In 2012 we achieved our goal of Gold classification from Greeline, a massive achievement as we were the first (and at the time) and only Guesthouse in Africa with a gold classification for our environmental management efforts.
We no longer partner with L to E but we are now partners with the very dynamic Greenpop (www.greenpop.org). Greenpop is a social enterprise that operates in Cape Town mainly but also in Zambia planting trees in schools in impoverished areas of Cape Town and Livingstone, as well as farms and protected forests. They focus on education and aim to make green living fun. All their projects are sustainable as trees are monitored after planting to ensure a high success rate. Dongola House has helped them plant over 4000 trees in Livingstone, Zambia and Cape Town.
In July 2012 Mike and Sally traveled to Zambia to be part of Greenpop's trees for Zambia project. they spent 3 weeks planting trees at schools, farms conservation projects, before having to be medically evacuated after Sally had a serous accident involving her finger.
We have since pledged 50 trees to the Cape Town schools greening program with our first tree plant in April at Hillwood Primary School. This is the school, Chelsea, one of our housekeepers daughters attends and we chose it so we can build on our responsible business legacy by including our staff and their families.
Our next school plant will be in May at Philipi Children's center this is a project in conjunction with some of our guests.
Furthermore we have sold over 100 tree rings to our guests through our Trees for Travel program. We sell beaded keyrings which represent a tree and once the tree is planted our gust is sent a certificate with the name of the school where their tree is planted and its GPS coordinates so they can see it on Google earth.
We now have two rescued Labradors which make up the Guest Walking Department unfortunately at 15 Paddy passed away, so our dogs are also recycled.
In terms of our efforts in management our resources such as waste power and water we have done rather well in all areas. In 2012 we recycled 1570 kilograms of household waste, paper, plastic glass and metal. We do not measure our garden waste but it is also recycled at Reliance Composts depot, a carbon neutral company we also partner with.
Although we showed a 30% growth in occupancy but reduced our power usage by approximately 25% per room. we have just changed all of our lights to LED's so hope we can see another saving in the coming year.
Our water usage increased marginally by less than 1%. However we had an underground water leak, which took us the best part of 3 months to find. Without this and calculating our water usage as an average we would have shown a saving of approximately 15%. We have no plans for further water usage reductions as we have fitted all rooms with aerators , low flow shower heads and refurbished all of the toilet flushing mechanisms to reduce leaks. We are however investigating rainwater storage ad how we can best use it in the garden.
Responsible Tourism 2011
We bought Dongola House in 2009, whilst looking for somewhere to live, after deciding to relocate to the Cape, the Guest house “found” us!
Having worked in the hospitality Industry for decades and possessing a keen interest in the environment, we have worked as volunteers on five conservation projects across the globe creating a responsible Tourism Business was a natural progression from owning just a guest house.
We became aware of Greenline whilst working for Orient Express Safaris, we had seen the Heritage plaque on the wall of the Mount Nelson and we were also inspired by their worm farm. In my previous corporate career one of the portfolio’s I held was that of Director of the company’s Corporate Social Investment programme. These are some of the influences which have driven us to achieve Silver certification for our property.
The first step on our journey was to identify our environmental impacts and to measure our resource usage, Water Electricity and Waste. We then set about creating a worm farm, we now feed our worms 3 kilograms of waste per week, on average and will soon be using the vermiculture in a new organic vegetable garden project, which we hope will produce enough food to support three families connected with the guest house.
Further recycling efforts and has led to reducing our solid waste output to one 240L dustbin, a 50% decrease per week, producing around 500kgs of recycled waste over a 16 month period, which is donated to the Friends of the Constantia Valley Green Belts , the money earnt is use for conservation work.
Other forms of pollution are also kept to a minimum we use a printer whose cartridges are recycled for the benefit of Cotland’s, we use an Icon detergent-less washing ball in the laundry and Biog Eco pesticides in the organic vegetable and herb garden.
The next was to record our resource usage and set goals for reduction. Whilst water usage appears to have direct correlation with occupancy Electricity does not, firstly there were estimate readings, then actuals that play catch up, plus we have changed most of incandescent bulbs to CFL’s, we now turn off geysers which were reset at 55 degrees, when rooms are not occupied and we insulated the ceiling. However we still plan to reduce our power consumption by 5% by 2012 and 12% by 2014 through the use of heat pumps and LED light bulbs.
Whilst we have shown a 5% growth in occupancy this year versus last we have reduced water consumption by 19%. We cannot reduce water usage on our own, we ask our guests to assist by keeping their towels for three days and to take showers instead of baths. Furthermore we have landscaped the gardens with water wise and indigenous plants which are watered sparingly from our licensed bore hole. We have set a 2% reduction target for 2012 by installing low flow shower heads.
To ensure that the greater community benefits from our business Dongola House has embarked upon a partnership with Learn to Earn a training facility in the Township of Khayelitsha.
LtE provides training for employed residents of Khayelitsha Cape Town’s largest township. Learners must provide 5% of the training fee to be accepted on to a course, which supports LtE’s philosophy of “a hand up - not a hand out.” Dongola House supports this initiative in two ways, through the sale of the arts and crafts that are on display in the reception area, we take no profit from these sales and the sponsorship of a prize in the LtE annual charity golf day.
Our involvement with this programme will hopefully make a small contribution to reducing unemployment in the city.
Another initiative we support is Book-a-Guesthouse, a corporate social investment programme of Southern Sun. We have donated equipment to three Guesthouses on the programme; Zwinoni Lodge in Milnerton, Burnley lodge in Rondebosch East and Ekasie Backpackers in Khayelitsha.
We have a policy of “donate don’t dump” and all the equipment was in full working order and some actually serviced before distribution.
Our involvement in the project will hopefully assist these entrepreneurs to provide a quality, authentic Western Cape experience to their guests whilst providing much needed employment.
Finally Sally once worked with the South African Guide Dogs Association and still supports their work, not only through change collection but also through the adoption of dogs who at the age of around 10 retire from guide dog service. So we even have a recycled dog, Paddy 15