Eco Atlas – a new concept in conscious consumerism

Ever been to a restaurant or guest house and wondered what happens behind the scenes? Are your breakfast eggs free range or is your special bottle of red wine going to be recycled when you leave? Wouldn’t it be nice to kick back, enjoy your freshly grown salad and sip on your glass of Chardonnay feeling assured that the establishment you are visiting has practices in place that are good for people and planet? A new concept in conscious consumerism has emerged which allows you to find out just that, and more.

Eco Atlas is a pioneering online directory which empowers you to make ethical and environmental choices when choosing where to eat, where to stay and what to buy. It marks a move towards a more consumer driven market. Through a series of twenty clear eco icons called Eco Choices you will be able to see at a glance which places are recycling, serving sustainable fish or empowering their staff, enabling you to make informed decisions about which places, products and services to support, with a conscience. The unique search function also enables you to source locally produced and earth-friendly products.

This new directory is the first of its kind in the country in that it provides consumers with both the socially and environmentally ethical achievements of places and highlights businesses that are making a difference. The website features accommodation, restaurants, outdoor activities and goods providers. Featured places include a full spread of photos, write-ups, maps and of course their full list of eco ethical practices. Importantly, you as the visitor are able to review the places online and give them an eco rating based on your experiences. There are so many people and places creating positive change and walking the ethical talk in our remarkable country and Eco Atlas provides you with the map to find them.

Rhian Berning, Eco Atlas founder says, ‘If you want to change the world, start with your wallet and change the places you visit and support. We so often underestimate our power as consumers, but we are in fact extremely powerful.’

So, you may well be asking, where are these places and how can we find them and start putting our money where our hearts are? Well, all the information is available online, but let’s have a little explore and discover some gems.

Bartholomeus Klip Farmhouse is a charming small hotel for only 16 guests on a working wheat and sheep farm just over an hour away from Cape Town – ideally situated for exploring the winelands. There is a 4000 hectare fynbos nature reserve, with a spectacular backdrop of mountains, to be explored on game drives or by mountain bike, and beautiful gardens. The food is renowned, with lavish brunches and high teas, and a gourmet three-course dinner. Ah, but what of their eco and ethical practices? Well, you can enjoy the sumptuous food secure in the knowledge that much of the produce is organically or locally grown, the meat is from predator friendly farms and nothing will be wasted, the worm farms process all organic leftovers into rich compost for the gardens. In terms of resource use there are water saving and energy saving practices in place as well as  solar geysers for both guests and staff. Not only that, but Bartholomeus Klip is also Fair Trade accredited, an international stamp of approval for responsible travel. And it doesn’t stop there, the farm is also recognised with the Biodiversity Eco Choice for its management of the one of the largest remaining tracts of the rare Swartland Alluvial Fynbos and Renosterveld plant communities, and includes the largest remaining habitat of the geometric tortoise – the world’s second most endangered tortoise. So have you booked in yet?

Next stop, how about a truly real experience for both locals and travellers? AWOL Tours offer bicycle township tours on recycled bicycles. The tour allows guests to interact and engage with the local community from the bicycle seat rather than from an air conditioned bus. It has a profound influence on stimulating the local economy when visitors support the small businesses, also fostering improved relationships and creating a personal insight into how local urban South Africans live. Besides the obvious health and environmental benefits of cycling, AWOL Tours are also Fair Trade accredited and provide ethical choices by visiting wine farms that are members of the ‘Biodiversity Wine Initiative’. This is an outdoor activity that you can feel good about from your head to the tip of your cycling toes.

Back in the MotherCity where can you eat out with a conscience? There are many restaurants that have joined the slow food movement and have shifted to serving organic. The Kitchen is a bustling eatery on Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, renowned for their legendary Love Sandwich and a host of fresh and unusual salads. Owner Karen Dudley has made a point of providing free range and organic options and is passionate about supporting local suppliers and the empowerment of women staff. And even in Woodstock your leftovers will be transformed into liquid gold by the hardworking earthworms!

If we are to go by the billion dollar online behemoth that is TripAdvisor, a study they did last year stated that 71% of people surveyed would make environmentally friendly choices this year. But without the relevant info how can they make the choices! Put the power of choice back in your hands and become informed about where you choose to eat, play and stay by using tools such as Eco Atlas and the Fair Trade website. And don’t forget the clout you have as a consumer, simply ask all the questions you would like the answers to. And then, put your money where your heart is.

Author: Rhian