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Going Green: Building and Retrofitting for Efficient Homes

The buzzword in home construction today is “sustainability” – building homes that integrate with the landscape, are energy efficient and use renewable materials. And an eco-friendly home doesn’t mean sacrificing luxury or design. Whether you’re buying new construction or renovating an older home for greater efficiency, there are a few terms and concepts you should know about.

Insulation: Walls, ceilings, basements and attics are places where your home can lose energy. Options for a well-insulated house can range from specially insulated exterior walls to blown-in cellulose, from energy-reflecting cool roof systems to roof and interior attic foam insulation. Many states offer rebates or low- or no-interest loans to help you save energy and reduce heating and cooling bills. Start by calling your local utility company and asking about any programs they offer. A well-insulated house can take advantage of environmental factors to keep the temperature constant and comfortable.

Windows:  Since windows are mostly glass, substantial savings in heating and cooling can come from improved glass performance. Highly efficient replacement windows can save you hundreds of dollars, but they can be very expensive. If you live in a hot climate and are interested in keeping the heat out of your home, a less expensive option may be to apply low-E film to your windows. Low-E film enhances the window’s ability to reflect heat, rather than absorb it. You can apply these films yourself or hire a contractor to handle a more complicated application. Finally, window shades are a low-tech and inexpensive way to control temperature in the home.

Solar: Passive solar depends on how your house is sited and landscaped, and how architectural features work to collect, store and distribute heat in the winter and reject heat in the summer. When passive solar features are included in the building design, they add little or no cost and can result in thousands of dollars in energy savings over the life of your home. Solar heating usually refers to technologies that collect and store energy from the sun, often using photovoltaic (battery) systems. Solar power systems can be used to generate electricity or heat water. Again, there may be local or state programs that offer incentives to buy or rent home solar energy systems.

Low (or Zero) VOC: VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals found in paints and flooring that can vaporize and emit gases for long periods of time. Eco-friendly paints that are low VOC emit smaller amounts of these gases and are usually odor free. Low VOC carpeting is made by many manufacturers and is attractive and comfortable.

Low-Flow Water Fixtures: Low-flow faucets, shower heads and toilets use less water per minute than traditional fixtures and conserve water by adding air into the system to produce a strong flow while using less water. Installing these devices requires an investment, but you will likely earn back your expenditure in the first year. Again, many city governments or utilities offer incentives to install these energy-saving fixtures in your older home.

Focusing on sustainable design and materials means you can make your house more comfortable and less expensive to maintain while minimizing your impact on natural resources and respecting the environment.

Source: foxnews


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Cape Town’s Hotel Verde achieves a global first

Hotel Verde, has just been awarded a second Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum Green Building Certification by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) making Hotel Verde the first hotel globally, to achieve a double Platinum certification for LEED®.

The first Platinum certification was awarded in May 2014 for New Construction in the Green Building Design & Construction category. This established Hotel Verde as one of only six hotels in the world and the only hotel in Africa, to receive this accolade, at the time. The second and most recent certification was awarded for the Existing Building Operations & Maintenance of the hotel, giving Hotel Verde their double Platinum status and proving that Hotel Verde is, in fact, Africa’s greenest hotel.

Sustainability consultants for Hotel Verde on the LEED submission, André Harms of Ecolution Consulting and Jutta Berns-Mumbi of Ecocentric, targeted several strategies to obtain the second Platinum Certification in the category for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (v2009).

Hotel Verde’s ardent team have collectively gone above and beyond conventional industry practices by dedicating themselves to a sustainable work lifestyle. From stringent waste management and procurement policies to corporate responsibility campaigns, departmental sustainability, biodiversity maintenance and offering a carbon neutral hotel experience. Most importantly, it is the hotels aim to create an eco-friendly working environment in which staff health, happiness and productivity is optimized.

“I quickly realised that my dream to provide something luxurious and sustainable was not only possible, but it was also a business model worth sharing, with the potential to change lives and the industry as we know it,” says Mario Delicio, owner of both Hotel Verde, Cape Town Airport and Verde Hotels.

Launched during the World Travel Market Africa tourism trade show, Verde Hotels is leading hotel management solutions that are not just sustainable, but thrivable. Thrivability is the new frontier of sustainability. It encompasses all that is associated with sustainability but supersedes it by maximising the triple bottom line of people, profit and planet. It is on these principles that Verde Hotels bases its core foundation.

“We had the opportunity at Hotel Verde, Cape Town Airport, to look at everything from the ground up with regard to sustainability and efficiency with the commitment to operate sustainability. But The latest accolade showcases that Verde Hotels is ready to also optimise the operation and maintenance of existing buildings” said Harms, sustainability manager and founder of Ecolution Consulting, a trained mechanical engineer and the expertise behind some of the more technical aspects of Hotel Verde.

“As a hotel management company, this certification has been fundamental in allowing us to provide our potential clients with the assurance that we deliver truly sustainable and commercially viable hospitality solutions,” says Delicio, “Managing a thrivable hotel means a higher return on investment, lower operational costs, better environmental quality, a lower carbon footprint and a higher PR and marketing value, all whilst safeguarding natural resources and uplifting local communities.”

“On behalf of the Western Cape Government and 110% Green, I would like to congratulate Hotel Verde on achieving double platinum LEED and receiving the first ever 6 Star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA). I am delighted to know that under our 110% Green Campaign, companies such as Hotel Verde have not only committed to doing business which contribute to economic growth, and continue to lead in innovation in the green economy. I have no doubt that these ground-breaking achievements will lead to many more while inspiring many other businesses to follow suit and adopt these best practices ” stated Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape, South Africa.

Source: mediaupdate


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Can meat actually be eco-friendly?

Should we eat meat? That’s the big question, which — for this series — I’m asking three different ways: in terms of environmental sustainability, morality, and practicality.

Today, to begin: Can meat be sustainable?

In any comparison of the environmental impact of meat eaters and plant eaters, we have to start by noting that plant eaters have a powerful ally on their side: physics. Every time energy moves from one state to another, a little is lost along the way. Flip on an incandescent bulb and only 8 percent of the electric energy turns into visible light — the majority of energy is lost as infrared light and heat. Convert the calories in corn into meat by feeding a chicken, and you’ve got the same problem.

In even the most efficient, high-tech farms, it takes a pound and a half of grain to grow a pound of chicken — because that chicken is constantly radiating heat and burning energy to move around. The picture gets worse if you just look at the parts of the chicken that people like to eat. The scientist Vaclav Smil, who has a reputation for objective number-crunching, considered this basic issue of thermodynamics in his book, Should We Eat Meat? Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory, and came up with this table:

screen-shot-2015-07-14-at-12-16-54-pm

LW = live weight, EW = edible weight, MJ = mega joules of energyVaclav Smil

According to Smil’s calculations, you need 3.3 pounds of feed to get a pound of chicken meat, 9.4 pounds of feed for a pound of pork, and 25 pounds of feed for a pound of beef. It’s simply more efficient to eat plants than to feed those plants to animals and eat meat.

This efficiency problem puts meat eaters way behind from the beginning, and it extends from energy to every other resource. Look at water use, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, land-use footprints, and just about anything else, and it’s always going to make more sense to grow grains for people to eat rather than for animals to eat. To take just one example, scientists looked at the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that flows into rivers and creates dead zones in oceans: They calculated that a kilogram of red meat put an average of 150 grams of nitrogen equivalent (in various fertilizers) into waterways, versus 50 grams per kilogram of chicken and less than 3 grams per kilogram of grain.

This idea, that meat is environmentally unfriendly, has been the conventional wisdom since 2006, when the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization published a report called Livestock’s Long Shadow. Which is why I was surprised when Frank Mitloehner, a UC-Davis animal science professor who is leading an update of the FAO’s livestock assessment, told me that the idea of eliminating animals from our food system was ridiculous and, actually, unsustainable.

“Agriculture cannot be sustainable without animal agriculture,” he said. “That is something I’m sure of.”

There are two key points to consider, Mitloehner said. First, most of the feed that livestock eat is not edible by humans. Globally, just 18 percent of animal feed is made up of grains or other crops that people might otherwise eat. The rest is crop residues, grass, and waste from milling grain and other food processing. And so, despite the inefficiency of converting calories to meat, animals are able to give humans access to energy that they wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise.

The second, issue, Mitloehner said, is that what I’d been thinking of as the “waste products” of animal agriculture are actually valuable resources. The manure animals produce is vital for agriculture (especially organic agriculture). “If we were to reduce the fertilizer animals produce by 100 percent, we would have to double or triple the amount of chemical fertilizer we apply, and we just don’t have that,” Mitloehner said.

In addition, every part of the animal that we don’t eat as meat — the skin, bones, sinew, organs, and fat — is used in some way. The artist Christien Meindertsma demonstrated this beautifully with her book Pig 05049, in which she followed every part of a slaughtered pig to its final use. Extract from pig hairs are used in baking bread, bone ash is a key part in train brakes, gelatin is used to filter your beer, elements from blood are used as edible food glue — Meindertsma found 185 products in total. If we were to eliminate animal agriculture, we’d have to find new supply chains for these things, and each would come with its own environmental footprint.

Livestock is especially important to poor farmers. Animals are often a key part of the agro-ecological system and provide high-quality nutrients to the people most likely to go hungry — more frequently in the form of dairy than meat. In some of the poorest areas of the world, people need cattle because manure is their only source of fuel. In his book One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?, Gordon Conway lays out the benefits of livestock animals, which can be easy to forget when you’re rich and comfortable:

-Contribute 40 percent of global value of agricultural output
-Support livelihoods and food security of almost 1 billion people
-Provide food and incomes and consume non-human-edible food
-Contribute 15 percent of total food energy and 25 percent of dietary protein
-Provide essential micronutrients (e.g. iron, calcium) that are more readily available in meat, milk, and eggs than in plant-based foods
-Are a valuable asset, serving as a store of wealth, collateral for credit, and an essential safety net during times of crisis.
-Are central to mixed farming systems, consume agricultural waste products, help control insects and weeds, produce manure and waste for cooking, and provide draft power for transport
-Provide employment, in some cases especially for women
-Have a cultural significance, as the basis for religious ceremonies

But anyone reading this probably is relatively rich and comfortable — at least rich enough that it may be a bit mindboggling to think you might need a cow so you could burn its dung for energy. For those of us living with easy access to energy and cheap calories, would it make ecological sense to reduce our meat consumption? Probably.

I called up Rattan Lal, one of the world’s leading soil scientists, to ask him what he thought about meat eating. I wanted to talk to him because there’s been a lot of excitement about the idea that cattle grazing on grassland could actually be carbon negative — that is, we might need more animals, not less, to combat climate change.

Lal, director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University, had told Washington Post journalist Tamar Haspel that we shouldn’t expect cows to save the world. Haspel wrote:

He says one metric ton per hectare is a reasonable estimate of the maximum [carbon] that grazing can sequester in a place like Ohio, where growing conditions generally are favorable, and a half-ton would be more realistic in drier areas. He supports grass-fed beef but says carbon sequestration “can’t completely compensate for the greenhouse gases in beef production.”

I wanted to double check — was there anything else? Some way that animals are crucial for soil health? When I spoke to Lal, he said it just came down to basic logistics. “In the next 40 years, there are 2.3 billion people coming to dinner. We have invited them — they haven’t made the choice to come. It is our moral duty to insure that they are well fed. The luxury of having so much meat as we do in the U.S. will become less and less feasible as population grows.”

Animals are a key part of the agricultural system, but the people who eat the most meat — the rich of the world — almost certainly need to eat less to make the global food system sustainable, especially as billions rise out of poverty and begin demanding their share.

Smil came to the same conclusion. He says that we should aim for an average of 33-66 pounds of meat per year. The French eat 35 pounds a year, while Americans eat 270 pounds of meat. If we got down to the French level, Smil’s calculations suggest that everyone around the world could have their share of meat, and we could still reduce the farmland used to grow feed from 33 percent of all cropland to 10 percent — with huge environmental benefits.

So can meat be sustainable? The answer, based on the evidence I was able to assemble, seems to be: Yes, but only in moderation. And because we are currently eating so much meat, those who give it up altogether are probably making the most environmentally friendly choice of all.

Next, I’ll tackle the morality of meat eating. And then I’ll turn to what’s probably the most important question of all: It’s fun to debate what we should do, but it’s more important to figure out what we can do, realistically. So after looking at morality, I’ll look at the most pragmatic ways to improve meat production.

Source: grist


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Top 10 Global Trends that will Impact Hospitality in 2015.

Millennials the New Power Segment

Exploration, interaction, and emotional experience is the hallmark of Millennials, the fastest growing customer segment in the hospitality industry, expected to represent 50% of all travelers by 2025. With the rise of millennial consumers businesses will need to be more transparent and tech savvy, with a strong focus on empathy and customer connection. Technology is essential for this demographic and they will expect technology to power check-in, payment, eating, and shopping. They will also actively engage in social media like Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor to complain. Millennials will expect a deeper link between tourism services and how they manage their everyday lives. “Foodies” are a distinct subset of this market looking for a gourmet experience at a reasonable prices. Culture buffs, LGBT and multi-generational travelers are looking for unique and novel experiences. Over half of Millennials stayed at independent hotels last year, 20% more than baby boomers. However, don’t count out the aging baby boomers that are living longer, are rethinking how to define retirement, and placing their energy in more creative pursuits.

Political Tensions and Terrorism

Around the world citizens have responded to increased government involvement with distrust and have begun to challenge entrenched political parties. Punishing economic policies and austerity measures along with ethnic, cultural and religious tensions have resulted in the rise in civil unrest. A megatrend found in Europe and likely to spread is the rise in populist movements that seek to regain national identity. The ability to efficiently deliver social services will be an ongoing challenge for governments. Countries and states with ethnic and religious tensions along with poor governance, and weak economies will breed terrorism. Transnational and free-wheeling terrorism enabled by information technology will replace state-supported political terrorism. In spite of collective actions to prevent, protect, and respond to terrorism, the threat will remain high in Europe and the US.

Deepening Income Inequality and the Working Poor

Inequality tops the list of economic trends to watch with the US viewed as the most unequal of the world’s rich nations. The wealthiest 1% of all Americans have 288 times the amount of wealth as the average middle class American family. Many predict that Asia will be the region most affected by deepening income inequality in 2015. Middle-income groups in many advanced economies are shrinking. Consumers struggle to pay down debt because their inflation-adjusted incomes have fallen since the 2007-09 recession.

Taking Control of Health and Personal Well Being

Taking charge of personal health will expand. Monitoring and adjusting your health will become more important as technology moves onto the body and consumers take greater control of their health. Tracking internal biochemistry and personal fitness data will result in more engaged and empowered personal health, and telehealth (remote consultation) will allow for higher quality and more personalized care. You can also expect to see more advanced devices to help people stay healthy and connect with their doctors, like devices worn on the ear due to the proximity to the temporal artery. The privacy and security of health records will become increasingly important in 2015 as medical records and online patient portals expand. The West Africa Ebola outbreak raises new challenges in managing infection and healthy living while traveling will require more innovative wellness options. Air purification, energizing lighting, a yoga space, in-room exercise equipment, and vitamin infused shower water are just the start.

Technology Driven Self-Sufficient Travelers

Innovative technologies on a mobile platform will be expected as more individuals rely on digital concierge services. Mobile check-in and seamless connectivity across platforms and devices is now expected. With geo-location software easily available, selling locally with a focus on content marketing is expected. Connectivity is key as more individuals are relying on information delivered through social software from virtual networks. Technology is better and smarter, and more integrated user experiences are likely. The smartphone is essential equipment for almost all employees, making it a potential tool for HR training and other workplace uses. Integrated outlets, USB ports, and wireless technology integration with hotel TV systems are basic. The iPod docking station is passé, but simple clocks are back in.

Sustainability and Resource Constraints

Eco-friendly practices are becoming the norm, and most hotels must have an attractive “green policy”, as travelers expect hotels to have some type of environmental program in place, while few are still willing to pay more for eco-features. Critical resources such as water and power are under increasing strain leading to price increases, volatility and even shortages. Global warming and energy use are affecting how we consume and live on a societal scale. Water scarcities and allocation pose challenges to governments in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and northern China. Renewable energy resource and innovative projects will shape the future of resource use, while regional tensions over water will be heightened in 2015. Falling oil prices, show how easy resource constrains can change, with a dampening effect on the power of countries such as Russia and Iran, while lowering prices for jet fuel, impacting growth in air travel, even as airlines acquire new fuel-efficient jets from Boeing and Airbus and replace old fleets.

Disruption and the Sharing Economy

Emerging new business models including peer-to-peer networks life Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft, multi-sided platforms such as Google and eBay, or free business models such as Skype and Flickr will change the business landscape. As peer-to-peer networks expand and grow they will become more professional and pose stronger direct competition to traditional travel services. Further, the growing popularity of meta search engines from big players like Google and Microsoft and the rapid growth of firms like Kayak may alter the user experience, define the mobile experience, lead to consolidation and impact partnerships with OTAs and hotels. As OTAs consolidate and expand their relationship with customers the costs of distribution will become increasing critical.

A Global Worldview

Increasing similarity and connectedness between nations, companies, and individuals. The globalized economy will be a net contributor to increased political stability in the world, although its benefits will not be universal. Continued transparency in global financial systems and free capital flows is likely. The global market for skilled and trained employees will grow while countries with aging populations will require immigrants to fill entry jobs. Expect more human migration. The travel industry is among the largest and fastest-growing industries worldwide, forecasted to support 328 million jobs, or 10 percent of the workforce, by 2022 according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Citizens of Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom have the best passports for global travel (may enter 173 countries without a visa). In general, passport holders in North America and Europe have the most freedom of travel, while passport holders in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have the least. Chinese tourists still encounter difficulty traveling abroad with only 50 countries and territories offering visa-free or visa on arrival access for this group of travelers.

Fewer People and More Data

Will staff be needed to clean rooms and provide concierge services? As more travelers prefer technology to human beings, bypassing the front-desk, using a digital concierge, and saying good bye to bellmen and other traditional positions could be in your future. Rethinking how to communication with guest will mean using more data and fewer staff. Recommendation engines will allow guests to obtain “good service” on an array of travel needs once handled by the hotel. Group planners will also expect easy online planning capabilities and fast rates. While a help yourself model will focus on technology to drive service, staff will need to be better able to create and execute on a “new” model of service.

Emerging Growth Markets

Global growth in GDP (adjusting for inflation) will be moderate at 3.2% in 2015, projections of 3.1% for the US, 1.3% for Europe, 7.1% for China, and .8% for Japan. Europe appears to be in an economic rut, Japan’s recovery is faltering again, and China while high compared to other nations looks to have its slowest growth since 1990. The US may be the most likely to power world growth in 2015. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its latest outlook called global growth “mediocre”. Emerging markets are challenged with inflation if they seek to grow as fast as they have in the past. Brazil will be challenged by slow growth and high inflation, while South and East Asia as well as much of Arica are projected to experience the strongest growth. Overall the global economy is taking longer to recuperate from the financial problems of the last decade.

 

Source: 4 Hoteliers 


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Top 10 Eco-Friendly Hotels in SA

South African hotels are making efforts to preserve and protect the planet by utilizing and promoting green practices. To help you get your green 2015 started, here is a list of the best eco-friendly hotels in South Africa.

1. Go green in Cape Town

If you are looking for affordable accommodation in Cape Town, book your stay at The Backpack. This trendy backpackers is located in the heart of the city and uses a range of eco-friendly practices from solar heating, to aerated taps and worm farms!

2. Enjoy the best of the Wild Coast

Bulungula Lodge is an exceptional eco-lodge / backpackers located off the beaten track along the Wild Coast. The lodge is not only invested in eco-friendly practices, powered entirely by solar energy, but is also owned and managed by the surrounding Nqileni village. The lodge overlooks one of the most spectacular remote beaches in the Wild Coast and nature lovers should not miss the chance to stay here.

3. Hideaway in the mountains

Located high in the Monk’s Cowl Reserve of the Central Drakensberg, iKhayalamafu (meaning House in the Clouds) offers you a slice of heaven. This eco-estate generates all its power from solar energy and hydro-generation; there isn’t a single electric line in sight to spoil the seamless views of the mountains. iKhayalamafu is dedicated to protecting the surrounding indigenous forests by removing all alien plants from the property. The estate is self-sufficient in honey and vegetables and has no fences on its boundary with a World Heritage Site, meaning that wildlife is free to roam.

4. View the world from tree tops

View the world from up among the trees at Teniqua Treetops. Situated in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains along the Western Cape’s Garden Route, Teniqua Treetops is a tented tree house resort offering eco accommodation. Surrounded by indigenous forest, the self-catering tree houses use natural products and materials in their construction and functionality. The lodge harvests rain water and uses dry toilet systems to ensure minimum impact on the environment.

5. Go eco-chic in Gauteng

The Peech is a boutique hotel in Johannesburg that aims to have as small an impact on the environment as possible. The Peech is Fair Trade Tourism certified and its eco-friendly practices include recycling, energy conservation through solar water heating and green design to ensure that the hotel’s carbon footprint is kept to a minimum. The hotel also supports a range of community organisations, including Little Eden and Pack for a Purpose.

6. Tread gently in Kruger

Rhino Walking Safaris has two camps, Plains Camp and Rhino Post Safari Lodge, that lie within a private wilderness concession just north of Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, offering exclusive walking trails and game drive safaris. The camps are built on stilts using natural materials of stone, wood, thatch and canvas and use absolutely no concrete to minimise the environmental impact. Rhino Walking Safaris has an ongoing recycling system and uses a special indigenous Reedbed System to process bathroom waste.

7. Go off the grid in Umlani

The Umlani Bushcamp is another classic African safari camp that is situated in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve in the Kruger National Park. The comfortable eco-lodge is Fair Trade Tourism certified and is powered by solar energy. Each hut in the camp is lit by candlelight and oil lamps and the open-bush showers are fuelled by wood fires. Getting back to nature has never been more romantic.

8. Experience green efficiency in Umhlanga

Overlooking the iconic Umhlanga lighthouse, the Oyster Box Hotel was built with a lot of care to make the hotel as green as possible. The hotel has implemented a number of green practises including solar power generation, grey water recycling and rain water harvesting. The hotel also reuses heat expelled from the air conditioning system to heat its swimming pools. The hotel has everything from energy efficient lights to a sophisticated building management system for maximum energy efficiency at all times.

9. Have an eco-treat in Plettenberg Bay

Situated on the edge of the Tsitsikamma Forest and surrounded by valleys and mountains, the views from the Hog Hollow Country Lodge are a treat to the senses. The lodge not only protects the environment with its ongoing recycling programme and responsible energy consumption practices, but also supports the community by filling all staff positions locally from Kurland Village.

10. Get carbon-neutral

Located in the airport industrial area of Cape Town, Hotel Verde has an impressive green stamp, which is why this hotel just had to be on our list. The hotel is located between car rental parking lots and industrial warehouses, but goes above and beyond to reduce its carbon footprint. With wind turbines, a grey water recycling plant and an electric airport shuttle, Hotel Verde is one of Africa’s greenest hotel projects.

Source: SA Good News


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Sustainable future: Eco-friendly retail stores

Climate change has propelled us to move towards a greener and more sustainable future. It has created an environment that makes it possible to be green and still run a profitable business. It is important to understand the significance of eco-friendly retail stores, because they preserve the future. In other words, repurposing and recycling materials reduce the strain in using resources that are fuel-based.

Also, it becomes less of a need to rely on unsustainable resources to produce durable goods. Eco-friendly retail stores vary in kind, ranging from clothing and goods to furniture, personal care and household cleaning products.

What to expect from eco-friendly retail stores?

Products should be wholly made from a sustainable material eg. furniture made from bamboo or teakwood etc., fabrics from hemp, organic cotton and/or reclaimed fabrics. If the product doesn’t fit the above description, then it should be a by-product of a repurposed or recycled material, and, in turn, should be recyclable after use.

When shop owners use cleaning products that are eco-friendly, they are contributing to a larger movement and awareness of ‘going green’. You are creating a demand that allows innovation to carry on and improve green products. This chain doesn’t stop people from using non-green products, but provides alternatives and still keeps people employed. However, the benefits are far beyond monetary and support the environment, being good for your health and well-being. They are less harmful and toxic to you and nature.

Eco-friendly retail stores are a glimpse of the impact we can have in the future and it starts with consumers buying into that reality. It is hard to reverse the environmental damage done thus far on the planet, but the ecosystem is a self-correcting system and we can aid it in creating balance.

Eco-friendly retail stores are still gaining traction on the market, and therefore are not yet prominent. However, one can browse through an online database to locate one of these stores. We are slowly moving towards green technologies, so it is imperative for us to adapt to such change sooner rather than later.

To paraphrase Charles Darwin, the species that survive are often not the strongest but those capable of adapting to newer conditions. We are at a pinnacle of a great movement and it is our duty to move in that direction. The survival of our species depends on it.

Source: Bizcommunity

Four innovative African architects bring a new wow to buildings on the continent

Ever heard of a floating African city? Now you have.

African architecture is as diverse as the different cultures and peoples that make up the continent.

Islam and Christianity have produced astounding churches and magnificent mosques. The mix of colonial and modern influences have clashed in the urban environment, in some cities economic or political turmoil resulted in an eclectic clash of styles and little consideration of aesthetic beauty, and in rural areas the local environment was often the driver in the influence of design and structure.

Recently, however, something different has sprouted on the continent. There is a new breed of architect whose work is suffused with social responsibility, and the designs that emanate from them are nothing short of genius.

Their structures created are carefully crafted to fit in with the various demands or pressures of modern day society in Africa.

Here we take a look at a few examples of these extraordinary architects:

Diébédo Francis Kéré

Even though he’s had international success and is based in Berlin, Germany, this hasn’t stopped Burkinabé architect Kéré from making waves back home, in Burkina Faso. Founded in 2005, Kéré Architecture is dedicated to supporting the educational, cultural, and sustainable needs of communities in Burkina Faso through sustainable building practices. Using his formal training as an architect, Kéré has developed strategies for innovative construction by combining traditional Burkinabé building techniques and materials with modern engineering methods.

His projects in Burkina Faso are impressive. In the village of Gando, his birth place, Kéré made a great push for education by constructing schools, along with the help of the local community, and the necessary teacher housing, library and wells to support them.

Image courtesy of Kerearchitecture.com
Image courtesy of Kerearchitecture.com

Each structure was carefully conceived to support the learning environment and be as adaptable as possible to the areas geography. Mud brick walls combined with raised tin roofs use material which is locally available and keep the buildings cool and dry. The school library has a roof with traditional clay pots that have been cut in half and inserted in the ceiling, letting in light and allowing air to circulate.

In June this year the “Surgical Clinic and Health Centre” was opened, serving a population of over 50,000 people from the town of Léo and its surrounding communities. In planning for the most sustainable building solution with least ecological impact, the main construction of the centre is compressed earth bricks.

Image courtesy of Kerearchitecture.com
Image courtesy of Kerearchitecture.com

Their high thermal mass capacity allows them to absorb the cool night air and release it during the day, helping keep the interior spaces cool. The clinic also features ten large overlapping roofs that protect the walls from rain and shade the interiors from the hot daytime sun. The vibrantly-coloured buildings are sited around a central outdoor corridor – a friendly characteristic which is important for the success of the centre, as it attracts patients who would normally not seek medical attention.

Kunlé Adeyemi

Kunlé Adeyemi is a Nigerian architect and urbanist – heavily influenced by the fast-paced urbanisation of African cities. After studying at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, followed by Princeton in the US, Adeyemi founded NLÉ – an architecture and design practice based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

One of his recent projects has focused on his homeland and its fast urbanisation rate. In 2013 Adeyemi completed the “Makoko Floating School”, a prototype floating structure, built for the water community of Makoko, located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. This pilot project took an innovative approach to address the community’s social and physical needs in view of the impact of climate change and a rapidly urbanising context.

Image courtesy of NLE
Image courtesy of NLE

At a cost of less than $7,000 the school accommodates 100 students, uses 256 plastic drums to keep it resting on top of the water, and the frame is constructed from locally-sourced wood. Electricity is provided by solar panels on the roof, and rainwater harvesting helps to keep toilets operational.

Adeyemi has been able to produce an ecologically friendly, alternative building system that could revolutionise Africa’s urban water societies. Now, he is taking the project a step further. He is now looking to expand on his pilot and create a group of floating structures in Makoko, allowing its estimated 250,000 inhabitants better access to sanitation, fresh water and waste disposal.

Image courtesy of NLE
Image courtesy of NLE

Another notable Adeyemi project is the community-built Chicoco radio, in Port Harcourt. The radio station is a floating media platform that provides a voice to 480,000 residents of Port Harcourt’s waterfront slums which line the creeks fringing the city. The governor plans to demolish them all. Not only is the innovative design sustainable and resistant to flooding, but the architecture has also merged with media to become a platform for modern communication and civic participation.

Mick Pearce

Zimbabwean architect Mick Pearce is dedicated to designing low maintenance buildings with low running costs, using renewable energy systems. His aim is to ensure buildings are suited to their natural environment and the people who use them. Over the past 20 years his work has focused heavily on bio-mimicry – an the imitation of natural processes and the use of natural materials.

Image courtesy of MickPearce.com
Image courtesy of MickPearce.com

One of his most famous examples is the Eastgate Centre in Harare. Largely made of concrete, the Eastgate Centre has a ventilation system, which operates similarly to the self-cooling mounds of African termites. Because of its altitude, Harare has a temperate climate and the typical daily temperature swing is 10 to 14 °C, making a passive cooling system a viable alternative to artificial air-conditioning. Passive cooling works by storing heat in the day and venting it at night as temperatures drop. Without relying on conventional air-conditioning or heating the building stays regulated all year round, dramatically reducing energy consumption and the building uses 10% of the energy a conventional building of its size would use.

Tsai Design Studio

Architectural genius is most of the time a combined team effort, on the part of a firm or when two firms come together. It would be impossible to have a list looking at architectural efforts linked to social reform or environmental sustainability without mentioning South Africa’s Tsai design studio. Even though it was established in 2005, this small team of architects has earned a number of design accolades and awards for its architecture and design work – though their community work, re-purposing shipping containers is what stands out.

Image courtesy of Tsai design Studio
Image courtesy of Tsai Design

The studio first became famous for this in 2010 when South African shipping company Safmarine commissioned the studio to develop several designs using recycled containers for community projects. The first Sport Centre prototype was built under a month to coincide with the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The centre allowed disadvantaged children and communities to be twinned with a Dutch football club who trained local coaches with football techniques and life skills.

The design included a grandstand seating social area, a sheltering roof and an advertising billboard and movie screen as an extension of the roof structure that folds down vertically at one side. This can be used as a possible source of income for the sports centre or be converted into a movie screen for the children. Since then, the containers have been re-purposed for a variety of other community projects.

One example is “Vissershok primary school”. Sponsored by three South African Companies; Safmarine, Afrisam and Woolworths, “Vissershok primary school” was created. Serving as a classroom in the morning and a school library in the afternoon, the container provides a well planned environment for the pupils. The large roof keeps out direct sunlight and reduces heat while the windows staggered along the sides of the container ensure cross ventilation.

Source: Mail and Guardian Africa

 


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Spotlight On The Hotel That Claims To Be Africa’s Greenest: Hotel Verde

There are not a lot of hotels near Cape Town International Airport. Most business and leisure travellers are in a hurry to get to Cape Town, or reluctant to leave, and understandably so, given the city’s many attractions.

That’s why the 145-room Hotel Verde, located about a three-minute drive to Cape Town International Airport, feels like such a game changer. I stayed there my last night of a recent trip to Cape Town and it felt like a glimpse into the future of the hotel industry.

Hotel Verde claims to be Africa’s greenest hotel, built from the ground up according to eco-friendly principles. Staying there, you are practicing conscious, sustainable tourism. It’s the first hotel in Africa to offer a carbon-neutral stay, meaning you know exactly how much or how little your stay impacted the environment, and that makes it an amazingly feel-good experience.

Being accountable for its footprint is the guiding principle behind this hotel, which opened in August, 2013. South Africa’s green building certification wasn’t sophisticated enough for Hotel Verde, said General Manager Samantha Annandale, so they applied for — and got – LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Annandale reckons the hotel got about 30 million rand (2.57 million USD) in free publicity just for being green.

Pulling up to the hotel, I knew it was going to be unlike anything I’d ever experienced when I saw the massive wind turbines spinning in the parking lot. But as big as they appear to be, they aren’t big enough, Annandale said. Though these are the most visible signs of green technology at the hotel, the wind turbines turned out to be probably its least productive investment.

“Return on investment (of wind turbines) is 20 years,” Annandale said. “We’d need to build (the wind turbines) bigger to make it worth it. We’ve learned from our mistakes. But they make a huge statement.”

Eco Pool

Annandale spent a lot more time talking to me about the hotel’s eco pool, which uses plants and natural soil filtration to balance bacteria without chlorine. Water is clean and clear, but nothing like the hotel swimming pool international guests are used to, and some find it a bit weird, Annandale said.

Getting used to it requires a new mindset. “We cannot build hotels the way we used to build them,” she said.

Hotel Verde owners Mario and Annemarie Delicio have a 10-year lease on the wetland adjacent to the hotel where they built the eco pool. They took what amounted to a rat-infested swamp and turned it into an outdoor gym, with plants that attract birds and bees, owl houses and beehives that the hotel harvests. Kids staying at the hotel can go on a treasure hunt there.

Born in Italy and raised in Germany, Mario is a longtime South African resident and the shareholder in another hotel in Ethiopia.

One of Mario’s goals at Hotel Verde was to have zero waste to landfill. “We wanted to revolutionize that,” Annandale said. So far, the hotel manages to divert an 91-to-94 percent of waste from the landfill and they do that by recycling. The hotel has a composting room. Packaging is returned to suppliers. “One thing you can never control is what guests bring in,” Annandale said.

About 30 percent of the hotel staff’s time is spent educating school children, guests, tours and site inspectors.

Hotel Verde construction cost about 240 million rand ($20.5 million) and building it green cost about 20 million rand ($1.7 million) more than an ordinary hotel would have cost, Annandale estimates. It will take three to five years to see a return on the investment, she said.

Annandale is particularly proud of the room where gray water from guest showers is recycled. It’s fed into tanks, filtered by ultraviolet light, and then piped back up into the building to flush guest toilets.

The hotel also has a 40,000-liter rainwater harvesting tank for car washing, irrigation and cleaning.

To save energy on water heating, a geothermal loop system 90 feet beneath the surface of the hotel taps into the natural water in the earth, acting as a heat sink for the hotel water.

Engineers from the University of Cape Town visit the hotel, which serves as a model for the Stellenbosch municipality.

Art designed by local school children and South African artists is used to decorate the hotel. School children in the nearby townships don’t get art education, according to Annandale. Mario agreed to fund an art education project on condition the children learn about sustainability. In return, they created the designs for stunning tapestries that decorate the common areas on the floor I my room was on.

Using Recycled Products

One wall in the lobby was textured with recycled glass. The hotel’s carpet runners are made of recycled plastic. On the outside of the hotel, a five-story mosaic art installation was designed by Svenja, Mario’s youngest daughter.

There is free unlimited Wi-Fi and sensor lighting throughout Hotel Verde, and my room was paperless, in that all hotel information was on the TV.

One of my favorite places in the hotel was in the basement garage, where graffiti artists had been invited to come in and paint. This turned out to be a moneymaker for the hotel. Guests loved the basement art and some have paid to have banquets there, Annandale said.

But you probably want to hear about the rooms. I loved that the butter cookies I found on the coffee tray in my room were made by a local woman in Mitchell’s Plain, one of South Africa’s largest townships.

“We helped her become compliant in food preparation and now she employs two people,” Annandale said.

When you check out of Hotel Verde, you have the option to offset your carbon footprint and you can track where and how it was offset. Just knowing that made me feel good.

Source: AFK Insider