JOBURG Zoo is the owner of the country’s first “zoo poo” biogas installation.
The environmentally friendly project is part of its renewable energy demonstration site, which includes a 3.75Kw solar panel.
A biogas digester at the zoo
Located near the zoo’s Education Centre, these facilities were unveiled at an official launch on 8 June. They were donated to the zoo by Project 90 by 2030, a non-governmental organisation committed to reducing the country’s carbon footprint by 90 percent by 2030.
Roslynn Greeff, the member of the mayoral committee for infrastructure services and environment; Brenda Martin, the director of Project 90 by 2030; Gary Fahye, the owner of Grey Green Installations, which installed the alternative energy projects; Stephen van der Spuy, the chief executive of the zoo; and zoo board members, among others, were at the launch.
They were given a tour to witness firsthand the three individual projects: a solar panel that will supply the Education Centre with power; electric fencing using solar power at one of the animal enclosures: and a biogas digester for processing organic waste.
The solar power will supplement the Education Centre’s power grid with an extra 4Kw a day. The third project processes waste through a biogas digester, which is installed near the restaurant. It reduces waste being removed to the composting site.
Using anaerobic bacteria, the biogas digester converts the organic waste into usable gas. The biogas is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, which will be used for cooking in the restaurant. The semi-solid residue will be collected for fertiliser for the nursery.
“Having this demonstration site proves the fact that we all see the education potential of the zoo. The education signage will explain the role of the solar panels and bio digester, and formal classes will be organised for scholars and students and interested parties,” noted Greeff.
Many people would be given the opportunity to see how they could change their lifestyles to assist with the fight to save the planet, she added.
Martin explained: “The most urgent challenge facing humanity is the imperative to reduce our negative impact on the environment.”
She noted that the International Energy Agency had estimated that greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount in 2010, which resulted in the highest carbon output recorded to date.
A solar-powered golf cart donated by Project 90 by 2030
“A record 30,6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel.” South Africa was one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita in the world, she noted, and so Project 90 by 2030 challenged South Africans to change the way they lived.
“We usually do this by utilising tools like our monthly newsletter, the practical toolkits for cutting carbon we have developed, the formation of carbon reduction clubs at schools and our work to influence policy that can provide the necessary context for low carbon lifestyles,” she said, before donating a solar-powered golf cart to the zoo.
Then in 2010, Project 90 by 2030 received funding from the German Ministry of Co-operation via its German partner, Misereor.
This funding allowed for the implementation of a national renewable energy demonstration sites project. Initially, it was decided that 10 sites would be erected in 10 months; but because the organisation worked smartly with the money, it was able to complete 15 sites.
It has installed renewable technologies such as solar, wind, biogas and hydro energy around the country. Even remote places which had not had electricity had benefited: the five extra sites were community-based projects to provide households with solar panels.
“Today I am proud to announce that in total by the end of June we will have saved 130 tons of carbon per year as a result of all solar PV, wind and hydro installations,” Martin said.
Working out the carbon reduction on solar water heating, the total litres tallied equalled 2 300 litres and the amount of biogas produced was estimated at 584kg of gas produced a year from all biogas digesters, she said.
Through these installations, mainly at the Joburg Zoo, other initiatives have been introduced, such as recycling bins along its paths to encourage sorting at source. The zoo has also converted the Education Centre into a carbon neutral training area, adding more sustainable projects.
It is also using more sustainable building techniques and converting old ablutions into more energy efficient facilities with the aid of water urinals and sky lights; it is converting lighting to LED; it is hosting carbon neutral events, encouraging backyard conservation projects, and increasing the awareness around climate change.
“As the MMC … working with entities such Pikitup, Johannesburg Water, City Parks, City Power, environment and the zoo, the sustainable integration of services has become essential,” said Greeff.
The Joburg Zoo is a key player when it came to illustrating and teaching the community about conservation and environmental responsibilities. “It is an ideal educational facility as more than 500 000 people visit the zoo annually,” she said.
Of those, a third is learners from various schools in the province. The zoo also offers programmes that are linked to school curricula and have many educator workshops. These workshops assist in preparing teachers to use the zoo more efficiently.
She added that the zoo lent itself to educating people in a less scientific way, such as translating science into normal language for the man on the street. “Every organisation, especially ‘conservation’ organisations, should consider the prudent use of natural resources, as well as monitoring its own environmental impact.”
With the development of the Johannesburg Zoo Integration Biodiversity Strategic Plan for 2009-2014, the zoo had also recognised its obligation to merge environmental values with strategic operations, noted Greeff.
“These projects enjoy cross pollination of many departments and through the collaboration and efforts of different teams, the zoo is also able to make some significant changes to the environmental footprint,” she said.