Green gamble pays off at city casino
Environmentalist puts the lid on resort’s carbon print
WHEN Siglinda Losch joined GrandWest as a secretary over two years ago the casino had just scored zero percent in an independent green audit.
Soon Losch, 26, showed initiative and raised concerns about the environment, so the casino bosses made her the environmental officer and gave her an opportunity to come up with ways to shrink the casino’s carbon footprint.
She has been so successful that it scored almost 80 percent for green issues in the latest audit by the Heritage Environmental Management Company.
“I always asked questions about how ordinary people like me could positively affect global warming. I asked questions like why GrandWest didn’t recycle,” Losch said this week.
Her questions have led to the introduction of various environmentally friendly initiatives in the massive GrandWest complex.
“Google became my best friend and I have also joined online news letters on environmental issues,” she said.
Working with a team, Losch started with small things like recycling paper by introducing white paper recycling bins in the offices. She watched how truckloads of rubbish were taken off the property and decided they should separate their waste.
She canvassed all the restaurants and stores and got them to put their rubbish in two different bins – wet, which was for food, and dry, which was for plastics and bottles.
“It was a major headache getting them to comply. We wanted to institute fines but some of them got clever and would just abandon their bins so we could not trace it back to them.”
However, Losch said they came up with a barcode system that showed which bin was taken and returned by a restaurant or store. “At our last count (only) 40 of the 4 500 bins cleared every month were not separated. We recycle 96 000kg of waste a month and from the bars on the casino floor we recycle 8 000kg of glass.”
Another project she has tackled involved recycling the 3 000 litres of waste water generated at the ice rink each day. For this project, and several others, she works closely with a team of engineers.
“This water was dumped in what I call a big cement dam. Now it is used to water the gardens and I have also asked our engineers to experiment with re-using the water in the cooling towers attached to the air-conditioning plant. They are now finalising their designs.
“There is an obvious saving in that we don’t need to draw as much water from municipal sources for top-up purposes. Over a period of 30 days, this means we will have saved in excess of 90 000 litres of water, equal to three 30m 3 swimming pools.”
Losch and her team have also tackled the eight man-made wetlands on the property which were overgrown with alien vegetation, mainly Port Jackson, Typhoo grasses and bulrushes.
“This resulted in improved water flow and an enhanced wetland habitat. Over 20 species of birds have begun to nest in these areas.”
A number of other projects are on the cards, like a nursery and composting site that will be run as a self-sustaining business.
They are also looking at a community kitchen garden that will serve Ruyterwacht.
Losch has encouraged staff to roll up their sleeves and help clean up the Elsies River and its canal. She is planning a clean-up in December or January.
“I canvass staff as I walk along the corridor or during lunch breaks. I put posters up and send e-mails to staff.”
Losch, who was born in Namibia, said she had trained as a legal secretary and worked in London for two years.
“Growing up in Namibia, I’ve always been close to the environment. It’s important that we all shrink our carbon foot print.”
Next year Losch plans to study environmental affairs through Unisa.