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The incredible journey of one small grape

Envirologs are a great alternative to coal for low carbon braaing

If you are looking for an excuse to drink more wine, well then read on…
The incredible journey of one small grape is made from the vine, into wine, into grape-seed oil and finally into environmentally friendly braai wood! This may sound like a bit of a spurious link, but I met Tommy from Envirologs who explained how he makes sustainable and renewable braai logs out of grapes.

First, the grape is used to make wine. The waste skins and seeds from the wine making process are then separated and dried. The skins are turned into compost while the seeds are made into grape-seed oil. The remaining waste from the grape-seed oil process is then compressed and moulded into log shapes. The logs consist of 100% grape seeds and contain no chemicals or binding agents.

This is a good and carbon friendly alternative to charcoal and wood. Although all wood is carbon neutral, Tommy points out that only the grapes are taken off the plant, so the vine continues to grow and absorb carbon.

I asked Tommy a few questions about his product:
Where is your factory? Where is the grape waste place?
In true sustainable fashion the two are right next to each other. The waste generated from the oil press is accumulated in 1 ton bags which, when full, are transported next door by forklift. The factories are in Somerset West.
How many logs will you make over the winter?
The logs are awesome for braai-ing (mostly summer, but a yearlong activity) and have great heat delivery ability for fireplaces, because of the low moisture content. Each log weighs about 350g and we will have 3 product lines: 1) “1 Braai” effectively a bag with 14 pieces enough for a braai for about 6 people, 2) 10kg bags and 3) 20kg bags.
At a minimum we will produce about 24 tons a month, but we can go to about 60 tons. Further expansion is also possible.
How long does a log burn for?
It depends on the burning environment; open vs closed, how long the fire has been going etc. But as an indication an open fire started from scratch with 14 pieces will burn for ± 50 minutes and produce super hot coals.
How much will a log cost?
In the distribution-chain we are the factory. Given the volumes relevant we will have to rely on distributors and retailers. It is my aim that a 10kg bag retails between R35 and R40.

Envirologs are compact, light and clean

Can you compare the cost with conventional wood?
Yes and no. I think it is important to realise that we do not really want to compete with the wood market, mostly because the wood available (rooikranz, wattle, port jackson etc) are alien and needs to be removed. I would however want it to be seen as complimentary to wood. Some examples:
1) Braai: “Hardekool” (Namibian wood) and Rooikranz typically make good coals, but are becoming expensive. If these wood types are not used you find that the coals produced from other wood (wattle etc) are flimsy and you need more wood. Here I think our product (Enviro-Log) is a perfect accompaniment.
2) Pizza Ovens: It is important for a pizza restaurant to heat the oven up in as short a time possible. Here I think our product can be used to start the oven and thereafter wood can be used to maintain the temperature.
3) Fireplaces (heating): Similar to the pizza oven argument. In addition it should be borne in mind that it becomes extremely difficult to find “dry” wood in the heart of winter. Fireplace owners must be aware that burning wet wood in a fireplace results in soot build up in the chimney, which can lead to chimney fire.
Can you compare the costs with charcoal?
Yes. Enviro-Log will compete directly with the charcoal market.
Can you compare the carbon footprint with electricity from Eskom?
One must compare apples with apples. To compare Enviro-Log to electricity I guess the only comparison is heating. From what I remember the fuel used for heating has the following carbon footprints (ranked from lowest to highest):
1) Wood (neutral – the carbon given off during burning was absorbed during growing)
2) Gas (burns cleaner than coal, but is still a fossil fuel)
3) Electricity (produced from coal)
I would argue that Enviro-Log falls in the same category as Wood and maybe even better – could be a nice discussion. Remember that only the grapes are harvested and the plant stays behind ( absorbing carbon) and we are generating heat from a portion of the grape (the seed). I definitely have the intention of having scientific research done at some stage, could be a nice thesis for post graduate studies.
It is probably worth mentioning on this point that the grape seeds are sun dried as well and do not go through de-humidifiers as is the case with some other compressed logs.
Where can we buy your logs from?
The golden question! We are looking to raise brand awareness so that retailers and distributors will be interested in stocking Enviro-Log. Tersia can be contacted at envirologsales@gmail.com or 078 169 7870.
Is it heavy?
We are selling “1 Braai” (± 5kg) then 10kg and 20kg bags.
Is it dirty? (like charcoal)
Not at all. It comes with a pleasant “vineyard” smell.
Are you generally interested in sustainability?
We have a gas stove – mostly because we are keen cooks, but also because of veering away from electricity, we recyle and also have a worm farm.
I installed a solar geyser earlier this year and thanks to Project 90 for your great articles on the subject. Sustainability is all about making changes today which have an incremental impact in the short term but makes a huge difference over time.
Tell me more about yourself..
Tersia grew up in Melkbosstrand and is probably best described as a surfer chick that loves animals, nature and despises materialism. She is also a closet artist, photographer and dreamer. Her wine pallet is more sophisticated than mine – we are both keen wine drinkers.
I on the other hand am the realist, they guy who studied two different BSc degrees and now finds himself working in the financial services sector. I’m also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), but do not provide individual financial advice ie I do not practice as a financial advisor. I am so lucky to have met Tersia who introduced me to hiking and in general to appreciate the smaller things in life.
I think it is fair to say we are well rounded as a team. We got married in April 2009 and at that stage walked 780km on hiking trails together – Tersia has a saying “if you want to know if a guy loves you, take him on hike”. My sayings are for private consumption… I mention the hiking because I think time spent in nature raises awareness about the fragility of earth and that change is needed.

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3 responses to “The incredible journey of one small grape

  1. What a nice alternative. Where can we buy this product?

  2. Hi Faffa,
    Tersia can be contacted at envirologsales@gmail.com or 078 169 7870.

    Let us know how you like it.

  3. wow!! great product tested and tried,real value for money, clean, no mess no smoke no tears, now you can store it,even in your kitchen, enjoy your braai.

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