Turning over a new leaf

Special commendation for innovation—Energy efficiency and carbon management: Food & Trees for Africa

Climate change is arguably the most important issue of our time and the biggest environmental challenge that we face.

One of the easiest ways for businesses to get involved in the fight is to reduce their carbon footprint. Enter South African social enterprise Food & Trees for Africa, which is offering businesses an opportunity to buy credits for trees to be planted in order to minimise their carbon footprint.

The business, for all practical reasons, invests in carbon sinks. Food & Trees is a national greening organisation that develops, manages and promotes greening and climate change action using sustainable natural resource management and food security programmes.

It has distributed more than 3.5-million trees in South Africa and has helped to set up more than 2 500 organic food gardens. Based on a 60% survival rate, these trees account for more than 5 460 000 tons of sequestered carbon dioxide.

Working in partnership with government, private companies and the public, Food & Trees has implemented programmes and projects that are contributing to healthier lives in poor communities. It has also encouraged sustainable green environments and increased awareness of our effect on the planet and the urgent need to address this.

The organisation was started in 1990 to address climate change and greening, and it launched the Carbon Standard in 2006. This programme includes the first South African carbon calculator and makes it easy and affordable to measure your carbon emissions and learn how to reduce and offset these.

The Food & Trees calculator uses the global greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting protocol. This aims to harmonise GHG accounting and reporting standards internationally to ensure that different trading platforms and other climate-related initiatives adopt consistent approaches to GHG accounting.

The Carbon Standard measures the carbon emitted by energy usage (by air conditioners, lights, computers and copiers), land and air travel as well as paper usage.

Once the data is inserted, the calculator evaluates how many trees you will need to plant to lower your carbon footprint through the process of photosynthesis—the process by which trees provide us with the air we breathe and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale, which our carbon-based society emits in massive quantities. This makes it easy for government, individuals, corporations and communities to measure and offset their carbon emissions.

In addition to trapping carbon dioxide, the trees planted contribute to improved water, energy, soil and noise management, as well as giving food security, adding additional benefits to the carbon offset.

Trees for Homes is another successful and innovative public greening initiative that contributes nationally to a more sustainable environment. This programme was started in 2000 and aims to address climate change while also improving quality of life and contributing to the development of sustainable settlements. This is done by giving low-income communities trees to plant at their homes, as well as providing training, employment and environmental awareness.

Since its inception, the Trees for Homes programme has organised the planting of more than 450 000 trees and trained more than 5 200 community-based educators in settlements around South Africa. This helps to create well-spaced urban forests that address climate change and add value with shade and food production.

Companies and individuals that have used the carbon calculator and worked with Food & Trees to plant trees have taken actions such as installing sensors to switch off air conditioners and lights in office buildings.

They have also increased paper recycling efforts and awareness, reduced energy consumption by changing to energy-saving light bulbs and even rationalised travel by teleconferencing. As the world wakes up to the serious implications of climate change, Food & Trees stands out as a frontrunner in taking action to address this critical issue.

Spot the saddle-billed stork
The Endangered Wildlife Trust and South African National Parks (SANParks) are running a photographic survey of the endangered saddle-billed stork in the Kruger National Park.

The survey started at the beginning of the month and will run for a year. This survey forms part of a project that will be conducted over the next three years on the population status of saddle-billed storks—one of Kruger’s rarities and one of the ‘Big Six” birds.Saddle-billed storks (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) are identifiable by their large size (150-cm tall), black-and-white plumage and yellow lappet (saddle-like structure) on the bill.

The males have a dark eye with two small yellow wattles at the base of the bill, whereas females have a yellow eye. These birds can also be individually recognised by the details of the front edge of the black band across the red bill.

They breed slowly and are dependent on extensive wetland habitats, which are under increasing pressure from humans. Visitors who spot a saddle-billed stork are asked to take a clear photograph of both sides of the bird’s face and bill and to record information about the sighting, including the date, time, location, name of nearby water source, bird’s gender, juveniles present and any other notes that might be relevant.

A saddle-billed stork census weekend is also planned in the Kruger National Park for later this year, when photographers with powerful lenses can contribute to this project.

Please keep a special eye out for saddle-bills and send all sighting details and photographs to storks@ ewt.org.za.

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