Well, I was quite impressed, actually. The ‘Green Living area’ was off to one side, clearly marked, and had a good selection of eco-friendly indoor and outdoor homemaker’s solutions – everything from solar power to energy-saving LED lighting.
The people were enthusiastic and informative, for the most part, and I came away with the feeling that green is definitely going mainstream…
There was plenty to see… far too much to list it all here. But I’ve put together what I saw as the highlights, and will list the rest below in less detail as a kind of reference of sorts.
Environmentally friendly paints
Pro Nature Paints – According to their brochure, these guys are South Africa’s ‘only manufacturer of truly eco-friendly and sustainable paint and wood finishes for interior and exterior applications’.
I quizzed them at length, and was impressed – their products are locally produced and are made from 100% natural ingredients, such as plant oils, beeswax and essential oils. They gave me a free sample of their Wax Balm, which smells absolutely heavenly – definitely something I’ll be using on my wooden furniture in the future!
Keim Paints – German company that’s been manufacturing environmentally safe paints and plasters since the late 18oos. They’re very proud of the quality of their products, and particularly of the fact that they’ve been doing the ‘green’ thing for over 200 years (before became fashionable to do so).
Eco-friendly heating / cooling
BioFires. BioFires are non-toxic, smokeless, odourless and environmentally friendly fires that don’t require a flue. All you have to do is assemble the thing, and light it, pretty much anywhere you like.
They’re beautiful, and they’re warm – but the fact that they’re powered by biofuels would give me pause. Biofuels are a renewable source of plant-based energy, which is good, but when you start growing crops for fuel, rather than for food, there’s trouble a-brewing.
Then again, I have to wonder whether it’s better to have a wood- or coal-burning, smoke-emitting not-very-environmentally-friendly fire and boycott biofuels, or would burning a few litres of biofuel from time to time ultimately work out to be more earth-friendly? (Ho hum, no one ever said being green would be easy…!)
Isotherm Thermal Insulation. Roof insulation that’s ‘100% people-friendly’ (safe to install, safe to live around) and is made from recycled PET bottles (sustainable, eco-friendly). It’ll also save you energy, regulating the temperature of your home – warmer in winter, cooler in summer.
Eco-insulation. Another form of eco-friendly ceiling insulation, this time in the form of recycled paper, ‘milled (cellulose) to optimum density’. The product is fire-resistant, ‘unattractive’ to rodents and insects (not quite sure exactly why that is), non-toxic and non-allergenic.
Turbo Vent ‘Breezair’. A nifty Australian-made cooling system that uses ‘energy efficient evaporative natural cooling’ to ventilate a home. Fresh air is drawn through ‘finely honeycombed filter pads’ which not only filter out dust particles, pollen and other airborne contaminants, but also cool the air passing through them (water in the pads cools the air as it flows past).
The unit requires very little energy to run, can be run off solar power, and is incredibly quiet (they had one in operation at the expo, and I could barely hear it at all).
Ezy Light alternative lighting solutions. A back-up when the power goes down, but also a great way to save energy by lighting your home with the minimum amount of electricity possible. A neat system of 5 surprisingly bright LED lights are attached to a central control box.
Should the power go off, the lights automatically spring into action, but a bypass feature means you can choose to use them instead of your regular lighting, for any or all 5 light locations. You can even run it off solar power. And, because it has a light sensor, the unit won’t switch on unless it’s dark enough to require the additional light.
Zingaro – ‘The Solar Company’ Cape Town-based company offering solar and other renewable energy solutions (installation, sales and service).
Geyser Wise. The replacement of a conventional thermostat with an electronic probe allows you to monitor the temperature of your geyser at all times – so you can figure out how best to save on energy and program the geyser accordingly.
Tecron Water Heating. These guys (locally based) offer copper geysers which, they say, last longer and are completely recyclable (when they do eventually give up the ghost). Copper is also, apparently, more environmentally friendly than other materials used for geysers, and is naturally ‘biostatic’ (inhibits bacteria growth). Tecron also installs flatbed solar collectors.
Sonpower. Solar water heating and solar electricity solutions.
Stiebel Eltron. Not a very catchy name, but these guys offer ‘cost-effective green technology for domestic hot water and underfloor heating’. I didn’t speak to them personally, but their blurb claims that ‘the heat pump replaces the energy inefficient geyser and saves 75% of your domestic hot water bill’ – which certainly sounds good.
Megasun Solar Water Heaters. Produce a compact form of solar water heater. Its size makes it more affordable for your average Joe, as does the fact that it requires neither installation costs, nor service and maintenance fees. Their website isn’t ready (what’s with that?!) so if you’re interested in more info, drop me a line and I’ll forward their contact details to you.
Solartech. ‘Smart energy made simple’. Solar energy solutions to help you reduce your energy usage, and give you a lighter carbon footprint.
Tasol Solar. Renewable energy solutions including solar hot water systems, wind power and photovoltaic installations.
Keystone Habitat. Sustainable bamboo flooring options. Bamboo is a fast-growing crop, and will grow on ‘uninhabitable terrain’, making it a renewable alternative to hard-wood and non-natural flooring. It’s lovely to look at, too.
African Cork Suppliers. A range of natural cork floor tiles (and other products) that offer health benefits such as natural insulation and anti-allergenic properties. The cork comes all the way from Portugal (apparently, we can’t grow enough of it locally – the climate’s not right) – but because the trees don’t need to be cut down to be harvested, it’s a renewable resource.
Rotafurn. One time when using hardwood is a good idea is when the trees it comes from are classified as ‘invasive aliens’. Rota furniture is made from ‘exotic, high-density Eucalyptus hardwood’ – exceptionally thirsty trees which suck up a lot more water than our indigenous ecosystems can afford to lose.