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  • Off-grid living is easier than you think.

    Many people aspire to becoming totally self-sufficient and living off-grid but feel that it is impossible due to the technology involved and the financial implications, but we are here to tell you that going off the grid is easier than you think, if you put the time in.

    Like anything desirable, achieving aspirations take time and dedication. Due to the fact that we have more than 15 years of experience, we have listed our top tips on how to go to make a smooth transition to going off-grid.

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  • Load Shedding - Don't be left in the dark

    Load Shedding - Don't be left in the dark again.

    Is Load Shedding back? Are we forever waiting for another run of stage 1, 2 and 3bs? Whenever there is a power cut, many of us wait with bated breath for the dreaded announcement. For some South Africans, load shedding has never stopped. After another scare a few weeks ago, we at Sustainable.co.za have decided to write a guide on how to prepare yourself for power cuts. From small cost effective solutions, to larger, long term applications, we have ensured that we have it all.

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  • A South African Snapshot on World Environment Day

    Global warming, the BP oil spill, rubbish in the oceans and a hole in the ozone are all reminders that the world as we know it is under threat. Never has it been more populated, or more polluted. People from around the world are increasingly banding together to do something about it with the creation of initiatives like World Environment Day.

    An International Focus on a World Wide Problem

    Celebrated on the 5th of June, World Environment Day aims to raise global awareness of the need to take positive steps to improve and guard the environment. Now in its 41st year the event commemorates the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment which was held on this day in 1972.

    The theme for 2013 is Think.Eat.Save.and is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign with the aim of making people aware of the impact their food choices have on the environment.  More on this later as we take a look at some of the specific environmental issues that South Africa is facing at present.

    Local Environmental Threats & Solutions

    Like every other country in the world South Africa faces a number of environmental problems and is looking to creative solutions to turn things around.

    What Are We Eating?

    Fittingly tied in to the World Environment Day theme, an issue that’s gaining traction in South Africa is that of how our food gets produced. People are becoming better educated when it comes to battery chickens and genetically modified vegetables and fruit.

    According to Andreas Späth South Africa is the only country in the world that allows genetically modified versions of its national staple, white maize, to be grown commercially. He notes that around 72% of all maize grown in the 2011/2012 period was GM.

    Studies are still being conducted around genetically modified seeds and whether the food produced from them really is that unhealthy. So far a number of risks have been identified, as listed by WebMD:

    - Introducing allergens and toxins to food
    - Accidental contamination between genetically modified and non-genetically modified foods
    - Antibiotic resistance
    - Adversely changing the nutrient content of a crop

    Whether all of these risks are proven to exist or not, the safer course of action is clearly to support local farmers (who don’t use GM seed) or even growing your own vegetables. Initiatives like The Backyard Farmer are also a great step in the right direction, offering communities plenty of tips and advice on growing their own food.

    The Acid Issue

    The South African economy is built on its mining sector and we’re one of the biggest exporters of gold, platinum and other ores in the world. The problem is that mining tends to cause a number of issues, the most pressing being acid mine water (most often associated with old, abandoned mine shafts).

    Acid water is formed when surface water like rain water comes into contact with rocks that contain sulfur-bearing minerals. When the water comes into contact with these minerals a chemical reaction takes place and sulfuric acid is produced. When this acidic water flows into underground water tables, rivers or even comes into contact with soil it tends to have very harmful effects like contaminating drinking water, disrupting the growth of aquatic life and damaging metal structures like bridges.

    A Locally Developed Solution

    Earlier this year Business Day reported that a research group headed by Sunny Iyuke, head of the Wits School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, in conjunction with a professor from NASA have developed new technology to deal with acid mine water.

    The team have created a special membrane using nanotechnology which can purify water by collecting all pollutants whilst letting the, now clean, water pass through it. Prof Iyuke believes the membranes present a practical solution as other methods of purifying the water are much more expensive. He’s not currently sure how much it will cost to produce the membranes but believes that it will still be more affordable than other options, once commercialized.

    Natural Habitats under Threat

    South Africa has some of the most bio-diverse areas in the world; the fynbos region in the Western Cape is a prime example of an area rich in flora found nowhere else in the world.  According to the South African Government the country contains “almost 10% of the world's total known bird, fish and plant species, and over 6% of the world's mammal and reptile species”, even though it only represents 2% of the Earth’s total land surface at 1.2 million km2.

    Pollution and the construction of resorts and residential properties continue to threaten these incredibly sensitive environments.  Currently SA has 528 protected areas totaling 7.5 million hectares, or 6.2% of the total land area.

    Unfortunately this still leaves much of the country’s precious habitats unprotected and, even some of the preserved areas like St Lucia have come under threat from developers seeking to utilize the area.

    To date the South African public is still the best defender of these areas as citizens continue to oppose any infringements on the sanctity of these areas and are quick to point out any violations to the authorities, and the media.

    Other local, environmental issues that are very much on the forefront at the moment is the scourge of rhino poaching as well as the pollution caused by our mines and factories. Neither of which have been solved, nor are even close to being solved at present.

    Taking Action Locally

    Whilst we’re still battling a number of issues and need many more innovative solutions there is something every South African can do on World Environmental Day – which is to take the Think.Save.Eat. message to heart and becoming aware of where our food is coming from, what the environmental impact is and making an informed decision on which products we support. Another great way to honour the environment is to cut down on food wastage as much as possible.

    But why stop there? Why not take a look at our energy and water consumption as well? There are a myriad of products available to help cut down on wastage ranging from solar panels, gas water heaters, LED lighting, water saving shower heads and more.  These products are easy to use and can make a world of difference. Think, and do your bit to save the earth this World Environment Day.

  • Green Solutions Become a World Focus

    Nations around the world are taking green solutions and renewable energy proposals from the drawing board, and implementing them in real life. A number of key inventions and strategies are currently being developed, many of them in South Africa.

    Vodacom Goes Green with Solar Power

    Local communications giant, Vodacom, recently made a big commitment to greening its business when it unveiled a new solar panel project in Cape Town; the company’s office in Century City now features the most solar panels on a single building in Africa.

    According to Vodacom, the new panels are able to generate up to 75% of its energy usage, albeit during peak production periods. "The electricity produced will feed into the two main distribution boards and a display panel, installed in the reception area of the building, and will display instantaneous power produced (yield), energy yield and carbon emission savings," the company claimed in a statement.

    Maka Makanjee, Vodacom’s chief officer of corporate affairs, explained that the company is working towards reducing its carbon emissions by 5% per year until 2014. Makanjee said, “Through this particular project Vodacom aims to demonstrate that business can take the lead in promoting renewable energy solutions, thereby stimulating the green economy."

    Green Charcoal the Future?

    Aurecon, an engineering company, in cooperation with Stellenbosch University and the Tshwane University of Technology, have reportedly developed technology with which green charcoal could be made from sugarcane biomass.

    According to Sapa, sugar cane growers in Mpumalanga may soon have a new source of revenue, as the new torrefaction technology creates a use for the previously unutilised biomass. The next step is the running of a pilot project estimated to cost R20m.

    Sandton Businesses Opt for Green Solutions

    Sandton, Gauteng, is the home of big business in SA and recently a number of industry leaders have chosen to make their buildings more eco friendly. Business Day reports that the Twin Towers office complex on 5th Street will be restored and Giles Pendleton, managing director of developments at Liberty Properties, explained that “Our vision is to create the first four-star Green Star SA rated commercial building in the Liberty Portfolio”.

    A little further down the road property development company, Abland, has received a four-star Green rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) for the design of its R1.7bn mixed use development. According to Lorraine McHugh, marketing co-ordinator at Abland, they obtained all 52 points they aimed for. Only 45 were needed to obtain the four-star rating and the company is very proud to be one of the only multi-tenanted buildings with such a rating.

    Another Green Option: Water from a Billboard

    Green solutions are popping up all over the world as natural resources become scarcer and people more populous. UTEC (the University of Engineering and Technology) in Peru recently came up with a world first; a portable water generator.

    Essentially they designed a billboard that is capable of extracting moisture from the atmosphere and converting it into drinking water. Take a look:

     

    Going Green at Home

    Everyone needs to do their share to ensure that this world remains habitable and it is possible to do so; by making a few adjustments to residential properties, significant amounts of electricity and water can be saved. Sustainable.co.za offers a range of products that make contributing to the cause hassle free; ranging from solar panels to LED lighting, water saving shower heads and gas water heaters. It really is easy to make a contribution.

     

  • Why we’re Lighting the Future with LDK Solar Panels

    ldk-solarLDK Solar Co, first established in China in 2005, has grown to become the second-largest solar wafer manufacturer worldwide. Today, LDK is one of the few companies in the solar energy sector that can cover the whole photovoltaic (PV) value chain, producing and supplying solar ingots, cells, wafers and modules in a choice of polysilicon, monocrystalline and multicrystaline materials.

    Vision and Mission

    As the global solar energy market expands, LDK continuously manages to strike the ideal balance between high quality and low costs. Products are manufactured at the company’s headquarters in China’s Jiangxi Province, and here production quality is tightly controlled to ensure the durability and reliable performance of every single item. The company’s vision is to provide top quality eco-friendly energy solutions on a large scale, at competitive prices. It’s no wonder the brand has positioned itself at the forefront of the renewable energy industry. Continue reading

  • Solar Panel Roundup – A Practical Guide for Living Solutions

    Nothing is more powerful than the sun when it comes to its natural influence on the human race and indeed, the very world we live in. Our solar system revolves around it, nature is absolutely reliant on it, humanity has always been in awe of it and its fate is directly linked to our planets’. Solar panels are to the sun what a surfboard is to the waves; mankind’s way of harnessing something of great power and influence to better our lives. The sun offers us a clean source of energy through the use of solar panels, but how do they work? The answer lies in its specific application; how you want them to work and what type of solar panel you use. Many variations exist depending on the materials used, the method of manufacturing, and on the functions they serve. A solar panel’s efficiency depends on many factors, but the most important depends on you, or more specifically, to what you need. To size the most suitable system, the first step is to get an idea of what sort of load you need to power, or in other words, how much electricity you want your solar power system to generate. An electricity monitor can provide you with this data by measuring your household’s average load.

    What is a solar panel you ask? Solar panels, more formally referred to as photovoltaic modules, can be divided into four main categories, namely amorphous, thin film, mono- and poly-crystalline.

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  • Trina Solar Quality Solutions

    This week, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released a list of fifty Chinese “Global Challengers”, recognising companies that are rapidly expanding into the global market. Among these fifty prestigious companies was Trina Solar Limited, a photovoltaic solar product manufacturer first established in 1997.

    Sustainable.co.za is proud to stock a selection of photovoltaic solar panels from this fast-growing manufacturer.

     

    A History of Excellence

    Since the beginning, Trina Solar has focused on producing reliable solar modules combining high performance with low consumption, while still maintaining competitive prices. The company played a role in the development of China’s first Renewable Energy Law in 2004, was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2006 and in 2007 was named “fastest growing company” in Deloitte Technology Fast 50 China. Continue reading

  • One, Two, Three: Get to Know your Solar Power Systems

    Every type of solar power system has one thing in common; they are all designed to harness clean renewable energy, effectively reducing environmental damage and lowering electricity expenses for those who invest in them. However, these systems are also diverse in their size, structure and suitability; it’s important to know which type of solar power application would be the most appropriate for your property, and why. It may sound like a complex decision, but the first step is simple; know what solar power systems are available, and how they would affect your home and office.

    Essentially, solar power systems fall into three main categories, and each of these are suitable for different working and living environments.

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  • Green Ships - PlanetSolar

    With new international pressures for companies to start producing green ships to help reduce CO2 emissions worldwide on our oceans, PlanetSolar is a project born of these ecological ideals. Its intention is to circumnavigate the globe using only solar power and so far has travelled across the Atlantic Ocean and international shipping agents are eying the technology with an eye to sea cargo logistic applications. This Green ship aims to show the potential of renewable energy and to cement the idea that the global economy and ecology need to work hand in hand for our future.

    This eco friendly project is the brainchild of Raphaël Domjan, who realised in the late 1980’s the responsibility of business to the environment in the ways that they operate. With his own company he focused on offering green web hosting solutions and email services with Horus Networks and then focused for the next decade on the PlanetSolar project. From humble beginnings of only his child like enthusiasm to sail the world on a ship powered by the sun though to the total of 100 people working on the project, he has made his green dream a reality. Planet Solar plans to be the first green ship design that will successfully circumnavigate the globe, first to cross the Indian Ocean and the first to cross the Red Sea as well. Crewed by a team of 6, PlanetSolar has a total of 537 m2 of solar panels catching the precious rays of sun that provide all their power, from living quarters through to propulsion.

    Already the green initiative has raised the awareness of renewable technologies. Sea freight companies are already seeing the possibility for incorporating the use of solar panels to ease fuel consumption and carbon emissions. The challenges that PlanetSolar faces are that it cannot use any power besides that harnessed by the sun and that they are limited to solar technology that is available for mass production. Should this green ship succeed, it will no doubt pave the way for greener marine logistics vessels on our oceans.

     

     

  • Determine Your Savings with our Energy Efficiency Calculator!

    Everyone is encouraging you to go green and save energy to do your bit for the environment, but the initial overhead costing is so daunting that many people are not considering it as a viable option. The “industry experts” say that the long term savings of converting to alternative energy sources and using environmentally friendly products are worth it, but they provide averages that are not specific to your household or business.

    This is why we at Sustainable.co.za have developed our Sustainable Calculator, which will help you calculate how much money and energy you can save by converting to more energy efficient products.

    You don’t need to install solar panels and wind turbines and take yourself completely off the grid. Simple changes in your household products will go a long way in terms of making sustainable savings on your monthly energy bills. By switching from regular light bulbs and showerheads to more energy efficient LED light bulbs and water saving showerheads, you will experience substantial savings.

    While changing a couple of light bulbs doesn’t seem like it will do much to save energy and money, you’d be amazed by the actual results. This is where the Sustainable Calculator comes in. All you need to do is enter the product types and quantities, as well as the number of hours that you use them each day, and the Calculator will work out your monthly, annual and 10-year savings if you switch to energy efficient products. It will also provide details on the total cost of switching to these products (installation costs for solar water heating kits included), as well as the payback period of your investment.

    Why not try out our Sustainable Calculator to see for yourself how much you can save on your monthly energy bill by making a few simple changes. Many of the energy efficient products that can help you save are sold on our site, making it even easier for you to save money while doing your bit for the environment.

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