How Green is Tetrapak?

Tetrapak has been with us for years and what was once an innovative new packaging we now take for granted. Their marketing used to be based on functionality and ease of use, but increasingly they are seeking to position their packaging products on reduced environmental impact.

Tetrapak reputedly has a lower carbon footprint than plastic bottles and is even challenging glass bottles  in the eco-friendly stakes. So do we believe the claims?

Reduced transport costs per item
One of Tetrapak’s big advantages over round bottles, whether plastic or glass, is its square format. Containers stack closely, meaning that a greater number of items can be transported at a time, reducing the carbon footprint of the transport. The weight is significantly less than glass  bottles too, making a big difference in cost and carbon footprint for any items being shipped long distances.

Tetrapak latest designProduction
The resources used in production of Tetrapak, are another matter. While they use far less petroleum products than plastic bottles, they are based on cardboard which of course uses trees. In the past this has been a sticking point in the eco-friendly claims, but Tetrapak have now addressed this with their latest product – the Tetra Brik Aseptic 1000 Edge: it uses Forest Stewardship Council certified packaging material, meaning that the cardboard comes from renewable forestry sources. To this they have added green polyethylene closures which will be available from 2012.

The final aspect to look at for carbon footprint is how recyclable Tetrapak actually is. It ought to be fully recyclable, but, in many areas, city councils and municipalities don’t have the facilities to recycle it. In these cases it just adds to the landfill problem. This however isn’t really Tetrapak’s problem, as theoretically their packaging can be recycled.

All in all it seems that Tetrapak is making great efforts to be environmentally friendly. Though it’s probably going to be a while before the consumers are convinced that buying wine in Tetrapaks rather than glass bottles is the way to go!

Check out this article which compares Tetrapak with plastic bottles for carbon footprint purposes.
And keep an eye out here for the latest news in packaging .

Hemp House Anyone?

House made of hemp, South AfricaAlternative building materials are gaining support everywhere: straw bale houses, cob houses, sand bag houses… but the latest alternative house I’ve come across is made of hemp! About 70% hemp in all including the furnishings, in this stunning hemp house in Noordhoek, Cape Town. Built by Tony Budden, of Hemporium, advocate and campaigner for hemp in South Africa, it is a perfect demonstration of  hemp’s infinite number of uses.

I knew hemp was a versatile material, now being used to make clothing and a wide variety of other products, but until now I’d no idea that it could be made into bricks, hardboard, insulation and more.

Hemp has the huge eco-advantage of being quick to grow and naturally pest resistant. It can be processed into hundreds of useful products without the harmful by-products of most industrially produced, petroleum based fabrics and materials. The hitch is that it’s still not legal to grow hemp in many countries, including South Africa. There is a dedicated online campaign in progress to get government legislation to allow hemp as a cash crop in South Africa, which could mean a whole new generation of affordable, eco-friendly and sustainable building methods… and houses that are totally bio-degradable when you’ve finished with them!

And no, you can’t smoke them! This variety of cannabis is very low in this substances that make you high, so it is not the same as dagga!

Who’s Saving Energy with LED Lighting in Cape Town?

I’ve just been checking out LED lighting in Cape Town and was delighted to discover that some of our favourite Cape Town places to visit are getting serious about going green – not just in a token recycle-a-few-plastic-bags way either. Top of the list is the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, closely followed by Fairview, the makers of delectable cheeses and wines and another new discovery is luxury guest house Parkers Cottage.

Two Oceans Aquarium wind turbineThe Two Oceans Aquarium have recently won recognition of its sustainability efforts from the Heritage Environmental management Company: it’s efforts include a wind turbine cleverly installed at its entrance, solar panels to power its administration block and LED lighting in all its ablution facilities. It has also designed a solar outreach van to take its exhibits to disadvantaged schools in the area – the van isn’t fuelled by the solar energy (one day!) but the solar panels power all the electricity needs of the mobile aquariums keeping all the fish alive, saving on all the electricity previously used to charge batteries to run the systems.

Fairview Cheese Factory are getting sustainable with solar panels installed on the roof, an economiser to  reduce energy used in heating water and many other energy measures. I’m not sure if LED lighting is included in their list, but I’m sure it is being implemented as it certainly makes sense in their overall plan to become carbon neutral.

Last but not least is Parkers Cottage in Tamboersklooof, central Cape Town, who have set out to prove that luxury and heritage historical properties can be eco-friendly and sustainable. Their grand plan aims at being off-grid by 2015, and while not without a few hiccups and trial and error in some stages of the plan, such as the photovoltaic panels,  they are hugely pleased with the success of their LED lighting sourced from CandelaLED, which is already making savings in the electricity bills.

I’m sure that there are plenty more wonderful places in and around Cape Town that are going green and using sustainable LED lighting, so tell me about any that you know of know in the comments, so I can add them to my list.