29 October 2012Fruit South Africa has finalised an ethical standard and audit process for the industry that will ensure that South African fruit is produced in line with internationally accepted labour and environmental standards.In a statement earlier this month, Fruit South Africa said the standard was aligned to South African law, was internationally recognised, and had the benefit promoting a single standard and audit to replace the numerous standards and audits with which producers must comply.The umbrella body for SA’s fruit producers’ assocations said the new standard was “a world first with regards to enabling mutual recognition of audits among international and local retailers”.Global Social Compliance ProgrammeIn order to achieve this, Fruit SA engaged with the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), an organisation which aims to harmonise ethical requirements and avoid duplication of audits while ensuring that global standards are adhered to.Fruit SA used the GSCP reference code as the basis for the development of its own standard, and aligned this to South African law. The standard was then submitted to the GSCP “to undergo a process of equivalence validated by an independent international panel of experts”.According to Fruit SA, the GSCP is supported by various global retailers, including Tesco, M&S, Walmart, Ahold, Migros, COOP Switzerland, Delhaise, Carrefour, and South African retailer Pick n Pay.South Africa exports a large proportion of its fruit. According to Business Day, SA’s industry employs nearly half-million people, and sold its fruit to 70 countries in 2011, earning the country in the region of R12-billion.Sustainability Initiative of South AfricaThe Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (Siza) – incorporating Fruit SA’s ethical trade programme – will be the custodian of the new standard.Fruit SA said that Siza was a “multi-stakeholder platform”, with membership open to producers, exporters and stakeholders across the supply chain, that could in time be expanded beyond the fruit sector to represent the broader agricultural industry.“While the programme has been driven by the fruit industry, it is open to all agricultural industries in South Africa, and will look to work with the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) in the future in providing the framework for a harmonised environmental standard with the same international recognition afforded by the GSCP.”Fruit SA stressed that Siza was “development-led rather than audit-led”, aiming to provide growers with the tools to be self-regulated.“As a locally developed, managed and funded programme that is aligned to international requirements, the Siza programme is recognised as a world first of its kind.”SAinfo reporter
The last several weeks I’ve written about common myths of green building: that it has to cost more to build green, that green building is mostly about materials, that green products don’t work as well as conventional products, and that it’s hard to find green products. This week I’ll cover the myth that adding solar panels is the best way to green a home.Without question, solar-electric (photovoltaic, PV) or solar water heating panels are the most visible green feature of many environmentally responsible homes. Either roof-mounted or installed on separate racks, those solar panels are in full view, they’re unusual enough to be noteworthy, and they convey–almost shout–a commitment to the environment. And rest assured, I’m a huge fan of both photovoltaics and solar water heating. (My first two real jobs–in New Mexico and then Vermont back in the late ’70s and early ’80s–were for organizations advancing solar energy, and solar is still dear to my heart.)But I strenuously resist the temptation of builders, remodelers, homeowners, and commercial building owners to green their buildings simply by slapping solar panels on the roof. Solar should be the icing on the cake–added after doing all the really important work of improving the energy performance of the building envelope and upgrading heating and cooling systems, appliances, and lighting with top-efficiency products.These measures aren’t as visible, but they usually yield far greater energy savings, financial return, and environmental benefit than a comparable investment in solar. Homeowners wanting to green their existing homes should start by getting a comprehensive energy audit to identify–and prioritize–energy saving measures. Likely measures will include adding insulation, upgrading windows (perhaps with new, low-e storms), air-tightening, replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact-fluorescent lamps (CFLs), replacing older heating or cooling systems, and switching to more efficient appliances. To reduce water heating costs, start by reducing your use of hot water by installing water-conserving showerheads, clothes washers, and dishwashers. After these investments, if your budget permits, by all means add a solar water heating or solar-electric system.Anyone thinking of building a new home should hire an architect or designer familiar with ultra-low-energy building practices, including passive solar design (a less noticeable but usually more cost-effective application of solar energy). If you do a really good job with all this and get your heating, cooling, and electrical loads low enough, you then might be able to satisfy all of those needs with solar–creating a “net-zero-energy” house.The temptation to start with solar is strong, especially with the very attractive 30% federal tax credits that exist for solar systems (see “Tax Credits for Solar Energy Systems”). Such generous solar tax credits, I fear, will result in a whole lot of money going into solar systems that yield considerably less energy savings than would have been realized by putting that money into energy conservation. When solar systems–especially PV systems–are installed on inefficient houses, the percent savings and return on investment can be very low; if you’re spending that much money (and the rest of us tax payers are helping out by subsidizing the tax credit) you might as well get some boasting rights!Yes, you should install solar water heating and solar-electric systems, but before you do that you should invest in the low-hanging fruit of energy conservation.I invite you to share your comments on this blog.To keep up with my latest articles and musings, you can sign up for my Twitter feeds
All 67 legislators of the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, including Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, Leader of the Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal and Speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail exercised their franchise in the presidential polls on Monday. The State has a 68-member Assembly but one seat is vacant following the death of Congress MLA Karan Singh.Independent membersSecretary of State Vidhan Sabha Sunder Lal Verma said that 35 Congress MLAs, 28 Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs and four Independent MLAs voted in the polls. Both the BJP and the Congress have claimed support of two Independent members each.Unicameral HouseIn the Unicameral House of the State, each MLA vote has a value of 51 votes and the State has four seats in the Lok Sabha — all occupied by the BJP. It also has three Rajya Sabha seats, one occupied by the BJP and the other two by the Congress. The Congress has a minor edge in the polls if no cross voting takes place.BJP meets GovernorRight after casting their votes, a delegation of the BJP met Governor Acharya Devvrat. Memo submittedThey submitted a memo urging him to dismiss the Virbhadra Singh-led government due to the “worsening law and order situation” in the State. Independent MLAs Balbir Verma and Manohar Dhiman, who recently joined the BJP, were part of the delegation.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday took the custody of five accused arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in connection with the escape of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Mohammed Naveed Jhatt from the SMHS hospital, an official spokesman said here. The NIA spokesman said the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate here granted a two-day transit remand of the five accused who had been nabbed by the police on February 8, two days after the escape of 22-year-old Jhatt alias Abu Hanzalla from the busy hospital in the city. The five accused — Shakeel Ahmed Bhat, Tika Khan, Syed Tajamul Islam, Mohammed Shafi Wani and Jan Mohammed Ganai — were arrested by the police for allegedly conspiring in the escape of Jhatt. All the five accused are residents of Pulwama. The NIA re-registered the case pertaining to the escape from custody of Jhatt from the SMHS hospital where he was brought in for treatment on February 6. The accused will be produced before the NIA special court at Jammu tomorrow for seeking police custody, the spokesman said. The designated court for the NIA is in Jammu, the winter capital of the state. Two policemen — head constable Mushtaq Ahmed and constable Babar Ahmed — of the Jammu and Kashmir Police were killed by Jhatt and his accomplice on the fateful day. Bhat is believed to be one of the masterminds of the escape of Jhatt and his motorcycle had been used in the escape of the terrorist, police said. Khan, a resident of Pulwama, is alleged to have provided his car for further transportation of Jhatt out of the city, police said. Jhatt is at present believed to be in the Pulwama area of South Kashmir, they said. Shafi, who is from Narbal on the outskirts of Srinagar city, had posed as a patient to provide cover for the terrorists escape. Jhatt had managed to escape on February 6 after at least two other militants attacked the police escort team at the SMHS Hospital here, killing two cops.