The humble Spekboom is taking the travel industry by storm

  • Monday, 15 July 2019
  • Linda Chivell

Spekbook initiative 2

SA’s new sustainable tourism initiative

SATSA and South African Tourism have launched a carbon offsetting initiative to create awareness about the need to reduce the tourism industry’s carbon footprint.

The initiative comes as South Africa seeks proactively to focus on sustainability as a destination.

SATSA Eastern Cape Deputy Chair and Owner of Wild Lubanzi Backpackers, Aidan Lawrence, told delegates at SATSA’s 2019 conference recently that the tourism industry needs to be planting millions of Spekboom immediately to offset carbon emissions.

Spekboom has carbon-offsetting properties and can sequester more than 4 tons of carbon dioxide per year per hectare planted, making it more effective than the Amazon rain forest at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“The thought was to create awareness in South Africa about the need to reduce the carbon footprint from inbound flights. Spekboom, with its miraculous carbon-offsetting properties, was the perfect solution. We hope this initiative will plant the seed on how South African tourism businesses can get practically involved in their own carbon-offset programmes,” he added.

To create awareness about the Spekboom initiative, each delegate at this year’s SATSA conference received a cutting of the plant, which is an indigenous succulent found in the Eastern Cape. SATSA and SA Tourism handed out 600 Spekboom cuttings and will be planting another 5000 plants over the next few months.

“South Africa is the first country in the world to directly address the impact on our environment of flights in and out of our country in the context of flight shaming. There is no limit! You can partner with us to offset all your carbon emissions. If a company wants 500 000 plants, the Spekboom initiative will commit to finding a solution for this to happen,” added Lawrence.

SATSA CEO David Frost said his organisation has a responsibility to encourage South African businesses to focus on sustainable development. He said: “Globally the tourism industry accounts for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Each business must take responsibility for its carbon footprint and the impact it has on the environment.”

Darryl Erasmus, Chief Quality Assurance Officer at SA Tourism, said responsible and sustainable tourism is vital for a thriving tourism industry.

"We all have to play our part in the offsetting of carbon emissions. The initiative to plant 5000 Spekboom is a further indication of our commitment to ensuring a sustainable tourism industry. While this is just a start, we need to ensure that we do more for the environment," he said.

Spekbook initiative 3

The project SATSA - Official SAYTC Travel Young and SA Tourism are undertaking is to bring about awareness ~ far more than making people feel comfortable that their flight has been offset.

"We are here to inform the world about the challenges we face. Travel brings about enormous social change and by leading the conversation with how we reduce our footprint we believe that the conversation spark is then there. Travellers will be talking about their responsibility to the planet. They will be able to come to South Africa and have the discussion right here, at the table with another traveller who is not aware and bring about social and environmental change."

Spekboom can fix ecosystems and suck up CO2

The project is not just about carbon, there are hundreds of uses already identified for the plant. Spekboom creates one of the most effective fire breaks on the planet ~ this addresses climate catastrophes as we have seen on the Garden Route. It creates plastic collection barriers wherever planted by trapping free-flying plastic around its branches.

It is one of the highest yield hedge food crops for grazing animals, cattle, goats and pigs love it. A healthy thicket produces living areas for all types of bird, insect and animal life, far more than any other area including forest. 

Spekboom flowers

Because it is evolved to survive the arid conditions of the Karoo, spekboom has a few unique tricks. In winter, when it gets moisture from cold fronts, it photosynthesises like any other plant. In summer, it absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) during the day but stores this away without photosynthesising. Instead, it does this at night so no water evaporates. That moisture is then stored as carbon compounds in the spekboom’s leaves, stems and roots.

In other words, the plant is really good at sucking carbon dioxide out of the air, something the world needs. Carbon dioxide levels are currently at 400 parts per million, their highest concentration in three million years.

Tourism stakeholders and other interested parties are invited to showcase their Spekboom projects on SATSA’s social media and the newly created Spekboom Facebook page – 

The Eco Marine Hermanus Whale Festival will give away 1000 spekboom cuttings in support of green tourism and to encourage festival-goers to plant a spekboom.




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