EcoBlog Tembo Kijani

EcoBlog about Beach, Safari, Nature and Life in the African Bush

Tag: sustainability

Umweltwächter–Watchman for the Environment

While doing homeschooling the other day with our daughter, we came across the topic of saving the environment. A tree trunk was introduced to us by the name of Hugo, and he is a watchman for the environment. The student should figure out how to save the environment, but as it’s a German homeschool we are using, the topics were very Europe-oriented like separating waste into different bins and recycling. Though these also apply to our ecolodge to a certain degree, I found it most interesting that our daughter made the connection to how we live here and run an ecolodge like collecting rain water and saving energy.

On the days after studying this at school, she went around being herself a watchman for the environment and gave out warnings to our employees just as not throwing garbage into the ocean. She really enjoyed these lessons.

I think we in the Western countries all know these lessons – we are taught at school, on TV, etc. And these are small and easy lessons, nothing complicated, so that even primary school students can easily grab them – separate your garbage, turn off your electronic devices and lights if not needed, shut off the shower when shampooing, not wasting food, using recyclable packaging materials, and so forth. But most of the time we are so busy and lazy that we just don’t bother to buy only exactly as much food as we need or to first use up the things we have in the fridge, or to take the half minute to separate the garbage into the different bins that we all have at home. And of course it’s nicer to keep the hot shower running than to turn it off, or to have the house with all lights on although we are only sitting and watching TV in a small corner.

If we could just put a little bit more effort into our daily lives to help the environment, and take the five minutes a day to adjust our lifestyle a bit instead of reading another article (or blog) about being eco, we might start to make an actual difference.

No. 1 Rule for Green Travel

If you are travelling in third world countries, like Tanzania for example, then there are many ways of travelling green – as many as there are different aspects and focuses of sustainable travel. Not all of them are always possible and not all of them apply to every place on earth, so it all depends on where you go and how you travel, but in my opinion there is one thing that everybody can and should take to heart everywhere: Avoid plastic!

Besides the obvious reasons that we always hear in the western hemisphere, like high pollution in the production process, lots of toxins, mostly one-time use and hence lots of waste, there are quite a few more that especially apply to third world countries.

The basic problem in these countries is, that people are used to using materials for packaging, food etc. that they’d just throw away afterwards and it would compost by itself – banana leafs, paper, raffia bags, peel from fruits, etc. And people continue doing it, but nowadays they throw plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic covers and so on after using them. And well… in most of these places there is no such thing as garbage collection of any kind (reasons for this range from missing infrastructure to just the point that it’s not worth to invest in something like this), so the only option would actually be to collect the garbage yourself and burn it in the end. But the mindset for this is still missing.

In the big cities garbage became such a big problem that people themselves started to burn it – and that’s how it smells; it stinks horribly, it’s dirty and the air is even more polluted than just with old cars, simply because there is no garbage collection system. When the rains start and the cities are flooded, and especially Dar es Salaam being located on the Indian Ocean, the water takes all the garbage out to the sea and the current will spread it even further up and down the coastline. This is also true to other places being located close to a river or the sea – a lot of the garbage ends up eventually in the ocean and then right on your beach holiday in the good case or in the stomachs of turtles and birds in the bad case.

And whereas three years ago here in Tanzania you could  only buy Coca Cola in glass bottles (which you’d have to drink right away in order to give it back to the shop – deposit wouldn’t work), nowadays you can only get plastic bottles – it’s easier: less transport, lighter and of course more comfortable, just take it and throw it away afterwards.
So as a tourist, it of course won’t make a huge difference on the whole if you buy plastic or not, but it will make an impressionRaffia baskets on the people who sell it to you, if you refuse plastic bags in stores or ask for your drinks in a glass bottle, especially if you explain a bit about the reason behind it. It will also help if at home you will avoid plastic, because it will reduce demand and make the
industry reduce its plastic production – and this will not only affect you in the western hemisphere, but every other place as well.

5 Aspects behind the scenes of running a Green Hotel

Many times you’ll see eco hotels, eco lodges, eco vacation etc. and you are wondering what is it that makes this place eco? Since there is no real universal rating like stars in a regular hotel (or Michelin stars for restaurants), where you’d know what to expect, but more different ratings from different organizations, you’ll mostly see only on your vacation, how and why the hotel you booked, is actually eco. For Tembo Kijani we try on our website to give a bit of first information of our green efforts (See Our Dream), but of course in the matter of time, there are more aspects and more ideas also from our side, how to improve our sustainability. So for this I wrote this blog and will tell you a bit more about five details, that you won’t see when you are here, because sometimes it’s the little features behind the scenes that make a difference.DSC03998

  1. Keeping the natural environment – The way we found the plot, we want to keep it, disturb as little as possible and if we can, reforest without end. For us this meant
    • first to find the empty spots on the plot (or the ones with only dead shrubs) to build the guest units and other buildings – took a lot of crawling in the bush on all four and scratched arms and legs
    • when building, we tried our very best to bring in the materials so that we won’t have to flatten the shrubs, trees etc and to have each unit self-sufficient – so no long piping, cables and so on. And yes, all the 4000ft of wooden deck (and the same amount of screws) was carried through the bush down to the beach
    • now using waste water for watering plants and planting indigenous trees and shrubs – as a reward we love watching wildlife running around between the Bandas and taking shelter from the hot sun – dik-diks, mongoose, monkeys, lots of birds, genet cats, monitor lizards and even red duikers
  2. Detergents – In Western countries often you have the option of buying eco detergents; unfortunately here in Tanzania, and especially down here in the bush, you are happy if you get any kind of detergent, and mostly they are not good. But wherever we can, we use household remedies. So for stains in white clothes, we simply use the sun – works perfect. For limescale baking powder works great and even better than anything else we could find. For the last few months we have also started to use a wash ball for our laundry – doesn’t take out the dirt from our clothes  after greasing the car (also regular washing powder doesn’t), but it’s doing the job for everything else. Yes, the laundry doesn’t smell as if I added softener, but it doesn’t drive allergic people crazy either.
  3. Community work – We are not doing what other people understand by community work – we are rather of the opinion “help for self-help”. So we only employ people from the next village, give them a good and reliable income and have them enrolled in the social security system. But it’s not only employment, but rather training and giving a chance to learn a profession. So for most of our employees, we would have to start from scratch, as they are living in a typical African village without running water or electricity; most of them haven’t even been to Dar es Salaam and Pangani is the big city. So teaching housekeeping starts with explaining the bathroom, and teaching kitchen work starts with the explanation that you can also eat carrots raw in a salad. But in the end we can see that our employees start to develop a will to learn and to improve their lifestyle or even start a little business of their own.
  4. Waste (or no waste) while Shopping – when we are getting our groceries, we not only try to buy local produce, but also to avoid as much waste as possible, because unfortunately here in the bush, we don’t have waste collection (even in the big cities you don’t). So, we buy of course in big quantities, use products that come in glass jars instead of plastic bottles, and our fresh products like fruits and vegetables are brought in raffia baskets. What you as our guest will see from it, are the alu flasks that we use to provide drinking water for free instead of selling bottled water.
  5. Generator’s electricity – I am reading lots of articles about why renewable energy is not reliable, why it is expensive and not effective and so forth. And I can only agree, totally true. Because, with sun and wind (as the most common sources of renewable energy and also used here in Tembo Kijani) you rely on sources that you cannot control, you cannot control how much electricity you produce, as opposed to fossil fuels. BUT you can use it wisely and use it when you have it and hence reduce the use of fossil fuel. The same applies to everybody, also our lodge – of course we have a generator and we have to use it once in a while, but we do our very best to minimize the usage of it and make most of the electricity that we get from our solar panels and wind turbine – and by the way keeping our place nice and quiet without the noises of a generator because of electricity mismanagement.

We are happy to live here in Tanzania in the bush where we have the challenges to be eco, waver all the options available and actually be creative to find the best one fitting to this place.