The Valverde Country Lodge, in Muldersdrift, Gauteng, South Africa has joined the move to add further value to its sustainable operations through independent audit evaluation – the Heritage Environmental Management Programme.
The Valverde Lodge, arguably one of the most popular wedding and conference venues in the region, is already making waves – in the tourism and hospitality industry – for its range of eco-friendly conference, weddings and accommodation facilities. This twenty-five bedroomed lodge has already implemented a number of eco-initiatives designed to reduce its environmental impact and their decision to participate in Africa’s largest environmental certification scheme is seen as further evidence of the commitment of its owners towards a more sustainable business.
“We believe it’s time for businesses to take their environmental responsibility seriously. We’ve made it our mission to provide corporate clients with excellent value for money for their conferences and functions, whilst preserving the planet and minimizing our carbon footprint,” says Joaquim Valverde, owner of the Lodge.
“Some of the measures we have implement over the past five year include a grey-water recycling plant for irrigation, the use of solar geysers in all our guestrooms and the kitchen, waste recycling programmes to reduce landfill volumes, and water-saving measure and devices across the entire property.”
“The introduction of a sustainable management system and globally competitive performance benchmarks will add to the success already achieved by management while also contributing to the long-term sustainability of current and future developments at the Lodge,” says Neal Dickinson, operations director of the Heritage Programme.
“Our newest greening initiative is a 600m2 aquaponics farm (aquaponics is the farming of plants and fish in a recirculating system. It is a combination of aquaculture (growing fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). The “farm” comprises two large tunnels (30x10m each) which keep temperatures stable for tilapia in fish tanks and hydroponically grown vegetables in raised growing beds. To our knowledge, this is the largest commercial aquaponics system in South Africa”.
“Aquaponics uses 90% less water than soil-based gardening. It is 500% more productive on a per square metre basis, compared to soil-based gardening. It allows us to plant more densely than conventional gardening and the plants grow up to three times faster in the controlled environment. It also ensures that we are able to provide mercury-free fish and organic vegetables for our guests to enjoy safe, delicious meals. Aquaponically grown produce is totally organic – no chemicals, hormones, antibiotics or additives are required.”
“Future plans include being able to supply the local community with fresh vegetables, in a CSA (community supported agriculture) system. This means that customers buy shares/subscriptions to a weekly reusable vegetable box, which can be collected or delivered. This in turn creates a strong link between the food that is consumed and the consumer. You know where the food comes from, and shareholders are welcome to visit the farm at any time to see their vegetables growing,” Valverde adds.
“We are pleased to have a dedicated partner like the Valverde Lodge as a member of the Heritage Certification Programme.”
“The extent to which the Lodge’s management have already taken the greening initiative to make a difference, simply compliments the work done by Heritage. We are confident that their Silver Certification will make a meaningful contribution not only to their marketing and promotional programmes, but also and more importantly to their continued sustainable operations,” Dickinson says.
About the Heritage Environmental Management Company
Heritage has become the leading tourism-based environmental certification standard in Africa with over 130 certified businesses across 12 countries. The standards used by Heritage have been developed from several international initiatives and adapted to reflect the environmental, social and economic needs of the continent in an effort to reduce the impacts of tourism on Africa.
Although initially developed for the travel and leisure sector, the Heritage Programme has proved so successful in the management and mitigation of environmental impacts that it has evolved into nine other business programmes – Clean Banking; Green Retail; Fairways Golf Programme; Eco Events; Eco-Choice Africa, Zoos and Aquaria, Eco Beds, Touch Africa Lightly and the Tour Operator Charter.
Heritage is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council; the SEMS Affiliate Member for Africa and member of the Event Greening Forum.
For more information visit www.heritagesa.co.za