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How green is my Vellie*

*a vellie (pronounced ‘felly’ and short for veldskoen) is a suede bush boot popular with bush-walking types

There is an old joke about a call centre operator who is told to make up a sentence including four colours and he says: “The phone goes green-green, green-green and I pink it up and I say yellow, blue am I speaking to?”

Colour is everywhere and each is significant for different reasons. You can be red with embarrassment, purple with rage, feeling blue, green with envy, yellow from cowardice, white with fright, grey from illness, orange from too much fake tan… The list goes on. All of them seem to be negative and greatly exaggerated – I mean, did you ever actually see anyone go purple with anger, except in a cartoon show?

But there is a good green, a positive green, a green that saves the world. It is the green of environmentalism, the green of recycling, the green of clean air and a pollution-free environment. The Green Lobby. And it is the only such metaphorical colour to which the colour actually applies. You look at a picture of a leaf and you think green (or maybe you think toothpaste, but you know what I mean).

And its importance is such that it has a verb. You can’t red something, or blue it, but whole areas of the world are being “greened” and there is no industry that is taking this greening more seriously than tourism. Only this morning, I was explaining to a guest in my little spot in Hazyview, Mpumalanga, that, like many game reserves in South Africa, I had planted spekboom in my garden to offset the carbon imprint of getting our visitors to South Africa by plane. It is a “wonder plant” in that it removes more than 100 times as much carbon from the air than does a pine tree of the same size.

You see? We can all take this stuff seriously. Only a few years ago, we were worrying about CFCs in our fridges and our deodorants. Now we are gardening with carbon-eaters. And they really work. Like the blueberry super fruit or the macadamia health-nut, of which South Africa is now the largest producer.

Of course, there are the cynics, and the greenies who take it too far, but who are we to decide what is too far? Well, we are allowed a view. A banana and kale smoothie, which is very green, but also obviously disgusting, is taking it too far in my view. So is cucumber, which is also green. I also can’t think why nobody else seems to have worked out, as I have, that cucumber is poisonous. Otherwise why would it give you such bad wind?

But then again, there was a time when smoking and even drinking and driving were not frowned upon. Nowadays, both are more and more unacceptable, as is a failure to recycle. Even in the third world and in countries with huge social challenges such as ours, much has been done to mitigate the effects of pollution and bad living. We were one of the first countries in the world to introduce a levy on plastic bags, for example, and the first to propose a sugar tax.

South Africa may not be a great example when it comes to recycling, but we are doing our best. And as an industry, tourism is blazing a trail for others to follow. So, pink with shame, white with shock and feeling blue from the criticism, we saw red and went green and long may we remain that way, recycling, promoting sustainability and planting spekboom around every corner to offset all that jet damage.

We are all coming to the realisation that, unlike all those emotional reds, yellows and greys that paint such gloomy pictures, green is not a colour. Green is, literally, a way of life, so make sure you go green right down to your boots, or you will really be putting your foot in it.

Chris Harvie - in real life - is a Lowveld hotelier of thirty years' standing. Having cut his tourism teeth in some of South Africa's finest hotels, he founded Rissington Inn in Hazyview, in 1995. In the parallel universe, however, he is a renowned author, inveterate traveller and freelance travel writer with an insider's view of the industry he loves. Often amusing, occasionally caustic and always entertaining, Chris can be relied upon to dig up an unusual tale and to spin it with consummate skill.