Family tackles green makeover

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Cape Town - Greenhouses aren’t just for plants.

A family is to turn their Pinelands, Cape Town, home into an efficient and eco-friendly household in a project called My Green Home by the Green Building Council of SA.

“It’s about future generations. We’re not moving from this house any time soon, so it’s something the old generation can teach to the new,” said mother Bulelwa Ngewana.

The Ngewanas are a family of four who say they have always known they should be conscious of the environment, but had never acted on it.

“It wasn’t something that was too important to me,” daughter Thuli said.

The project, funded by the SA National Energy Development Institute and German organisation Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit, was aimed at middle- to high-income households which used more energy and were more likely to be aware of energy conservation, said the council.

The idea was that, as the family and house became more efficient, other South Africans could watch their progress and adapt some of their habits.

Changes will include:

* Taking shorter showers and not washing clothes every day.

* Separating recyclables from other garbage.

* Accurate meters for water and electricity consumption.

* Energy-efficient appliances like stoves or washing machines.

* LED-lights throughout the house.

* Solar panels to provide the bulk of electricity.

“There’s enough tips and how-to on the internet,” Green Building Council of SA chief technical officer Manfred Braune said. “We want people to come along the journey that this family is having.”

The project has multiple phases. In March, the Ngewanas carefully monitored their water, waste, and energy usage. Then they began the process of changing their habits – “no-cost” ways of reducing their consumption.

“Everybody’s garbage looks the same,” Thuli said. “But there are things you can separate out. It doesn’t have to look that way. It doesn’t have to smell that way.”

The family says they have learnt a lot about conservation from using their own meters to save on water and by not ironing clothes every morning.

“For me it was about the savings and cutting costs,” father Zwelethu said.

“I learnt that I like to take long showers and we would get a huge bill.”

My Green Home will begin to retrofit the Ngewanas’ house in May. That process will make the house itself more efficient by adding new appliances and modifications.

One major project would be adding solar panels in June to create clean energy, not just reduce consumption, Braune said.

Although My Green Home is a promotional project, the Green Building Council of SA also plans to release a case study. It hopes the research could lead to more efficient facilities and that more families can make similar changes on their own.

“Now I’ve seen the progress and what we can do,” Thuli said. “I see that we can leave a great legacy.” - Cape Times

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