We have always been leading environmental concern in backpacking in South Africa.
You can see here that The Lonely Planet also has a responsible tourism page.
The Green Elephant is committed to low, impact, sustainable tourism to preserve our natural beauty for the next generations.
In December 2004, we installed a 300l solar water heating system that preheats our existing electrical geyser. It has already shown economic and environmental benefits, by using the sun's power whenever it is present. It has been orientated to be as close to optimimum as possible. In future, solar water heaters will be installed in all houses. I have calculated that each panel of 1.5m2 can save R950 per year in electricity and 350 kg of greenhouse gas CO2 per year.
We recycle as much of our waste as possible. We help this by sourcing our supplies to be in the most practically recyclable material. Reduce, recycle and re-use SOURCE APPROPRIATE MATERIAL, REDUCE THE AMOUNT USED, FIND A SECOND USE FOR THOSE ITEMS YOU DO USE
Where possible, our beer is ordered in either refundable bottles or cans.
Our cleaning supplies are bought in 25 litre plastic reusable drums, then decanted into practical size refillable 5 litre and 1 litre containers.
Fruit juice is bought in plastic bottles that are not currently recycled in Cape Town. But we re-use them as much as possible. Our cleaners sometimes fill them with cleaning liquids and sell them at their houses. Robin uses them for storing nails, screws and hardware items. He is also looking at using them to provide heating insulation for rooms in township houses.
Paper and cardboard are separated at source were collected by Hansie and fellow recycling operators since we started The Green Elephant.Sadly, Hansie passed away in March 2005, but in his memory, we will continue to think of him when we recycle our paper products They are frequently seen around Observatory collecting any materials that can be sold as scrap to the merchants.
Glass is separated at source, and collected by Michael, who takes it to Two Oceans recycling. Savanna drink bottles are collected separately and given to The Carpenters Shop. This is a charity that provides work opportunities for Street people in the centre of Cape Town to get them to start earning a living. The bottles are cut and polished by hand to make glasses and wine goblets.
Cans are collected and sold to Collect-A-Can. The money earned is given to other charities.
Grey Water System
The Green Elephant has the first grey water system in use in Backpackers in South Africa. The water from our washing machine is passed through a filter and into 2 storage tanks. There a chlorine tablet prevents algae growth. The water is pumped from 2 submersible pumps to 2 of the toilets in the house. In this way we are reducing the wastage of good water going straight into the sewerage system. The program will be expanded to the rest of the toilets in the house over time.
Environmental Management Plan
In 2002 we completed an energy audit to review where energy is being wasted. We have a plan now where look at all areas of energy usage to reduce wastage.
Our lighting includes as much natural light as possible. Where electric light is used, low energy bulbs are installed.
An energy efficient hot water boiler is used instead of a kettle for tea and coffee.
The swimming pool is heated through solar panels on the roof.
Cooking is done on gas which reduces the energy wasted on heating metal plates.
Insulation sheets are in the roof to reduce heat loss in winter.
Glass doors partially enclose the balcony upstairs to keep it warmer in winter.
Water pipes are insulated in the walls.
Water consumption. Low flow shower roses are installed which are more efficient in directing the shower spray onto the body, rather than bouncing off the person and heating the shower wall tiles.
The dishwasher is a far more energy efficient way to wash cutlery and crockery. It uses as little water as possible and does not run the water down the drain to wash one item!
Rain water is directed into a 2500 litre storage tank. This water is used to water the garden or to top up the swimming pool or jacuzzi.
The jacuzzi is a luxury and is not energy efficient. However, it is heated by gas, which is faster and more efficient to reduce losses. Also the water is drained from the jacuzzi to water the garden, so that even in moments of indulgence we are aware of our impact on the environment.
All the staff are educated in our Environmental Management Plan and sign it and are committed to abide by it. We request and expect our guests to do the same and help us improve where we are missing out.
LPG Liquified Petroleum Gas
I have converted my vehicle to LPG. This is a cleaner burning fuel, 25% cheaper than petrol, and an under used by-product of the oil refineries.
This is being spread through Cape Town by Kulani Gas The conversion for my 2.2 litre petrol engine cost R4995 inc VAT. Currently LPG retails at R3.75 per litre. This is a saving of approximately 125 cents per litre. I estimate that it will take approximately 7000 litres to pay for itself financially.
HOWEVER, for the environment it starts to pay straight away.
As Martin Luther King said " It is always the right time to do the right thing."
We plan to use solar panels and an inverter for lighting outside. I would love for us to grow our own vegetables. Watch this space...