old who’d just thrown away a can of Coke after taking one swig, and was told that it wasn’t as if he could give “poor people” his discarded drink. He had zero awareness of what it cost the planet and other human beings, in terms of water, materials, energy and transport, to make the can of fizzy syrup he’d just contributed to local landfill. And that reminds me of the relative visiting from the UK who took one bite of a takeaway meal, pronounced it disgusting, and threw it into a public bin IN FRONT OF small children who were begging for food. When asked why he hadn’t offered it to them, the answer was that “it would have been patronising.” Yep, being forced to scrabble in that garbage bin really safeguarded the dignity of those kids.

I could go on. Why are some people embarrassed when I put my leftovers into a Tupperware or ask for a doggie bag? (Tupperware is a great solution to the problem, imported from the US, of “portion distortion”.) I am at best what a friend calls a demi-vegetarian, but every time I see people chucking away meat, I have to restrain myself. “An animal DIED so that you could have it lying on your plate,” I want to snap. “Could you at least show a little respect?”

We waste many things, but food waste hits a nerve like no other. I’m seething about this because it’s the time of year that appeals for Christmas/holiday food parcels for vulnerable families, invalids and pensioners go out (I used to write these for Breadline Africa). This is to supply needy folk with such luxuries as cooking oil, rice, maize-meal, baked beans, teabags and GASP, a whole tin of jam (sorry, I’m too rattled to switch off the sarcasm font). The Oasis appeal noted that courtesy of inflation, drought, petrol price hikes, etc, their standard parcel had risen from costing around R500 to R600 in one year. It includes such treats as 1 X tin of fish (pilchards). This while the rich are scarfing down pistachio-brandy mince pies. No wait, that’s still OK, sort of – it’s when the rich toy with a mince pie and then throw it into the bin that I get red spots in front of my eyes.

I know it’s become hugely politically incorrect to urge people to finish what’s on their plates, so here’s a new rule: don’t put it on your plate unless you want it all. Think of it this way: your host or family member has made a delicious meal. You dish up, then ceremoniously scrape some of it into the trash before tucking in. Breathtakingly rude as well as insanely wasteful? How is this different from doing it at the end of a meal?

One of the things I learned researching water was how much of it goes into growing and preparing food. That alone is good reason not to waste food.

Look, I am not advocating parsimony and austerity (dangerously close to “playing” at being poor, in any case). There’s not a human culture or society since the beginning of time that hasn’t celebrated happy occasions with banquets and fermented liquids. It’s a wonderful, comforting and joyous thing to do.

So my next post will be about the many constructive ways we can avoid wasting food (it takes a bit of planning and practice), but here’s a start (and now I’m going to sound super-traditional): say grace before a meal. Yes, even if you’re a hard-core atheist. Stop and THINK before you pick up your spoon. Consider all the elements that went into making what’s on your plate, that everyday magic of air, water, soil, seeds, crops, animals, labour, loving hands and care. Breathe. Enjoy the aromas. And give thanks. It will make us all more mindful and thoughtful eaters.

Home-made tomato and basil soup.

Home-made tomato and basil soup.

Helen Moffett
1001 Water- and waste-wise ways: The Great Consumer Frenzy
Picture chosen for its soothing qualities: taken on a Thanksgiving weekend I spent in a tiny New England village three years ago.

Picture chosen for its soothing qualities: taken on a Thanksgiving weekend I spent in a tiny New England village three years ago.

So it’s Black Friday (I understand the genesis of the name, but it doesn’t make it any less unfortunate, if not downright tasteless), and all over the world, credit cards are melting.

I’ll never forget my first encounter with Black Friday (although it wasn’t yet called that) in the US. I had spent Thanksgiving with American friends in the wilds of a tiny exquisite island off the coast of Maine, and three of us were driving back to Massachusetts. Stopping for petrol, we noticed a gift “outlet store” on the far side of the freeway — a factory shop big enough to house planes in. Even bigger was the parking lot, jammed as far as the eye could see, with literally thousands of shoppers streaming in. Shuttle buses were running from one end to the other to scoop up those daunted by the thought of having to walk a few hundred yards. Special golf carts carried the elderly and the obese. Synthetic perfume from countless scented candles wafted across the highway. My friends explained to me that the day after Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season — and this was what “open season” in America looked like.

In past years, I’ve frothed about how we should boycott yet another commercial calendar event imported from the US and shoehorned into our lifestyles and cultures. But in the last few days, I’ve found myself trawling the web, thinking “Maybe it might be a good day to replace the 25-year-old mattress that’s making my back ache.” For those on tight budgets who’ve been saving to replace an elderly household appliance like a fridge or stove, Black Friday might indeed be very useful.

But the frenzy to buy, buy, buy stuff, almost all of it on credit, seems a particularly stark sort of madness in the light of the research I’m doing on waste. The more I read, the more my hair stands on end as I see the connections between the global shift of capitalist production from thrift to a throwaway consumer culture — and trashing the planet. “Jobs!” “Growth!” “The economy!” shriek the politicians and the corporates, bent on extracting a few measly years of profit at any cost from unique, life-sustaining ecosystems that have developed over millennia, and which will take centuries to heal from our depredations. Worse, so few of the projects dangled in front of us as “job creation” do what they promise: offer secure employment at decent wages and with safe working conditions, other than for a small group at the top.

But this always happens: the more I look for handy tips on recycling and waste-free living, the more my research takes me up against a bleak and often terrifying coalface, with flocks of canaries as far as the eye can see shrieking “Danger! Danger! STOP THIS BEFORE WE ALL DIE HORRIBLY!” At which my blood pressure soars and I have to go for a walk and watch swallows wheeling through clouds of midges and evening light pouring honey all over the mountains. Which takes me back to the determination to do something, anything, so that the next generation actually has breathable air.

Meanwhile, I was struck by a phrase I found that described the ways in which we relate to and store stuff: “organised hoarding”. And it occurred to me that one way to change Black Friday into Green Friday would be to take an hour today to clear out our cupboards — of stuff we don’t need or haven’t used in a while. Then another half-hour on the web researching local charities and NPOs that will come and haul our goods away. The good folk at the Saartjie Baartman Centre tell me that they take ANYTHING. Any NPO that has clothing, bric-a-brac or book stores will be thrilled if you take them a carload of stuff that’s literally a waste of your space: just in my neighbourbood, there’s TEARS, Help The Rural Child, hospice shops and more. And I always like to give Oasis a mention — they recycle AND provide employment for intellectually disabled adults (plus their bakery in Imam Haron Road sells great chocolate shortbread).

Stop and take some time to think today. By all means, get your kids’ sports equipment and uniforms for next year if buying them today will truly save your pennies. But please consider getting rid of stuff, instead of buying more and more and more more more more. And that goes for that consumer nightmare impatiently revving its engines off-stage — Christmas. But that’s a topic for another blog. Now please excuse me: I’m going to check mattress prices online.

Another soothing pic from a Maine Thanksgiving.

Another soothing pic from a Maine Thanksgiving.

Helen Moffett
1001 Water- and waste-wise ways: What's in your backyard?

Well, we skipped into summer snapping our fingers at all the green around us, and have been brought up short: two weeks of brutal heatwave in October — before the hot, dry season even gets under way — has turned that green right back to an all-too familiar yellow and brown. My lush veggie garden is literally dying under my nose, and the rustling rocket I harvest daily has gone tough and stringy overnight. The dams have been whacked by high evaporation rates, and any hopes of slightly relaxed water restrictions (like shifting from 50 to 70 litres per person per day) have been dashed. Plus Cape Town’s water use is creeping up — we need to go in the opposite direction, good people!

By now we all know what to do, and yes, we’re a bit water-weary: I’ve been (almost) off the water grid for ten months, and sometimes I just want to fill the kitchen sink with a tap, and take a shower that doesn’t involve buckets and pressure sprayers and kettles. But we can’t look backwards, and hopefully our worst water-wasting habits (flushing with drinking water — shudder) are behind us for good.

Meanwhile, if ever we needed a stark and horrifying reminder that we have a planet to save and climate catastrophe right on our doorstep, the Garden Route and its mountains have been burning all week in a terrifying conflagration, with no respite. Lives have been lost, along with livelihoods and homes. And we have months of the worst kind of weather for fires and fighting them still ahead of us. (I’ve been trying to find out where one can make donations, but Google is not being its usual helpful self. When in doubt, give to Gift of the Givers, a wonderful NPO that always seems to be where the need is greatest.)

As you know, I’ve been thinking aloud here about what we can do as individuals when the problems are so vast and need such massive structural and economic transformation before we can even stumble towards solutions. And it comes back to the same mantra as always: think globally, act locally.

In an effort to minimise waste — especially plastic waste, which doesn’t biodegrade, can’t be safely burned, and ends up choking our seas — I’ve been looking around my own backyard. Buying produce and goods with minimal packaging, and which create jobs right here in my neighbourhood, as well as offering different and alternative economic models, even on a tiny scale, seems one small way to help. It also feels more humanising, at least to me, than supermarkets and malls.

So here are some small suggestions for the South Peninsula: tips on similar useful spots and markets elsewhere in Cape Town (and the country) gratefully received.

I’m delighted to see that the Waste-free Market under the Glencairn Hotel seems to be up and running again: last summer, this was a favourite place to buy veggies, nuts, pasta, spices, household cleaners and other goodies scooped out from vast plastic drums and glass jars, on a BYOC (bring-your-own-container) model. I’d take a basket of empty Tupperwares and paper packets, and bring them home full. I haven’t been since they’ve re-opened, but will do so and report back.

Look, Ma, no polystyrene, no clingwrap.

Look, Ma, no polystyrene, no clingwrap.

One spot I recommend is the new Neighbourhood Farms shop at Fish Hoek Hospital: drive down past the main hospital gates and along Paris Road, and you’ll find the shade tents protecting lettuces in every shade of green and red, a row of vast raintanks, and a neat wooden one-roomed shop. Monday is a good day to get the freshest produce, I’m told. The prices are reasonable, but what I found most helpful was this poster, explaining (in a nutshell) why growing food on a vast scale for profit isn’t a good strategy, not even for the farmers co-opted into this system.

Poster on the wall at the Neighbourhood Farms shop at Fish Hoek hospital. Would love to credit whoever wrote this.

Poster on the wall at the Neighbourhood Farms shop at Fish Hoek hospital. Would love to credit whoever wrote this.

And the next poster explains more about what I see as an alternative way of being in this broken world: food is not a luxury. Healthy food, in particular, should NOT be a luxury. Jobs should not be perks for the lucky few. To produce food primarily for purposes of profit — to enrich shareholders — seems insane. Obviously a certain amount of start-up capital is needed, and there needs to be enough capital generated to maintain and update infrastructure, and invest in new infrastructure (such as more raintanks). But surely we need to be turning to systems in which money flows through enterprises like these, rather than accumulating in them like sludge? (If this sounds naive, blame my background in indie publishing, where it feels like we all pass round the same small pile of dosh to each other, and no one ever expects to get rich.)


Something incredibly sensible about this little shop: no cash. You can pay only with a debit or credit card. Et voila, no security hassles or anxiety about theft. I also spotted that pensioners get a ten per cent discount on the fruit and veggies.

Living in Noordhoek, I know there are other local places and opportunities to try a combination of waste-saving, healthy shopping styles: ordering organic boxes, picking your own veg, and more, but let’s save further reports for another day. Tell me all about your favourite waste-wise markets or shopping spots — and remember that this can even be the local branch of a big chain, if they sell their goods loose and encourage you to bring in your own bags and packets.

Helen Moffett
1001 Water- and waste-wise ways: It's complicated
Saving the planet, saving water: can we do it solo?

Saving the planet, saving water: can we do it solo?

Time I sent up a signal from deep within the rabbit warren, where I’ve been researching waste, and effective ways of combating the problems it causes. It’s fascinating, but extremely tricky to boil down into blogs, much less tips, partly because of all the contradictions.

On the one hand, the middle classes are constantly being told what steps they can take as individuals to reduce not just waste, but their footprint on our groaning, battered planet (our ONLY viable home). But then there’s a whole bunch of research that says that individual efforts count for nothing, given that only about a hundred big corporations are responsible for 70% of carbon emissions. And that at this crucial tipping point we’ve reached, only drastic, immediate action by governments around the world can save us from ever-increasingly catastrophic climate change — and we can all see that happening, right? * sarcasm font * GLOOM.

There’s the earnest (and IMO, important) mantra Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Repurpose. But then there are the voices who say this is rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. I LOVED this challenging article by Mark Boyle, who proposes “resist, revolt, rewild” instead: explaining why he has jumped off the grid, he writes: “I’m now more interested in keeping the best of the old ways alive, preserving a link from our ancient past – and its crafts, perspectives, stories – into our future, so that when the industrial apparatus collapses under the weight of its own junk, these long-serving ways can point us towards the back roads home.” Read the entire piece — it’s a riveting alternative (very alternative) perspective, plus it’s so NB I’ve linked it twice. And to cheer you up, here’s a delightful piece on rewilding in the UK by Patrick Barkham — and another controversial one by George Monbiot, which I like because it suggests a way through the bleakness. (Who can tell me about similar local projects?)

Then there’s the morality of cheerily suggesting all sorts of “mend and make do” tips, when the poor citizens of this country and indeed the globe already practice these through sheer necessity and find no pleasure or satisfaction in them.

This poster sums things up rather nicely. It appears the artist is  Max Temkin.  No copyright infringement intended.

This poster sums things up rather nicely. It appears the artist is Max Temkin. No copyright infringement intended.

Focusing on reducing plastic waste in particular is also a lot more complicated than it seems: all the alternatives need to be researched. So if we’re replacing plastic with paper, bamboo, glass, cloth — what are the environmental impacts of these substitutes? And close scrutiny of packaging (and Lordie, but almost everything is over-packaged) brings into focus that products are presented and packaged for the convenience of the vast chains that flog them to us. And, as many eco-warriors have insisted, the pressure needs to be put on manufacturers to stop this at source, rather than relying on us to recycle them at the end of the chain.

Everything is fraught: we need to eat less meat (and to stop consuming misery meat), sure: but while veganism may be the humane option, it’s not always the most environmentally friendly one in semi-arid and arid countries where humans rely on ruminants to process grass and tough vegetation into protein. (Plus, see Boyle’s interesting points above — let me link that crucial piece again.) And how can we possibly exhort poor people to eat more expensive food? Which takes us right back to the heart of the problem: the systems that produce our food, fuel our economies and organise our labour forces are unsustainable, alienating and inhumane in the first place. I keep reaching this point in my research, at which I just want to flop down and put my head between my knees.

So I’ve been doing what always helps when I’m stuck on a project: talking to people. As I wailed to a friend that using paper instead of plastic means thinking about how that paper was manufactured, how much water was used, how best to recycle it later, etc, she pointed out that a paper bag doesn’t end up in the ocean — and if it does, it’s unlikely to choke a turtle to death or pollute someone else’s shoreline.

Another friend and I thrashed through a series of guidelines for plastic replacements, and in fact for ALL the goods we buy: 1) Is it made from a renewable resource? 2) Is it biodegradable, or can it be easily and cheaply recycled? 3) Is it durable — a piece you’ll keep and use for years if not decades, perhaps even as an heirloom? (Note that nothing plastic passes Test #1.)

I think that’s a useful start, and we have to start somewhere. To return to my first conundrum, can individuals make a difference? My thinking is yes and no. We need corporations to stop their glassy-eyed, insane, headlong pursuit of profit at all costs; we need governments to rein them in, instead of allowing them to pillage and pollute; we need investment and infrastructure in decent, safe public transport (manic laughter) and energy from renewable and clean sources; in fact, we need brand-new economic models that involve income cycling through an industry rather than accumulating; and these projects are big and daunting, and it’s hard to see how, for instance, boycotting single-use plastics will have an impact.

But shrugging our shoulders and continuing on our merry wasteful ways isn’t an option. The air we breathe and the water we drink, the food we eat (which affects our health and our children’s health for generations to come) depend on us making strong efforts to change our consumptive (pun intended) ways. When I see a toddler scampering to the fridge in the deli and tugging out a Coke bottle while his yummy mummy smiles proudly, when I see able-bodied adults demanding plastic straws to drink water (but leaving their glasses half-drunk), I realise how much there is that individuals can do, and still need to do. And many are making strenuous efforts, with all sorts of positive spin-offs, not least job creation. Of which more in future blogs.

Capetonians learned the lesson of individual effort when we helped head off Day Zero and stopped our taps running dry in the nick of time. And given that the lush green of winter has already faded to yellow and grey, that we’re sweltering in a heatwave for the second week in a row, with fires breaking out everywhere, from townships to rural areas — and it’s not even November yet and we have FIVE MONTHS OF SUMMER AND FIRE SEASON AHEAD — we need to go on making a difference at a personal level. So to all of us who’ve been letting our water use creep up: time to get back to our water-wise ways. And by now we’re old hands.

Helen Moffett