RESPONDING TO THE CHALLENGES OF REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS WHILE SUPPORTING DEVELOPMENT – my family’s journey in trying to become more carbon-neutral in my home in Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa
We have lived in Cape Town for 20 years and our municipal bills including electricity and water have escalated over time. We have been concerned as well about the large water and electricity bills associated with our lawn and swimming pool and were determined to find a way to reduce our family and home carbon footprint. We wanted to grow fresh vegetables while reducing the size of our lawn and the cost of water because of swimming pool evaporation.
Description of the steps we took
We made a decision seven years ago to cut our electricity bill by installing one of the first solar panel systems in our neighborhood. Although this is not innovative and has been ongoing in Cape Town for many years, and the history of using solar energy can be traced back to the 7th century BC 1, I felt that the example of successful use of solar energy in our suburb Rondebosch in Cape Town might encourage others in our neighborhood to do likewise and therefore possibly having a greater impact than only our own family.
The Western Cape has the first airport in Africa (George) 2 which is solar powered and this will contribute to over 40% of the energy required to run the airport over time. Of course there are many large plants being built throughout South Africa, and the Northern Cape plant in Kalkbult 4 with its 156 kms. of solar panels went live in November, 2013. This plant will avoid annual greenhouse gas emissions of approx. 115 000 tons which might have been emitted by a fossil-fueled plant.
Regarding the Bruton family water usage, we installed a grey water system through the company, Water Rhapsody 3 and when Jeremy Taylor was first experimenting with ideas for his innovative systems. Though not entirely successful with the toilet system because of water staining, we have been able to reduce our water wastage, and all shower, bath and washing machine water is used twice. This has resulted in reduced water and electricity bills over time.
Problem of cost of fresh vegetables and wasted packaging
Because of the large price we were paying for fresh vegetables which often didn’t last, my husband and I have created container vegetable gardens using old cool-drink containers and homemade wooden boxes see figures 1 and 2 below. This has resulted in reduced grocery bills and a fresh supply of vegetables for family and friends over the past six months – and a very rewarding hobby for both of us. The practice I feel has influenced those around us and, with the aid of a Facebook group – Veggie Gardeners Western Cape 5, I have been able to reduce problems associated with bug reduction using sprays made from natural ingredients 8 and has produced sustainable and seasonal crops for the past six months.
Innovation or gap?
While this may not seem to be an innovative gap or unique idea, we have been able to promote sustainable living within our family and have researched innovative ideas in the way we have used our solar panels, in our water recycling and in reducing our fresh vegetable bills. We have encouraging our family, friends and neighbors to do likewise. We have shared our ideas, successes and failures through the Facebook group 5. I have enjoyed giving large bunches of fresh greens including herbs and salad ingredients for the past two months with family and friends and have encouraged my cleaning lady and her family to make progress with their own vegetable garden.
Cape Town Municipality’s innovative home composting container roll-out 6 has also ensured that all our organic waste is recycled and used in the garden and we have very little waste through this and through recycling by taking clean recyclables to the Oasis Recycling Association in Claremont.10
While these actions may not seem so innovative on a grand scale, they have resulted in changed behaviour patterns within our immediate friends and family circle and in my “digital” family. I have researched interesting ways of germinating seeds using toilet rolls7 and creating a natural home bug spray 8 on the tasty herbs like basil and cruciferous vegetables.
The swimming pool
We invested in a pool cover during the winter months and have saved time and money through saving on chemicals and water.This geobubble technology 9 assists in reducing pump use, water evaporation, chemical consumption and debris contamination and of course, has saved us money over the past six months. This has meant more time for gardening for the Brutons!
- The history of solar: https://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/pdfs/solar_timeline.pdf
- First solar-powered airport in Africa: http://qz.com/626901/the-first-solar-powered-airport-in-africa-has-been-opened-in-south-africa/
- Water Rhapsody grey water systems: http://www.waterrhapsody.co.za/
- The Kalkbult solar power plant: http://www.southafrica.info/business/investing/solar-141113.htm#.V_isUuh97IU
- Veggie Gardeners western Cape Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1490188807943345/
- Cape Town Municipality’s free home compost bin initiative: https://www.capetown.gov.za/en/MediaReleases/Pages/Cityinviteshomeownerstoapplyforfreehomecompostingcontainer.aspx
- How to create toilet roll starter seed pods: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=925AcczVfag
- Natural bug spray: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c666sjSdSzs
- Power plastic pool covers: http://www.powerplastics.co.za/energyguard-geobubble/
- The Oasis Association: http://www.oasisrecycling.co.za/Page.php