Our Ethics - and what we ask of our Clients

Environmental Matters

 Our business headquarters is a real first, environmentally speaking: the first all-natural cob house on a South African city street. Making headlines and changing perceptions, we've built an elegant double-storey house out of mud and straw (plus lime and dung in places) that we hope is changing the dominant perception among locals that a "real house" should be made of bricks and concrete rather than the "mud huts" of the past. The house "breathes", allowing it to stay naturally cooler in summer and warmer in winter; this is done through a combination of thick earth walls and large areas of passive solar heating through sun-facing windows. We've sourced either recycled wood (old railway sleepers), alien trees (gum poles, cut down for using too much water as part of a government environmental programme), or locally grown sustainable woods (siligna and pine), all treated and sealed with organic products, avoiding the use of harmful chemicals. Have a look at our accommodation available there at www.cobhouse.co.za


Our tours aim to continue the same theme. For food stops and restaurants we select conscious local providers, can offer tours that cater well for vegetarians and vegans, aim to stay organic or sustainable (in the case of seafood, we support restaurants who are part of the SA Sustainable Seafood Initiative). We take guests to local farmers' markets, and to craft markets that are sustainable, giving advice on bartering (where appropriate) and on craft that may be unethical to purchase as against the craft that is genuinely supportive of local communities. We include site visits to conscious craft-producing small businesses, we seek out organic and biodynamic farms, even on our township tours. We offer tours by bicycle where appropriate and give sound advice on use of public transport wherever this is a reasonable alternative for guests e.g. meeting guides at a train station rather than waiting for a hotel pick-up. We provide clients with suggestions for appropriate activities while here that will be of benefit to the local environment. We do not provide new plastic bottled water, for example, but encourage clients to bring their own water and even to pick up litter en route if possible.

 

 Economic / Social Matters

We are a small South African family-run business, who make use of local labour and skills wherever we can, and encourage clients to make use of local businesses that have consciousness and concern not only for the environment but for their workforce and community. We provide customised tours to Western Cape destinations that are off-the-beaten track and usually have a substantial environmental/cultural/spiritual component, according to our clients' wishes, but always use registered township local guides to guide township sections of tours, to ensure benefits to those local communities. We also interact with local NGOs who assist in making lives more positive in the poorer areas of the Cape Flats and provide opportunities for them to showcase their work to our clients. We can also advise on other tourism industry products that are as "conscious" as we aim to be. We endeavour to find similar businesses in other parts of the region for our responsible guests to enjoy and support.


Our Travellers' Code of Conduct

Here are some guidelines and ideas for responsible travel you may want to take note of when visiting us, to help your holiday make a difference.

 Cape Town, despites its challenges and inequalities, is a part of the world that we find refreshingly "real" - it needs a bit of care with your valuables, but it's worth stepping off the beaten track a bit, partly because there are a lot of people here with a fabulous sense of what's truly heart-felt and worthwhile in life, people who can bring you more than just a chance to reach the furthest rock in the south-west of Africa (wonderful though it may be to see baboons along the way!) We can help you connect with the more organic / culturally funky and diverse/ holistic and soulful/ historic and hilarious people and places in and around this big "Mother City".


TRANSPORT :

Cape Town does not, unfortunately, have a particularly brilliant public transport network and some of your trips may need to be by car, notwithstanding that, during daylight hours, we have a very relaxing train route into Cape Town - or along the attractive coastal route to Simon's Town - running regularly from close to our house. DO use the trains (just not with a moon bag) - be careful during the evening, and check with others if you're using other lines to the Cape Flats, which may not be so safe. The same applies to using minibus taxis, which are usually fine on the main suburban routes during the day, as long as you have an idea of what you're doing and where you are going. If you hear contrary advice (as offered for example in many guidebooks) - check whether the person offering has personal experience! We've been using the trains and taxis for the last 14 years in Cape Town and never seen or heard of a dangerous incident happening around us or to anyone we know.

Cycling (helmet strongly advised) is a popular pastime in the Cape (we have the world's biggest cycle race here every March!), but not such a common means of transport, partly condemned by the recurrent South-Easter (it once took one of us 15 minutes to ride from Rondebosch to Cape Town - and 45 to get back, literally being lifted off the bike twice). The bus network is infuriatingly badly organised and unfortunately difficult to get timetables for; overland coaches are more reliable. SO, if you are going to go by car (as we often have to!), think about what else you can do to offset this - there are a whole load of local NGO tree-planting projects you could think about here as a direct carbon offset, for example, which could enrich the whole experience of visiting here for you, as opposed, say, to donating to a less personal (if still worthy) international carbon offset programme.


 SHOPPING :

There are a lot of accreditation schemes out there to make sure that you really are buying worthy craft items from people that could do with some benefits. On our tours you could visit wine farms that are guaranteed to be using fair trade practices, local theatre shows with a difference (presented to township children, for example) and visits to award-winning new green buildings (we're not the only ones!).


There are some fisheries that are wiping out our fish stocks and others that are sustainably supporting long-standing local fishing communities; there are toy shops selling fake South African money (manufactured in China!) and others selling beautiful, natural-fibre African dolls made by women who've learned new skills. If you'd like to ensure your money goes to more worthy causes, we would love to help you find the better choices!

There is a national 'Proudly South African' brand which includes a host of fair trade accreditations around union rights, environmental sourcing etc., visible on many consumables from our shops. You can support the local economy with these purchases. Of course, there are other worthy brands that haven't got round to getting this national level of accreditation, including many small and cottage industry products.

Craft markets in town present some beautiful wood/ stone/ wire and beadwork. Even though much of this is produced by recent immigrants from further north in Africa rather than locals, Africans in general could do with your trade for their craft. The Pan-African Market in Long Street is better placed for this kind of thing, or for real guaranteed fair trade local items there are a number of co-operatives (including Streetwires) we can help you connect with.

Cape Town also offers a wide range of innovative and creative clothing designers who would enjoy your support, (Kalk Bay, nearby, has a hive of boutiques), as our local textile industry is being threatened by the stronghold that China has on the clothing industry at the moment.

Generally we would encourage you to support small independent businesses wherever possible.

FOOD :

The production of 1 kg of beef is estimated to use as much water as all the showers you will take in the rest of your life ! There is a lot of meat on offer here in SA, (some free range and organic), but our culture is also very familiar with vegetarianism. You can almost always find a wide variety of vegetarian options available and they're usually very tasty.We also have a yummy vegan restaurant near our HQ and know of others for vegan guests! Most organic food (and indeed non-organic food) is grown locally - we are lucky with our climate and can boast a wide range of delicious summer fruits. We have more than enough diversity of foods available locally, at all seasons, for you to be able to avoid buying something that has travelled thousands of kilometres to be here - but it's worth checking for the origins of fruit and veg in the shops just to be on the safe side.

We have more than enough diversity of foods available locally, at all seasons, for you to be able to avoid buying something that has travelled thousands of kilometres to be here - but it's worth checking for the origins of fruit and veg in the shops just to be on the safe side.


 

WATER :

South Africa is a dry country, and as in many parts of the world, urbanisation is putting ever more demands on our municipal water supplies. Please don't waste water, and ask about the water use policy of the various businesses you may visit. Certain of our supermarkets are much more water-wise than others! Water can too easily be polluted too: try and choose establishments that use biodegradable products for cleaning/laundry etc. While there are many bottled water companies in South Africa, at the time of writing Cape Town municipal water is safe to drink, and the same applies to most other national supplies - if in doubt check with locals.

REDUCE, RE-USE, RECYCLE :

With the meeting of rural and industrial cultures there has come an unfortunate by product : litter ! On our tours we often take plastic bags with us to collect some of the litter we pass, and if you want to take a plastic bag with you to the beach to collect in your own time that would be marvellous! At the least we do ask that you are aware of the 3 R's that help with managing the problem. We encourage you to keep recyclables, (paper, glass, cans, plastic containers, etc. ) you may have brought on a trip for us to recycle (unless we're passing a recycling centre with you in which case you can do it yourself!) If you have any questions about what can be recycled or not we will be happy to answer them.