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Eco Business

  • proudly partners with Ecobrick Exchange

    We are very pleased to announce that we have partnered up with the EcoBrick Exchange. This is one of our favourite initiatives and is close to our hearts.

    About EcoBrick Exchange

    The EcoBrick Exchange (EBE) is an eco-centric company that facilitates the construction of preschools in underprivileged communities. This is done by using EcoBricks (plastic waste compressed into PET-bottles). This is a highly insulating building material that is water-, fire- and even bullet-proof. Their programmes empower individuals to address the shortage of quality education facilities, implement sustainable waste management systems and raise environmental awareness.

    How can you become involved?

    It's really very simple. Collect, clean and dry all non-recyclable plastic rubbish and compress it into a 2L Bottle with a stick or suitable instrument. Pack it tightly so that it can't be squished. Once it is ready, simply drop it off at our shop.

    Extra Incentive

    We love this idea so much that we have decided to give a 5% discount voucher to the person that brings in 20 Eco-Bricks at any one time.

    Start making a difference

    If we can collect enough eco bricks, we can build a school! Keep an eye out for our Mandela Day Campaign where we will be challenging South Africa to make a difference. Watch this space.

  • Off The Grid Restaurant: El Burro

    El Burro LogoMore and more businesses around South Africa are no longer prepared to be at the mercy of Eskom’s irregular power supply. Dozens of businesses, including restaurants, are now finding alternative electricity sources so that they can continue to trade unaffected by blackouts. While many businesses plan their meetings, appointments and tasks around the load shedding schedules, they are often changed at the last minute leaving businesses in the dark – literally. spoke to Cape Town restaurant El Burro (known for their divine authentic Mexican food) about how they keep the cuisine cooking when Eskom strikes.

    1.     What made El Burro decide to control their your own power source during load shedding?

    Essentially we decided to protect our business. We found that we were most often scheduled into the 8pm to 10pm slots, and in that window you can do 70% of your entire day’s trade. If the situation became dire and we were to lose about five or six nights a month, that could put us out of business. We have a high staff count and rent is not cheap in the area etc. So to trade as normal, when Eskom is down, became essential to us.

    2.     What power sources do you use?

    We bought a 3phase petrol powered 10kva generator that allows us to run our extraction, lights, and crucial equipment. It powers roughly 60% of normal usage, but allows us to function at 98% trade.

    3.     What challenges did you face when moving from general power to off the grid?

    As always, capital. In an ideal world we would love to go off the grid permanently. However, to meet the usage of all our equipment it would entail an investment out of our reach. Thus, we identified the quickest and cheapest solution, and had it installed compliantly.

    4.     What are the positive effects of using this kind of power resource on the business?

    The advantage of petrol is that it is easily accessible and reasonably affordable to run. We managed to find a balance in the size of the unit between affordability to run (ie low consumption) and functionality.

    5.     What are the negative effects of using this kind of power resource on the business? 

    For us personally we would prefer a “greener” solution. Ultimately that is the only negative, that a petrol powered generator is not sustainable enough.

    6.     How important is it for El Burro to be energy efficient?

    We do feel that it is essential in the long run.  Again, the only thing stopping us is the capital required to go fully green.

    7.     How do you currently save energy and recycle?

    At the moment we have policies we can control within our financial means, like sorting and having waste recycled, power save where we can and moving over to energy efficient lighting. All cardboard, tin and glass is sorted and recycled. About 60% of lighting has been changed to LED with the rest to follow. The next big steps will be to implement heat pumps instead of geysers, and looking into, at least, moving lighting and small appliances over to solar. We’ll have to see if and when this will be viable to us.

    8.     Would you recommend others try to get off the grid?

    As a business, yes of course. You won’t believe the extra trade we get when every other restaurant is dark and we are up and running. They few places who have backup power do well during load shedding. From a personal perspective, the same. However, we have a long way to go in the country before alternative energy is affordable to the average person.

    Find El Burro at 81 Main Road, Green Point, Cape Town. Or call them on 021 433 2364.

    For Businesses Wanting to Get Off the Grid During Load Shedding:

    Switching to alternative energy is an investment. It’s important to calculate how much turn over a business is losing when the power is off. Incorporating the loss into the cost of an alternative electricity source system is the best way to consider what the reality is of keeping the lights on during load shedding times. has a number of power saving options, from on-the-table solar lights to big off the grid systems. We asked resident expert Zeke Murphy about options for businesses. Zeke recommends the following:

    The 24kwh is great for the average home and business. It would power the lights, PCs, and TVs in the home or small business. Considering El Burro is a restaurant, it would not be able to consistently power electric ovens but if restaurants use gas, the 24kwh solar power kit is sufficient to run the businesses, ovens and stoves excluded.

    The 9kwh solar power kit would be able to run the tills and essential lights in the restaurant.

    Consider, if you can afford a vehicle for your business, are you able to afford a permanent alternative power source? If you have any further questions, feel free to call 0861 661 326.

  • Greyton Transition Town

    It’s easy to get caught up the swirl of negative news that is circulated by major broadcasters and publications daily in our country. However, we are increasingly hearing of exciting new projects and initiatives that are creating positive change! One such community is the town of Greyton which has set out an ambitious goal: to become the first zero waste city in South Africa. We were fortunate enough to get in touch with Nicola Vernon, chairperson of the Greyton Transition Town board, who also agreed to share information with us on the organisation’s work. This is what Nicola had to say…

    Greyton Transition Town (GTT) is a community-based, non-profit organisation that seeks to inspire and empower the people of Greyton and neighbouring communities to work together to achieve sustainability and resilience in the face of rising energy and food costs, economic crisis and environmental degradation.  We are part of the worldwide Transition movement and the first official transition town in South Africa. Greyton has a bold vision for the future.  It’s ambitious and far-reaching and completely achievable.

    The village has committed to being able to say the following in the year 2030:

    We are a community which owns, generates and saves energy together for the benefit of a wider community.  Residents are personally responsible for litter.  Household and commercial waste is kept to the absolute minimum. The inevitable solid waste generated by the community is viewed as a form of income. All sanitation is processed ecologically.

    We set out our vision in 2012 so how are we doing so far?

    Our first step was to gain some credibility by working hard on the ground with projects that would have an immediate and visible impact.

    Greyton Transition Town


    In the field of waste, we established South Africa’s first festival on a dumpsite to bring people to an area normally only visited quickly to dump waste, and keep them there, enjoying live music, healthy food, environmental workshops and children’s competitions.  Now in its third year, the Trash to Treasure Festival is gaining popularity and has done much to show our community that there is no ‘away’ and that every piece of litter dumped in Greyton in the past 150 years is still here.

    children drumming compressed

    A large part of the dumpsite has now been rehabilitated and fenced in to create a Green Park, providing a community space where the charity Greenpop has helped us to plant over 50 fruit trees (the start of the Greyton Fruit Forest) and where we have built South Africa’s first ecobrick construction, an outdoor classroom.  Garden waste is removed from the waste stream where it had hitherto been bulking up the landfill, and is processed into wood chips, biochar and compost and sold back into the community to support the work of the two men employed at the Green Park.

    Ecobricks are plastic bottles stuffed with non-recyclable waste.  They can be used as building blocks when sequestered in clay where they will last for hundreds if not thousands of years, ingeniously turning the indestructible nature of plastic waste into a positive.  There is scarcely a household in Greyton that does not feature an Ecobrick on its kitchen windowsill and we are on our way to having sufficient to build a small youth centre for the Red Cross.

    Eco Bricks

    Eco brick house

    Our after school environmental awareness programme brings eco-activities to nearly 150 local children who are becoming firm activists, participating in community clean-up days where they show, by example, that they are no longer prepared to tolerate careless littering by the community.  They enjoy the facilities at the Green Park and are now so disgusted by the sight of the landfill that they are influencing their families to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

    river cleanup

    In June 2014 Greyton declared its intention to become the first community in South Africa to phase out the single use plastic shopping bag.  The amount of plastic bags being used weekly in the village has diminished by tens of thousands and we are about to enter the second phase of the campaign to remove them altogether.  In this we are being assisted by Environmental Campaigner Hayley McLellan of the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. who is running the national Rethink the Bag campaign which aims to ban the single use plastic shopping bag from South Africa.  Such an initiative would prevent 38,336,000 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

    GTT runs four swop shops.  Adults and children in need bring their recyclable waste to a depot where they get vouchers for each bag brought in which they can exchange in an on-site swop shop for essentials such as clothing, blankets, stationery and food.  High end waste is provided by local retailers.  The swop shops are in Genadendal, Caledon, Riviersonderend and Villiersdorp.

    Children Recycling

    Swop shop


    There is a long road to travel before South Africa can take advantage of its position as the third country in the world with the most hours of sunshine.  Our winds and sunshine provide us with the ideal opportunity to invest in renewable energies and the wheels of progress are beginning to turn - slowly.

    Pioneers in this field are having a particularly challenging time and Greyton Transition Town is no exception.  Our first step towards our ambition is to install solar panels on the roofs of public buildings, particularly schools, thereby reducing their electricity bills dramatically and allowing them to spend more funds on teachers and resources.

    We have been fortunate to attract some input from top consultants in this field and are moving towards our first installation, a solar array on the roof of the Emil Weder High School in Genadendal.  At present there’s little provision for feed-in tariffs that would allow the school to sell electricity to the grid and it’s hard to attract investors, but not impossible.  We are working hard towards implementation and expect significant progress to be made over the next twelve months.

    A Model Community

    Community buy-in is essential and GTT has been gathering support and enthusiasm as its programmes continue to touch on each and every resident in one way or the other.  Central to buy-in is to convince the community that change is possible.  GTT has recently acquired the lease on a sixty bed former school hostel and backpackers which is being transformed into a centre of environmental education and learning.

    The Greyton EcoLodge will continue to offer affordable accommodation in the heart of the village but will focus on attracting schools and groups with an interest in learning about and contributing to the care of our planet.  The EcoLodge itself will be a model of sustainability with biomass digesters, renewable energy, biodynamic vegetable gardens and environmentally friendly practices.  It will soon become in microcosm what is aimed for Greyton by 2030.

    Perhaps the most telling evidence that GTT is on the right track is the fact that no less than fourteen people have moved to Greyton because it is a Transition Town.

  • Earth Hour Pledge: Pick n Pay

    Earth Hour was held on the 29th March 2014 across the globe. Both people and businesses showed their awareness of earth preservation by turning off their lights between in 8pm – 9pm local time. Taking an active role in showing kindness and concern towards the planet’s well being is in everyone’s interest. Because is passionate about conserving the earth and energy, we took a review at some of the pledges that were shared online and will be visiting those who want to do even more than saving electricity. Today we visit Pick n Pay.

    Being a purveyor means Pick n Pay is deeply connected to food sources and how they impact communities. Community gardens have been popping up all over South Africa (and the world) as they provide a source of food, income, activity, employment, education, relaxation and most importantly, healthy eating. Here's their pledge:

    Because gardeners report decreased stress, a sense of stewardship for the land, individuals participating in the growth of produce find a sense of accomplishment and pride through the physical activity involved in gardening. South Africa needs food for its people; community gardens can provide food, education, a sense of belonging and achievement, income and cohesion in the community.

    Pick n Pay intends on using the values of community garden projects to help South African communities achieve these goals. The Ackerman Pick n Pay Foundation supports community gardening and has taken the pledge this Earth Hour 2014. The foundation has already partnered with Food Basket for Africa and has helped establish gardens in rural and urban areas. These gardens include:

    Location: Stellenbosch
    Who: It is part of a research program by the University of Stellenbosch University.
    Participants: 42 community members
    Project: The garden has trained 24 adults, 12 children from South Peninsula School and 4 children from SEED Rocklands.

    Location: Darling
    Who: In association with Barney’s Angel Educare.
    Participants: 33 community members
    Project: Trains people from Iktut Khoisan Project on the West Coast. Established in 2010 the garden has been training people for the last few years. So far 4 home gardens have been initiated through the garden training.

    Location: McGregor
    Who: Judy
    Participants: 20 community members
    Project: Judy who over sees the garden is working with municipal authorities to set up home gardens. She is also establishing a satellite garden at the local skills center.

    Location: Khayelitsha
    Who: Mrs Meintjies Day Care Center
    Participants: 11 community members
    Project: This garden offers rehabilitation to the youth aged between 16 and 34.

    Location: Pinelands
    Who: Oude Molen Community Center
    Participants: 1500 have received training!
    Project: Numerous projects have run from the Oude Molen community center over the past few years including an after school programme which is for 8 – 13 year olds. It runs from Monday to Friday and has trained over 1400 youth.

    Location: Hopefield
    Who: Hope Farm Rehabilitation Center
    Participants: 22 community members
    Project: The center has developed its own garden which is used to educate others.

    It is Pick n Pay’s goal to continue creating these gardens in the hopes of increasing education and businesses for these local communities. Their goal, as pledged on Earth Hour 2014, is to create a total of 250 community gardens by 2015. intends on keeping up with Pick n Pay and sharing their achievements over the next few years.

    If you’re already producing food in your own home or in a community garden, has a number of products to assist with composting or rain water harvesting, which you can browse online. For more energy saving tips for a sustainable home, follow our blog.


  • Transforming Your Business -Taking the Green Step

    The term ‘zero waste’ has become a buzzword among businesses, consumers and organisations. The term may seem unbelievable to some, but many organisations are successfully repurposing their waste and taking a complete “zero waste” stance throughout their operations.

    Not only does reducing waste contribute to the sustainability of the natural environment, but it leads to cost saving, higher profits, innovation, and reputable benefits.

    Common wastes associated with the operation of businesses include overproduction, transportation pollution, processing waste, and defect products. In order to become a green business and minimise wastage, a number of steps can be implemented.

    1. Switch to Solar Power

    Solar power harnesses the energy of the sun to create electricity. Indeed, it is one of the greenest sources of electricity. In South Africa, sunlight is abundant and with Eskom’s current prices (not to mention outages!), it makes sense to become self-sufficient in managing electricity.

    solar panels

    2. Install Water Saving Devices

    Water is life. Businesses can save a lot of water and money by installing water saving devices such as redwater diversion valves or grey water recycling systems. Another option is to invest in a rainwater harvesting system. Rainwater can be used for irrigation and in production or manufacturing.

    3. Carpool or Allocate Staff Transport

    Although South African transport systems have improved much throughout the last few years (especially in larger metropolitan areas), many individuals choose to commute to work via their own transport.  Organising car-pool groups, or investing in designated transportation for staff members, will reduce the personal transport costs of employees, decrease pollution caused by transportation, and potentially ensure that staff members show up at work on time!

    Staff transport

    4.  Encourage the use of public transport and bicycles

    Some business hours accommodate the use of public transport. In this instance, encourage employees to make use of this benefit. Another great option for travelling to and from work is by bicycle. To encourage employees to cycle to work, ensure that there is a safe area to store bicycles during the day. Living a healthy lifestyles and keeping fit will also benefit the productivity of employees and lower absenteeism.

    Cycle to work

    5. Convert Left over Raw Materials or Defects into Products

    In the manufacturing of products, cut-offs or leftover raw materials often go to waste. Instead of disposing of these materials, look for ways to upcycle or make use of the excess. This could lead to additional profits for the company.

    Ballo is an example of a local business that uses wood cut-offs for the production of their popular sunglasses. Meanwhile, designers Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw have found a new way of using leftover wood shavings to create stunning furniture.

    the-well-proven-chair Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw

    6. Use Recycled Furniture

    Instead of buying brand new office furniture, look for second hand.  Recycled furniture is also an option. For instance, an old door could be converted into a boardroom table. The possibilities are endless and creativity inspires clients.


    7. Support Green Initiatives

    The most obvious way to become a more green oriented business is to support green initiatives.  A great example of an environmentally responsible business is the Mondi-Group who has established a three year partnership with WWF. The partnership will focus on minimising the impacts of Mondi’s operations on forests, climate and water, and encouraging sustainable practices in the industry. An organisation with particular importance to the African continent is Save The Rhino. Black Rhinos are a critically endangered species found in Southern African countries. A great way to become involved in the sustainability of the natural environment is through supporting Save The Rhino initiatives.

    black rhino

    8. Use Green Products around the Office

    Using green and/or Fairtrade products around the office will encourage employees to embrace the principles of sustainable living at home as well. It is also a great way to inspire clients to do the same. Using Fairtrade products at work is simple - the organisation has launched an exciting programme that encourages local businesses, churches, NGOs and universities to use Fairtrade products such coffee, tea, wine and food items. is in the process of joining this excellent programme!

    Motherland Coffee

    9. Dispose of Old Electronics Correctly

    Global electronic waste has become a huge problem in the last few decades. The raw materials that are used to create electronics are not biodegradable and often contain harmful chemical substances. It is extremely important to dispose of electronics correctly so that they do no not end up in landfills and damage the environment. The e-Waste Association of South Africa has developed a guide to recycling electronic waste correctly.


    10. Start a Recycling Program

    The recycling of paper, plastic, glass, and tins is a crucial factor to becoming a green organisation.  In some regions there are collection services that pick up sorted recyclable items from your address. When these services are not available you can dispose of your company’s waste at fixed locations.


    11. Install Power Saving Heating and Cooling Systems in the Office

    If you’re operating in a large office, heating and cooling systems are important. Air conditioning systems and heaters are known to expend a lot of electricity, but luckily modern models are developed to optimize power usage. Upgrade or install power saving HAC systems in your office building.

    12. Start an Office Garden

    Plants and trees recycle CO2 into oxygen. By creating an office garden, you will assist the air recycling process and brighten up the morale of employees.

    Office garden

    It’s important to recognise that anyone or any business can make a difference to the sustainability of the natural environment. Although ‘zero waste’ is the goal, taking simple measures where you can already reduce your carbon footprint may inspire other to do the same.

    When moving office, make it a priority to create a new location with a reduced carbon footprint. Through consciously choosing greener options we drive demand for greener buildings in South Africa.


  • Give Your Home the Gift of Green this Year with GreenFin

    We'll be honest...converting your house into a home that is energy efficient and is primarily powered by alternative energy can be pricey in the short term. Yes, it is an investment with long term savings, but the initial outlay is a significant financial commitment. There's a few options available - we can either save, wait for that Christmas bonus or finance a green home project. The last option is becoming increasingly viable for South Africans. As electricity prices increase and the cost of alternative energy products decrease, it's possible for monthly repayments on investments to be offset by electricity savings. We caught up with Tiaan De Jager, the CEO of GreenFin, a company that is making finance for green products possible for South Africans today.

    How did the idea for GreenFin start?

    We realised that we could help households (1) obtain renewable energy, (2) reduce their reliance on the ever increasing electricity tariffs and (3) structure their repayments to be somewhat similar to what they would have paid electricity for plus have the long term benefits after repayment. Our solution is therefore unique in that we do not require the household to incur any additional upfront costs and in the long run they would actually save money by acquiring green solutions.

    We see that GreenFin was only established last year. Can you tell us about this initial period?

    green piggy bank

    The owners of GreenFin have over 20 years combined experience in financial services including secured and unsecured lending, from personal loans to vehicle finance and mortgages. The company Mirrir (Pty) Ltd was established to provide alternative payment solutions to individuals and households for “life enrichment” purposes. Our first product was called MediFin, a company that provides personal loans for procedures that their medical aid does not cover, therefore helping people obtain those desired procedures sooner rather than later. MediFin has been successfully operating for a full year now. GreenFin (launched in October 2013) is based on the same principle in that we want to assist households to obtain alternative energy solutions now in stead of having to save for it over a longer period of time. As GreenFin is based on the same platform, systems and financial backing, we are comfortable that it will work seamlessly.

    Do you think finance is the main thing that is holding people back from installing sustainable energy systems in their homes, or is there less interest compared to more developed markets in Europe?

    I do not think “finance” as such is the main thing holding people back, as most credit worthy households should be able to easily obtain finance from GreenFin. We believe there are other factors having a bigger impact on South Africa’s historically slow acceptance rate. Many countries around the world have massively subsidized the installations of solar PV panels and geysers and have also put in place more progressive laws for landlords in terms of energy efficiency. For most emerging markets including South Africa the investments have to pay for themselves, like in real electricity savings, and this is only recently started to happen, with product prices coming down and electricity prices raising. Since this year some progressive municipalities allow electricity feed-in of private electricity producers, i.e. Nelson Mandela Bay. For South African households this is a real break through for small PV panels on private houses.

    In summary, many home owners in SA do not (1) have the upfront capital and (2) the personal comfort and surety concerning the right quality and warranty of the installation they buy, and both issues GreenFin is solving for them. So yes, we think financing the right product installation is the intelligent choice and with the right incentives by electricity providers we should see a massive drive in solar installations from 2014 onwards.

    What is the benefit of financing your green project through GreenFin, as opposed to obtaining a loan from the bank?

    Obtaining finance through GreenFin provides a number of benefits:

    • Our rates are competitive to that of the banks, PLUS;
    • Our application process is online, so there is no need to go to the bank;
    • GreenFin only partners with reputable suppliers, distributors and installers (SESSA registered, Plumbing & Electrical certificates AND minimum 5 year warranties on installations);
    • GreenFin only finances approved products (SABS approved);
    • GreenFin can provide additional services like quality control of installations, before the final amount due is paid.

    How do you ensure the quality of your suppliers and installers?

    GreenFin has a selective process working only with the high-quality installers, contractors, distributors and products.

    • First we look at the financial and professional health of our Partners and whether they have a sustainable business because our financing has normally a 5 year term and we need our partners to ensure the warranty period.
    • Second we check on their quality, from management over artisans to the processes - good long-term references are therefore very important to us. SESSA registration is a pre-requisite.
    • Thirdly, we analyse the products our partners are deploying - we only work with partners who use top quality and reliable products which produce the results for the customers. SABS- and other industry specific certifications are a pre-requisite.
    • Fourth, we do insist on a high level of service, especially after the installation, when customers expect a high amount of responsiveness and reliability. We also monitor the service levels and reputation of our suppliers through electronic means.
    • All together the financing through GreenFin does provide more advantages for households and landlords over time.

    What are the most common sustainable energy systems that you finance?

    We finance a wide variety of solutions as every household’s requirements differ. As we are relatively young in this space, we have not built up a large enough client list to identify the general trend.
    We prefer to finance solar systems up to R250,000 which have a payback period for the customer in terms of energy savings of around 5 years.
    Normally these are solar gysers, but we see also solar PV panels coming into this efficiency range in the coming years. As we finance the entire installation, this could include a number of different products, including the obvious solar geyser, but also LED lighting, double glazed windows and other energy savings products.
    We are supplier/ manufacturer neutral, but insist on national standards and registrations, and on high quality and reliability.

    Do you assist in the application process for receiving an Eskom rebate?

    GreenFin can refer clients to suppliers who specialise in this field, as we maintain our approved/ recommended suppliers/ installers database. These approved GreenFin Service Partners will help our clients with the rebate applications. We try to offer a complete service package for our clients, so that they always feel well supported and guided.

    Do you advise on the most appropriate alternative energy systems for households in terms of energy efficiency?

    As GreenFin focuses on the client and his finance needs, we just cannot keep up with all the new developments in the renewable energy market, but our qualified partners regularly share their expertise and experience with us and we amend our policies and approved products accordingly. Also GreenFin has started to work with universities and other top qualified bodies to insure the utmost service and quality for its clients.

    In a household that uses around 45khW per day, how long would it take to pay back a R14 000 hot water system at a monthly instalment that is the same or very similar to the current electricity bill of that household? (or if you have a similar calculation that would illustrate the monetary savings over a period of time).

    This can get quite technical as a R14,000 installation could mean a number of things, especially where different panels and inverters are used from different suppliers, as well as the quality of the installation, the size of the geyser and other more technical components. In general, a R14,000 installation could mean it is either for smaller sized geysers (+-100 L) or from less recognised and accredited suppliers. A decent 200 L system installed will cost between R25k and R35k, However, using a number of assumptions and annual averages experienced in the local industry, we can roughly make a comparison as follows:

    a) Electricity:
    Based on your assumption that the daily usage is 45kWh per day, the client would be in the domestic tariff (using a pre paid meter). Over 600 units he would pay R 1,73 (incl. VAT) per kWh.
    Lets also assume only 10kWh of the 45kWh daily usage is used to heat the geyser, a good solar system could cover 80% of that. Very important here is that the solar system is sized correctly to the size of the geyser. If it is too small your savings will not be 80%. Therefore the yearly electricity saving would be R 5,052. (10kWh x 365 days x R1,73 x 80%)

    b) Finance:
    Assuming the household qualifies for a 17% interest rate, the monthly loan repayment over 60 months of a R14,000 installation, including service fees, would be R423 (R5,076 per year).
    Theoretically then, the finance portion could mirror a portion of a household’s monthly electricity bill but the real savings only start once the finance has been repaid.

    As the above example is based on a number of assumptions that will differ from household to household and installation to installation, we do recommend households to consult with one of our approved suppliers and do their own proper research. With a quality product and installation, it makes environmental en economic sense to move to renewable energy solutions sooner rather than later.

    solar energy

    For more information about GreenFin and their services please visit their site. Also remember that before converting to alternative energy, households need to conserve and save energy by having an energy efficient home. This should start with the small steps that we are all familiar with, like switching off lights or putting geysers on timers, but they're necessary first steps to lowering the carbon footprint of your home.


  • An Interview with Live Eco's Nikki Seegers

    We had the great pleasure of interviewing Nikki Seegers from the South African eco-lifestyle website, Live Eco. She graciously took the time to answer our rather lengthy questions, and also tell us about her new southern suburbs organic food market, which will be launching soon in October.

    We absolutely love your website – it’s a great mix of relevant lifestyle news with an eco-angle. Your bio says you worked in corporate for a few years – what was the catalyst for you quitting and beginning your new adventure? How did you go about it?

    Thanks! I knew from a young age that corporate would never really be for me, I found it too restrictive and wanted to live out my passion for the environment and beautiful things! I came across the concept for Live Eco whilst living in the USA and on my return to SA saw that there was nothing similar available locally and so Live Eco was born… I did it part-time in the beginning whilst working 9-5, but when the site started to gain some momentum I decided to take that leap of faith and have not looked back since. I would not have been able to embark on this adventure had it not been for the unwavering support I've received from family and friends. Being an entrepreneur is not for sissies!

    Talk us through your business successes of the past 5 years. What have been the highlights so far?

    Highlights include being invited to the NAIAS (North American International Auto Show) twice by Ford USA and to another fascinating conference – Go Further Trend Conference- at Ford's HQ in Detriot, MI. Being a Top 10 finalist in the SA Blog awards in 2010 and founding and organizing our annual upcycled design competitions Avant Garde object and Avant Garde dress, together with design schools across Cape Town. I think in order to be successful you really have to love what you do, to get you through those tough times as these are a plenty when you're starting out, especially in this industry. Live what you love!

    You’re launching a new southern suburbs farmers market soon – we can’t wait! Tell us more about it and what inspired the idea? What are you hoping to achieve through this initiative? What sort of things can we expect to find at the market? 

    Yes! Michelle (one my closest friends and co-founder of the market) and I were chatting one afternoon and saying how we, both living in the Southern Suburbs, have not been able to find a market/outlet in the Rondebosch/Claremont area where you can buy local, fresh produce  and grab a craft beer or glass of wine with friends while enjoying a bite to eat - and so the Live Eco Market idea was born! We want to achieve just this, a place where friends and families can hang out, listen to some local music talent while munching on local, natural, organic, biodynamic or Fairtrade foods and enjoying a glass of wine or a beer or even a coffee and have the ability to stock up on farm-fresh (straight from the source) fruit, veg, sustainable meats and fish for the following week.

    Do you have a favourite market in Cape Town?

    Locally I think the Earth Fair market in Tokai is great. I'm also a huge fan of the Blaauwklippen market in Stellenbosch. I've also heard great things about the new Root 44 market.

    Organic food is no doubt “trendy” as such. How do you go about breaking away from the conception that organic food is a trend and incorporating it into people’s everyday lifestyles?

    When it comes to eating sustainably, I think its important for consumers to think local first to reduce your carbon footprint this way and support local producers who often can't afford official organic certification but produce organically and sustainably. Then, if you can afford it, go certified organic. Certain stores such as Woolies now have a big drive on their organic produce and you can get certain organic items for the same price as regular fruit and veg. I think consumers just need to be aware and most importantly READ the labels so you know what's in your food.

    How important is it for the market to provide exposure for grassroots businesses and small start ups? A number of markets in Cape Town host more established companies and vendors, or have many of the same vendors on board.

    We've tried to source most of our traders from the community as we want to build that "community spirit" at our market.

    “Think Eat Save” was the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, an initiative to reduce food waste, which is a massive global problem that has negative humanitarian, environmental and financial implications. Will you have measures in place to reduce food wastage at the market, either through criteria that you have with the vendors or by making market-goers aware of the issue?

    We have specified that our vendors need to use recyclable or biodegradable packaging and utensils. When it comes to food wastage generally speaking market traders produce on a small scale and will not be making massive quantities of items prior to market day most of the traders we've signed on make to order in order to prevent wastage. We will encourage our traders to donate to shelters in the area should they have any surplus of perishables at the end of the day.

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    What are the most effective green measures people can take, food-wise? Are you a proponent of vegetarianism/veganism? What about the GM food factor?

    Buy from and support local farmers. I also think "Meat Free Mondays" is a great and easy way for families to start thinking about how much meat they consume. With regards to GM foods, I think genetically-modified foods have the potential to solve many of the world's hunger, food shortage and malnutrition problems, and to help protect and preserve the environment by producing crops that do not require or rely on pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. But having said that, there are also many challenges for GM foods especially in the areas of safety testing, regulation, international policy and food labeling. I think it's a technology that we can't ignore but also need to proceed with caution to avoid causing unintended harm to human health and the environment.

    What are your thoughts on South Africa and green initiatives – from the implementation of large scale measures such as solar and wind energy to the smaller habits of everyday life? It seems like ordinary South Africans have a long way to go when it comes to recycling, using eco-products and trending lightly.

    I am horrified by the amount of people who don't even bother to recycle. It's really not difficult, I think South African's need to get over their "lazy" attitude towards the environment. unfortunately in SA an "eco lifestyle" still has a premium attached to it and many people can't afford to go the solar route or buy eco products. But that's why I feel so strongly about recycling or upcycling – its FREE and makes a HUGE difference. Each and every South African can do this.

    What eco-friendly measures have you incorporated into your own lifestyle?

    At home we recycle just about EVERYTHING! When it comes to my wardrobe I have adopted the motto "Buy Less. Choose Well". We practice "meat-free mondays" and carpool as much as possible. All laundry gets sun-dried and use blankets to keep warm at home in winter instead or cranking up the electric heater.

    What does the “Trending Lightly” slogan mean to you?

    It refers to the people we talk to and what we talk about. We aim to show people that a fashion forward, trendy, chic lifestyle can be an eco-friendly one as well. It's possible to be smart, sexy and sustainable.

    You recently posted an article on your blog about ethical fashion brand Edun and their big financial loss. You’re also on the panel of judges for the Avant Garde Dress 2013 competition. What do you feel about the potential of green fashion? Is green fashion something that will become mainsteam and be able to compete with current retailers, price-wise?

    Eco and ethical fashion can't currently compete with the prices of fast fashion. If you are paying your workers fairly and producing sustainably it's not possible to sell a t-shirt for R29 and make a profit.  Demand for ethical and eco fashion has been slow but with the factory collapse that happened in Bangladesh earlier this year, the world has woken up and the tragedy has brought it to people' s attention that something needs to change. Locally designers need to up their game when it comes to designing trendy, attractive, sustainable clothing and shoes in order to compete with mainstream fashion. This is one of the reason's I started the Avant Garde dress competition. I wanted young fashion design students to start thinking about sustainable fashion whilst still studying in the hopes that some of them will be inspired by eco fashion and go on to become sustainable designers. Overseas green fashion is growing in leaps and bounds, the difference there is that consumers are better educated when it comes to eco and ethical clothing and are demanding sustainable fashion. There are a few local designers in SA doing great things such as Lalesso and Lunar but we've got a lot of catching up to do. It's a subject I'm extremely passionate about so watch this space!

    Last year's winning Avant Garde Dress

    If there is one thing you wish South Africans would take to heart regarding our environment, what would it be?

    Stop littering and take pride in your immediate environment and community. I'm a big believer in the broken windows theory.

    Can eco-friendly also be affordable?

    Absolutely! Recycling is free. Riding a bicycle or using public transport is more affordable than buying a car and paying for petrol. Buying local is often cheaper. It just requires a little thought and research but being green definitely does not need to cost the earth!

    What are your future plans for Live Eco? Where do you see your business, say, in 5 years time?

    The Live Eco brand has experienced quite a bit of growth in 2013 alone. We launched Give Eco earlier this year which is SA's first online eco gift registry as well as the Live Eco Market which will be launching in October 2013.  This year we successfully opened up Avant Garde dress to all the fashion design schools in Cape Town (we had worked with just 1 school previously) so future plans include opening up the Avant Garde upcycled design competitions nationally.

    Many thanks to Nikki for her thoughtful and inspiring answers, and we're very excited for her new southern suburbs market! If you're a vendor requiring biodegradable food packaging, then do take a look at our eco-friendly range of cups, containers and cutlery.

    Remember to embrace all things eco, and trend lightly!

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