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How green is green enough?

Written by  Staff
| in Toerisme
| December 15, 2015

First there was ‘sustainability’; then came ‘thrivability’ and now ‘thriving sustainable communities’ are becoming the new buzz words.

Everyone is aware that our resources are under pressure. First we faced load shedding and more recently we were introduced to water shedding. It is a reality and likelihood that various forms of ‘shedding’ will still befall us in this day and age. The challenge is how to deal with shrinking resour-ces, higher demands from more stakeholders, and yet sustain livelihoods – and this is as true for the hospitality industry as for every other business and household.  

“First we faced load shedding and more recently we were introduced to water shedding.”

“We’ve come to understand sustainability as the preservation of resources for future generations. This remains a priority, but now with an added emphasis and leading us to the notion of ‘thrivability’, which in simple terms means to thrive and live well – more than merely existing,” explains Susina Jooste, director of the Private Hotel School in Stellenbosch. “We now have to look beyond sustainability in our businesses and organisations and on our farms; and simultaneously consider corporate responsibility (yes, even as small diversification businesses on a farm) as a way to help conserve our resources while also helping others thrive.”

Thriving sustainable communities are environments where groups of people with diverse needs live together and share available resources with the aim of a higher quality of life for all – all the while with an attitude of sensitivity to their environment. These communities are safe, inclusive, well planned and offer equal opportunity and good services for all. Many farms already easily fit into this description.

Sustainable communities embody the principles of development whilst balancing and integrating social, economic and environmental components of their community. Respect for the needs, rights and responsibilities of own and other communities in the wider region or internationally, also contribute to the sustainability of these communities. Features of a thriving community include a wide range of work opportunities and jobs, sufficient suitable land and buildings to support economic prosperity, and also dynamic business creation with benefits to the local community.

Eco-villages embody these goals. They seek to live in harmony with the environment and develop their land with an eye on protecting vital natural systems and fostering good relations with neighbours; both people and animal diversity. They farm and garden, pool their buying power to save money and may share resources; does every house really need to have its own swimming pool and lawn mower?

“Whether you are reading because you’re just fascinated by the concept of eco villages, or if you consider introducing the concept into your community or on your farm, you will find an assortment of models when searching the web,” says Susina. Good examples are the Namib Eco Village, set between ‘the glistening Atlantic Ocean and the golden Namib Desert dunes’, the Honeyville Nature Reserve, the Tlholego Ecovillage near Rustenburg, and the Lynedoch Ecovillage near Stellenbosch, to name but a few.

Thriving sustainability in hospitality and tourism

“I know that most hospitality-related businesses today have a ‘green agenda’, but the reality of conventional buildings, established practices and old habits are huge barriers towards achieving this honourable agenda,” says Susina about the trend of greening the face of the hospitality industry. “How to make a meaningful change toward ‘saving the planet’ while still being financially feasible – that is the biggest challenge! Triple bottom line sustainability involves addressing environmental, economic and social impacts and cannot be dominated by only an environmental agenda.”

As leading example Susina points to Mario Delicio, owner of ‘Africa’s Greenest Hotel’ who had the opportunity to start on a clean slate when he developed Hotel Verde, a hotel that has set the benchmark for sustainable building practices in South Africa. This three-star facility is the first of its kind on the continent to adopt 100% green-living principles.

The challenge is indeed to think beyond harnessing wind and sun power to defy the challenges caused by load shedding. Rather make the aim of your guest or tourism establishment, to create a thriving community around you.