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The Sustainable.co.za Blog

  • Stay Warm this Autumn. Winter Can Wait!

    With summer now little more than a distant memory and the nights already starting to draw in, let us help you keep warm this Autumn by enjoying a comfortable green lifestyle and saving money at the same time. Our motto at Sustainable.co.za is "Buy once, buy well", and we have so many great products available that you will be coming back for more.

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  • How to reduce your vehicle's emissions

    The CO² emissions from vehicles are one of the biggest contributors to the production of greenhouse gases, which have brought about the patterns of climate change the world finds itself at the mercy of today. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), South Africa is 15th in the global list of largest CO² emitters. While South Africa may not be in the top five, or even top ten worst offenders, the country still contributes 1.2% towards global emissions. While the transport sector can take a number of steps to decrease its carbon footprint, so too can the average driver on South Africa’s roads. Here are four ways you can do your bit to reduce your vehicle’s emissions.

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  • Grow with us this Spring

    Spring has Sprung at Sustainable.co.za and we are celebrating in style this year.  To kick off for Arbor Week we have challenged our team to grow their own Bonsai Trees (from seed nogal). Indigenous trees only, of course, including the African Baobab, the Wisteria and the White Stinkwood Tree. Keep a close eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more updates. Can we just mention that we love trees? If you are interested in planting something yourself, contact Seeds for Africa, a really great website with a wide range of options. If you are not much of a gardener, why not donate some trees at GreenPop? Every bit counts.

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  • July is Madiba Month at Sustainable.co.za

    July is Madiba Month at Sustainable.co.zaAs everyone is well aware, Tata Madiba's birthday is on the 18th of July. At Sustainable.co.za, we love what Madiba Day stands for so we have decided to dedicate the month of July to Madiba and challenge everyone else to do the same!

    In the spirit of this, our team have dedicated themselves to 67 random acts of kindness in July. You can follow our progress via the checklist below. We will post evidence of our deeds to our Social Media accounts so keep an eye out!

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  • Tips to winter-proof your home

    Is it possible to save money running your household during winter? It is, and here are a few tips to make your home more eco-friendly and save money at the same time!

    Use existing insulation
    As soon as the sun begins setting, close curtains and blinds to keep warmth inside bedrooms and living spaces. It will mean your interior stays warmer for longer and will mean switching heaters on only if essential.

    Replace and switch off
    Replace all light bulbs with LED. Turn off lights, plugs and especially electric blankets and heaters when not using them. Just these few things can reduce your home’s electricity consumption by 15%.

    Lose 1 degree Celsius
    While going solar is ideal, turning your geyser down by 1 degree and switching it off during the middle of the day can make a difference. This can provide estimated savings of R100 a week on your electricity bill. Take it further and investigate using geyser blankets and timer switchers.

    Get a Spindel
    Doing laundry in winter is very costly if you are using a tumble dryer, so rather use a Spindel. It’s an innovative dryer that uses spin power instead of heat to remove up to 80% of the leftover moisture from clothes in just three minutes. Laundry dries in a fraction of the time and it uses 100 times less electricity than tumble drying. Spindel is also safe for all fabrics – perfect for those winter woollens and hand washed delicates.

  • Recycling vs Upcycling

    Glass, paper, aluminium, and plastic are materials we use every day to make our lives easier, however, if disposed or managed improperly, they can have damaging effects on the environment. Fortunately, recycling has become easier and more convenient than ever with recycling bins available in public places and domestically. But, did you know recycling isn’t the only option to reduce your waste?

    Whether you're spring cleaning or selling your home, you're bound to throw out a few items. But, if you're a DIY interior designer or just an ordinary housewife who prefers to use old clothes as a cleaning cloth, you are already following a practice known as upcycling. Similar to recycling, upcycling involves converting waste materials into new materials and objects. But, instead of sending them off to a recycling facility, we reuse them for household purposes.

     

    An article by Private Property, Why Recycle When you can Upcycle? provides a distinction between these two processes of waste repurposing.

    When the contents of your recycling bin reach the recycling facility, they are broken down into a raw state. For example, glass that is recycled is crushed and remelted into a new material called cullet. The new material is then used to produce something new at the same, lesser or even higher quality. A glass bottle can be recycled into another glass bottle and the quality stays the same. But, a plastic bottle can be reproduced as part of a backpack, shoulder bag or a sleeping bag.

    When something is upcycled, it does not entirely lose its original form. Although the item can be reworked into a variety of new products, the material stays the same and the new product retains roughly the quality of the old product.

    The concept of upcycling was popularised in 2002 by William McDonough and Michael Braungart's book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The book states that the goal of upcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials by making use of existing ones. The only energy you use is our own and the only limitation is your imagination!

    Speaking of imagination, here are some creative ways to put your upcycling skills to use:

    • Use old CDs to make coasters or mosaic tile plates
    • Old tyres can be converted into tree swings, an ottoman and a garden planter.
    • Tin cans can be used for almost anything – from pencil holder to flower vase to outdoor lanterns.
    • Paper bags can be reused as school book covers while used gift wraps can be saved for another occasion.
    • Use glass jars or take-away containers to store cake decorations or buttons.
    • Empty paper rolls can be used in your children's paper crafts and school projects or as bird feeders and campfire starters.

    Upcycling is great for decorating purposes but it could also be a life-saver around your household (bet you didn't know placing your laptop on an egg carton tray will help cool it down while in use). Plus it can help you save money (why pay for a plastic bag at the supermarket when you can bring your own?). Whichever way you look at it, upcycling can help you live more environmentally friendly.

  • Nuclear vs Renewable Energy

    We were suddenly given a ray of hope amid the current political gloom when the Western Cape High Court declared the Nuclear Procurement process unlawful. Launched in October 2015 by Earthlife Africa (ELA) and Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), their case contends that the government is violating the constitution by concluding deals without first debating it in Parliament (read more about the Nuclear Deal). While this will hamper the Nuclear Program, there is still a long fight ahead and all gains made in the interim will stand testament to the value of renewable energy.

    Every step taken towards renewable energy diminishes the argument for Nuclear Energy. Rooftop solar has the potential to put Eskom under a lot of financial strain, leaving no option but to opt for the proven cheaper and safer renewable energy. Every kWh supplied by these alternative sources prevents the release of about 1kg CO² per unit of electricity. As the industry develops and allocates more funds to research and development it will become even more competitive.

    Russian Roulette

    No discussion on Nuclear and Renewable Energy is complete without taking full account of the risks posed by nuclear power. Only November last year was the final structure moved into place at Chernobyl to contain the nuclear waste, replacing the aging concrete structure that was erected in the weeks following the explosion. The biggest ever movable man-made structure is finally in place 30 years after the disaster.


    The catastrophic events following the Fukushima disaster on 11 March 2011 should be a reminder to us that contingency plans are not adequate when dealing with fission reactions. The power plant automatically switched off when the earthquake occurred which means the cooling of the reactors had to be powered externally by 13 diesel generators, only they were flooded by the tsunami causing hydrogen build-up in the reactors and their eventual explosion. The severity of the radioactive leaks into the atmosphere and the ocean will only become evident over time. Even so 116 children in the area have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer since the disaster, 20 – 50 times higher than the national average.

    The disposal of radioactive waste is considered a minor problem and mostly ignored by nuclear proponents, hence the absence of a permanent disposal plan for the high level waste i.e. spent fuel kept at Koeberg which is growing by 30 tons every year. In addition, 500 steel drums and 100 concrete drums of low to medium level nuclear waste from Koeberg gets buried every year at the Vaalputs Disposal Facility, 100 km south of Kimberley, and this from only two 900 MW reactors compared to 9600 MW planned for Thyspunt. A further cause for concern is the proposed fracking in the area which can lead to earth tremors, a factor almost certainly not considered when the 10 000 hectares was acquired in 1983.

    As if this is not enough problems for the Northern Cape, a local subsidiary of an Australian company, Peninsula Energy, has acquired 750 000 hectares of uranium exploration concessions in the Karoo. The hazards of Uranium mining are well known and pose a much greater threat to the region than commonly acknowledged. Half a million tons of waste rock and 100 000 tonnes of toxic waste tailings will need to be extracted to yield 25 tonnes of Uranium, enough to supply a reactor for one year.

     

     

    Sustainable Energy

    The abundance of solar and wind energy in South Africa are well documented. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) estimates that rooftop solar installation alone can provide 136TWh and the EIA areas can provide a further 420TWh when the aggregate demand currently stands at 225TWh. Critics of renewable energy point out that electricity demand peak in the evening due to increased domestic use and would thus need conventional ‘base load power’. Fortunately, wind power can take up the slack when the sun sets.

    Let’s look at the facts before shunning this as hippie conjecture. In theory, if we allocate 0.1km² for every MW wind generation capacity, our nation’s 1.3 million km² surface area can generate 38 000 TWh wind power per year. This is based on a load factor of 0.36 when in Germany in 2015 working on a load factor of 0.2, wind power amounted to 77TWh (at 44GW capacity), about a third of our annual demand.

    Since the first of four REIPPPP bid windows in November 2011, the cost of Solar Power has dropped from R3.65/kWh to R0.62/kWh and Wind power dropped from R1.51 to R0.62/kWh, whereas the cost of coal power currently stands at R1.3/kWh and Nuclear R1.17 - R1.30/kWh. Sadly the bidding has been stalled by Eskom since November 2015 and 37 Independent Power Producers (IPPs) are left waiting to invest over R50 Billion in the country.

    Clearly there are vested interests in the fossil fuel industry that view renewable energy as a threat to its profits. Acting Eskom CEO, Matshela Koko, claims he is prepared to sign the IPP bids at the current tariff, but this may be up to the new CEO stepping into office in June.

  • How to recycle grey water around your home

    By now you may be well aware that certain municipalities have placed strict limits on water consumption as dam levels have shrunk to alarming percentages over the last couple of months. And, with parts of South Africa still caught in the grip of drought, water conservation should be a top priority for all citizens. Even if you live in a region where water is slightly more abundant, your household is urged to reduce its water footprint.

    Not only will water conservation help lower your utility bill so you don't have to turn to a Personal Loan to make ends meet, but grey water recycling can also help prevent water pollution in local dams and lakes. In this article, written in collaboration with Hippo.co.za, we present ways how you can put grey water to good use. These tips are adapted from Hippo.co.za's original post How to Save Water and Recycle Grey Water in Your Home.

    What is grey water?

    Grey water is usually meant to go down the drain after you are done showering, bathing, doing the dishes or the laundry. It is waste water that contains relatively small amounts of chemicals from soaps, shampoos, and washing powders, which can be safely reused to keep your car shiny or your grass looking great.

    How to harvest grey water manually

    Usable waste water can be captured with minimal manual input through a grey water system; however, these can cost a pretty penny. Fortunately, extracting grey water can be done without special equipment if you’re willing to put in the effort.

    • After washing the dishes, use a dish pan to scoop water out of the basin and into a bucket.
    • If you're washing your hands or rinsing vegetables, place a bucket under the tap to collect the water.
    • When showering, place a bucket in the shower with you.
    • Connect the drain hose of your washing machine to the sealed laundry sink where you can collect the water. If possible, point the drain hose directly to nearby plants if the water can flow into that direction without creating a mess.
    • Unused water from your pet's bowl can be emptied directly into pot plants.

    Grey water systems

    You can opt to have a grey water system do all the work for you. When installing a grey water device, you can consider either a diversion system or a greywater treatment system. Diversion systems distribute grey water without using biological processes to convert the water into a purer form. This system normally transports grey water directly to the garden or toilet; however, they can also be equipped with a surge tank to help leverage the pressure of water flow as well as filters to remove particles such as hair from the pipes.

    A greywater treatment system goes the extra mile by disinfecting and removing all chemicals from the grey water, which can be used for laundry or your irrigation system. This option is more viable if you need to use the water for a vegetable garden or if your area is severely affected by water shortages when you can put purified grey water to other uses besides the garden or your car. Water is a valuable resource which is why it's vital for everyone to do their bit in making sure each drop counts. For additional water saving tips, read the full article on Hippo.co.za's blog.

  • Sustainable.co.za & Greenpeace Africa Working Together

    Sustainable.co.za is proud to be collaborating with Greenpeace Africa to bring you news, call to actions and events on the good work Greenpeace is doing to effecting Climate and Energy change on our Planet. We will be featuring articles from members of the Greenpeace staff, how you can help with raising awareness and exclusive promotions on renewable energy products and information. Please continue reading below on the action Greenpeace is taking and how you can help.

    Let’s not beat about the bush. All environmental threats are serious, but climate change might just be the biggest threat mankind has ever faced, particularly in Africa. Africans aren’t responsible for climate change; the industrial nations are the worst offenders. But it is Africans who will pay the steepest price.

    The energy sector is the worst offender, creating almost 66 percent of all greenhouse gases. Yet in South Africa, where the government is faced with a major energy supply problem, their answer seems to be the building of more coal-fired energy stations, a 'solution' which only serves to worsen the problem.

    Greenpeace is locked in a desperate struggle to change people’s minds, especially the minds of the country’s leaders. We need to change the view that nuclear power is a cheap and effective solution to our energy problems -- it's not. We want to start a revolution in the thinking around energy, promoting the use of renewable energy sources, and saving the continent and creating jobs in the process.


    How to donate

    By becoming a member you'll join Greenpeace in our work to protect our precious planet and find the solutions we need to our most important environmental issues. You'll enable us to investigate, campaign, and lobby for a sustainable balance between humans and the environment. With your help we'll expose environmental abuses, raising awareness to protect our oceans, forests, and our climate – the very life support systems of our planet.

    Ready to support us?

    We have two options for you! We are working with the Given Gain platform for secure donations. Just click here and follow the steps. Or, if you live in South Africa, you can use our secure form to make your online donation directly.

    Want to talk more? Leave your details here and we'll call you back

    It's the support of caring people like you that gives us the courage and the resources to take on the goliaths in our society -- those who would otherwise recklessly plunder our oceans, tear down forests, and pollute our precious rivers. Greenpeace relies on donations from generous individuals to carry out our work. In order to remain independent, we do not accept funding from governments, corporations or political parties. We can't do it without your help. Please support us today.

    Click here to read more about Greenpeace 'Walking the Talk' and turning their new offices in Randburg carbon neutral.

  • Walking the Talk - Onwards to 100% Renewable Energy

    If we are going to create change and convince the people to move away from fossil fuels, we need to act locally. As a energy campaigner with Greenpeace, I have to make sure that We Walk the Talk.

    Right from my post graduation days, I have been a strong advocate of using and implementing Renewable Energy. In Greenpeace, we lobby with governments locally and globally to shift towards a 100 % renewable energy for the benefit of the planet and all of us.

    We recently moved our offices to Randburg and as part of the move we wanted to go carbon neutral on our energy consumption. Being the energy expert, I took lead on the project and one of very first step is monitoring your energy needs and consumption pattern. As an office space, most of our daytime energy needs come from workplace lighting, having close to 480 tube lights that is a lot of “$$$”. So the first investment we made was to retro fit all our existing light’s to LED’s. This saved close to 50% of our energy due to lighting. Not just the energy , we also had a good 40% jump in our light output (lux levels)

    These LED lights come with a 5 year warranty, as you can see from the images light intensity has gone up. From my perspective, the LED retrofit is definitely a rewarding investment which will give you returns right from day one both in terms of energy savings = $ saved and increased light output = happy employees. Who ever is looking to reduce your electricity bill I would recommend to start off LED retrofits both for  commercial and household purposes. So the first step, is now complete. To know more about what I did for “walking the talk” keeping watching this space.

    By Anand Prabu Pathanjali
    Climate and energy Campaigner
    Greenpeace Africa

     

     

     

     

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