Transitioning Globally and Local Communities

Written by Marshall Rinquest, Director Greyton Transition Town.

Just over a week ago I left Greyton in the heart of the Overberg, in the Western Cape to attend one of the biggest conferences in South Africa, taking place in Johannesburg and organised by the United Nations (UN); Known as the  International Civil Society Week.  I was invited to attend in order to represent not only Greyton Transition Town (GTT) but also South Africa and was flown there and accommodated as a guest of the UN.

Delegates from some 56 countries gathered to learn and share information about the challenges in their local communities and effective action arising from the people at grassroots level.  I was one of eight individuals selected from around the world to share the work that I do at GTT as well as projects that are run by GTT, for example tackling food security and building a sustainable community.

The two hundred delegates are world leaders in effective grass roots action and each person had the opportunity to introduce themselves and the work they are doing.   I introduced myself to as many people as I could during the networking sessions and explained what a Transition Town is as well as my role as a presenter at the conference.

My presentation at the conference was very well received and as a result I was nominated by the delegates as a UN sponsored ambassador and adviser on sustainable living and community gardens.  I was also invited to join the Generation 2030 Africa movement which is a UNICEF initiative that focuses on the future of children in the African continent.

In these capacities, my role will be to introduce transition as a driver for social change to communities around the world which are suffering from poverty and a lack of integration or cohesion.  I will be sharing our Greyton/South Africa experience of Transition to places such as Bangladesh, Brazil, United States and Tunisia.  I will be able to continue as Director of GTT and my travels will be funded by the UN.

This was truly a wonderful experience and a great way of networking with like-minded people who are doing transition style activities all over the world.  It is phenomenal that GTT, which has been in existence for just over two years, has earned its place in this global arena.

I came back with a different perspective of our work and one of the most important things that I have learned is…..BE THE CHANGE THAT YOU WANT TO SEE IN THIS WORLD.

The Gentle Revolution

Small scale farming is seeing a steady increase in its use as a source of food for farming families and of course an economic source of income from sold goods.  One of its great advocates and friend of Greyton Transition is Rob Small who has pioneered the recovery and viability of small scale farming. Maybe this is a model that could find traction amongst a number of local producers, who have access to some agricultural land. Why not learn more by visiting their web site www.abalimi.org.za  and reading their latest news release by clicking on the link below.

Click here to download article

New Disease Predicted in Overberg Region

First Published in July 2014, in the Greyton Country News.

As Greyton moves this month to become the first of many communities in South Africa that are transitioning to an environment free of single-use plastic shopping bags, it is worth looking at a serious and debilitating condition that may manifest as the campaign draws to a close and plastic shopping bags are no longer available in the village.


Symptoms of PBDS usually lie dormant and are only triggered at a retail checkout when the sufferer asks for a plastic bag and is met with a blank look. The sudden onset of the condition, in a very public place, can be distressing and embarrassing.

Responses include:

  • · Rapid eye movement (blinking in disbelief)
  • · Raised heartbeat and wave of anger
  • · Frantic rummaging in pockets
  • · Failure to recognise the alternatives being offered
  • · Panic attack and fast exit from the store

Greyton Transition Town is here to help with these three easy pointers:

Step 1. Purchase a long-life bag. These are available at only R5 in a variety of colours at almost all shops in town.

Step 2. Practice putting it onto your key ring (men) or into your handbag (ladies). After only two dozen attempts most people will succeed.

(If you need assistance, GTT will be running workshops and support groups to help you. Just contact the number below.)

Step 3. When you are at the till, take out your long-life bag and put your purchases in it.

For support, counseling, workshops and one-on-one consultations and tutorials call our special PBDS Helpline on 082-558-7752082-558-7752.

Open during shopping hours every day.

Greyton is on its way to becoming South Africa’s first plastic bag free town

Greyton, a small town in Overberg, Western Cape has launched a campaign to be the first plastic bag free town in South Africa. In the two years since joining the Global Transition Network, which supports community-led responses to climate change, Greyton has successfully implemented a number of projects including the conversion of a landfill site into a recreational park and fruit forest.  The plastic bag free campaign, its latest initiative, aims to rid the town of single use plastic shopping bags by National Plastic Bag Free Day on the 3rd of July 2014.

The blight of plastic bags

Greyton’s plastic bag free campaign aims to reduce the impacts of plastic bags on their local environment (Source: www.123rf.com)

According to Nicola Vernon, Chairman of the Greyton Transition Town (GTT), the campaign responds to the urgent need expressed by the community to rid the town of plastic bags. “Over the years I have watched residents becoming more and more distressed about our dumpsite, the amount of litter in our streets, the general ‘toss it away and forget about it’ attitude that is a symptom of a more profound sense of disconnection from our planet.”

Due to their ability to become airborne, plastic bags have led to a multitude of problems in the area, including littering the streets, being ingested by livestock and leaching toxins into the environment. Plastic bags are also a significant threat to marine life. “Billions of bags end up in the oceans where they contribute to the millions of marine animals estimated to die each year from plastic ingestion or entrapment.  This is why our campaign has been given full support by the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town,” said Vernon.

Apart from the environmental ills associated with plastic bags, GTT have also found them to be uneconomical. “Some of our members noted that it is the poorest of our community who continue to use these bags whilst the more affluent are more likely to use a longlife shopping bag.  The 50c charge at the till for a plastic bag has become so insidious that shoppers don’t realise they are paying it. We have asked some of our poorer members to calculate how much they spend per month on a plastic shopping bag, they were shocked to realise that it can amount to as much as R25 per month,” said Vernon.

Implementing the initiative

GTT introduced the idea of a plastic bag free town to the community about 18 months ago. From the community’s feedback GTT realised that finding an acceptable alternative bag was critical to moving the project forward. “We tried making them locally but the cheapest we could make cost R20. After months of searching we recently found an ideal source – colourful, attractive, very sturdy, longlife bags for only R4 including VAT and postage to Greyton.  Five outlets are selling them in Greyton and more are coming on board every day.  We’ve ordered our second lot of 1,000 bags so now around 1,200 have been sold” she said.

Hayley McLellan, Campaign Director of ‘Rethink the Bag’ at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, mobilised support for the initiative by presenting the threats of plastic bags to local shop owners and cashiers. The presentation inspired several shop owners who are showing their support by selling the bags at close to cost price to encourage their customers to embrace the change.

GTT have plans to monitor the progress and to provide the community with information and feedback on the progress of the campaign.  “We are a small village and we know our retailers so we will visit them frequently and support each and every one of them through this process, responding to different challenges with different and imaginative promotions and incentives.  It’s important that we create an atmosphere of ‘can do’ and positivity,” said Vernon.

Driving social change

“Most projects that are going to have a positive effect on the environment require a change in one’s habits.  Business as usual has to be abandoned and new ways of living need to be found.  This frightens some people and GTT needs to recognise that and support them so that they can see that being friendly to the planet is not only rewarding, it is life affirming. There will always be resistance to change and it’s up to GTT to find ways of inspiring and motivating.  We don’t preach or try to educate, instead we find fun things to do that will get people thinking, engaging and interacting with these environmental challenges,” said Vernon.

Vernon hopes that the initiative will inspire other South Africans. “We are publicising our attempt to become the first plastic shopping bag free town in South Africa so that others can learn from us – what works, what doesn’t – so that they can move forward in their own communities and help South Africa become one of the growing number of countries in the world that no longer supplies the single use plastic shopping bags,” she said.

Record-Sized Painting Makes Greyton Famous

From the 26th of March until the 27th March the famous Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race will be in Greyton, to celebrate this event and obtain international exposure a team of dedicated people ably supported by GTT have created a visual masterpiece.

The painting measures a whopping 3 750 sq m – almost 4 times the area of the Cistine Chapel! It is certainly the largest landscape piece of art in South Africa.

25 000 hours TV coverage in 175 countries.

The Absa Cape Epic is widely regarded as the world’s premier international mountain bike stage race and is the most televised mountain bike race of all time – a total of 25 000 hours in 175 countries.
Greyton’s objective is to win the prize for the best Epic town and to this end a flyover was dreamed up for the helicopter TV crew to capture.
Accolades must go to the team who decided on a landscape painting by Adele Fouche that would be “painted” onto the whole Uitkyk rugby field (thank you Uitkyk!)
Adele created the landscape in such a way that the cyclists would ride through it. Probably a first! – again with kind permission from Uitkyk School.

GREYTON written in 8m high letters

At the top of the picture are letters spelling GREYTON that are 8m high, outlined in white and black and filled in with woodchips.
In an effort to use recycled/recyclable materials the team was assisted by Greyton Transition Town and the Eco Kids who supplied materials such as wood chippings, cans, eco bricks.
Straw and paint is also being used to colour in the field. The paint is special sportsline paint, mostly donated by a kind donor. Seventy-five bales of straw will be carted from Blaawbank farm by volunteers.

Many hours in the hot sun

The painting was mapped out to scale using approx 1000m of black twine for a grid and another 1000 m of string to outline the picture. It was then painted in outline in black and then filled in with colour.
GTA member John McGlashan and Adele Fouche were driving force behind this project, working many hours in the hot sun.
They were assisted by Andrew White, Janine Winfield, Chrizenda Gunter, Nicky Vernon, Candice Mostert, Marshall Rinquest, Alistair Barnes, Sylvia Barnes, The Greyton Lodge, The Oak & Vigne, Searle’s, Jeremy Prins, Jenny Duncan, Chris Leatt (The Post House), Piet du Toit, Chris Coetzer (Greyton Liquor and Wine Boutique), Wayne from GTT, Dominique St Clair, Gemma Downing, Belinda Mutti and many others.

Thank you for all the support in the drive to get Greyton on the world map. Visitors are our mainstay in this village!

Earth Hour 2014

It hardly seems possible that another year has gone by, but the ever expanding Earth Hour is on us again.

In its eighth year, WWF’s Earth Hour continues to defy expectations by mobilising hundreds of millions of people around different environmental priorities across the planet. And now in 2014, the movement further expands its digital and on the ground reach from the Amazon to the Arctic and Tahiti to Tanzania, with a groundswell of action creating massive impact around the world to shine a light on the incredible work being done to create a sustainable planet.

It fits perfectly with the ethos of Greyton Transition, where we encourage people to manage their consumption of fossil fuels as efficiently as possible, and with ESKOMS load shedding this year, it may be that no one will notice, but GTT would like to thank everyone in Greyton for taking past, if you would like to learn more visit the web site. Earth Hour

Greyton Transition Town opens first Swop Shop

By Candice Mostert

I just can’t say how moved I am when I see people getting excited about the value of their waste. As I continue with the Swop Shop, Trash to Treasure projects in Greyton and the Overberg I begin to see a mind-set changing among people. I am seeing kids cleaning up the streets, parents teaching their kids how to clean and dry recyclables- it’s one of the best feelings in the world, to see honesty and responsibility taking first place and this will stay in the minds of these people and children for life.

Swop Shop is a space where people can bring clean, dry, recyclable waste and receive vouchers, which they can exchange at an on-site shop, to purchase essentials such as clothes, toiletries, blankets and school clothing. This is a simple idea that is going a long way to distill value in the people who are working for their goods – value to the land they are cleaning up or preventing further littering and of course a value to the waste that was once seen as useless.

Caledon’s first Swop Shop opened Friday 24th January 2014 at Swartberg High School.

Image: GTT team member and trainee Wayne Sampson of Heuwelkroon, Greyton sets out the shop.

Image: With over 700 learners and up to 30 staff throwing away valuable waste every day, Swartberg High School were eager to learn about Swop Shops.

The Swop Shops wouldn’t be possible without a constant stream of ‘high-end’ waste. Chic Mamas, charity second hand clothing retailer based in Greyton, gives generous quantities of unsold, high quality clothing. Shoprite Checkers has given GTT access to four stores for their slightly shop-soiled or damaged products.

Image: GTT team leader, Marshall Rinquest assists a Checkers worker to load up with goods.

The GTT team have been working in all schools where swop shops are opening to help teachers and children make the transition to a less wasteful way of living.

Image: Greyton Transition Town team: Candice Mostert (Manager of GTT Projects), Marshall Rinquest (Eco-Crew Team Leader), Lily Bet (Intern from Germany) and Wayne Samson, GTT Trainee.

Pictured below, Marshall Rinquest explains the swop shop at Swartberg High School assembly with examples of upcycling waste – a mirror made from used plastic fabric softener bottles by Greyton’s queen of upcycling, Monique Fagan, and eco-bricks – plastic bricks stuffed with non-recyclable plastics which are going to be used for building community centres.

Image: Marshall Rinquest

Image: The Teachers: Mr Wildschut and Mr Samuels, two teachers devoted to helping the school become as green as possible, are heading up the Swartberg Caledon shop.

Image: The shop – The children were runnning around the school collecting all the trash they could see once they realised what amazing things they could ‘buy’ with their vouchers inside the shop. While the teachers did a good job keeping the system going.

Image: The teachers doing a good job of keeping the system going.

The shop will now be open every week for the students of Swartberg High and they can bring their waste for collection any day of the week.
Any donations are welcome to keep our shops awesome and look out for the next shop opening in Genadendal – coming soon.

For further information call Candice Mostert on 082 850 4254

A Fruit Forest is Born in Greyton

By Nicky Vernon

The children were still wearing their white blouses and pink skirts from their march in front of the festively decorated lorry. They were leading the lorry and its passengers – 30 eager young volunteers and 100 trees – to the rehabilitated dumpsite in Greyton. Now white quickly turned to brown as the children ran forward, with great eagerness and enthusiasm, to help place those trees into pre-prepared holes, made muddy by two days of rain.

The volunteers had travelled from Cape Town with Greenpop, the NGO which has planted tens of thousands of trees throughout Africa and which had now turned up in force to help launch an ambitious plan to turn the whole of Greyton, in the Western Cape, into a fruit forest.

Nicky Vernon, Chairperson of GTT explained:

“Food security is a major issue here. People in our community are going to bed hungry. Every single project that we do with children has to include food or they won’t have the energy to plant trees, create community gardens or help clear up waste. As soon as we fenced in the Green Park we created a special space which we can enhance with more permanent structures and facilities which will allow people to come and walk, sit, have a picnic and enjoy the beautiful scenery. It also helps people to see that there is no ‘away’ for waste – it’s all still here, on the rest of this site, and we must be much more aware of the rubbish that we create on a daily basis ”.

Community Planting

As the truck rolled over the lumpy ground which had once covered tons of garbage, the Greenpop volunteers cheered – ‘let’s get planting!’. As soon as it came to a halt, the truck disgorged people, trees, shovels and spades. The children and other volunteers were gathered together and the ice was broken with team building exercises.

Then it was onto the planting of the trees while women from the community cooked hot stews, vegetarian pies and curried pancakes to keep energy levels high. Three hours later 100 trees had been planted and Greyton’s Fruit Forest was born.

As well as providing a home to the start of the fruit forest, the rehabilitated area of the dumpsite will nurture five new entrepreneurs. Garden waste is welcome here, where it is chipped or turned into compost and sold back into the village, creating permanent employment for the two groundsmen who work full time at the site and who will also water and care for the young trees.

Within the next couple of weeks a charcoal making operation will be set up, a fruit forest nursery is being established and a shitake mushroom farm is to be started. A demonstration organic vegetable garden will show how easy it is to plant a home garden and starter packs of seedlings will be sold on site – creating another new business.

Community Garden Gets Underway

Recently a remarkable 52 people, aged from 3 to 83, turned out to help a rising star in transition; 16 year old Nokwasi Ndlovu, to create a community garden in Boesmanskloof. Our multi-national planting community included natives from USA, Australia, Netherlands, UK, Boesmanskloof, Heuwelkroon, Greyton and Genadendal. We send our special thanks to another beautiful supporter called Annelise Latier and her family, especially grandfather Mr Latier for loaning the land, to the remarkable Rob Small and Abalimi Bezakhaya Project who provided 2,000 organic veggie seedlings for just R600, to the Greyton Women’s Network for cooking up a storm to feed the hungry gardeners, to the Rastafarian community for donating seedlings and helping organise the layout, digging, mulching, composting and planting teams, to the cows of Riviersonderend and the horses of Netherfield Stud for the manure, to Rohan Millson and the Greyton Dump Team for the chippings, to the schools’ eco-crews who spent four hours getting the job done, to our very own Candice Mostert who went beyond the call of duty to pull it all together – and to Nokwasi – she and her young friends offer hope for a wonderful future for all South Africans.

It makes you feel proud and pleased to be part of this community, where small seedlings of volunteer and share start to take place, others are drawn in and soon learn the power of giving. Many of us take our food supply for granted, just complaining when we see how the prices are rising. For generations, utilising the land to feed or supplement the families food was a normal productive part of every day – we hope that others will feel the same sense of opportunity and join in with gardens and crops of  their own.

Why not watch a short video of the many people involved in getting this project off the ground.

Building Bridges and Breaking Walls

Greyton and its surrounding area is a picturesque town surrounded by often snow capped mountains, natural plains of the native bush – fynbos – and fields of crops and animals. It is a place that oozes serenity and whispers in your ear:

“Slow down, relax, just breathe in the fresh mountain air and sigh contentedly, relish in the environment.” 

Despite being change of pace from the bustling city of Sydney, the chaos of Bali traffic and the high rising jungle of apartment blocks in Singapore, Greyton is a town that is also changing and healing, becoming more self-sufficient in an environmental sense and knitting itself tighter as a community. The town and neighbouring Heuwelkroon and Genadendal have quite a history, especially with the near 40 years of apartheid in South Africa between 1948-1994. And despite it being two decades next year since apartheid was abolished, the economic and social disparity and disconnect between the coloured and white population is more than evident when you lift the proverbial rug.

My first impression of the adjacent township of Heuwelkroon was at a memorial gathering for a young boy who had passed away from cancer the year before. I walked around the compacted dirt roads with my friend and Greyton Transition Town* member Candice, as the only White and Asian people in the township. My first impressions were that of sadness, seeing that people were living in such small houses cramped in like sardines in a can and in such poor living conditions compared to the houses that I had seen in the town of Greyton and the barn that I was staying in.

However, as the children ran up to us with smiles on their faces I remembered how so many people in poorer parts of the world without the confines of society could find happiness and beauty in the smallest things. I remembered that these people are often many of the most genuine and pure people that I had the honour of meeting, and I was glad for their attitude.

Sure enough, many inhabitants of Heuwelkroon are genuine and pure people, always helping each other out and helping us in our work too, most of all, the sentiment that I felt was that they are accepting and kind people, always offering to share despite having little.

With the new generation of people, there is a growing respect between cultures and a bigger willingness to integrate together into a larger community unmarred by the scars of apartheid nineteen years ago, however, the invisible walls between the two cultures in Greyton and Heuwelkroon are not that easy to break down, nor are the evident divides between the Rastafarian and Christian communities in Heuwelkroon.

There is a plethora of issues that need to be addressed, especially that of alcohol and drug abuse, entrepreneurship and unemployment, and the need for life education and empowerment for many youths who have little aspirations.

I am not a hero who can fix any of these issues in the 2 months that I am here, but I have the utmost confidence that in the years to come, brick by brick, the invisible walls that divide the social standing between the residents of Greyton and Heuwelkroon will fall, organically, as seeds of change sprout and grow.

There are projects in place and people who are passionate about the future of their town, there are capable young people who are filled with ideas to bring the community together. A young girl named Nokwasi had the idea of a community garden, which we are making a reality: A communal space for people to grow food together and sustain themselves and their families. A return to the idea of self-sustainability and food security.

While I am here, I am working with primary and high schools to encourage environmental awareness and to develop a relationship with them, advocating them to have bigger aspirations and to become tall poppies, supporting each other to be better and better. My time is limited and short, but I hope to plant an idea that will grow and flourish long after I leave.

What am I? I am but a plank in one of the bridges that are being built towards a sustainable and integrated future in Greyton.

*Greyton Transition Town is the organization that I am working with for the 2 months that I am in South Africa see www.greytontransition.co.za

This is a post from our intern Matt Shim who is working with GTT for two months. His gap year journeys and experiences can be followed on his blog and facebook page.
blog: www.lettersfromserendip.blogspot.com
facebook: www.facebook.com/lfserendip

Go On, Volunteer — It Could Be Good For You!

Volunteering may be good for your health, reveals a large systematic review and meta-analysis led by the University of Exeter Medical School

Volunteering may be good for your health, reveals a large systematic review and meta-analysis led by the UK University of Exeter Medical School.

Volunteering can improve mental health and help you live longer, finds the study which is published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.[1]

The research pools and compares data from multiple experimental trials and longitudinal cohort studies. Some observational evidence points to around a 20 per cent reduction in mortality among volunteers compared to non-volunteers in cohort studies. Volunteers also reported lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being, although the findings have yet to be confirmed in trials.

The systematic review was led by Dr Suzanne Richards at the University of Exeter Medical School, and was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC).

Worldwide, the prevalence of adult volunteering varies with estimates of 22.5 per cent in Europe, 36 per cent in Australia and 27 per cent in the USA. Volunteers commonly cite altruistic motives for their habit – ‘giving something back’ to their community, or supporting an organisation or charity that has supported them. Volunteering can also be used to gain work experience or to widen social circles, but its effects may go far deeper.

Previous reviews have highlighted supposed health benefits, including increased longevity, improved quality of life, reductions in stress and hospitalisation, but these tend to be based on narrative, rather than comparative evidence. Richards and colleagues pool data from 40 papers which reported data from 9 experimental trials and 16 cohort studies to arrive at their conclusions.

The causal mechanisms underlying the potential health benefits of volunteering are unclear. Some people hypothesise that physical benefits, for example, could be explained by the fact that volunteers spend more time out of the house. But the relationship with mental health may be trickier.

Although people tend to volunteer for altruistic reasons, if they do not feel they are ‘getting something back’, then the positive impact of volunteering on quality of life is limited. Volunteer too much, and the habit can become a burden, bringing problems of its own. More research is needed to unpack the theoretical mechanisms by which volunteers may accrue different health benefits.

In 2010, the UK government launched the ‘Building the Big Society’ policy, which called for low cost, sustainable interventions, such as volunteering, for people to participate in their local communities to improve social capital and community engagement. Volunteering has also been advocated by the United Nations and the American and European governments as a way to foster engagement in local communities, with the potential for public health benefits and decreasing health inequalities.

Dr Richards said: “Our systematic review shows that volunteering is associated with improvements in mental health, but more work is needed to establish whether volunteering is actually the cause. It is still unclear whether biological and cultural factors and social resources that are often associated with better health and survival are also associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place. The challenge now is to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up volunteering, and then to measure whether improvements arise for them.

Transition Town

Greyton Transition Town is always looking for new volunteers, from full time to part time there is plenty of work and opportunity to be explored, should you feel you would like to experience the benefits explained above and add to our ongoing project then please contact us.

How to Volunteer

Contact Candice Mostert, to learn more: 0828504254  candice.mostert@inl.co.za


[1] Jenkinson CE, Dickens AP, Jones K, Thompson-Coon J, Taylor RS, Rogers M, Bambra CL, Lang I, Richards SH. Is volunteering a public health intervention? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the health and survival of volunteers. BMC Public Health. 2013 Aug 23;13(1):773. View Paper

Greyton Eco Bricks Mount Up

Eco Brick numbers mount up as vision of new Youth Centre shows possibilities.

Imagine the situation of many children in our community: no money, no facilities, no social and supportive environment in which to pass time with friends – and subsequent despair and anti-social opportunities abound. The local communities that are part of Greyton Transition Town identified the need for a centre for the youth as a number one project – but how best to achieve this?

Well the plan is to build a Youth Centre behind the Red Cross house in which the primary building materials used are the multiple solution solving Eco Bricks, first proposed by Joseph Stodgel of the Greyton Trash To Treasure mobilising committee. By encouraging the collection of plastic bottles and filling them with dry non-recyclable plastic waste (including the ubiquitous crisp packet) we achieve the double benefit of creating viable building materials and cleaning up the environment.

The first Eco-Brick count was undertaken at the end of the first week of June and around 20 eager youngsters found that a remarkable 2,000 Eco Bricks have already been created.  How many do we need? Well the more we have. the bigger the centre and so far we have estimated that between 5,000 to 7,000 will create the centre that the children and young people have already designed.










Candice Mostert was there to photograph the process and record the smiles and joy from the young people as they began to envision what this may really mean to them – a place to meet up with friends, receive guidance and support, log on to Internet for research, practice their reading and watch movies.  What might become of these youngsters once they have access to a safe, structured and supportive environment?

Feel like helping?   Maybe have some clean empty plastic bottles that just need stuffing?   Well why not call into ‘Pure Greyton’ (found in the Greyt Oak Centre), or contact a GTT member to find out how to make this all happen?

GTT Goes International with German Film Co.

Greyton is a small community with BIG ideas – BIG Transition and Environmental ideas.

Greyton Transition Town (GTT) has found its voice for sustainability in the concepts and ideas of Transition Movement pioneered by UK activist Rob Hopkins and brought back to South Africa by local resident and experienced organiser Nicola Vernon. In just a few short months the energising impact generated by this grassroots charity has inspired community and volunteer-led events to escalate at a rapid rate, resulting in recognition from the region’s political leaders.  At the recent Trash to Treasure Festival of Transition in Greyton, Special Advisor to the Premier of the Western Cape, Jennifer Cargill, announced  GTT as a flagship project  of the Western Cape 110% Green Initiative. Filming the festival, and many other initiatives being conducted simultaneously around the town over 4 days, were the professional German Film company Deutsche Welle (DW). As well as being the main provider of news for German television, DW broadcasts globally in English on current affairs with a strong emphasis on the environment, specifically climate change.  Their website features an on line stream and programme viewing facility and they publish a monthly glossy magazine. www.dw.de

DW found out about GTT through the GTT website and contacted us to cover the Trash to Treasure Festival as well as other aspects of GTT’s work.  The film crew went to Emil Weder school to watch the vegetable garden being planted out by pupils, they saw the Country Conquerors, the world’s only Afrikaans reggae band, in rehearsal in their modest shed in Heuwelkroon and interviewed their base guitarist and general all round eco-star, Marshall Rinquest.  The team also filmed the opening of the new GTT shop and info centre.

They were very impressed with the Festival, capturing the colour, clamour and commotion with hours of footage which will be distilled into a mere 8 minutes of film.  Long enough for us though!  The film will be broadcast and on line from May 6th, please encourage as many people as possible to view the film to help establish GTT as the leading transition town in Sub Saharan Africa, not just South Africa.

GTT wants to spread the excitement and effectiveness of galvanising, educating and involving local communities to protect their future and meet critical needs around food and energy now.

Fountain of Youth Discovered in the Cederberg

Experiences of connectivity by Sunnye Collins.

Bereaville youth, Jayme-Lee hopped over riverbed rocks to catch up with me. She tapped me on the shoulder and smiled without saying a word. We were on a silent hike for the first 30 minutes. She showed me what she had in her hands. Berna-Lee caught up and we muffled our giggles. She knew I was on the hunt for heart-shaped rocks. She had one…another one weighing about 4 kilos. My backpack was already heavy with at least a dozen heart-shaped rocks.

This was one of several memorable moments I had as a chaperone on a camping trip with 15 youth from Greyton, Genadendal and Bereaville. The common link, aside from geography, was a budding interest in the environment and taking up the challenge to get out of our comfort zones. After a 5-hour bus journey to the Cederberg, we arrived at The Cape Leopard Trust on a Friday afternoon. Nicky and Sue situated our vegetarian kitchen and the rest of us set up our tents. Some of these kids had never been camping and they embraced the challenge of not only roughing it in the rain, but also voluntarily giving up their sweets, meats and chips in exchange for vegetarian meals! In the last 15 years of working with youth from all walks of life and several different countries, I can honestly say that this was one of the best youth groups (not to mention camping trips) I have ever experienced.

Over the course of 5 days, we covered a lot of ground…ecologically, historically, creatively, educationally, socially, nutritionally and literally! We hiked at least 12 kilometers through rocky riverbeds, meandered through mountain fynbos, scaled incredible sandstone formations and ran along footpaths trying to decipher between types and ages of scat (animal poop). We marveled at rock art, played games, told stories and roasted marshmallows by the fire. On one evening in particular, I was amazed at the patience of 4 youth as they patiently taught me how to count to 20 in Afrikaans. I am still working on the proper pronunciation of the number 4. We tried our hands at clay sculpture and using charcoal to depict landscapes and animal skulls. Using our newly acquired compass and orienteering skills, we created a perfect circle, made up of 12 people and 50 meters in diameter. We listened and watched for birds and giggled at the sounds of baboon troop drama in the cliffs above our camp. We saw signs & tracks of genets, baboons, and klipspringer and learned how to set up a camera trap in hopes of maybe…just maybe catching a glimpse of the ever-elusive cape leopard.

The compost toilets, bucket showers, and late night baboon hooting reminded all of us that we were far from home, but close to something special…maybe a moment or two that we will fondly recall decades from now. Who can really know when passions are galvanized, when we make a change in our habits, or form a lifelong friendship? All we can do is work to create these opportunities for challenge, exposure, growth, and character building for youth (and not to mention, adults)!

Going on this trip gave me a sorely needed boost of hope. With the recent crime wave in Greyton and Genadendal, it is easy to become discouraged, negative and helpless. I was taking a walk through the Gobos the other morning pondering the recent and rampant burglaries on my street. My brow furrowed and I felt myself getting angry again. And then, in that moment, I stepped on a heart-shaped rock. I found 4 more after that. And these rocks remind me that when you look for the good happening in any community, you will find it. And once you’ve trained your heart and mind to look for it, it becomes easier to find.

Sunnye Collins hails from across the oceans. Originally from the USA, she has wound her way to Greyton where she contributes her energy and passion for life by working as a volunteer for Greyton Transition Town.

Support for Soccer in Greyton from FIFA

Gerrit and Janny Ten Siethoff produced another Christmas present for GTT with the arrival of their family from Switzerland bearing soccer shirts, caps, key holders and balls from FIFA, the governing body of the sport. Daughter Edith and son in law Bob, together with their daughters, Shami and Annique, and boyfriend Roger, present quite a team. Edith is the Head of Division for Women’s football in Switzerland, Sharni is a professional women’s football player for the team FC Affoltern A.A. and her younger sister, Annique, plays for the under 15s. Roger Schneebeli is Head Coach of the Women’s First Team. Edith knows the women’s football representative at FIFA, Tatiana Haenni, who is responsible for providing the gifts.

Annique and Sharni Ten Siethoff lead the 14 years and over

In preparation for the visit, the two main soccer teams in Greyton, the under 14’s run by Audrey Jellen at the library, and the 14 years and over team run by Gabriel Khumalo, practised hard despite difficult conditions. Both teams are unable to compete due to lack of equipment, suitable clothing, shoes or even the funds to travel to away matches. There are three rugby fields in Greyton which can be used by football teams using moveable goal posts. However, these are damaged so finding somewhere to play is very difficult.

Goalie, Anester Burts, with his new gloves

On Saturday 5th January the teams assembled at the rugby pitch behind the Moravian Church. 40 youngsters turned up, on time and ready to receive their gifts and some coaching. If the fair skinned team from Switzerland found the high temperatures challenging they certainly didn’t show it. Two hours of energetic coaching followed in which all youngsters participated with great enthusiasm. It was moving to see them so engaged in sport and it is easy to see how physical team activity can steer youngsters away from trouble, giving them the self esteem and the strength to reject drug-taking, criminal activity and other anti-social behaviour.

It is critical that we find the resources these youngsters need to play competitively. The sports of rugby, football and netball currently engage over 140 children and young people in Heuwelkroon and Boesmanskloof – despite the current difficulties. Imagine how many more could be involved if they had adequate playing fields, equipment, clothing and sufficient funding to participate in away matches. When I (Nicola Vernon) worked as Chief Executive of the Northumbria Coalition against Crime in the UK in the late 90s, we saw a marked reduction in crime after engaging at-risk children and young people in sport.

Edith has pledged to return to Switzerland and start fundraising over there for resources for our youngsters. We need to do our bit and, to that end, GTT would like to establish a Young Person’s Working Group to look into provision of sport, recreational facilities, life-skills workshops and other positive interventions for our at-risk youngsters. Please contact Nicky via the contact form, if you are interested in being part of this group.

Solar Power

Converting sunlight into electricity holds a tremendous amount of promise for helping nations and communities meet their energy needs and yet some big obstacles still stand in the way of adoption: cost, inefficiency of solar cells, storage issues,  and the shortage in supply of silicon materials for the making of photovoltaic cells, being the big ones. Yet on one single day, the sun sends 15,000 times as much energy to the Earth as we consume worldwide on a daily basis? A free supply that in contrast to fossil energy sources, such as oil and natural gas is available in limitless quantities!

One bright development is the expansion of graphene, a highly conductible material made from carbon, pioneered by UK scientists, but rapidly drifting into commercial use, it is likely that with just a few years that graphene panels will be many times more efficient and cheap. Graphene is a sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb-like lattice just one atom thick. Since its discovery in 2004, this “wonder material” has continued to amaze scientists with its growing list of unique electronic and mechanical properties. Some believe that graphene could find uses in a number of technological applications – even replacing silicon as the electronic industry’s material of choice.

The first graphene was produced in 2004 when Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov used sticky tape and graphite (better known as pencil lead) to separate the layers of carbon and isolate the one-atom-thick material graphene. Six years later, the scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work with the substance.

As Geim and Novoselov noted in their seminal 2007 paper (pdf): “The graphene ‘gold rush’ has begun.” And though there are no commercial applications for it yet, it’s important to remember that graphene is only eight years old.

Graphene is nearly transparent, electrically conductive and capable of absorbing many different wavelengths of light, giving it great potential to be used in thin, flexible solar panels that could be plastered on everything from the sides of buildings to the clothes we wear.

A number of research groups are working to realize this potential. At the beginning of the summer, physicists from the University of Florida were able to increase the efficiency of graphene solar cells from 2.9 percent to 8.6 percent. The researchers believe if they can reach efficiencies of 10 percent, the cells could be competitive commercially.

Solar power is the energy of the future – safe, clean and 100 % environmentally compatible. Greyton Transition is looking to explore the potential role of solar power in the reduction of fossil fuel use in the town and local areas. Using the sun to heat water and supply fuel in South Africa where sun is abundant is a sensible way forward and GTT will include this as part of their overall strategic plan.

Inevitably there will be hurdles and technology will no doubt evolve less quickly than we would like, but look around us, even in winter we have sunlight available to us, everyone should consider the merits not only from the perspective of cost reduction to your household bills, but potential ecological and environmental costs as well. Their safe disposal and removal of hazardous materials is already under discussion and many companies already have such a system in place. Do ask your supplier what will happen in 20 years or so when the panels are no longer effective.

WWF Earth Hour 2013


What is Earth Hour

In 2007, WWF-Australia inspired Sydney-siders to show their support for climate change action in the first ever Earth Hour event. It showed that everyone, from children to CEOs and politicians, has the power to change the world they live in. In Sydney, Australia, 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights out for one hour to take a stand against climate change.

In 2008, the plan was to take Earth Hour to the rest of Australia. But then the City of Toronto, Canada, signed up and it wasn’t long before 35 countries and almost 400 cities and towns were part of the event. It said something compelling to the world: that the climate challenges facing our planet are so significant that change needs to be global.

With the invitation to ‘switch off’ extended to everyone, Earth Hour quickly became an annual global event. It’s scheduled on the last Saturday of every March – closely coinciding with the equinox to ensure most cities are in darkness as it rolled out around the Earth.

Hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments around the world unite each year to support the largest environmental event in history.

In 2011, Earth Hour saw hundreds of millions of people across 135 countries switch off for an hour. But it also marked the start of something new – going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action on climate change. In 2012, Earth Hour celebrated its largest event to date with more than 6,950 cities and towns in 152 countries and territories switching off their lights, and with hundreds of thousands of people accepting an IWIYW challenge to take their commitment to the planet beyond the hour. With the power of social networks used to promote the campaign, Earth Hour is working towards an interconnected global community committed to creating a more sustainable planet.

If you would like to get involved or would like more information please visit www.earthhour.org


What is Climate Change and how does it occur?

Global warming is the greatest threat facing our planet today. A warming planet alters weather patterns, water supplies, seasonal growth for plants and a sustainable way of life for us, and the world’s wildlife. Climate change has already started, but it’s not too late to take action. There’s still time for us all to be part of the solution.

A continuous flow of energy from the sun heats the Earth. Naturally occurring gases in the atmosphere, known as greenhouse gases, trap this heat like a blanket, keeping the Earth at an average of 15 degrees Celsius – warm enough to sustain life. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most significant of these gases. The amount of naturally produced CO2 is almost perfectly balanced by the amount naturally removed through photosynthesis and its dissolution in oceans. However, the overuse of fossil fuels is leading to increased CO2 in the atmosphere, trapping more and more heat and warming the Earth.

As a result, we’re seeing more dramatic weather patterns across the globe. 
The effects of Earth’s changing weather not only causes devastating natural disasters but shrinking of the world’s ice shelves and glaciers due to warming sea water. Because ice acts as a solar reflector, the less ice there is, the less heat the Earth reflects. WWF provides more detail on the impacts of climate change on our polar regions, glaciers and more.

For further information on climate change please visit www.earthhour.org/page/about/what-climate-change

Miss Earth South Africa and Trash to Treasure Festival

Hot news is that the already famous (after just the first year!) Greyton Trash to Treasure Festival is being held at Greyton on April the 20th 2013. The organiser Joseph Stodgel along with Nicky Vernon and a wild and spirited mix of volunteers and people dragged to assist will pull together to create another excellent event.

One of the visitors from 2012 was Miss Earth South Africa. The Miss Earth South Africa is a leadership programme that aims to empower young South African women with the knowledge and platform to create a sustainable difference in our fight to combat the destruction of our natural heritage. The programme helps to create an awareness of sustainable development, our environment, wildlife and the conservation of our natural legacy in South Africa, and ultimately the preservation of Mother Earth.

You may already have told your friends and family, but if not now is the time to spread the word, as visitors to our beautiful community bring economic and social value to the community as well as spreading the word about the GTT experience. This helps to motivate others to seek out ideas and promote similar events to encourage transition to become better known and understood.

We look forward to seeing you there. More information and links will be posted as events are confirmed. In the meantime why not revisit the event by checking out Josephs web site.

Leopard Project

A healthy environment also has a wide diversity of wildlife, both large and small. Inevitably some see this as a conflict between humans and wildlife, whether it be baboons or leopards, some will feel equivalently passionate about different interpretations of risk to benefit.

At Greyton we are blessed with access to a large nature reserve and extensive mountains. These provide a ‘safeish’ habitat for wildlife to exist and roam, one of the most beautiful and misunderstood of these is the Cape Leopard. The Landmark Foundation, an NGO is collecting data from the mountains around Greyton to determine the success or otherwise of the slowly expanding Leopard population. GTT in its own way is supporting the return to greater biodiversity, a strongly visible indication of this success is the presence of predators and food in the mountains.

The Landmark Foundation recognises that the intact natural landscapes of Southern Africa region are under threat from irresponsible human activities. These landscapes are now amongst our most treasured landmarks. The threats to these places are the result of land-uses that have degraded the aesthetic value of the areas and the biodiversity patterns and processes contained in them, and in most cases for short-term financial gain. What is required is a landmark change of thinking and behaviour, whereby biodiversity and landscape conservation provides investment returns and benefits to people, that in turn creates incentives for its conservation. The Landmark Foundation strives to build the conservation economy so that these landscapes can effectively be conserved.

GTT recognises that along with many organisations around the world, that natural habitat is declining, and with it resources and animals. Our projects aim to act in synergy with projects such as those undertaken by the Landmark Trust to benefit humans and animals.

Sentinel Nov 2012

The Sentinel is the monthly community newspaper of Greyton and the surrounding villages.

News from Greyton Transition Town – Greyton Green Park

 We have been busy on all fronts this month.  Work continues at the dumpsite and it is very rewarding, after all our efforts, to see people walking there, enjoying the views and the very special peace and beauty of our new emerging parkland.

The festival site is an ideal place for a picnic and the two men, Hillary du Plessis and Donnie Bantom, are still working there, keeping it clean and in good condition.  We will cover a part of the festival stage to provide a shady place if you want to come and sit for a while.  Talking of which – the loos are still operational!

Thank you to TWK for giving some support to the project by helping with the men’s wages and, shortly, to providing water to the site so that we can keep our compost piles damp and water the new plants.

We continue to provide chippings and compost and we hope that in the new year we will be able to add charcoal to the list.  If you want to stock up, during the summer, on your logs for winter then we will be offering those too from December onwards.

Children’s initiatives

There are two groups of children enjoying informal football sessions in Greyton, one attached to the library and the other organised by Heuwelkroon resident,Gabriel Khumalo.  The latter used to be called the Greyton Roses but the team haven’t been able to continue due to lack of resources.  A resident of Greyton has links to FIFA and in early January his friends from abroad will be visiting Greyton and bringing with them gifts from FIFA that will help the two teams to start training, playing and competing again.  Forty children are involved from ages 12 to 17.

The plans for the new youth centre that were drawn up after a day’s workshop are now with the youngsters as they make the final modifications.  We will start building in the New Year behind the Red Cross house in Heuwelkroon. Please keep stuffing those plastic bottle bricks with clean, dry non-recyclable waste such as styrofoam, plastic bags, polystyrene, tetra-pak etc.

GTT has been working with Greyton Conservation Society and ARK to deliver the six month environmental awareness programme to local schools.  This month has been Waste Month and we have placed four containers in each school in Bereaville, Genadendal and Greyton, together with worksheets aimed at helping the schools to build awareness amongst their children about recycling.  We will also be supporting the Fauna Month next year by introducing humane education to each school.

Renewable Energy

A working party is in place to start work on a feasibility study for renewable energies in Greyton and Genadendal.  This will include solar energy, hydro-electric and biodigester (which will have the added advantage of disposing of our waste).  It is early days yet but we expect to make good progress as the level of expertise in the group is very high.  If you have some experience of renewable energies or engineering skills then please do get in touch.


GTT visited two groups in Genadendal last month, including the Transformation Committee.  There is much enthusiasm for sustainable initiatives in that community and GTT expressed willingness to share information, include Genadendal in projects, if they wish, and to offer support for their own initiatives.  We might see Genadendal Transition Town emerge – watch this space!

Western Cape 110% Initiative 

As mentioned in last month’s Sentinal, GTT is a flagship project of the Western Cape 110% Initiative, as is TWK Municipality.  TWK’s 2030 Vision is a detailed analysis of current sustainable activity in the region and a comprehensive plan to meet ambitious targets by 2030.

At a recent meeting in Caledon, several sustainable project leaders were invited to attend and convene a new forum, TWK 110% Initiative, where ideas and projects are shared and best practice, throughout the world, identified and studied for potential to implement here.  GTT was invited to join the forum and Nicola Vernon was appointed Chairman.  This is recognition of the considerable progress that GTT has made in its short but effective life to introduce sustainability to Greyton.

Incredible Edible Greyton

Our weekly Wednesday morning table outside Via’s (from 10.00 am onwards) continues to grow in popularity.  The summer weather is bringing a wealth of vegetables to the table so please continue to support us and enjoy a nice cuppa at Via’s in conducive company while you’re there!

Christmas Gift to the Community

As we get closer to Christmas would you consider entrusting Greyton Transition Town with your gift to the community?  We would very much like to raise a little money to put towards our projects that will warm hearts and inspire the people involved. We will let you know exactly how your money has been spent, with photos and a personal card of thanks from the youngsters and people who benefit.  Please make your payment to:

Greyton Transition Town

FNB Caledon 200212

Account Number:  62355982747

Please add your name as a reference unless you wish to remain anonymous.

For further information on the above, please contact Nicky Vernon on nicolavernon@kingsley.co.za or 082 558 7752.

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