Join Kalahari Harry on his adventurous travels as he shares tales on everything related to conservation, sustainable development and green solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This month’s blog is hopefully more about some practical applications of how we can have less of an impact on our immediate environment. My hope is that we all start making a difference by doing something different than what our forefathers did. I hope that from the pictures below, you will see that times have changed, and your house could become the next space in which we lessen our impact.
While doing a tour in the Western Cape, I had some time to admire a colleague’s house which he is building from sustainable materials.
The story goes like this:
This colleague decided to buy a piece of land in Brackenfell area. It has always been his dream to build a house that will spearhead the way for others. Being from an engineering background, it gave him the foundation from which to run his ideas.
As you can see from the image, the walls are anything but standard. This came about after doing a soil density test and realising that the builder would have to go 2 meters down before hitting anything solid. This gave him the idea of building with sandbags.
The sand came from the excavation and the bags are made from recycled plastic bottles. As you can see, the sandbags are placed inside a wooden frame for stability. Might I add that sand is also a great sound and heat insulator.
Keeping with the bees
As if all of this isn’t enough, my colleague is also an avid bee keeper – producing over 600kg of honey per year! He has fitted the cellar (which became available after he had to dig deeper than planned) with a sloped floor and a drainage line to reuse the water for the cleaning of equipment.
One part of the roof of the house is flat. The reason for this is that this allows for a roof garden that will help in keeping the temperature down. The rest of the roof is insulated with polystyrene that helps in keeping the house cool.
Windows (North West only)
By only installing windows on the North Western side of the house, keeps the house warm in the morning and cool in the afternoon.
Water 3 ways
The water supply plumbing is divided into 3 lines. The red line is the warm water ring main (this is a process whereby warm water is kept in constant flow throughout the system via small efficient water pumps to ensure warm water on demand, thus decreasing wastage.) The blue line is the Municipal water line that is used for potable use e.g. wash basins, showers, baths, and kitchens. The green line is for rainwater that is used for all non-potable applications e.g. washing machines, toilets and non-potable taps for general use like washing of cars and irrigation.
This transpires into the following savings:
There are currently 2 occupants in the house using 12 000 Liters of water per month. Of this 50-60% of this water that is used, is water that is caught from rainwater harvesting. By installing a 20 000 liter rainwater harvesting tank, it has cut the occupants dependency on municipality supplied water by 50%. This to me is a no brainer, and most of us should at least have this as a starting point.
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you… There is a basin on top of the toilet. This nifty new toilet and basin combo is helping to use less water and to reuse the basin water.
Now I know none of us are going to break down our existing walls and start building with sandbags. But we can certainly start by making small, affordable changes that will have an immediate impact on the way we live. And better yet, we can inspire the next generation to start thinking out of the box to come up with great alternatives to decrease our footprint and impact on our immediate environment.
Comment below and share some of your own unique ideas in lessening our impact on the environment.
Till next time