Women in Sustainability:    Meet our Head of Programmes, Zoë Gauld-Angelucci


AUGUST, 2022

By Marlena Niedl

For this year’s Women’s Day in South Africa, we want to introduce a woman in sustainability who inspires us daily. After earning a Master’s degree in Development Studies, she joined Greenpop in 2014. When she is not heading up programmes across Sub-Saharan Africa, you can find her spending time with her family, tending to her garden, practising Italian, and searching for the best pizza in the Mother City. Get to know Zoë Gauld-Angelucci!

What inspired you to pursue a career in Sustainable Development?

“I have always loved the natural world. I spent my childhood tending to my tomato plants (a skill I learned from my grandmother), taking long walks along the river watching leaves dance in the current and swinging gleefully on a grand, old olive tree near my home. Nature is simply my place of peace. Fast forward two decades and I found myself in the majestic shadow of Table Mountain, attending the University of Cape Town.”

Could you describe your studies and career path?

“After earning first-class passes for my undergraduate and honours degrees at the University of Cape Town, I went on to complete an M.Phil in Development Studies. In the Sociology Department, I gained a broader perspective on the numerous, intersecting social and environmental challenges facing South Africa and made the decision to pursue a career tackling these issues. I wrote my thesis on the social impacts of urban greening projects run by a young local environmental NGO, Greenpop. 

Of course, I wasn’t aware at the time that this academic project would transform into a fulfilling career spanning almost 8 years with this organisation. After completing my studies, I joined Greenpop’s fundraising and communication team. Over the next 5 years I ran successful environmental awareness and fundraising campaigns (some of which went viral), spoke at schools and events across the country, and built social media strategies and websites. 

In 2018, I leaned into my passion for tackling social and environmental justice issues and took up the role of Greenpop’s Head of Programmes.”

Which projects are you working on at Greenpop?

“My role as Head of Programmes has afforded me the opportunity to develop, implement, and oversee all of Greenpop’s forest restoration, urban greening, food gardening and environmental awareness projects across South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania. 

While this role has come with many successes and challenges, I am particularly proud to have facilitated Greenpop being selected as an official Supporting Partner for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a title which solidifies our impact within and contribution towards the global field of ecosystem restoration.”

In which ways does your work contribute to sustainable development in South Africa? 

“While climate change has not historically been caused by developing countries, our most vulnerable populations are the ones who will experience its most extreme impacts. For this reason, climate change should be understood not only as an environmental issue but also as an issue of social justice in South Africa. 

For sustainable development to be successful we need to integrate social, economic and ecological development and that is exactly what Greenpop does. For example, our Family Food Gardens project does not only teach people about environmental sustainability but also provides them with the skills to grow their own vegetables at home which helps contribute towards food security in South Africa. In this way, we are aiming to contribute towards SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 2, Zero Hunger, as well as SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth.”

What does sustainability mean to you personally?

“My short answer is that I want my daughter, and all future generations, to enjoy a comfortable, healthy and thriving planet. I want her to experience the clean air and water, pristine wilderness, and plastic-free oceans that I experienced as a child. I want her to wake up to birds chirping and see elephants in the wild. I want her to be safe from wildfires, floods, and droughts. I want her to live in a green neighbourhood with parks and trees and community gardens. I want her to have access to healthy and varied food. I want her to be able to earn a living in a fulfilling career that doesn’t cost the earth. I’m thankful that the projects I work on daily  plat a small role in building that reality for generations to come.”

Which advice would you give to girls and young women who dream of working in environmental and development sciences?

“We need female environmentalists  to tackle the climate crisis and move towards a more sustainable future here in South Africa. Many people think that a career in sustainability is based on a specific degree or sector but I believe that all careers can be green careers. The planet is in need of sustainability minded lawyers, psychologists, artists, musicians as well as journalists and many others. To me, having a career in sustainability means bringing environmental awareness to work. 

The most important thing is to ask yourself what you are good at and what brings you joy and to then think about where your skills might make a positive difference. Use your influence and inspire others to increase your impact. Remember: Billions of small actions put together, will change the world and might also lead you to an incredible career.”

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