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SA conservation NGOs are reducing our carbon footprints

Global society’s dependency on fossil fuel-based energy has resulted in whole economies being carbon dependent, which, together with land-use change and deforestation, are key factors in promoting human-induced climate change. South Africa is one of the most carbon intensive countries in the world owing to our economic dependency on energy sourced from coal-fired power stations. While global warming resulting in climate change is one of the most critical environmental challenges that communities across the globe are experiencing, understanding these contributions to greenhouse gas emissions presents an opportunity for transforming the way we do things.

The South African government has set a target to reduce our carbon emissions by 34% against 1990 levels by 2020 and 42% by 2025. In order contribute to this goal, the Climate Action Partnership (CAP) is working with government, business, civil society and schools to create awareness around mitigating climate change by reducing carbon emissions, and supporting these sectors in adapting to the predicted impacts it will have.

Climate Action Partnership carbon footprint calculator
One of the tools which we have created to support this is the CAP carbon footprint calculator. The carbon calculator is developed for individuals who would like to get an idea of the quantity of carbon emissions they produce during their daily activities over the course of a year, thus providing an indication of where there is scope for reductions.
CAP partner organizations
At an organisational level, CAP encourages our partner organisations and associates to conduct a carbon audit as a first step to identifying the source of these emissions. We will look at some of the approaches taken by CAP and its partners to reduce our footprints that can also be applied to other working environments.

The biggest carbon emitter in most office-based organisations is the travel component for meetings, together with employee commutes to work. For out–of-town meetings, CAP and its partners use teleconferencing facilities extensively and when deemed necessary, plans multiple meetings at that location minimising travel. To further reduce our footprint, we use lift clubs and bicycles as much as possible to get to work.

Energy, water and waste efficiency and reduction
Within the building envelope, there are several low budget options available. For example, CAP together with Conservational International-South Africa (CSA) as well as the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) are minimising consumption of electricity using a combination of energy efficient appliances such as Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs), motion sensor lights and implementing water efficiency measures such as adjusting the cistern flushes to minimum. Both the CAP/CSA and EWT head offices are also situated in buildings that do not have energy intensive ventilation systems and rely on natural temperature control such as trees, blinds and awnings for shade in summer. We also support several behavioural adjustments such as switching off of equipment when not in use and minimal use of heaters. Printing is only done when necessary, using both sides of the page, and using toner saving options. In addition, there are active recycling initiatives of paper, plastic, cardboard, metal, printer cartridges and waste food. At CAP, money that is generated through this recycling is used to maintain the bokashi fermentation system which converts food waste into solid and liquid compost. These initiatives proliferate into CAP’s events and office functions where we try as much as possible to buy locally produced food that is grown without pesticides and fertilizers and has been produced using sustainable farming methods such as the WWF-SA/CSA Green Choice codes.

Capturing sunlight and storing water
The Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) and the Wilderness Foundation (WF) have gone a step further by employing renewable energy technologies. WESSA has installed solar cookers and photovoltaic panels at its head offices in Howick. The electricity is used to power an energy efficient environmentally-friendly printer. WF is also harnessing solar energy through a solar geyser and has incorporated water-saving measures by harvesting rainwater which they use for watering their indigenous water-wise garden. Their toilets have also been retrofitted with dual flushing mechanisms to save water. Another CAP partner, the Botanical Society, uses only borehole water for its head offices in Cape Town.
In 2009, World Wide Fund for Nature – South Africa (WWF-SA) purchased gold certified carbon credits from a wind farm in Turkey to offset their carbon emissions from business flying. In addition, WWF purchased Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to offset the energy carbon footprint of their head office building. WWF-SA has recently committed to a three year agreement with GreenX Energy supporting a solar electricity project in Kwa-Zulu Natal. WF offsets their emissions differently through the planting of spekboom, Portulacaria afra, on 20 ha of degraded land in the Eastern Cape. Spekboom has good carbon sequestration abilities, equivalent to that of subtropical forests, allowing WF to offset 100 tons of carbon/year.

Walking the talk
These measures are only the beginning. Future measures that CAP partners are evaluating include onsite renewable energy generation, replacement of old energy intensive appliances with newer energy efficient versions, and using public transport to a greater extent. Key to this is gaining the commitment of decision-makers and employees within organisations to drive such initiatives.
By showcasing these measures and behavioral changes, we strive not only to walk the talk, but also show that realising a low carbon organisation and partnership, is achievable and manageable.


Simisha Pather-Elias



Click the image to enlarge: Solar cooker at WESSA head offices in Howick
Solar cooker at WESSA head offices in Howick
Posted: 12/21/2010 (4:16:57 AM)

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