Environmental responsibility on Table Mountain: A photo essay

Environmental responsibility on Table Mountain: A photo essay

Did you know that in November 2011 Table Mountain Cableway became the overall winner of the 2011 Imvelo Responsible Tourism Award? The awards recognise tourism and hospitality businesses that make a real, measurable and sustained contribution to responsible tourism. Now, with Table Mountain recently becoming a New7Wonder of Nature, there’s an even greater emphasis on doing the right thing for this incredible heritage site. The Cableway is happy to report on its efforts in environmentally sustainable management!

image Photo courtesy Karl von Moller

Says Table Mountain Cableway CEO Sabine Lehmann: “We are particularly proud of [the Imvelo] award, reflecting our drive toward best practice in all areas of responsible tourism, from managing waste, water and electricity as well as ensuring that social investment is felt further than just our site.”

image Photo courtesy adtx1

As custodians of a high-use area of Table Mountain, part of the Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site and a national park, the Cableway is committed to the protection of Table Mountain within its area of responsibility.


The cable cars of Table Mountain Cableway actually generate electricity! The simple laws of physics allow the Cableway to feed power back into the electricity grid, helping it in its mission to run the business in an environmentally responsible manner.

Want proof? Click here to find out how it all works.


image Photo courtesy Dan Rutland Manners

Water is a precious commodity anywhere in the Western Cape, and especially on top of Table Mountain. The Cableway works hard to help prevent the dehydration of some 1 460 different species of fynbos that grow on the slopes by minimising water consumption.

Chemical toilets were introduced in 1997, and visitors are constantly reminded to save water wherever they can. Read more about the Cableway’s chemical toilets by clicking here.

Table Mountain Café is also playing its part: the soda fountains and juice machines dispense into plastic cups – this reduces the number of cans (of which 200 cases are received daily) and bottles that unfortunately litter our world-class site. The plastic cups are also compostable, further mitigating our impact on the environment.

To conserve water, Table Mountain Café has introduced compostable plates and containers for food instead of regular, washable plates. One-hundred percent compostable, these containers are made from organic material that turns into water, carbon dioxide and compost. The Cableway saved 1-million litres during the first year of this initiative.


image Dassie frowns on waste! Photo courtesy Steph C Kay

Table Mountain’s comprehensive waste plan, implemented in March 2010, has reduced the amount of rubbish by 40% on the site, a figure that is increasing. The Cableway started its work with waste-management company WastePlan last year and has significantly reduced the amount of rubbish going to a landfill. We always have at least one dedicated in-house hygiene assistant to make sure the recycling process runs smoothly.

In March 2010, 132 wheelie bins of non-recyclable waste were removed, compared with 232 bins in February 2010. This means 100 fewer bins were wheeled off, despite the fact that visitor numbers didn’t change much.

image Photo courtesy khaibitnetjer

Do you ever wonder how the Cableway’s cable cars remain stable, even when the wind picks up on the peninsula? The answer may surprise you … It’s because of the integral role the cable cars play in waste management on the mountain. Special compartments underneath the cars are often filled with clean drinking water, which is delivered to the summit.

The cable cars are also used to ferry waste water back down. But don’t worry, a completely separate tank is attached to the bottom of a car after operating hours – so visitors don’t have to pinch their noses.

Read more about the role played by cable cars.

image Photo courtesy robiolowe

Defending the frontlines

“We take about 750 000 visitors to the top of the mountain every year, and to make sure they all adhere to the environmental management system can be challenging sometimes,” says Table Mountain Cableway Environmental Control Officer Marié Abraham, the Cableway’s eco-warrior.

The Cableway is situated within the Table Mountain National Park, but both are separate entities. Marié also has to ensure that people know that even though these are different organisations, they still have to abide by the rules of the national park.

“This means no smoking is allowed on the pathways, and the ‘no dustbin’ policy further out on the mountain’s trails means that people have to bring their rubbish back with them. Luckily, about 99% of the visitors do!”

There are clearly marked recycling bins at the summit of Table Mountain, assisting visitors to dispose of their trash in a responsible manner.

Onwards and upwards

image Photo courtesy F.Kruger

The Imvelo Award is the latest in a string of accolades that the Cableway has earned – you can read more about the detailed policy by clicking here.

Last year, the Cableway became the first tourist attraction in South Africa to be awarded Platinum status by the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme.

The Cableway is happy to add another illustrious feather to its green cap!

The Cableway operates weather permitting. Check in on our home page, Twitter profile or Facebook page for the latest operational status.

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