Electric Talks and the Power of Individual Action With MINI South Africa

07

MAY, 2024

By Nick Findlay & Jessie Leverzencie

Do my actions hold power, and can I make a difference? This question is one which we have all grappled with at some point in our lives. MINI South Africa’s Electric Collective is challenging these doubts, and put forward a study, which suggests that it just takes 3.5% of the population to bring about meaningful change!

At this year’s Reforest Fest, MINI South Africa joined forces with Greenpop and introduced their Big Love Stage to the festival, a platform that inspires positive change-making through discourse and informative talks. The question on everyone’s lips at the end? What difference am I willing to make, and how can I take action now. The power for change is in our hands.

Greenpop MINI Electric

While it’s easy to feel small and insignificant in the context of global issues, and particularly the environmental issues, this is a reminder that WE can be the difference! The Electric Collective is about community, synergy and togetherness; and gives a voice to those who want to make a change, mobilising action through knowledge sharing and collective and individual action. 

MINI Greenpop Reforest Fest

Photograph: Shari Lee Thompson

The Big Love Stage – Catalysing Change

Fueled by a fervour for embracing positive change and exploring innovative ways to interact with the environment, MINI’s Big Love Stage hosts influential figures in the environmental realm, sharing their knowledge and expertise through a series of electrifying talks.

Nestled adjacent to the labyrinth of the beautiful Bodhi Khaya Nature Retreat, the Big Love Stage consisted of two wicker chairs placed on a tastefully decorated wooden platform, surrounded by an abundance of comfy seating stretching out from underneath the shade of a red stretch tent – resonating the “love”. The audience occupied the surrounding lawns and people brought picnic blankets and benches closer to find a cosy spot to listen from. Settling seamlessly into its surroundings of lush green grass and vibrant fynbos, the stage was set as the perfect platform for conservation conversation (boy is that a tongue twister!). 

The proceedings were moderated by beloved Greenpop co-founder and South African musician, Jeremy Loops, who keenly prompted discussion and warmly welcomed each guest to share their insights and knowledge.

Gift Lubele, Kudoti, On the Power of the Circular Economy

Greenpop Reforest Fest Kudoti

Photograph: Shari Lee Thompson

Gift Lubele, is a multifaceted entrepreneur and climate activist. He  is the COO and co-founder of Kudoti, a digital platform that allows businesses to measure their sustainability efforts and track certain themes and patterns, making sustainable policy more tangible, identifiable, and subsequently accessible. Kudoti allows eco-conscious practice to be effectively implemented and maintained, providing a sensible solution to the ambiguity of it all. 

 A circular economy (read more about our Greenpop work on the circular economy here) is where resources are regenerative and products are reused, shared, repurposed and recycled. In the context of South Africa, where waste management is often something many households are not educated about, making this a reality requires individuals and communities to be equipped with the knowledge to be able to make a difference.

Gift elaborated on how rethinking our consumption can provide material goods with more utility and mitigate excessive waste. 

“We need to buy less, buy what we need and not what we want. We need to look at food scraps as compost, donate the clothes we haven’t worn in 6 months, and support businesses that are engaging in such initiatives.”

informal waste picker

Changing the narrative behind informal waste picking has huge potential in developing South Africa’s waste management. He stated that, 

“80 – 90% of the household waste in South Africa goes through the hands of informal waste pickers”

This illustrates the potential for environmental upliftment and community enablement through informal waste picking, and embracing a circular economic approach to certain prevailing issues can foster sustainability through personal empowerment. 

Phumelel Muthali, Viva con Agua, On Water As a Human Right  

Greenpop reforest fest viva con agua

Photograph: Shari Lee Thompson

Phumelele Muthali, Business Development Manager at Viva con Agua South Africa, an initiative driven to increase access to water and sanitation in South Africa was our second speaker on the panel. 

One of the (seemingly) simplest resources many of us with access to a tap overlook is clean water. It flows through our homes, is in abundance in swimming pools and refreshes us with long baths and showers. But this luxury is not the reality for millions of people across the world. 

Viva con Agua strives to change this. They are on a mission to empower, educate and bring people together through water-awareness art. Spreading awareness through creative outlets and creating an environment conducive to learning, has seen people of all walks of life learn the depth to the statement: “Water is a Human Right.” 

Viva con agua nina manzi

Photograph: Zotha Makwakwa

Viva Con Agua and their Nina Manzi mobile shower facilities at Reforest Fest were an integral part of our festival’s sanitation experience. The Nina Manzi showers bring mobile sanitation facilities to homeless people across Cape Town. These showers were a valuable addition to the fest and were enjoyed by our festivalgoers across the weekend. Participants also learned all about water inequalities, increasing our awareness around water insecurity, and reminding us about the fact that water is a human right.

Providing homeless individuals with access to clean water and sanitation is incredibly important, and as Phumelele says, “bridging the gap between policy and reality,” stresses the need for activating tangible and real change. Good hygiene may seem simple, but for an individual without access to basic facilities, this can be a limiting factor, which hampers their access to opportunities.  As can be imagined, an individual’s psyche and self-esteem are also affected due to this. 

A lack of water is an often far-removed concept for those with easy access to it, yet Phumelele’s illustrations and real-life, tangible examples, allowed audiences to get a brief glimpse into the severity of the lack of this basic human right. Through sensitive conversation and developing a better understanding of other people’s circumstances, we can approach these vulnerable topics and address the issues that characterise them.

Roushanna Gray, Veld & Sea, on the Possibilities of Sustainable Foraging 

Greenpop veld & sea

Photograph: Veld & Sea

Roushanna Gray is an educator, inspirer of the natural world, passionate forager and founder of Veld & Sea, a conceptual food experience driven by sustainable foraging, nature and the many edible landscapes of the Western Cape. 

With modern society’s endless conveniences and fast-paced way of life, many city-dwellers yearn for the simplicities of a life more closely in touch with nature. The ‘luxuries’ of modern life have left many of us city-dwellers out of touch with the natural world, and as a consequence uneducated and disconnected from living in harmony with our planet. 

Roushanna and her team at Veld & Sea aim to change this. Through her sustainable foraging workshops both in the mountainous landscapes and along our Cape Town coastline, many city-dwellers have gotten the opportunity to get a glimpse into the fascinating world of edible landscapes. While foraging has become more popularised online and in wellness space, Roushanna cautions individuals to the fact that while nature holds much abundance, it is pivotal for us to treat these delicate and complex ecosystems with respect. 

To live in a way that is in symbiosis with nature, means stewarding this bounty, and using only what we need. As Roushanna illustrated in a coastal foraging workshop with our Greenpop team last year, it takes one individual to deplete and destroy a rockpool ecosystem by overharvesting seaweed from that area. That one ecosystem may take years to recover, or in many cases never recover at all. 

Roushanna views foraging as a means of engaging with our legacy and instincts, and describes it as “living a long lost memory”. Gathering was an integral component of our ancestral pasts and is intrinsically linked to our DNA. On our Cape Town Strandveld landscapes themselves, lies a deep history of the Khoisan people’s hunter-gatherer roots, living in harmony with the land and sea. Foraging is for these reasons, a truly powerful way to reconnect with nature and our own history, which bears incredible benefits, for mind, body and soul.

Roushanna harnesses her cuisine as a medium for teaching, spreading environmental awareness and incentivising sustainable eating habits. “With nature as our classroom anything is possible,” she poetically remarked as she unpacked our preconceived notions of food as a society and indicated how constricted our boundaries are. 

Roushanna shows us how preconceived attitudes towards food are embedded within our language. As she illustrated with an example from our seas, thinking of “seaweeds to sea-vegetables immediately shifts our perspectives and opens up our minds to the endless possibilities”. With a flick of perspective, something like seaweed, often viewed as a stinky nuance on the beach to some, or a mechanism to buoy yourself around when surfing or free-diving, becomes something far greater. The 900 species of seaweed – of which one is inedible and native to the South African coastline – suddenly become unconventional salty snacks as opposed to something slimy that you get tangled in at the beach. 

Naturally-sourced foods are inherently more nutritious, easier to digest and generally kinder to our bodies than the processed foods we often sway towards for the sake of convenience or out of habit. While there is a delicate balance to be struck, sustainable wild food foraging serves as a reminder that there are many ways in which we can change our rigid routines for the better and become infinitely more connected with the natural world around us. Anything is possible with nature as our classroom. 

Stephen Horn, Clean Creatives, on Ditching the Fossil Fuel Industry

Reforest Fest

Photograph: Shari Lee Thompson

The final Big Love Stage speaker, Stephen Horn, is the South Africa Country Director at Clean Creatives South Africa – a global movement advocating for advertising and PR agencies, creatives, and their clients to sever ties with the fossil fuel industry. Balancing jarring claims and comedic relief with grace, Stephen educated the audience on the reality of the fossil fuel industry’s deviant policies, as well as the nature and prevalence of greenwashing, posing the question, “who’s actually doing the gaslighting?”. 

“Clean Creatives SA, inspired by Clean Creatives in the US, is bringing together leading SA media agencies, their employees, and industry clients, to address the SA ad and PR industry’s work with the fossil fuels that are the principal cause of climate breakdown.

Continuing to work for fossil fuel companies hurts our communities. It also poses risks to brands that sincerely prioritise sustainability, and to their agencies.

The Clean Creatives pledge is the best way to show you are committed to a future for the creative industry that doesn’t include promoting climate-breaking carbon pollution. As creatives or leaders of agencies, the pledge says that you will decline future contracts with the fossil fuel industry. As clients, it says you will decline work with agencies that retain fossil fuel industry clients.”

The fossil fuel industry is a heavy-weight player in the environmental arena. The extraction of oil and the destruction caused by oil drilling to fuel our cars, coal mining, and fracking for natural gas, have negatively impacted our natural environments and left them under heavy strain from these processes. Learn more here.

“Since 2022, fossil fuel companies have rolled back their commitments to clean energy, and made clear statements to investors, regulators, and the public that they will continue focusing on polluting products, no matter the impact on the planet.”

This is not the same narrative the fossil fuel industry is sharing, however. As Stephen says the greenwashing that is prevalent by this industry has misled people across the globe to believe that fossil fuels are doing more good than bad for the planet. 

Greenwashing refers to the phenomenon of deviating the truth about environmental issues, eco-friendly initiatives or sustainable solutions for the sake of creating a false sense of hope and security. This, of course, can be very convenient for large corporations and businesses who operate unethically – and generate mass carbon emissions and produce excessive waste – under the guise of a squeaky-clean, sustainable organisation.

fossil fuels

Stephen explained how fossil fuel-driven enterprises such as Shell, Total Energies and BP spend massive budgets on advertising campaigns and sponsoring events that project positive values of an ethical nature. This is, of course, misleading as Stephen explained: 

“Sasol produces more greenhouse gases than the collective emissions of 100 different, individual countries. One single company, then they sponsor Banyana Banyana and who can hate a company that supports women’s football?”. 

Passionately expressing the need for the current gradual, global shift from non-renewable energy to more sustainable energy sources, Stephen explained the sluggishness of this shift due to the widespread misinformation. Protecting the facade of the fossil fuel industry communicates an incredibly misconstrued message about the nature of these mass polluters, who we still rely on for the majority of the energy that we consume. 

“The IPCC report […] [speaks] directly to the communications and PR industry, saying that “the media shapes the public discourse about climate mitigation” and that fossil fuel PR and marketing should come to an end. 

The report highlighted that fossil fuel marketing uses “climate-care statements” and “deflect[s] corporate responsibility to individuals” to greenwash and make climate change feel like our personal responsibility, rather than an obligation for corporate and government leaders.” 

Clean Creatives’ goal is to encourage more creatives, PR and marketing individuals and agencies to ditch the fossil fuel industry, and shift this statistic around. To start advocating for a fossil-free world, and to be transparent about the detrimental impact of this industry on our natural resources. Clean Creatives believes that creating a more transparent narrative surrounding the fossil fuel industry can heavily influence the pace at which we are channelling towards more sustainable energy sources.

A Platform For Change – Thank You to MINI South Africa 

Robust conversation, big ideas and inspirational monologues were abundant at Reforest Fest 2024’s Big Love Stage, igniting conversation long after the talks had drawn to a close. We would like to extend a massive thank you to MINI South Africa and our panel of speakers who reminded us that we are in the driver’s seat, and that the power to activate change can be sparked by anyone at any time. All it takes is the choice to take action and the boldness to take the leap. 

“Live Life Well” From the Inside Out

“Live Life Well” From the Inside Out

“Live Life Well.” What images does this phrase bring up in your head? Greenpop and Wellness Warehouse revamped Reforest Fest’s Food Village with a focus on sustainable, ethical, local, and seasonal produce.

Greenpop Foundation NPC is a registered non-profit organisation. Registration Number (NPO): 151-411 NPO.