Responsible Tourism Toolkit – Part 1 Energy Saving Tips

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. ~ Lao Tzu

In this Responsible Tourism Toolkit Series, I don’t want to talk about the broader benefits of sustainable tourism. I want to give you, as a tourism business, practical tips in the form of a toolkit on how to start and continue your journey to sustainability.

This journey can be daunting and is not going to happen overnight. It will take time and dedication, but by taking small steps along the way, you will eventually generate substantial benefits.

Each business can also take its responsible tourism strategy as far as they feel comfortable with. However, as an industry we should strive to at least achieve the South African National Minimum Standards for Responsible Tourism.

Part 1 – Energy Efficiency

We all know that becoming more energy efficient as a tourism business doesn’t just make business sense by reducing your operational costs, but also helps to minimise and reduce the environmental impact of your business.

Energy efficiency is probably the easiest and most profitable step you can take on the road to sustainability. Follow the guidelines below to help you save energy and money effectively, successfully and on a long-term basis.

Karoo wind mills
Baseline Energy Consumption

Energy saving Think - Act - SaveBefore embarking on this journey of energy efficiency, you should establish your starting point or baseline. Measuring your baseline consumption is a crucial step that many people overlook. Once you know your starting point, you can then analyse your progress during this exercise, so you can calculate exactly how much you are saving.

Measure your energy use in total kilowatt hours over preferably a whole year, as this will take account of all seasons, including those in which you potentially use more energy for heating and cooling. This total energy use figure is then divided by the number of bednights sold over this same time period (for e.g. accommodation providers), number of staff members (for e.g. tour operators), number of clients (for e.g. activity providers), or whatever is appropriate for your business.

Baseline Energy Consumption  =  Total kilowatt hours for one month OR one year
                                                          No. of bednights OR staff members OR clients

If you find calculating the total kilowatt hours used for a particular period too complicated, you can also use your total electricity cost, as this is also a reflection of your energy usage. However, it is not as accurate as the actual kilowatt hours used, especially in South Africa where the unit energy price increases incrementally. In addition, in case of future electricity price increases, it would wrongly imply a greater energy use.

Set Targets

As part of your energy audit, identify areas within your operation where most energy is used. Set targets to what extent you want to reduce your energy consumption and keep records of your monthly energy consumption and cost.

Follow this exercise by implementing some action ideas from the energy efficiency toolkit below. Please note that the energy saving tips below are very much geared to a Southern African setting.

Re-measure your energy consumption on regular intervals to quantify your real progress made over time. You can also calculate the amount of money saved on these operating costs, showing your actual improvement in business efficiency and profitability.

By no means are the energy saving tips below fully comprehensive, so if you have any additional tips, we would love to hear from you. Please share them with our community in the comments below.

Farm 215 Eco-Suites with solar power
The Fynbos Suites at Farm 215 are run 100% on solar energy.

13 Easy NO Cost Energy Saving Tips

1. Educate both your staff and guests on your energy saving policy and encourage them to actively take part and give practical advice on how.

2. Make sure there are no hot points or ‘grounded leaks’. Turn off all lights and unplug appliances. If your electricity meter still indicates usage, you will need to check your wiring.

3. Turn off lights, heating, ventilation, and cooling systems, when rooms are unoccupied.

4. Actually turn off appliances and office equipment, such as TVs, computers, at its power point when not in use. Appliances still use energy, even on stand-by mode.

5. Unplug battery chargers, such as for cell phones, laptop computers, and cameras, as they all consume energy while plugged in, but not actually recharging.

6. Operate appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, with full loads only, on the shortest possible cycle and lowest temperature.

7. Avoid using tumble dryers, when you can take advantage of drying your laundry outdoors.

8. Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle.

9. Ensure refrigerators and freezers are not placed near heat sources, such as ovens or against non-insulated walls exposed to the sun, as they need to use more energy to maintain their required temperature.

10. Ensure the seals on fridges and freezers are working efficiently to prevent energy wastage from cold air escaping.

11. Switch geysers off when hot water is not required and adjust the water thermostat to 50-60o You might find that having your geysers on for 1-2 hours in the morning and the afternoon will suffice.

12. Clean air-conditioners regularly. Check your unit manual or contact the manufacturer to establish an appropriate maintenance regime.

13. Switch off pool pump when appropriate.

Energy saving tips at home and in your business

6 Easy LOW Cost Energy Saving Tips

Energy saving tips1. Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy saving ones or LED lights. From the total energy used by incandescent light bulbs, 85% dissipates in form of heat and only 15% is transformed into light.

Research has shown that you will get return on investment (ROI) on LEDs in less than two years and there are plenty of formulas available online to calculate your ROI accurately.

If energy saving bulbs or LED lights cannot be installed, replaced incandescent bulbs for low Watt light bulbs, such as 25 or 40 Watt. Check out this infographic on picking the right light bulb with the smallest footprint for optimal conditions.

2. Cover geysers with geyser blankets or jackets, put timer switches on the geysers, and if you haven’t already done so, adjust the water thermostat to 50-60o

3. Install low-flow shower heads. This will not only save energy, but will also save money on your water bill.

4. Install sensors and timers in all indoor and outdoor areas, so lights are switched off when not required.

5. Control direct sunlight through windows. For example, in summer use blinds, screens, awnings, and vines, while in winter you want sunlight to enter the rooms freely for extra warmth.

6. Install pool covers.

Grootbos blinds
Picture credit: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

3 More Advanced Energy Saving Tips

1. When purchasing new equipment, select energy-efficient refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers etc, choose one e.g. with a short wash cycle option, and select the smallest appliance that will fit your needs.

2. Consider introducing key cards for hotel guestrooms, thereby ensuring that lights and electrical equipment are only operated when rooms are occupied.

3. Invest in renewable energy systems, such as solar water heaters or go off-grid altogether.

Hotel verde solar panels
Picture credit: Hotel Verde

For more sustainability tips check out the Responsible Tourism Toolkit:
Part 2 – Water Conservation


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