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sustainability

  • 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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  • 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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  • Let us put the Spring back into your Step this Season

    Let us put a Spring in your step.

    Spring is, simply put, the reawakening from the slumber of Winter. Cold weather and dark days start turning around. Birds can be heard twittering harmoniously as the dawn breaks earlier and earlier. This is much to the enjoyment and pleasure of most.

    Renewal, Rejuvenation and Revitalisation

    At Sustainable.co.za we have decided to focus the start of the lighter, warmer months on the theme of the renewal, revitalisation and rejuvenation of your lifestyle and the life of the planet.

    Our team have spent many hours putting together fantastic, well packaged Spring Kits. From eco-friendly cleaning products to the perfect water-saving hampers and Braai Day packages and more. We will also be running the biggest competition we have had to date. Read on to find out more.

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  • 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.

  • Don't be in the Dark this Earth Hour

    Every year people switch off their lights for an hour as a collective gesture towards the protection of the environment. Unless you have a streak of Nyctophilia chances are that you would, like most people, prefer to avoid stubbing your toe against the kitchen table leg. If you are a shoe-wearing environmentalist, you'd probably prefer to avoid falling down the stairs when your shoes fail to warn you of the impending drop. Either way, some form of eco-friendly lighting might not be such a bad idea. Yes, we seize every opportunity to promote our wonderful products, see the full range of solar lights here.

    On the 25th of March at 8:30pm local time, people across 24 time zones will be coming together to make a noise in the interest of our only terrestrial home. There’s still a lot of sceptics out there, not to mention national leaders who choose to ignore the realities faced by future generations. Sadly, our society’s myopic policy-making is slow to catch on to the real dangers, but governments and corporates are at last starting to shift their stance on this issue that can no longer be ignored. China is finally enforcing stricter carbon cutting measures on a city-level and its notorious law enforcement isn’t accepting lame excuses; no more “the dog ate my emissions certificate” for Chinese factory owners. Freight ships entering Chinese harbours now have to switch off their diesel engins and take on power lines from the port authorities.

    We have all heard arguments that the earth has been through warmer periods before and that the current warming is due to natural cycles i.e. change in orbit over 100 millennia, the latter has off course been disproven. Increasing levels of CO2 and Methane are the leading cause of present climate change, the far-reaching consequences of which are already becoming apparent in ways far more disastrous than with natural warming. These changes are often far removed from our everyday lives yet thousands of children are dying the world over from pneumonia directly linked to hazardous air quality, but the urgency of environmental policies are still being questioned?

    This year we are privileged to be working with WWF and Green Peace to lobby for the renewable sector, an industry that continually has to justify itself and overcome bureaucratic hurdles. Moreover, the 4th Annual Eco Film Festival will be taking place around Earth Hour, as a co-sponsor, the Sustainable team is looking forward to take part in this event. Whether you are at a festival, sitting at a family dinner table or camping in the bush with stars overhead, join millions of people in a mass demonstration to affect change.

    What can I do other than jumping up and down and banging on Parliament’s door?

     

  • 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

    Waste

    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

    Energy

    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.

  • Does the 2014 World Cup Score in Sustainability?

    In the heat of FIFA World Cup fever, we want to blow the whistle on the action for a moment to ask: how sustainable is the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil? FIFA has dedicated multiple efforts to ensure an environmentally beneficial outcome. We take a look at what they have implemented along with the controversies:

    shutterstock_189098177

    Initiatives Upping the Eco Meter

    Solar Powered Stadiums

    The final match of the World Cup to be played in the Estádio do Maracanã will make history as being the first solar powered World Cup final match. Both the Arena Pernambuco and the Estádio do Maracanã have been kitted out with solar panels, expected to generate clean electricity for at least the next 25 years. Estadio Maracana’s solar power is expected to power an average of 240 homes and Arena Pernambuco an average of 600 homes. Besides these two stadiums, all other match venues meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

    Football for the Planet

    Football for the Planet is  FIFA’s environmental programme which ensures that environmental impacts as a result of the tournament are kept at a minimum. The programme also focuses on raising awareness of environmental problems. For this World Cup, their strategy included carbon offsetting, sustainable stadiums, and better waste management in the stadiums.

    Carbon Offsetting Programme

    FIFA and the LOC have estimated the carbon footprint of the tournament.  Through the Carbon Offsetting Programme, they have set a number of carbon offsetting projects in place, with the aim of nullifying the carbon emissions expended as a result of the event.

    Green Passport

    Through a partnership with the United Nationals Environment Program (UNEP), the World Cup organising committee created a ‘Green Passport’ site and app. The app gives travellers and locals tips on how to make the most of the World Cup with sustainability in mind. The campaign surrounding the ‘Green Passport’ also focuses on training the tourism sector on incorporating an environmentally friendly approach to their businesses.

     viewimageImage Source: http://bit.ly/1pJm55u

    Good Food

    Another focus falling under the World Cup sustainability projects has been the drive to sell organic and family farmed food products in kiosks during the tournament.

    Outside Input – Paddy Power’s Rainforest Stunt

    While the world’s eyes are on a single game in the world cup, lasting 90 minutes, an area the size of 122 football pitches is being chopped down in the Amazon. This shocking statistic was released by environmental campaigning organisation Greenpeace.

    Besides FIFA getting involved with the Purus Project which contributes towards the preservation of rain forests, UK betting company Paddy Power took it upon themselves to generate awareness. They cleverly did this with a mischievous Amazon rainforest stunt. They posted a photo which made it seem as if they had cut down trees in the rainforest to cheer on England in the World Cup, simply to spark conversation on the topic of deforestation. As expected, they were met with outrage and the press quickly caught on. They unveiled the truth about the image – that it was computer generated – and directed the attention to Greenpeace’s movement to protect the Amazon rainforest.

     Image Source: http://bit.ly/1jMzQIN

    Controversies

    The above initiatives may sound like they are paving a golden road to a sustainable World Cup, but have not come without raising eyebrows:

    Carbon Emissions

    In light of the statistics, FIFA’s aim of offsetting carbon emissions seems rather optimistic. According to Brazil's Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira, at a press conference in May, the country had already offset 115 000 tonnes of carbon through carbon credits from companies who got a ‘green seal’ as a World Cup sponsor. Yet, when considering the impact of the travel and accommodation expenditure of athletes, staff and audience along with the carbon impact of broadcasting, the total estimated emissions stand at 1.4 million tons.

    Will the projects set up by FIFA through the Carbon Offsetting Programme be able to cover this gap? ‘Carbon neutral’ is a vague term that shouldn’t be flaunted by media releases without careful calculations.

    Social Injustice

    download Image Source: http://bit.ly/1iVv00X

    Instead of making headlines for being the ‘Green Cup’, plenty of media coverage concerning the Brazilian World Cup has been dedicated to social injustice. Brazilians are up in arms about the steep bill for the World Cup, the country faces serious corruption allegations and their public services including health, education and transportation need drastic improvements. Where does this leave environmental concerns?Indeed, not very high on local Brazilian’s to-do lists.

    FIFA has, however, launched social programmes in the communities where matches will be held. They also support young people in less privileged environments through their Football for Hope initiative. The difference these efforts are making has, unfortunately for them, been drowned out by the public’s outcry for long term social justice.

    World Cup Mascot Fuleco

    http://bit.ly/1pNmuUz Image Source: http://bit.ly/1pNmuUz

    Despite FIFA mascot Fuleco the armadillo’s popularity with the public, the effectiveness of promoting the conservation of the armadillo is being questioned.  FIFA put Fuleco onto the task of being a "driver behind environmental awareness", yet there was no clear guideline as to how exactly his efforts would ensure better conservation for his species or their habitat.

    Felipe P Melo, co-author of a popular article criticising FIFA and the Brazilian government for not making a bigger environmental plea through Fuleco, does feel that it’s not too late however. He says if Fuleco can get a simple conservation message across (perhaps on his t-shirt) and reach out more effectively to its targeted younger audience through television broadcasting, he can still make an impact on conservation efforts.

     

    Amidst the controversies, it’s undeniable that FIFA has put more focus on the environment during this World Cup than for any previous ones. It may well be far from a perfect sustainable strategy, but we do hope that the lessons learned during this World Cup will have an impact on the environmental decisions made for upcoming tournaments. However, with their less than stellar reputation, it might  not be an easy feat for FIFA to gain the trust of the majority.

    Are you following the World Cup? What are your thoughts about the sustainable initiatives put in place for this year’s tournament? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

  • Go Digital and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

    When people consider the term ‘digital’, plastic and artificiality often comes to mind. Green and digital are not common first mind associations.  This bias holds many of us back from benefiting from the technology that has the potential to help us reduce our individual and collective carbon footprints.

    From Smartphone apps to digital gadgets, here are the technologies that may assist you in becoming a greener citizen:

    1. Carbon Monitoring apps

    My Planet is an android and iPhone app that displays your personal carbon footprint and its variation based on your day-to-day choices. When initially using the app you are given an opportunity to customise your world, then you take a quiz to measure how green you are. Based on your answers, your world will change. This game like app gives you the chance to earn badges and offers helpful tips of how you can reduce your carbon footprint. The app is also linked to Facebook if you’d like to share your achievements and progress with your friends.

    My Planet app

    Zero Carbon is a global carbon foot printing app that offers more insight than competing applications. The app provides in depth information about what greenhouse gasses you create and how they affect the climate.

    Zero Carbon App

    Carbon Track is an app specifically designed for businesses. All businesses incur financial and environmental costs. Carbon Track provides an estimation of your busines’sCO2 emissions caused by your core business activities, such as travel, electricity usage and waste.

    The app allows you to compare the environmental effect associates with different modes of transport, calculate the potential electricity saving from switching off different office electronics when not in use, and measures the environmental impact of different types of waste.

    The data released by Carbon Track is intended to give you an idea of how easy it is to measure and monetise greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts across your entire internal operations and supply chain using the SAP Carbon Impact on-demand solution.

    Becoming a more sustainable business does not only benefit the environment, but it also may lead to higher profits!

    Carbon Track App

    2. Rhomberg DHC15A Weekly Timer Switch

    Rhomberg’s weekly geyser timer switch is a simple and easy to program device that will save you money by turning your geyser on and off when hot water is required and not required. The device allows advanced pre-setting one week in advance and features 8 programmable on/off settings.

    rhomberg-dhc15a

    3. Electricity Usage Monitors

    Efergy’s Engage Hub Kit enables you to monitor how much electricity is being used in your home online and in real-time through the engaging Efergy online platform and apps for Android, iPhone and iPad. By being able to track your energy costs online in real-time, you can reduce your electricity bills and carbon footprint significantly.

    Efergy’s Engage Hub Kit

    The Efergy E2 Optical is a wireless electricity monitor, which accurately measures the electricity consumed in your home or business. The E2 Optical updates every 30 seconds, showing real-time data so that you can take the right energy saving decisions on the spot and save money on electricity instantly.

    Efergy E2 Optical

    Homebug’s electricity monitor is a South African manufactured electricity monitoring option that works specifically well for homes. The great feature about Homebug’s monitor is that it generates detailed graphs of your electricity usage, per minute, hour, day and month. With this tool you will ultimately get to know your usage patterns and see in which areas you can save on electricity.

    Homebug’s electricity monitor

    4. Carpool and Ride Sharing Apps

    It is widely known that cars contribute to a large portion of Co2 emissions, and with the rising cost in fuel and oil, travelling via motor cars have become very expensive. These challenges can easily be overcome by the latest carpooling or ride sharing apps such as Hopin and Carpool World (available in South Africa). Simply register an account, provide the details of where you are travelling and whether you are a driver wishing to offer lifts or whether you are seeking a lift.

    carpoolworld

    With the latest digital tools available on the market, managing your impact on the environment becomes easy and convenient. With immediate data and information you have the ability to make smart choices that could save you money and time. If there are any other digital tools that work well for you, feel to comment.

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