LEO Africa's approach to a sustainable lifestyle
LEO Africa’s main focus is on wildlife monitoring, conservation and educating our volunteers and others on sustainable living. Our aim is to reduce the amount of plastic that is used in our daily lives, as well as being careful not to waste natural resources. We have set ourselves a sustainability policy; we try and instill these values with our volunteers and ourselves. We are aware that in our society plastic is used a lot, but we could all try to reduce its usage by paying attention to the items we buy and their packaging.
Plastic has really harmful consequences on wildlife and ecosystems. We try to be very careful about plastic consumption because of many reasons, including:
Plastic contaminates the soil and water by leaching chemicals
Plastic ends up as litter in trees, storm water drains, on beaches and in the ocean, being the cause of death of many fishes and sea animals.
Plastic in the food chain are eaten by animals, which humans then eat.
Visit www.lessplastic.co.uk for more tips to live without plastic!
So, what does LEO Africa do for sustainable living and a plastic free life?
1) We say NO to single use plastic, looking for eco-friendly alternatives. We encourage volunteers and everyone to follow our example:
Say no to plastic straws -> drink straight from the glass!
Say no to plastic bags -> bring your own cotton bags!
Say no to take away containers -> bring your own mug/box, did you know some places offer a discount?
Say no to plastic water bottles -> carry your own metal/reusable bottle and fill it with tap water or filtered water!
Say no to plastic cotton buds -> choose paper ones
Say no to plastic toothbrush -> use a bamboo one!
Say no to sweets/cereal bars/food with excessive plastic packaging -> Choose paper wrapped/plastic free alternatives!
Say no to plastic razors -> choose metal ones
Say no to traditional feminine products -> use reusable one or cups
Say no to toiletries in plastic containers -> choose plastic free ones, without palm oil! (see point number 8).
2) Currently we are using solar panels that produce adequate energy and electricity for the LEO office and workshop. Our volunteer house is currently run on 90% solar energy. The camera traps that we have deployed around the park as part of our monitoring and security efforts are powered through mini solar panels that are attached to the cameras to keep them running for a longer period also in the cold weather. The pump that we use for our water system is run using solar energy too!
3) The LEO Team is always educating the volunteers on the importance of water as a non-renewable resource and not to waste it: we encourage people to take short showers, to wash the dishes by filling the sink with water (no running water), to close the tap while brushing teeth, and to use the washing machine only with a full load of laundry. We have filters on our taps to ensure safe drinking water, and we encourage our volunteers to come with their own reusable water bottles.
3) At LEO Africa, we really care about the planet and its fauna and flora. That's why we thought to launch a project: the LEO AFRICA Bottled Tree Project. For every plastic bottle used, we will plant an indigenous tree seed in it, to create a big nursery and once the trees will have reached a good size, we will sell them to nurseries (the money earned will be put in the fund for monitoring efforts), plant them in gardens, reserves, roads or whenever people would require them.
4) We currently have two modes of transport at Leo that are entirely run on green energy: an electric scooter and a solar powered car. The four-heel vehicle was designed and created by our director and "MacGyver", Koos! The concept was born to have a prototype that is light, simple, durable, practical, made from up-cycled parts and is powered by a solar panel roof. He is currently building another two! The electric scooter is used to get around the property or visiting friends without using fossil fuel. It is charged with our home solar panels and both can travel a distance of 40km. The goal is that one day we will replace our Game Viewers with solar energy run vehicles!
5) Recycling in Africa is not always easy. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go for everyone to embrace this important task. Some towns still do not recycle any material at all, others only partially, mainly paper, glass and metal, but no plastic. Here at LEO Africa we feel the need to make a difference: we collect and recycle our weekly rubbish. We recycle plastic, paper, metal, alluminium, glasses and any metal or material that we also find in the bush. Most of the volunteers are recycling experts, but sometimes those who are less familiar with this practice can get a chance to contribute towards it and hopefully will continue at home. We try to do our best to use as little plastic as possible. We do not use any plastic bags for our food and general shopping (we ask for recycled paper boxes that we then re-use as recycling bins).
Our basic contribution towards this cause is as follows:
The recycled paper fruit boxes are then re-used to place all the waste that goes to be recycled.
We try and avoid buying any items in plastic, preferring to buy our fruit and vegetables loose or in bulk.
We encourage our volunteers to bring and use reusable bags when shopping or to ask for recycled paper boxes.
We avoid buying items covered in plastic or go for the option with the least amount on it.
6) A large portion of the meat we eat at Leo comes from our local butchers using sustainable meat.
7) Our veggie garden provides produce for us, reducing the amount we need to buy from the supermarket which are often covered in plastic packaging and also reduces our carbon footprint as most produce is transported in from foreign countries. As well, when buying products, we try and promote only buying items with sustainable palm oil or none at all.
8) We have formed a partnership with Lush and created a plastic free starter pack for our volunteers to use during their time here and also bring back home. This will introduce volunteers to these plastic free products, offer an alternative to traditional toiletries sold in plastic and leave extra space in your suitcase! You can purchase your own starter pack with us for around R600 once you arrive in South Africa, this pack includes: 1 cotton bag, 1 shampoo bar, 1 deodorant bar, 1 soap bar, 1 body lotion bar, toothpaste tablets and metal tins for storage.
9) We use cleaning products from a South African company called Mrs Martin's, that provides us as well with bamboo cleaning and dishwashing cloths. Their products are readily biodegradable and do not contain any toxic chemicals, only active “good” bacteria to digest organic matter. This means they do not pollute water systems. We are very happy with their products as they clean exceptionally well. This switch had also led us to drastically reduce our plastic consumption as we refill our containers at their facilities! A great way to take care of our environment!
10) If we eat out at a restaurant, we always bring our own reusable take away container with us to avoid using single use containers. When ordering a drink, we request no straws. We also encourage our volunteers to bring their own coffee cups instead of getting single use cup which cannot be recycled, most coffee shops even offer a discount when you bring you own cup!
11) All of our food waste goes straight into our compost bin which we then use in our nursery to provide rich nutrients and reduce general waste.
12) We are very firm on taking care of our natural resources, for example, we only travel if it is strictly necessary, to reduce the use of fossil fuels and vehicle maintenance.
13) Often people say that changing to this way of life is expensive or “less convenient”, but it is necessary. For example, at LEO we choose to buy the more expensive item than the cheaper options wrapped in plastic or we invest in products that may be more expensive but in the long run provide a saving. We also “plan” our day before going out, packing all necessary reusable items such as reusable water bottle (full), take away mugs (for a delicious plastic free coffee!), cotton bags etc.
14) Cigarettes have a huge impact on the environment and we strongly discourage smoking while on base, if you are thinking of quitting or cutting down LEO is a great place to start. There are many reasons to do this: a) major cause of deforestation, b) causes desertification and ground pollution, c) air pollution and d) contains plastic and toxic chemicals, e) plantations take space from land that could be left to its natural status to allow wildlife and eco-systems to prosper. If you are a smoker and would like to come to LEO Africa... It is your reason to quit! For your health, for the environment!
Coming to LEO Africa means not only to go back home with good photos and memories, but mainly to actively contribute towards real conservation, wildlife monitoring in their natural habitat and a more responsible lifestyle. Each of us has a responsibility to make a difference in the long run for the benefit of the ecosystems, animals, our planet and the future generations who will inhabit it! There is NO Planet B.