Guests ask: do you recycle?
Most tourism business owners in Cape Town have some level of awareness of the need to operate sustainably. The City of Cape Town sends regular messages encouraging residents and businesses to save water and electricity, and also provides information on how they can do this. The upshot of this is that many tourism businesses have the easy wins in place – most accommodation establishments are at least partially fitted with energy efficient lighting and are starting to think of resource efficiency when appliances need replacing.
However, there’s less of an awareness of the need to reduce and manage waste so that as little as possible waste goes to landfill. In some areas of Cape Town, recyclable waste put into separate bags is collected by the City, but this doesn’t happen in Green Point. Milou, the B.I.G manager, tells us how guests used to ask her what they could do with their recyclable waste. Seems like “throw it in the bin” was the wrong answer, so B.I.G to put out colourful bins for different types of waste, and recyclables are collected by a collector.
Guests played an important part in the decision to separate waste. The truth is that international guests, particularly those from North America and Europe, have a far better awareness of the problems of waste than South Africans, and are very likely already separating waste at home. TUI Travel, the largest leisure, travel and tourism company in the world, did a survey to find out what tourists felt about sustainable holidays.
The research found that a whopping 92% of respondents are already separating their waste for recycling at home and they will most likely not be shocked, horrified or find it unreasonable if accommodation establishments ask them to separate their waste.
Composting to turn kitchen waste into soil
Already well on the road of sending less waste to landfill, B.I.G’s next challenge is to begin composting food scraps and organic waste. The backpackers serves breakfast and also has communal kitchens for guest to prepare their own meals. Currently, wet waste from the kitchen is thrown in the garbage with the rest of the non-recyclable waste that is collected by the community, but Tal, the manager who looks after the garden, is interested in composting . There are ways of composting and we will help him find the best solution for the business.
Sending less waste to landfill by upcycling
Thus far in the Challenge, B.I.G are our waste champions, and it’s not only because they are separating waste for recycling. Looking around the hostel, B.I.G has a distinctive personality that is very difficult to replicate in large accommodation establishments. The atmosphere certainly reflects the B.I.G team’s personalities – particularly in the personal treatment guests receive, the team spirit among the staff and the lively décor. The décor caught our eye, and we loved that so much of the décor and furniture were either upcycled waste or refurbished. Upcycling is when waste and unwanted items are transformed into something of either a better quality or a new use. This means that very little new raw materials are used, less resources are needed since a new item is not being produced and, of course, less waste lands up in a landfill. And a great advantage is that the upcycled and refurbished items give B.I.G its distinctive ambience.
Supporting local crafters
B.I.G are already on a responsible tourism journey and the management team are always looking for ways to make the business’s operations more sustainable. Many tourism businesses think that responsible tourism is mostly about minimising its environmental impact and forget about a business’s role in the local economy and community. B.I.G are making contributions even though they may not realise that it improves their responsible tourism credentials. Locally-made crafts are sold at reception and clothes and toiletries left by guests are donated to homeless people in the area, improving relationships with the area’s street people and reducing risk for the business.
Where to from here?
We recorded existing responsible practices at the Backpackers in Green Point during the first site visit. This helped us establish a baseline which we then used to draft a responsible tourism action plan for the business, basically ideas of what more the business can do to operate responsibly. We will also use the baseline to compare the success of the action plan.
You can read the full results of the initial sustainability evaluation here. However, here are other pictures of the good work B.I.G is doing.