We are well into our winter – having recently passed our winter solstice on June 21st. The wilderness exhibits tones of browns, yellows and oranges, aloes are in full bloom and morning’s greet you with an exhilarating chill. But this time of year also reminds us of something else. It marks the beginning of Plastic Free July. A global movement which has become a tradition for us over the years and a movement which we wholeheartedly support. Whilst we fully understand that avoiding single use plastic is the focus, this truly is a wonderful month to look deeper at sustainability as a whole.
“Plastic Free July® is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so that we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities. Plastic Free July provides resources and ideas to help you (and millions of others around the world) reduce single-use plastic waste everyday at home, work, school, and even at your local café. Will you be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics?”
Although we continue to reduce our plastic use throughout the year at Londolozi – the spotlight on Plastic Free July allows for a time of reflection for us, as we look back at our sustainability and impact journey so far. While supporting and spreading awareness of Plastic Free July, we also realise that it’s bigger than plastic – it’s all the little things we do that accumulate into change and impact.
Londolozi’s history begins in 1926, when Charles Varty and his partner Frank Unger purchased a derelict cattle farm called Sparta in the eastern lowveld of South Africa. This wild place in Africa was initially used for wilderness expeditions until the early 1970s, when John and Dave Varty, founders of Londolozi, dreamed of creating a photographic safari business. And so, it was in 1976 that the humble beginnings of the for-profit conservation development model called Londolozi was established and our impact and sustainability journey began.
‘’During my long walk to freedom, I had the rare privilege to visit Londolozi. There I saw people of all races living in harmony amidst the beauty that Mother Nature offers. Londolozi represents a model of the dream I cherish for the future for nature preservation in our country’’ ~ Nelson Mandela
Since then Londolozi has continued to deliver the ‘classic safari’ whilst simultaneously ensuring conservation, community upliftment and sustainability. By 2020, our mission was to “accelerate the awakening of humanity in partnership with nature”. From new systems for living, to permaculture, to ecobricking – it has been an adventure indeed. This month we celebrate where we have got to today on our sustainability journey, and the excitement in understanding that it is a journey without end and every tiny, incremental step is important.
Stay with the Basics – The 5 Rs of Sustainability
Have you heard about the 5 Rs? The 5Rs is about a change in culture and increasing our awareness of the waste we create, but also how easy it is to innovate and produce far less waste with the aim of becoming waste free. At Londolozi we try and incorporate these Rs wherever we can:
We are using our buying power to influence our suppliers to change the way they package their goods and hence reduce the waste before it even enters the reserve. Unnecessary packaging is simply refused from the source, resulting in products being delivered in reusable containers. This has eliminated approximately a quarter of a ton of packaging waste entering the reserve per week. That’s over 13 tons per year! In addition, we do our best to ensure our suppliers are managing this refused waste responsibly on their side and thus in turn influencing the behaviour of their own suppliers.
In addition, by simply refusing to use plastic bottles at Londolozi and choosing to use recyclable glass, we have managed to avoid 1.5 tons of plastic bottles being used annually! ♻️ Our staff shop is only supplied with glass and tin sodas and cleaning products have a refilling system, reducing plastic containers.This Plastic-Free-July join us by choosing to refuse plastic bottles and make a difference.
Just by growing our own greens, Londolozi has managed to refuse 51kg of single-use plastic packaging and produce 453kg of organic greens in a year! Not only has this reduced the plastic coming into Londolozi but has also created secondary economic opportunities for the Londolozi Village community, who own the gardens and sell greens to the Londolozi Kitchen – a wonderful win-win situation. In addition, we also now buy produce from another three suppliers from our local community, all of whom are plastic free in their delivery – and deliveries are consolidated so that there is no need for extra transport and vehicles moving on the land.
Reduction is all about eliminating the need for single use products. For example, the new biological cleaning products are purchased in bulk reusable containers and then distributed to staff for personal and lodge use. The shift to these bulk biological cleaning products not only resulted in improved wastewater management but significantly reduced the amount of single use containers of cleaning detergents entering the reserve. We also found that our staff shop was producing a lot of waste from various body and beauty products used by our staff. These are now purchased in bulk for staff who refill their containers as opposed to single use creams, etc. This has furthermore resulted in monetary savings for our staff as the new products are more affordable. As part of our best practice policy, quality unserved leftovers are offered to our staff to supplement the canteen menu. Permaculture principles in practice!
Food storage is always a challenge in a wild and hot environment but there has been a shift away from using single use storage methods (e.g. plastic wrap, tinfoil) towards reusable alternatives such as locally sourced cotton beeswax wraps and various Tupperware and lugs. In addition, new biodegradable plastic wrapping is being used, but only if absolutely needed. Old wood taken from camp refurbishments is reused (upcycled) to develop furniture for staff and in some cases wooden toys for local children in the Londolozi village. Tea bags from all the tea stations are dried out and reused as eco-friendly firelighters. Whilst this all may seem like a small impact, these types of efforts are driving a more conscious awareness of waste among our staff. This then filters beyond our Londolozi Village. Behaviour can be contagious!
We invested in a community-based business just outside of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve known as Sithole Restoration Services (read more on this in The Social Enterprise), which provides recycling solutions for glass, plastic, paper and tin/can waste. Approximately 676kg of waste is being recycled a month, of which plastic waste constitutes as little as 3% of this. This very low percentage is attributed to the results achieved by the first three R’s (typically plastic makes up ±13% of waste according to www.epa.org). Paper and glass make up 87% of the waste recycled, while tin or cans make up the remaining 10%.
The last step to best practice in our closed-circuit waste management system is to ensure that whatever cannot be refused, reduced, reused or recycled is sent to ‘Rot’. See the Waste Management section below.
Londolozi Mission Statement In 1972:
“We aim to create a model in wise land management by using the many qualities of the natural system and by integrating our visitors with the environment and the local people to the benefit of all. Our primary objective is to demonstrate that man and wildlife can interact on a sustainable basis”
Plastic Free Suites
For every guest visiting us, we feel it’s important to know that your safari has the power to protect. Not only from a conservation and community perspective, but also by the physical Londolozi suite in which you will be staying. As we continue to reduce our carbon footprint and decrease our single-use plastics, we realised that the suites themselves would be a great place to include this. Here are a few things which you may notice when staying with us:
We have completely done away with plastic bottles in the rooms, both for milk and water and have glass bottles that we refill on site. This has resulted in 1.5 tons of plastic waste not making it onto the property each year.
The slippers in the rooms are made from recycled plastic thanks to our friends at The Joinery.
The bins in the rooms are lined with paper bags.
We only wash towels upon request from the guests in order to use less water.
The earbuds in the rooms are made from a combination of bamboo and paper, making them entirely biodegradable.
The containers used for toiletries in the rooms are reusable and we refill them with only earth-friendly products from our 1926 in-house range, designed by Bronwyn and Shan Varty.
The cleaning products that we use in the rooms, on the decks and in the Londolozi Village are also entirely biodegradable and products that work in tandem with our probiotic-led water treatment centre.
Staff are pedantic about switching off unnecessary lights and reporting water leaks.
Power saving LED bulbs have replaced all other bulbs.
We have invested in inverter air conditioners throughout the lodge.
This is a topic often not front of mind – but something which we believe needs to be as waste is a reality after all. With sustainability a priority, we understand that dealing with waste is an important aspect in our ecosystem, and if processed correctly, can be a big step towards boosting local business. For a safari to be sustainable we need to ensure we are ensuring particular steps. The waste management centre at Londolozi is part of our sustainability philosophy and is something which needs to function daily. Simple acts accumulate to create a huge impact – such as throwing trash away in the correct recycling bin. When on the Village Walk you might notice big cages with several bins inside them – acting as convenient points for the Londolozi Family to divide their trash into glass, plastic, organic and other for recycling. We also have a building to store and deal with the waste after being removed form these cages. Designating a space purely to waste management ensures we keep the waste dry and critter-free. At Londolozi, ‘critters’ is a diverse term referring to hyenas, baboons, monkeys, mongooses, birds and insects.
Our food waste mainly goes to a local farmer, Johnson Sibuyi, who has a small piggery in a local village. Londolozi’s own small scale worm farmers also have access to this organic waste and use the worm castings as organic fertiliser for their vegetable gardens. Londolozi staff members who have a fascination with permaculture have had the idea to build a large scale worm farm sometime in the future, to aid in our forage to fork process. Vegetables are sustainably sourced from the surrounding community vegetable gardens for Londolozi’s kitchens; these earthworms are crucial to improving soils and therefore vegetable yields for farmers.
Living By A Permaculture Philosophy & New Systems for Living
“Permaculture is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way” ~ Brian Bath
Permaculture is the foundation that underpins Londolozi’s land management model, which is the sustainable use of the resources in harmony with the natural system. Along with this we have implemented New Systems for Living. We want Londolozi to be a working example of how technology can be utilised to reduce and measure impact within a wilderness area, thereby lowering demand on finite resources such as water and energy. We are currently at the forefront of renewable energy including solar power and the intention of migrating to a full fleet of zero emission safari vehicles. We invested in a wastewater recycling treatment plant in order to be sure that the disposal of our treated wastewater into the wilderness is done with the greatest of care. We are ardently committed to reducing our waste and continue to search for alternative methods of conducting business on the path to achieving our eventual goal of zero emissions and a closed-circuit consumption model in harmony with nature. We believe that Londolozi should be able to illustrate to all those who find themselves here, whether as a guest or staff, how to use modern technology to support new systems for living and develop a lighter footprint on the land upon which we are all dependent.
Small Things Matter
One thing we have realised on our journey is that small things matter. Whether it be choosing to use cloth reusable face masks or avoid plastic shopping bags – your efforts are felt by our planet. A sustainable lifestyle is a continuous process, it’s a living model with no on and off switch. No matter where every individual is on their sustainability journey – whether you are reducing your single-use plastic reliance or installing solar panels in your home – collectively we are reducing a footprint on our precious earth. Happy Plastic Free July – we hope you take the challenge and join us!
Look out for our Plastic Free July tips we will be sharing at the end of every Instagram caption this month.