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What’s your footprint?

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Going to the Kruger National Park? NEIL HERON of Bearded Heron Safaris outlines how to estimate what your carbon footprint would be and gives a few ideas on how to leave the smallest one possible.

Tread carefully! You wouldn’t want your footprint to be seen as a massive ‚carbon footprint’ left in the soils of the Kruger NP as a sign of irresponsibility.

We’re talking about Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and the impact the release of these gases are having on the Kruger National Park while you visit.

Your first step is to think about and be aware of what impact you are having on the Kruger Park while you enjoy your holiday.

The second step is to make an active effort to reduce the impact you have on the Kruger.

Here are some ‚footprint’ awareness notes to think about when you visit the Kruger National Park.

STEP ONE ‚ UNDERSTAND THE IMPACT THAT YOU HAVE

Greenhouse gases and how you release them into the Kruger’s atmosphere while you are on holiday.

Carbon dioxide

Wasteful use of electricity in your accommodation

Excessive and large braai fires

Driving unroadworthy and unserviced vehicles

Methane

Excessive waste of food and water

Poor re-cycling practices

Nitrous Oxide

Your nitrous oxide levels in the Kruger are a direct result of how you drive your vehicle around the Kruger. The more time you spend in the vehicle, the more time you leave your engine running and the more unserviced your vehicle is ‚ the more you are contributing to fuel combustion and the production of nitrous oxide levels in the atmosphere.

Fluorinated gases

Hydrofluorcarbons (HFCs)

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

Carbonfluorocarbons (CFCs)

The creation and/or use of refrigerators, air conditioning systems, foams and aerosols are the main source of fluorinated gas emissions. These are the only type of greenhouse gases that are created and emitted solely through human activities and so we are directly responsible for their appearance in our atmosphere.

The fluorinated gases used in these types of products have an incredible impact on climate change. Not only do they trap much more heat than the other greenhouse gases but, because they are man-made, they take much longer to break down in the atmosphere. On top of this as there are no natural processes to remove these gases from the atmosphere, they will be around much longer than humans.

Each time you shave, spray aerosol deodorant, turn up the refrigerator or buy take away food in Styrofoam packaging you release damaging greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that were never there before.

STEP TWO ‚ REDUCE THE IMPACT YOU HAVE

Practical tips for you to reduce the impact you have in the Kruger National Park

Food and beverage consumption

Take your empty plastic water bottles out of the Kruger with you when you leave.

1. Rather purchase five or 10 litre bottles to re-fill your own smaller bottle instead of buying hundreds of small water bottles and discarding them. At the end of your trip take the empty five or 10 litre bottles back home with you ‚ or donate them to the staff of the Kruger who may re-use them as carry containers.

2. Think about how much energy you use when you switch on the ovens, microwave ovens and hotplates in your accommodation. Try and cook your meals by saving, rather than wasting, energy.

3. Try and purchase your fruit and veggies from the local community rather than bring plastic packaged products from major cities into the bush.

4. Try not to waste food! If you have cooked excess food, instead of throwing it away, you can donate it to someone less fortunate, or re-heat it in the morning.

5. Make use of the newly installed re-cycle bins in the Kruger rest camps. If you do have waste that you expect South African National Parks to dispose of for you ‚ please consider making it easier by using the re-cycle bins carefully.

6. Make use of the paper bags given out at entrance gates as mobile dustbins. One for excess food and one for empty packaging materials.

7. Please don’t use insect poisons to spray on our wildlife. These sprays are causing major pollutants to wash in the very river systems you are using to enjoy the wildlife you see.

8. Please remember that noise is also a pollutant. Try to be aware that many people and animals are severely affected by excessive noise in the Kruger National Park.

9. Please do not throw away or discard your rubbish without first carefully considering the impact you are having on the Kruger.

10. Be careful not to make an excessively huge outdoor braai fire, burning wood unnecessarily is extremely damaging to the environment. Use only the amount of wood or charcoal you need to cook your food.

Use of carbon emitting facilities in the Kruger National Park

1. Your air-conditioning units, the lights, stoves and hot water are provided to offer your comfort and all release carbon and CFCs into the atmosphere. Please consider your use of these facilities carefully.

2. Switch off your lights and air-conditioning units when you do not require them.

3. Switch off the electric points when you have nothing charging or plugged into them.

4. Limit your use of batteries in the Kruger. Please take used disposable batteries home with you when you leave.

5. Please be careful when using our precious water. Hang up your towels and use them twice, let the kids share a bath or shower and report dripping taps immediately.

Game drives in the vehicle

WHAT KIND OF FOOTPRINT ARE YOU LEAVING IN THE KRUGER THIS HOLIDAY?

A sustainable and careful footprint

A considerate footprint

I’m trying but need a few more tips footprint

A wasteful footprint

An excessive and harmful footprint

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS

How many plastic containers did I leave in the Kruger?

How many disposable batteries did I throw away for the Kruger to dispose of?

How much food did I waste?

How much unnecessary electricity did I use?

How much noise did I make ‚ did I care?

How many 50-car traffic jams did I get entangled in just to see a lion?

How considerate was I to other people in the Kruger?

How considerate was I to the wildlife in the Kruger?

What lessons did I teach my children?

How many hours did I drive in the Kruger?

How many people in my car?

What type of car was I driving?

How many hours did I use unnecessary electricity?

How many hours did I spend quietly enjoying wildlife without being in a vehicle or in a vehicle that had the engine off?

How many towels did I use? Did I waste water?

How many hours did I spend recharging my electronic equipment?

How much food did I waste?

How many hours did I spend learning about the plants in the Kruger?

How many ‚over the top’ braai fires did I light? ‚ did I use charcoal or wood?

Did I have a silent hour?

Did I walk around the rest camp with my children?

How much time in total did I spend walking in the rest camp?

PLEASE THINK ABOUT YOUR FOOTPRINT IN THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK THIS HOLIDAY!

MORE INFORMATION ON GREENHOUSE GASES AND HOW WE RELEASE THEM.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

We are all going to emit CO2 while we are in the Kruger this holiday. Even nature will emit CO2 naturally through the carbon cycle.

Nature removes billions of tons of atmospheric CO2 from the atmosphere by the oceans and growing plants (mostly algae and green plants). These are called ‚sinks’ in science and they are released back in the atmosphere each year through natural processes known as ‚sources’. In nature a rough balance of CO2 ‚sinks’ and ‚sources’ is maintained. The release and emission of carbon dioxide in nature is called the carbon cycle and in nature this process is roughly balanced.

A carbon sink is anything that absorbs more carbon that it releases, while a carbon source is anything that releases more carbon than is absorbed.

In the context of climate change the most important carbon stores are fossil fuel deposits as they have the unique benefit of being buried deep inside the earth, naturally separated from the carbon cycling in the atmosphere. This separation ends when humans burn coal, oil and natural gas, turning fossil carbon stores into atmospheric carbon.

This release of carbon from fossil fuel has caused greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere to soar to levels more than 30 per cent higher than at the beginning of the industrial revolution. We are still adding roughly 6 billion tones of carbon a year to the atmospheric carbon cycle, significantly altering the intricate web of carbon fluxes, and consequently altering the global climate.

Your job while you’re in the Kruger is to be aware of the carbon cycle and to try and reduce your own carbon footprint and make a contribution by not upsetting this balance.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted in a number of ways. It is emitted naturally through the carbon cycle and through human activities like the burning of fossil fuels. Every time you light a (braai) fire or switch on the electricity in your hut ‚ you are contributing to the release of CO2into the atmosphere.

Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, human activities, such as the burning of oil, coal and gas, and deforestation, has increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. In 2005, global atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were 35% higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution. Today we are in trouble ‚ serious trouble and unless we all play a part in reducing our consumption of fossil fuels ‚ we will all be directly responsible for the death of millions of people and animals.

Methane (CH4)

Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for about nine to 15 years. Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period and is emitted from a variety of natural and human-influenced sources. Human-influenced sources include landfills, natural gas and petroleum systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, stationary and mobile combustion, wastewater treatment and certain industrial processes.

Your contribution to methane levels in our atmosphere will include how much attention you give to waste ‚ wasting water, wasting food and how much rubbish (garbage) you choose to throw away rather than re-cycle.

Methane is also a primary constituent of natural gas and an important energy source. As a result, efforts to prevent or utilise methane emissions can provide significant energy, economic and environmental benefits.

Nitrous oxide (N2O)

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a greenhouse gas with an atmospheric lifetime of approximately 120 years. Nitrous oxide is about 310 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 over a 100-year period. The primary sources of human-influenced emissions of nitrous oxide are agricultural soil management, animal manure management, sewage treatment, mobile and stationary fuel combustion, adipic acid production and nitric acid production. Nitrous oxide is also emitted naturally from a wide variety of biological sources.

Fossil fuel combustion – while you’re on the move in the Kruger

Fossil fuel use is again a major contributor to the emissions of another greenhouse gas. When any fossil fuel is burnt it creates nitrous oxide emissions. The majority of stationary emissions of N2O come from coal fired power plants. As for mobile emissions of N2O almost all of it comes from vehicles and trucks that are used for game drives and deliveries in the Kruger. This is because catalytic converters are designed to promote the emissions of N2O even though it is a powerful greenhouse gas that can trap almost 300 times more heat than CO2.

Your nitrous oxide levels in the Kruger are a direct result of how you drive your vehicle around the Kruger. The more time you spend in the vehicle, the more time you leave your engine running and the more unserviced your vehicle is ‚ the more you are contributing to fuel combustion and the production of nitrous oxide levels in the atmosphere.

Fluorinated gases

Hydrofluorcarbons (HFCs)

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

Carbonfluorocarbons (CFCs)

Fluorinated gases are only created by humans and do not occur normally in nature. They are used mainly in industrial processes; let’s take a look at where they are used:

The creation and/or use of refrigerators, air conditioning systems, foams and aerosols are the main source of fluorinated gas emissions. These are the only type of greenhouse gases that are created and emitted solely through human activities and so we are directly responsible for their appearance in our atmosphere.

What’s good is that it is easy to reduce your emissions of these powerful greenhouse gases (high GWP gases) by simply using less air conditioning (in the car, at home or work), refrigerators (if you have more than one), foam products (Styrofoam cups/containers, foam packaging, foam based home insulation) and aerosols (hairspray, shaving cream).

The fluorinated gases used in these types of products have an incredible impact on climate change. Not only do they trap much more heat than the other greenhouse gases but, because they are man-made, they take much longer to break down in the atmosphere. On top of this as there are no natural processes to remove these gases from the atmosphere, they will be around much longer than humans.

Each time you shave, spray aerosol deodorant, turn up the refrigerator or buy take away food in Styrofoam packaging you are releasing damaging greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that were never there in the first place.

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