Tag Archive for: eco solutions

Andy Horn at his office in Cape Town ©David Peter Harris

Andy Horn at his office in Cape Town ©David Peter Harris

 

 

 

An architect with a profound appreciation for nature, Andy Horn established his practice in 1998, Eco Design – Architects and Consultants. Sustainable design is key to his work and the studio has led the way for the Green Building Movement in the South Africa and it has received a number of international sustainable building awards. We were lucky  to meet him at his studio in Cape Town.

“Things in nature are cyclical and we must build in holistic ways, using natural resources in harmony with nature; water should be harvested from the rain, used efficiently and recycled. Energy should come from the sun. Structures should be built with non-toxic or moon phase harvested timber or bamboo rather than steel and concrete. Walls can be made with natural and recycled materials like, earth block, cob, rammed earth, stone, urbanite, straw bale, hemp-lime, sandbag and timber. Roofing insulation can come from nature where roofs are planted and insulated with healthy natural materials like wool, cork or recycled paper. Finishes should be non-toxic; like healthy breathing natural plasters, and zero V.O.C paints. “

Different shades

There are different shades of green and you can do your bit, starting at home with energy efficient appliances and LED lights moving on to more renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and biogas, we need to look at energy saving as an investment over time rather than simply the up-front cost. Conscious design means being aware of where resources come from so that we can shift our building industry towards more post-carbon based types of construction.

“What makes me do what I do? I couldn’t do it any other way; once your eyes are open they’re open, and I can’t stand by and not act on one’s convictions. Also, it’s a great field to be in, you meet interesting people, get to work on amazing projects and you have to be extra creative.”

 

 Get in touch with Andy Horn by visiting his website and find out more about past and current projects and the principles inspiring his work.

Dumisile Mqadi and I sat on the rooftop terrace of Happy Hippo, the funky eco-friendly backpackers in downtown Durban.   Dumi has been working for Happy Hippo and its sister lodge, Hippo Hide, for more than 6 years. She started off as a cleaning lady, but that was only the beginning.   “One day, I walked past Michelle Brooks’ office while I was carrying the laundry. Michelle came to me and asked me if I wanted to try and work downstairs at reception. I thought she was joking, so I said “No”, giggling. She told me I should try it out for a month and see how it was; I didn’t believe her, but I saw my name on the schedule for the next month and I saw that I had been put down as a receptionist for some days, and others as a cleaner. I just wanted to quit; I was scared and shy, I wanted to stay at home; I didn’t know what to say. I felt I was not educated enough, I was just a cleaning lady.”

Dumi's contagious smile breaks through her shyness ©David Peter Harris

Dumi’s contagious smile breaks through her shyness ©David Peter Harris

“I did eventually go, and my first shift as a receptionist was at Hippo Hide – I had a night shift, and as all first days I wasn’t too sure about how things worked, and there was nobody to tell me how I was doing. In the morning, Mike (Brooks) came and welcomed me to my new job. He told me he trusted me and he didn’t want to hang around because he knew I would be shy to help people in front of him. After two months, Michelle asked me if she could put me reception full time, but I said I wanted to go back to work as a cleaning lady. I was still very scared and I thought I belonged to that job only. My colleagues in the office were amazing because they treated me as equal and wanted to assist me and help me with any requests, so I chose to stay instead. I owe it to them where I am now; they helped me stick to it and grow confidence.”

“I am not going to lie; I am still very shy and scared. I still feel like I am new here and not educated to do this; our teamwork helps me overcome my insecurities.”   “Any tips to empowerment I would like to share? We all come from different families, but respect is universal. When you’re unsure, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, I can’t stress that enough. Be humble and accept being lead and not leading sometime. If you want to do something, you have to fight for it, you can’t sit around but work for a better future.”

“I am so proud of what I have done; I wish I could do more now”. Dumi is planning to further her education, and she is pondering whether to study Tourism or Education. “I always thank Michelle and Mike for seeing the potential in me.”   “Deep rivers run quiet”, says Haruki Murakami, and Dumi is a reminder that the humble choices we make every day build up to a better self and a better community.

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe - rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe – rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris

 

Irene Dell from Stellar Foundation at one of the estates during the launch of the off-the-grid project ©David Peter Harris.

Irene Dell from Stellar Foundation at one of the estates during the launch of the off-the-grid project ©David Peter Harris.

 

A few years ago I noticed a funky new wine brand at the bottle store; a red wine with a very interesting label called Live a Little. Quirky on the outside, this  wine was produced by Stellar Winery, South Africa’s largest producer of fine organic and fair trade wines. At the time, Stellar was one of the only of its kind for its innovation in winemaking (holding the organic certification and being vegan friendly) as well as its focus on people and their social empowerment.

The Live a Little label was on my mind during our drive to the cellar, situated at Kyshalte, just outside Vredendal in the Western Cape. I was about to put a whole lot of new faces to the name Stellar and it was exciting. I had been in contact with Irene Dell, a longstanding and empowering employee of Stellar Foundation, a non-profit organisation, and we had been invited to the launch of the renewable energy project.

On our arrival, Irene and I sat at her desk and she quickly briefed me on some of the social projects the Stellar Foundation runs; the projects are intended for the workers, their families and the communities within the area ranging from a free primary health care scheme, a judo club to vegetable gardens, a crèche in Trawal as well as the latest off-the-grid project. Irene’s passionate words made me realize how close she was to the issues we were touching on. One of the only women in a mainly man-workforce, I asked her what her secret is.

“I listen to what people’s needs are and I am familiar with their conditions and situations. Because of cultural differences, one should be careful not to impose ideas from one’s own cultural situation on others but see how a dialogue can bring issues and options up. Our biggest thing is to satisfy needs while communicating the responsibility on the other side. Giving responsibly paves the way for sustainability.”

 

The Consol lights are Phase I of Stellar's off-the-grid project. ©David Peter Harris

The Consol lights are Phase I of Stellar’s off-the-grid project. ©David Peter Harris

 

Stellar Multi-estate sources organic grapes from independent farms, which, together with the cellar, bottling and packaging plant make up a Fair Trade structure, Stellar Winery Multi-Estate. Workers on the farms and in the winery, including seasonal workers, together own 26% of the enterprise through shares in the Stellar Empowerment Trust. Irene, David and I spent the afternoon together, driving from one estate to another, officially launching Phase I of the off-the-grid project, which involved distributing the Consol solar-powered lights. I loved seeing Irene interacting with the workers. She totally gets them and cares so deeply about their upliftment and personal growth.

“We are not out to change the world. We are only hoping to better lives with what we do. It’s the small, the  little things we do”.

That night we were hosted by Willem Rossouw, Managing Director of Stellar, and his family. While sitting at the dinner table eating a typical Weskus snoek dish with fresh, homemade beer bread, I expressed my deep admiration for the  range and quality of the social upliftment projects that are ongoing.  William replied saying that “The most important project is the one you cannot see”, referring to the portion of the business the workers own through the Fair Trade shares. Agreed.

Everything about this short visit made a sound impression;  the affectionate relationships at the cellar, the motivation to improve lives in the area and the softness interwoven in it. Before Irene and I parted, she added something, which exemplifies her loving and passionate nature.

“There are always solutions to problems, you just have to ask nicely and they will turn up”.

 

Farm workers preparing and clearing the vineyards of any weeds or plants that will hinder their organic production©David Peter Harris

Farm workers preparing and clearing the vineyards of any weeds or plants that will hinder their organic production©David Peter Harris

 

I personally came a long way from the first Live a Little bottle label, and I spent the drive back thinking of the kind of impact we make, even when shopping for wine.

Get in touch Stellar Organic Winery via their Eco Atlas page and vote with your wallet when next you’re scanning the shelves for a good wine….

 

 

 

 

Mcedisi Ncedani and Stuart Palmer. Stuart started Lunch Box Theatre in 2007, bringing theatre projects as primary awareness raising tools for important issues that are relevant to South Africa’s youth ©David Peter Harris

Mncedisi Ncedani and Stuart Palmer. Stuart started Lunchbox Theatre in 2007, bringing theatre projects as primary awareness raising tools for important issues that are relevant to South Africa’s youth ©David Peter Harris

 

I met up with Stuart, Founder/Director/Facilitator/Script Writer and Actor of Lunchbox Theatre and Mncedisi Ncedani, Actor, Facilitator, Project Manager and Dreamer, after their catchy and  engaging Whale Show at a Primary School in New Horizons, Plettenberg Bay.

“There is so much passion in what we do. Passion for the theatre, passion for using our craft in a fun and educational way, passion for reaching kids, who are the generation of tomorrow; at this age group, they are young enough  to have that sense of wonder with vivid imaginations but they also start to measure their own impact in the world, and when they walk out of here, something has set in. So this is not just a job, this is a calling. “

 

Wanda the Whale, the star of the Whale show, is made entirely out of recycled materials. This amazing puppet was brought to life by South African Artist Simon Max Bannister ©David Peter Harris

Wanda the Whale, the star of the Whale show, is made entirely out of recycled materials. This amazing puppet was brought to life by South African Artist Simon Max Bannister ©David Peter Harris

Since 2007, Lunchbox has been using theatre as a medium to educate South Africa’s youth (grade 3 to Grade 7) and foster employment. Lunchbox Theatre is based in the Western Cape.

Read more on Lunchbox Theatre or make contact via their Eco Atlas page.

Xolisa Bangani, Head Farmer and Founder of Ikhaya Garden at Isikhokelo Primary School in Site C, Khayelitsha, Cape Town. ©David Peter Harris

Xolisa Bangani, Head Farmer and Founder of Ikhaya Garden at Isikhokelo Primary School in Site C, Khayelitsha, Cape Town. ©David Peter Harris

 

“At first I started with the passion for nature and growing produce; now I love seeing the project running,  young people stepping up and doing great work for food security, sustainability and care for the environment here at Isikhokelo Primary School and the larger community in Khayelitsha. A tip for Social Innovators? Learn how to stay independent and local, but attract different people, from different places and you’ll see something special happening.”

Started in September 2013 as a community based organization, Ikhaya Garden in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, is an organic food gardening and sustainable living project, aiming to involve the youth by creating a connection with nature while strengthening the bond between the school and the community as part of social development. Xolisa is leading change in his community by portraying gardening as a fun, cool model that mixes art and gardening. After only a little more than year from its creation, Ikhaya Kulture has started spreading in the community in the form of other projects in Khayelitsha.

 

Contact Ikhaya Garden on their Eco Atlas page, spread the Ikhaya Kulture and join them on their next planting day/ workshop. It’s real fun!

 

 

Change Makers is a collection of uplifting people and communities in South Africa who have started with an idea and are achieving great things, because they have put their head where their heart is.

Change Makers is a collection of uplifting people and communities in South Africa who have started with an idea and are achieving great things, because they have put their head where their heart is.

 

“Change” is one of those words that continuously bounces back and forth in conversations nowadays. Grand personalities, from Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Terry Pratchett to Mahatma Gandhi  and the Dalai Lama have produced some of the most powerful quotes to get people going to “Be the change they want to see”.  However, while these wise snippets have always made me inspired, from the inside out, and helped me put a whole lot in perspective, I feel I have struggled so far to constantly keep at the change I want to see in the world. Change is most often perceived as something difficult, like starting to exercise; it is projected into the future, the world of tomorrow and what will be when we will have more time, more money, more and more. The truth is that change starts today, with each and every one of us. My change is different to your change.

“Transformation is our watchword. At this moment in time, we are called upon to lead and act with courage. We are called upon to embrace change. Change in our societies. Change in the management of our economies. Change in our relationship with our one and only planet.” (Synthesis report of the UN Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda). The eight Millennium Development Goals are being reviewed this year, with discussions on how to develop an integrated sustainable development agenda, and for countries to adopt a set of global goals to secure a just, healthy, educated and happy population. Never before has civil society  been encouraged to take global action, for its people and the (one and only) planet.

Change Makers is a collection of uplifting people and communities in South Africa who have started with an idea and are achieving great things, because they have put their head where their heart is. Photographer David Peter Harris and myself (Clotilde) are embarking on this journey of inspiration, together with you. If you know of anybody/companies/organisations who are committed to bringing about positive change, please let us know in the comments below; we would love to chat to them and share their story. In the words of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu,

We may not be capable of changing the world in one fell swoop on our own, but when we swim together in the same good direction, we become an unstoppable force.”

Be curious. Lead and act with courage. Stay inspired. Embrace change.