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Green Your Holiday in Cape Town
Turning over a greener leaf: your guide to an eco-friendly stay in the Mother City
Last Updated: 5 April 2017
With our precious planet coming increasingly under threat, and with global warming a frightening reality, a rising number of travellers are starting to think seriously about the potentially adverse impact of their vacations on host cities and the environment. The result is a major move towards ‘responsible tourism’ (the latest industry buzz word) that, amongst other things, encourages eco-wise travel behaviour that contributes to conserving our earth.
But stepping lightly is easier said than done, especially if you’re not all that clued up on the eco-friendly options available in the city you’re visiting. Which is where our comprehensive guide to greening your stay in Cape Town comes in. Detailing environmentally friendly accommodation and transport options, earth-kind restaurant and wine estate alternatives and low-impact things to do in our seaside metropolis, this comprehensive eco outline is your one-way ticket to a guilt- (and carbon) free holiday in the wonderfully planet-mindful Mother City.
STAY IN ECO-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION
Perhaps the most obvious way to green your stay in Cape Town is to select accommodation options making an effort to protect and preserve the planet. By choosing lodging wisely, you can significantly minimise the adverse impact of your vacation on the environment with relatively little effort. And fortunately, there is a growing number of both budget and upscale places to stay in the Mother City committed to implementing eco-friendly principles, from hostels and hotels using biodegradable products and reducing water waste by laundering towels less often to guest houses and luxury lodges contributing to nature rehabilitation and conservation efforts. For those eager to rest their heads responsibly, here are a few examples of Cape Town accommodation options actively adopting green values and processes.
- Strand Tower Hotel: With a green policy firmly in place and a desire to treat the environment as well as it treats its guests, this four-star city centre hotel – a top-drawer option for both business and leisure travellers – breathes its conservation focus into almost every aspect of its business.
- The Backpack: A champion of responsible tourism in South Africa, this hip, affordable backpackers, which rests smack in the middle of Cape Town’s city centre, has adopted a wide range of environmentally friendly practices (think recycling, solar heating, water-wise shower heads, aerated taps, worm farms and more).
- Grootbos: Boasting two lavish five-star lodges and a luxury villa, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, a verdant wonderland near Hermanus, is heavily invested in a range of environmental conservation projects that aim to protect the natural flora and fauna of the surrounding region.
- Devonvale Lodge: Based on a picturesque estate in the pretty Stellenbosch Winelands, this well-appointed four-star lodge, which boasts many eco-aware touches (energy-efficient lights and the like) alongside a championship 18-hole course, is an ideal accommodation choice for avid green-focussed golfers (and others, of course).
- Vineyard Hotel & Spa: Flaunting six acres of glorious indigenous garden space, and with a deep devotion to lessening its impact on the earth in every way possible, this grand Newlands-based hotel is a symbol of sustainability. Even the staff are involved in a project committed to clearing alien vegetation nearby.
USE GREEN TRANSPORT SYSTEMS
Considering that transportation is a major contributor to the build-up of harmful ozone-depleting emissions in the atmosphere, making careful, eco-conscious decisions about how to get around while holidaying in Cape Town goes a long way to greening your vacation. One sure way to reduce your carbon footprint, and thus reduce your contribution to global warming, is to make use of public transit alternatives, rather than hiring a car (every extra vehicle on the roads simply adds to the pollutants in the air). Though communal transport systems and share-ride initiatives in the Mother City are still in the early stages of development, there are a few viable options available, some of which even go the extra mile to keep things eco-friendly. What follows is a selection of sensible travel alternatives for visitors eager to step lightly on our precious earth.
- MyCiTi Bus: With a mushrooming network of routes around the Mother City, this affordable and reliable public transport bus service connects travellers between the CBD and Cape Town’s outer suburbs, making collective transit easy and efficient.
- Hop On Hop Off Bus Sightseeing Tours: Renowned for its bright red, double-decker buses that take visitors on sightseeing trips around Cape Town and the peninsula, this tour operator is also SA’s first carbon-neutral bus company, and is committed to offsetting emissions by buying carbon credits from a local composting business. These guided tours are therefore a doubly responsible way to see the city.
- The Green Cab: Eco-conscious transport initiative The Green Cab offers leisure tours, point-to-point transfers (pre-booking is essential) and transit options for business travellers and corporate clients. All of the company’s cabs use fuel polishers that clean up the diesel and thereby reduce the release of pollutants, and the enterprise counterbalances any residual carbon generated by planting trees.
EAT OUT AT ECO-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS
Even where you dine can have repercussions for our precious planet. It’s therefore best to, as far as possible, support those bistros and cafés that are making at least some effort to go green, both in the type of fare they serve up and in the way they run the business. An eatery can be considered a wise option if it aspires to use only locally sourced ingredients – and thus supports surrounding farms and minimises its carbon footprint – and if it focuses on organic, seasonal produce, thereby endorsing honest, natural farming and production methods that don’t poison the earth with noxious chemicals. Interestingly, vegetarian food is also a more planet-friendly choice as it requires less energy to make than meat-based dishes. Eager eco-eaters will find a list of principled Cape Town restaurants below.
- Dear Me: A champion of sustainability in the food realm, this delightful CBD brasserie conjures up gourmet dishes (delicious vegetarian options too) from fresh, seasonal produce bought from carefully handpicked local suppliers.
- The Neighbourgoods Market: This bustling artisan bazaar – it runs every Saturday at The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock – is the ideal spot for visitors to pick up home-grown (and hence greener) produce, mouth-watering unprocessed fare and locally made speciality goods.
- Terroir: Open for lunch and dinner, award-winning fine dining eatery Terroir, which sits on the scenic Kleine Zalze wine farm in Stellenbosch, insists on using wholesome ingredients sourced from local regions whenever possible (only rare finds, like scallops and truffles, are imported).
- Crush: Resting on St Georges Mall, this budget-friendly fresh food café and juice bar – its breakfast and lunch dishes are as healthy as they are tasty – is committed to supporting ethical agriculture practices and using eco-friendly products. The eatery even serves organic coffee, wine and cider.
- Millstone Eco-friendly Farm Stall and Café: As its name suggests, this rustic eatery and store at the Oude Molen Eco Village in Pinelands boasts a decidedly environmentally friendly ethos; the laidback, family-friendly café uses solar panels, flaunts tables and chairs made from recycled wood, grows many of its own vegetables organically and favours natural ingredients and free-range meat.
- The Foodbarn: Sourcing local, naturally grown building blocks for its ‘real’ delectable meals is a major focus of this relaxed Noordhoek restaurant, which also only serves green-listed fish and reuses and recycles wherever possible.
SUPPORT GREEN WINE FARMS
No vacation in the Mother City would be complete without a trip to the breathtaking Cape Winelands and a sampling of some of our fine local estates’ world-class wines. But travellers can aspire to respect the environment that yields Cape Town’s top-drawer vino even while enjoying a good sip and swirl session. Several farms in the area have devoted themselves to actively caring for the planet (or, at least, eliminating any negative impact) through involvement in conservation initiatives and through the adoption of organic farming principles that eliminate the use of any destructive chemical fertilisers or synthetic pesticides. Holidaymakers with green intentions would, therefore, do well to favour these wineries when selecting a bottle in a shop or when choosing a tasting stopover.
- La Motte: With a genuine commitment to excellence (most evident in its exceptional range of wines and MCCs), age-old Franschhoek farm La Motte, which includes a lush 30-hectare nature reserve, is also committed to farming organically (all of its vineyards are grown sustainably) and even offers a guided organic walk.
- Avondale: All of theversatile, character-rich reds, whites and sparkling wines crafted at this certified-organic Paarl valley estate are ‘approved by Mother Nature’ in that they are made only from naturally cultivated grapes. The eco-friendly farm is also dedicated to promoting wildlife and biodiversity.
- Reyneke Wines: This reputable winery near Stellenboschis the first and only certified biodynamic wine farm in South Africa, and all its vibrant highly rated vinos are made with great green integrity and a deep respect for the ecosystem that gave rise to them.
- Hermanuspietersfontein Winery: Renowned for creating very unusual award-winning wines (think a single variety Cabernet Franc and a wooded Sauvignon Blanc), this Hermanus-based winery is just as well known for its conservation efforts and status as a Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Champion (it even uses ducks instead of pesticides to remove unwanted snails).
PARTICIPATE IN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES
Going green doesn’t have to mean holing up indoors and committing yourself to idleness in fear of leaving blemishes on our earth’s pretty face. There are plenty of low-impact things to do while on holiday in the Mother City that won’t leave a negative mark on the environment, or that might even contribute positively to its well-being. Fun and guilt-free, these Cape Town activities are still a great way for both first-time and regular visitors to experience and explore the ins and outs of the city, albeit, in a more responsible manner. Here are a few top examples.
- Hiking: Cape Town claims a myriad of scenic hiking trails and routes from which visitors can experience the breathtaking natural beauty of our city without doing any damage to it.
- Cycle Tours: One fun way to keep day trips green is to swap your seat behind the steering wheel for some time on the saddle. Travellers can opt to traverse the pretty Stellenbosch Winelands by bike with Bikes ‘n Wines (visits to several estates included) or explore the city, Cape Point or a nearby township on two wheels with AWOL Tours.
- Spa Visits: If a spot of pampering is in order while staying in the Mother City, consider a visit to Ways of Wellness (WOW!), SA’s first entirely organic spa – the city centre salon only uses green products and endorses all-natural treatments (fish therapy, argan oil massages and more).
- Voluntourism: To counterbalance your carbon footprint while taking a break in the Cape, volunteer at environmental social enterprise Greenpop and plant trees in under-greened communities for a day or two (it’s possible to gift a tree too).
- Virtual Walking Tour: Thanks to Cape Town Tourism and Tourism Radio, sightseers can now download a free Walking Tour of Central Cape Town app from iTunes that, with a combination of audio and visual information, guides users to major landmarks and attractions around the city.
- Braaing: There are few more quintessentially South African activities than a good ol’ braai. Travellers wanting to get in on this favourite local pastime in an eco-friendly way can buy ethically sourced free-range cuts from Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and fire up the barbeque at any one of these top scenic braai spots in Cape Town.
- SANParks Day Trips: The Cape region is home to five breathtaking national parks (Agulhas, Bontebok, Table Mountain, Tankwa Karoo and West Coast), all of which go some way to preserve and protect the area’s indigenous flora and fauna. A visit to any one of these beautiful reserves – there’s a small levy attached to entrance – thus helps to support important conservation efforts.
By Dayle Kavonic
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