A string of new companies offer energy-saving devices and eco-friendly cleaning products, while the vegan food movement is also gaining momentum.

The soar in popularity was evident at Greenrock's Living Green Expo at the Botanical Gardens last month.

It is surprising just how much is available to assist people in saving energy and help the island become more sustainable.

Entrepreneur Michael Burke, managing director of The Greenhouse Bermuda and owner of Blue Water Divers, said the inspiration for his new business grew naturally from his involvement in protecting the marine environment.

Electricity

Mr. Burke started researching suitable products to import two years ago and began with electric scooters in May 2009.

He now specializes in energy audits of homes, at a cost of $75 per hour.

He said: "I can cut electricity usage back by 15 to 20 per cent.

"If people don't see a reduction in their usage within six weeks, I give them the cost of the audit back.

"It is very simple things, such as 'vampire' and 'ghost' electricity usage (when people leave their electrical appliances plugged in).

"You use more power in standby mode than you do watching your television.

"It is little things but they all add up. Lighting is only 12 per cent of people's electricity bill, on average."

Among the energy saving products he sells is the Smart Strip.

Acting almost like a surge protector, it automatically shuts off 10 appliances at the source, saving you money on electricity.

Mr. Burke said his business has a "grassroots perspective" in focusing on energy conservation rather than renewable technology.

He added: "I do energy savings because your return on investment is rapid within a year."

Mr. Burke admitted the green economy in Bermuda is "growing" but said entrepreneurs need to be "passionate" about the environment rather than simply "jumping on the bandwagon".

He said: "Being an entrepreneur is always hard work. People just have to be dedicated to be in the business they are in.

Plastic

"I want to get the message out, it is all about 'changing the mindset', as Greenrock says.

"We need to make the populace more aware of what is happening with plastic proliferation, energy use and climate change. People in Bermuda are not fully understanding climate change.

"It is definitely happening and the other huge issue is the amount of energy we are using.

"Oil is running out, so this energy usage is going to put a strain on the earth.

"We must do what we can as Bermudians.

"Hopefully when Government's White Paper is tabled this will galvanise some of the population into saving the planet."

The Greenhouse Bermuda offers products such as electric bicycles, cars and scooters, electricity consumption monitors, the Smart Strip, LED light bulbs and refillable water bottles.

Michael Swan of Encon offers LED lighting, solar thermal panel systems and greywater recycling installations for domestic and commercial properties.

Solar

Encon grew from Bermuda Energy Conservation Ltd., founded by Mr. Swan's father, Charles Francis Batson Swan, 30 years ago.

Somewhat ahead of its time, the business installed solar heating panels. Two years ago, Mr. Swan began researching other forms of alternative energy and renamed the company Encon, after 'Environmentally Conscious' or 'Energy Conservation'.

Encon now works in partnership with his brother Charles Swan Jr.'s plumbing firm Batson Swan.

Business is "really starting to take off", according to Mr. Swan.

He added: "We have new residential installations ­under way and are pursuing commercial projects.

"Business is definitely heading in the right ­direction.

"People are becoming more environmentally aware so I'm very positive about Bermuda's green ­future.

"I think the green economy is the business to be in.

"There are all sorts of things happening internationally, plus our planet is in trouble.

"I'm not trying to make a buck off a negative but personally, I'm very keen on being green.

"If in some way I can help to stop climate change, I would love that."

Mr. Swan said a solar heating system costs about $8,000 for an 80 gallon tank and single thermal solar panel.

He said: "This can shave about $120 off your monthly power bill."

Mr. Swan said Government's move to make all solar hot water and photovoltaic panels duty free has been a boon to green business.

The release of the Department of Energy's research report on energy revealed 71 per cent of Bermudians are receptive to the idea of solar panels, while 81 per cent believe in a Government mandate for new buildings to be fitted with a renewable energy supply.

Government is also offering incentives for homeowners — rebates of up to $5,000 for installing PV and hot water solar panels.

Mr. Swan said: "The green economy is starting to heat up. People are more conscious of being green but it is just a matter now of educating them on the options out there.

"We are heading in the right direction."

Among the stands at the Greenrock event were two companies who deal in non-toxic and biodegradable household products.

HI Group sells Nature Clean and M-1 cleaning products.

Jenefer Brimmer, CEO, said: "People are becoming more aware of environmentally friendly products but, growing up, we've never been taught to clean for our health, only for appearance.

"There has never been an emphasis on natural products, so this mindset needs to change."

Bermudian business Ultra Services and Solutions sells the Natural Choices hypo-allergenic line, which includes laundry detergent and other home cleaning products.

In the food court at the Living Green Expo, Ngadi Kamara of Divine Desserts was selling vegan cupcakes.

She makes allergy-free cakes,using all-natural, trans-fat free and organic ingredients.

Her pumpkin pie is baked using produce from her own garden.

Instead of artificial colourings, she uses plant-based colours.

Vegan food excludes any ingredient derived from an animal. It is therefore also dairy and lactose-free.

Chef Ishmir Savory, like her name, makes savoury gourmet delights.

A chef at Cambridge Beaches, she offered festival goers vegan dishes such as butternut squash bisque, raw falafels with lemon tahini sauce and a harvest dinner of sweet potato couscous salad, wild mushroom tagu, spicy and Swiss chard, fennel and sage in white bean sauce.

Miss Savory started her business a year ago.

She said: "Basically I found it hard to eat out in Bermuda, being a vegan, as a lot of the food in restaurants is highly-processed.

"My ultimate goal is to open a restaurant here."

Also at the expo was the James family, who have created a cottage industry recycling juice pouches.

Doreen James and her daughters Brianna, eight, and Channa, 12, started their Pouch It business this summer, to let their "creative juices flow".

Ms James, who is also the owner of Alpha Memorial Chapel Funeral Home, said: "Because of the many juice pouches thrown out daily by consumers, we have found a creative way to use them."

The trio produces wallets, tote bags, knapsacks and handbags from drinks containers such as Capri Sun and Kool Aid.

Mrs. James has even created a stylish bag crocheted out of black plastic trash bags.

Two weeks ago Government reiterated its commitment to encouraging renewable energy on the island.

The Throne Speech stated: "Incentives promoting investment in an alternate, green energy source by homeowners and businesses will continue to be promoted."

Environment Minister Walter Roban added: "We want to promote business and this is certainly an area where we can grow some opportunities for people to get involved in renewable energy."

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About Greenrock

According to The Footprint Network, which measures the ability of the planet to produce resources and absorb waste, our resource use and waste production is 60% more than the earth can produce or absorb annually.

This overshoot is the result of decisions that we each make every day. We seek to generate debate and to influence people to change their behaviour.We strive to be catalysts: Success for us is when we can Change the Mindset so that sustainable use of resources is included in decision-making for individuals, government or businesses. ... read more


Where to find Us

Suite 324, 48 Par-La-Ville Rd,
Hamilton HM11, Bermuda

Telephone: 1-441-747-ROCK (7625)
Email: info@greenrock.org
Website: www.greenrock.org