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Ethiopia?. Geddaway…

Ethiopia’s unexpected treasures are revealed by Tom Barber of tailor-made travel company Original Travel.

Ethiopia? Yes, Ethiopia. On holiday? Yes, on holiday. So goes a conversation I have with remarkable frequency. Many people associate Ethiopia with famine and poverty. In fact there is so, so much more to this truly original destination. Nowhere else still uses the 13-month Julian calendar, so its dates are totally out of sync with ours. It’s great if you want two Christmases, two Easters or two New Years, but it also means it’s only 2003 there. Even more surprisingly, this is one of the best places for the responsible tourist to spend his or her birr.

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Ethiopia’s unexpected treasures are revealed by Tom Barber of tailor-made travel company Original Travel.

Ethiopia? Yes, Ethiopia. On holiday? Yes, on holiday. So goes a conversation I have with remarkable frequency. Many people associate Ethiopia with famine and poverty. In fact there is so, so much more to this truly original destination. Nowhere else still uses the 13-month Julian calendar, so its dates are totally out of sync with ours. It’s great if you want two Christmases, two Easters or two New Years, but it also means it’s only 2003 there. Even more surprisingly, this is one of the best places for the responsible tourist to spend his or her birr.

Culture

What can you expect? Ethiopia is a country of big landscapes and an absorbing cultural heritage. The north is a treasure trove of historical capitals where religious customs from the Middle Ages continue to thrive. ‘Must visits’ are Lalibela, with its 13th-century rock-hewn churches, and Gondar, the 17th- and 18th-century capital. Outside Gondar, perched on a little hill, is Debre Birhan Selassie, ‘Trinity at the Mount of Light’. It’s a gem of a church, the entire beamed ceiling of which is hand-painted with the winged heads of angels. Then there’s the Queen of Sheba’s Axum, allegedly the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant – which neatly explains what happened at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Here too is Lake Tana, home for hundreds of years to several island monasteries and also the source of the Blue Nile, which makes its way over the nearby Tissisat Falls to the White Nile at Khartoum.

Nature

The Great Rift Valley to the south of Addis Ababa is to the nature lover what the northern areas of the country are to the culture vulture. In the Bale Mountains are the endangered Ethiopian wolf and the Rift Valley is punctuated with a series of lakes, many of which are bordered pink with thousands of flamingos. Continuing south, Nech Sar National Park near Arba Minch has gazelle, zebra, hartebeest and baboons roaming freely, and in the Omo River Valley of the southwest live more than 50 tribes, from the Mursi people with their giant lip plates to the Dorze people and their tall beehive-esque homes.

Responsible tourism

There’s an awful lot to see and do, but the responsible tourist might choose two particular highlights. Once described as the ‘chess pieces of the Gods’, the towering spires, volcanic pinnacles, huge gorges and vast rock formations of the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia’s northern highlands make up one of Africa’s most beautiful ranges. Trekking in the Simiens is a wonderful experience, one of the main draws being that it is still comparatively underdeveloped. There are few visitors and even fewer distractions from the breathtaking scenery. The area is also known for its wildlife, from the thousands of Gelada baboons roaming the park to the Lammergeyers, which soar on the mountain thermals among hundreds of other bird species.

The place to stay here is northern Ethiopia’s first eco-lodge, Simien Lodge, opened in 2006. It promotes sustainable development and encourages guests to help with charity work in the nearby town of Debark (with its decidedly eco-unfriendly name). The thatch-roofed tukuls are very comfortable and benefit from solar-powered under-floor heating – a much appreciated luxury as this is also one of Africa’s highest hotels and, consequently, is pretty parky at night. All the stones for the construction were collected from the Simien Mountains. No excavations were made and no stones were imported from outside the area; they were simply picked up and carried by truck to the site. The bamboo for the ceiling was brought in from the Lake Tana area.

Further south is another excellent eco-venture, Bishangari, surrounded by fantastically tall trees filled with monkeys and amazing birdlife and set in an eco-reserve near the shores of Lake Langano. The godjos (cabins) have solar-powered hot water and light, and the food is cooked using biogas from a large biodigestor filled with food waste. The lodge has been constructed using natural materials and traditional techniques. One particularly impressive activity of the lodge workers is gathering farmers from the surrounding area to teach them about conserving the value of the surrounding woods and grazing land, and they are making real headway.

Is there still poverty and hunger in the country? Undeniably, but rather than donating to a faceless charity with no idea of where your money is going, why not visit the country in person and put money directly into the pockets of people determined to make a difference in their local communities?

Original Travel (020 7978 7333, www.originaltravel.co.uk) has tailormade two-week trips to Ethiopia from £2,450 per person (based on two sharing) for international and domestic flights, a private English-speaking guide, accommodation on a full-board basis including two nights at the Simien Mountain Lodge, a full day trekking in the park, and one night at Bishangarion Lake Langano and a tour to the neighbouring Abiata Shalla National Park.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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