Using Effective Micro-organisms in your daily life allows you to take a “probiotic” approach, creating a more healthy home while helping the natural environment around you at the same time (even the run off from cleaning has a positive effect on the soil beneath your house).

Originally developed by Japanese horticulturist Teruo Higa, from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan. EM is a combination of approximately 80 different micro-organisms that combine positively to influence the decomposition of organic matter, reversing the ‘rotting’ process to clean waste, remove smells and create life-giving matter. The micro-organisms are cultured according to a specific method and produce bioactive substances such as vitamins, hormones, enzymes, antioxidants and antibiotics.

Five main families of micro-organisms are used in the production of EM. Lactic acids, for their powerful sterilising properties, yeasts, which manufacture anti-microbial and useful substances for plant growth, actinomycetes that suppress harmful fungi, photosynthetic bacteria, which synthesise useful substances from secretions of roots, organic matter and harmful gases, plus certain fungi that bring about fermentation to break down the organic substances quickly.

The uses and benefits of EM are innumerable, and several companies now produce EM products for use in the home. In Japan, these products have been on the market since 1983, but globally people are only now catching on to their importance for the environment. EM was used during disaster clean-up programmes after the Southeast Tsunami in 2004, the Kobe Earthquake and Hurricane Katrina. It has also been applied in agriculture and used in the production of several health products in South Africa and the USA.

At home, the practical applications include the following:

• To recycle kitchen waste, turning it into useable organic material.

• As a fertiliser known as “Bokashi”, which improves soil structure, increases productivity and suppresses weeds.

• To neutralise odours from septic tanks and drains.

• As a cleaning agent for general household hygiene.

• In personal bodily hygiene (shampoo and soap), as well as for the prevention and treatment of health problems.

Creating a solution called EM-A is the most cost effective method of using Effective Micro-organisms around the home and garden. This is made by fermenting a mixture of EM culture with molasses and water at a ratio of 50:50:950 (ml). The EM-A can then be further diluted 1:100 with water and applied to the garden, for cleaning etc. The resulting solution is harmless to humans. In fact, you can even drink EM and there is now a health tonic on the market made by fermenting Effective Micro-organisms with molasses, yeast extract, coral calcium, nigari (bittern, made from seawater) and millet natural colouring.

Ready mixed EM products are obviously more convenient and are now readily available online. You can buy everything from cleaning fluid for your swimming pool to insecticides or fruit and vegetable wash. Choosing EM products is one of the easiest ways to help the planet, while helping yourself at the same time.