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July 10, 2018

Sub-Saharan Africa: Conscious Conferencing

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“Let’s face it: responsible tourism is not the most glamorous part of tourism,” manager of the African Responsible Tourism Awards, Sadia Nanabhay, said at the Africa Travel Indaba in May. However, Spier in the Western Cape appears to be challenging that notion, by building a brand centred holistically around conscious consumerism.

At Spier, the long-term goal is a self-sufficient and responsible future. As part of this important commitment, a solar power system was installed in 2017 on the Spier Conference Centre roof. The system generates electricity from the sun and offset approximately 40% of the Conference Centre's annual power usage. When electricity demand in the Centre is low and generation is high, the excess power is used by other buildings on the estate. Not only is solar generated power less expensive than energy from the grid, it also substantially reduces Spier’s carbon footprint. The solar energy generated by Spier in one year is 50.8 metric tonnes of CO2 savings; this is the equivalent of 24.58 tonnes of coal that doesn’t need be burnt in a coal-fired power station. This relatively recent addition was the third and largest solar PV system to be installed at Spier by RenEnergy, Spier’s energy partner (which is based permanently on the estate).

Justin Hawes, of the Event Greening Forum, has only praise for the estate’s efforts. “Spier has a Water From Air™ machine. It draws in air, condenses it into water and purifies it so it is drinkable. This one machine can generate as much as 45,000 litres of water a month,” he says. This is especially crucial given the water scarcity in the Western Cape – and indicates how ‘conscious eventing’ includes innovative solutions to present problems.

In other structural implementations, 100% of Spier’s black and grey wastewater is recycled by an eco-friendly treatment plant. The treated water is then re-used in toilets and for irrigation. The farm’s solid waste is recycled and measured – with only 1% currently being sent to landfill (99% is recycled on the farm). In addition, organic waste is composted and used on the farm. Other green initiatives include energy-efficient lighting, filtered tap water bottled in reusable glass bottles, notepads made from recycled paper and pens made from 100% recycled newspaper. Delegates and conference hosts might be pleased to discover that eftover stationery can be donated to surrounding schools.

“Making a positive impact on our environment is embedded into the way we do business,” says Joep Schoof, Spier’s General Manager. “Our conferencing venues are enabling the businesses and delegates we host to make a difference too.”

As indicated above, Spier's Conscious Conference package therefore includes a wide number of environmental and social components, supporting their sustainable business ethos. The Conscious Conference Package enables hosts to join the estate in supporting local industry, fair trade and our commitment to a sustainable planet. And they gurantee that hosts and delegates will have a great experience in the process!

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