'Green' neighbourhood delivers a better life

04 December 2011 - 04:04 By SUBASHNI NAIDOO
One of the 30 green houses that uses solar geysers in Cato Manor Picture: TEBOGO LETSIE
One of the 30 green houses that uses solar geysers in Cato Manor Picture: TEBOGO LETSIE

A DURBAN neighbourhood that was given a "green" makeover has named a street in honour of the city's climate talks.

Now Isimosezulu (weather in Zulu) COP17 Place in Cato Manor near the city centre is being touted as the country's first "green street".

Thanks to funding from the British High Commission and other sponsors, its residents have been living in "eco heaven" since early last month. Unemployed Deliwe Nobekwa, 46, has lived in the area for eight years.

The mother of three, whose husband works on a farm in the Eastern Cape, said she has saved R450 on her utility bill for her one- bedroom home.

"We now have hot water and, for the first time, I am able to take a shower. I no longer have to boil water in a kettle. It's less expensive for me and far safer," she said.

Thirty homes in Isimosezulu COP17 Place were spruced up by the Green Building Council of South Africa in time for the climate change negotiations.

Each home in the cul-de-sac was kitted out with rain tanks, solar water heaters, energy-saving lights, efficient LED streetlights, special heat insulation cookers and food gardens.

Senelisiwe Ngcongo, 26, said the street lights made it safer for residents. "Crime was very bad here, especially at night . Now with the street lights it is much safer. We were also given a chance to create our own vegetable gardens using recycled plastic containers. The street is nice and clean now and we are very happy," she said .

Said the project manager Sarah Rushmere: "It's a retrofit - which means we have taken existing houses and upgraded them using environmentally friendly tools."

And residents are reaping the benefits. Nobekwa said she uses rain water from her tank in her garden where she grows beetroot, spinach, green peppers and brinjals. She also loves the heat- insulated cookers, a bag which traps the heat.

"I use the stove for just five minutes and then place the hot pot inside the bag for about 45 minutes, which is enough time to cook the meal properly. I've prepared mutton curry, samp and beans using this and it saves me a lot in electricity bills."

The modern conveniences the residents are enjoying are a far cry from what many in the area experience.

The township attracted attention in the 1950s when rioting broke out in protest against the city's beer halls and mass forced removals under the Group Areas Act. It is now home to 90000 people. Parts of Cato Manor are desperately poor, shacks proliferate and a cloud of coal fire smoke hangs over it.

The project was endorsed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and eThekwini Municipality.

Green Building Council SA CEO, Brian Wilkinson, said they wanted to prove how such initiatives could benefit poor people. SA has built more than 2.5-million low-income homes since 1994. "Green considerations have not generally been a priority," Wilkinson said.

Ward councillor Bhekisisa Mngadi said the project had delivered a better life.

How you can run a 'green' home - and save money

  • TURN down your geyser temperature to 60°C. This will save you 5% on your electricity bill;
  • Take a shower. You will save up to 40% in water and use five times less electricity than running a hot bath;
  • Install an energy-efficient shower head. It's designed to use up to 40% less hot water and saves you R480 or more on your electricity bill each year;
  • Switch off appliances at the wall and remove chargers. Leaving them in stand-by mode could cost you up to 6% more in electricity;
  • Replace regular bulbs with energy-saving ones that use six times less electricity;
  • Insulate your geyser with a geyser blanket. It could save you R500 or more a year;
  • Insulate your ceiling with polystyrene or insulation fibre. It moderates heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer, saving up to 16% of the electricity you need annually;
  • Insulate your hot-water pipes with fibreglass wraps;
  • Invest in a solar water heater. It uses the sun to heat up your water, saving you 25% or more on your electricity bill. Solar water systems (thermal) and energy systems (photovoltaic) are now available with a huge rebate from Eskom;
  • Use a hot plate that's similar to the size of your pot. A stove loses up to 40% of its heat if the pot is too small;
  • Run your pool pump for fewer hours. At 10 hours a day, it uses about 11% of your electricity. Cutting down to six hours in summer and four in winter will use 6%;
  • Use natural plant-based, biodegradable soaps and detergents, which are safe not only for the environment, but for your home too;
  • Choose natural and organic cosmetics and personal care products that are paraben and lauryl/laureth sulphate-free;
  • Install a water filter to get clean and safe water;
  • Turn your toilet into a low-flow toilet. Place a brick or full plastic bottle in the tank to reduce your water consumption;
  • Invest in house plants. They produce clean air and absorb carbon dioxide and chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene;
  • Check the temperature and seals on your fridge and freezer to increase their efficiency; and
  • Buy local products which haven't travelled great distances, thereby lowering your carbon footprint.

Sources: City of Cape Town and eco celebrity couple Riaan and Michelle Garforth Venter.