While Spring makes us think “green”, it’s not all spring flowers and baby birds that are in the air. Climate change and its proactive counterpart, Climate Action, is on the world’s collective consciousness with COP26 beginning on 31 October in Glasgow, culminating in this year’s Climate Action Day on 4 November and millions of people across the world who will be out marching for climate justice on Saturday 6 November. Last month Global Day of Climate Action on 25 September, held by Fridays for Future, saw 3500 towns and cities get involved, and this month is also Youth Climate Action Day on 23 October.
But let’s take a step back…
What is Climate Change?
Let’s go to the United Nations for their official stance:
Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures.
Examples of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane. These come from using gasoline for driving a car or coal for heating a building, for example. Clearing land and forests can also release carbon dioxide. Landfills for garbage are a major source of methane emissions. Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use are among the main emitters.
Why are people striking for Climate Action?
Here it is from youth-led organisation Fridays for Future, made famous by activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg:
“Many question why millions of children and adults across the world are taking the time to strike: don’t they have school, work or other responsibilities?
The answer is simple: We strike because we have no choice. We are fighting for our future and for our children’s future. We strike because there is still time to change, but time is of the essence. The sooner we act, the better our shared future will be.”
What is the City of Cape Town doing towards Climate Action?
Cape Town’s journey towards Carbon Neutrality by 2050: The City of Cape Town has made the ambitious commitment to being carbon neutral by 2050 while increasing our climate resilience. Part of this commitment includes that all new buildings are to be carbon neutral by 2030 and the retrofit of existing buildings to be net zero carbon by 2050. This particular focus is because buildings consume 38% of the city’s energy and generate 58% of its carbon emissions. This means that climate action in the built environment can make a big difference!
What can you do to help Climate Change?
Recycle, compost and eco-brick
Simply changing our attitudes towards rubbish or trash is a good start. Between minimising food waste, composting organic waste such as fresh food offcuts and recycling plastic, metal and paper – you could have zero waste going into our municipal bin and into landfills. In Woodstock, we have a recycling depot in Beach Road, which accepts both recycling and garden waste.
Eco Bricks are a great way to dispose of small pieces of plastic and other non-recyclables like earbuds, old lighters and pens. Start your own eco-brick using an empty 2-litre bottle and keep going until it’s packed so hard you cannot squeeze the bottle. These can be dropped off at many schools and at organic food stores such as Nude Foods, which in turn get used by organisations in building homes and other structures like furniture or flowerbeds. In Cape Town, the Eco Brick Exchange is building an entire Early Childhood Development Centre using eco-bricks and other reclaimed materials. Follow @ecobrickexchange on social media for more eco-bricking tips and projects.
Of course, reducing your consumption of single-use plastic is by far the best solution to plastic waste as creating it in the first place has a huge impact on the environment.
Green living products
Consider that everything that you pour down your sink, put into your toilet or which enters the water or sewerage system via your washing machines and drains can end up back into the sea. For this reason, switching to biodegradable alternatives is an important lifestyle change to make. Especially avoid products that contain microplastics (such as body scrubs, soaps or toothpastes with micro-granules or exfoliants) because these end up in fish and sealife, including the seafood we eat! You wouldn’t want to eat your own exfoliant, would you?
Nude Foods plastic-free grocery in Zonnebloem and Newlands is a wonderful destination to start your green-living journey.
Construction and buildings themselves add a huge carbon footprint and similarly they can be better designed and built to reduce emissions particularly in built-up urban areas. The Green Building Council in South Africa is an organisation that ensures building practices are sustainability and environmentally friendly or “green”. Property developers, architects and construction companies should endeavour to register with the GBCSA as a member and certify all buildings for “credible and objective measurement of green buildings” … “using the Green Star, Net Zero, EWP, EDGE rating tools”. An important measure for offices to understand how they compare in terms of energy and water usage is the GBCSA’s Energy Water Performance bench-marking tool.
Going solar is a good solution to energy demands that is also more cost-effective long term. Installing solar panels and geysers on a sunny roof can reduce your monthly electricity bill to almost zero – and also leaves you well prepared in times of load shedding. Floating solar is also another growing global trend, with a pilot project in Cape Town in Kraaifontein exploring this innovation.
Adding green to your home or office + other tips to make it eco-friendly
Adding greenery to your home or office not only has positive psychological benefits but also contributes towards the environment and your health by releasing oxygen and purifying the air. This can even help you improve focus!
Director of ArchCOR Architecture Pheta Mofolo suggests five simple interventions that companies can implement to make offices eco-friendly:
- Use a grey water recovery plumbing system to recycle water for irrigation and flushing toilets
- Heat produced by some air-conditioners can be reused to heat water or heat the building
- Safety glass contributes to lower energy use, thus removing the need for constant air-conditioning
- Building Management Systems can be used to regulate lighting and switch off lights in empty offices
- Implement recycling policies by, for example, having designated paper disposal areas.
Create an urban garden and grow your own food
Like our local Woodstock Peace Garden, an urban garden is a wonderful way to reintroduce greenery and bird-life into built-up areas. It’s also far more sustainable and personally rewarding to grow your own food. Consider building a community garden or even a rooftop garden atop your home or office building, if you don’t have space in your own backyard.
One of the best ways to reduce your own carbon footprint is to practise veganism, as producing meat and feeding livestock requires enormous quantities of energy and water. Reducing meat intake is also linked to lower rates of heart disease and cancers, in particular colon cancer.
However if you’re not ready to take the meat-free plunge, consider where your meat comes from. Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants in Cape Town has been leading the charge in ethical eating since 2008. Founded by food writer Andy Fenner who advocates for eating less meat but better quality, as an ethical butchery their philosophy is: “We find the right farmer. We buy the whole animal. We take it apart with respect. We use every piece we can.” Find them at their Woodstock branch in Sir Lowry Road or order online.
Learn about Andy Fenner’s meat manifesto below:
Since emissions from cars and planes are some of the biggest contributions towards greenhouse gases, consider all alternatives when you can. These include: cycling or walking instead of driving, carpooling rather than driving alone, or avoiding the trip completely if you are able to have online meetings or shop online.
A growing trend towards vintage, thrift and second-hand stores is not just about looking like you stepped out of the eighties! Giving clothes a second life, whether by buying second-hand or donating your unwanted threads, is a great way to slow down the fast-moving behemoth that is the fashion industry. Neighbour to Woodstock, take a slow walk down Lower Main Road in Observatory for a wide selection of second-hand clothing stores.
Slow fashion also refers to buying items designed to last a very long time where better quality means your clothes can one day become desirable hand-me-downs!
Of course it’s great to support our local community! And that’s not just to give you a sense of bonhomie. Shopping local is not only about injecting money back into our own economy rather than sending your hard-earned Rands to other countries, it also immediately reduces the carbon footprint of the items that you buy. Removing long distances from your shopping cycle means less fuel and packaging required in getting your goods to you safely. And if you can walk to the shop while buying from local suppliers and manufacturers, even better!
Join Woodstock Cycleworks on Facebook to become part of the local bike-riding community.
Cape Town Green Map
Head to capetowngreenmap.co.za for a comprehensive map and information resource for a growing green consciousness. The map features green spaces and green businesses and also has a green news section.