Pupils put heads together to discuss saving environment

Rustenburg Girls High School campus manager, Myles Siebrits with Wynberg Boys hostel prefect, Inga Halu and head boy, Jarrod Whitson and some of their recycling bins.

Tuesday July 31 is calculated to be the day on which humanity’s resource consumption exceeds earth’s capacity to regenerate.

This was according to Myles Siebrits, Rustenburg Girls’ High School campus manager, who was invited to Wynberg Boys’ High School to chat to the pupils about sustainability.

Mr Siebrits says Earth Overshoot Day, previously known as Ecological Debt Day, estimates when the 13 billion hectares of land on earth will no longer be able to sustain the 7.2 billion people inhabiting it.

And while Wynberg Boys’ does have a sustainable committee working towards projects Mr Siebrits illustrated, his talk was a good reminder and motivator for the boys, said Wynberg Boys’ head boy, Jarrod Whitson.

Rustenburg has received numerous awards for their initiatives, among them the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) Eco-Schools Green Flag in 2014, for working towards a healthy environment and whole school development. The following year the school was the recipient of Wessa’s gold award.

Mr Siebrits says sustainability is a buzz word and can be confusing. “It means something we do today, tomorrow, forever. For example, to use a glass bottle to bring water to school instead of buying a plastic bottle, which is not sustainable.”

To be sustainable the focus is on five areas: water, energy, supply, waste and ecology. He suggests the first step is for Wynberg Boys’ to cancel its solid waste collection contract with the City of Cape Town. “This will reduce school waste to landfill from the schools’ 76 wheelie bins and also generate a saving to cover costs of sustainable projects,” he says.

Rustenburg has a ‘zero waste to landfill’. “We were sending 26 bins of waste to landfill a week. That was 1 400 bins annually, which equated to 350 cubic square metres of waste – enough to fill the school’s swimming pool,” he says.

“The project has been tremendously successful. We took our black bins, painted the
tops in different colours for glass, paper, tin and paper and cardboard, placed the recyc-
ling bins around campus, which included receptacles for organic and food waste, the concept was introduced to pupils during morning assembly,” says Mr Siebrits.

The organic and food waste is composted using the Bokashi method and added to the school’s own compost plant. He says this method involves a small amount of the bran-type substance being placed over the organic matter which breaks it down over a 21-day period.

Rustenburg also generates much of its power through solar panels installed on the property. Three monitors are stationed around the school, so that pupils can track power usage and how solar power is able to save money on monthly bills.

Rustenburg previously used potable water for its lawns and flower beds and had a huge consumption bill.

Like Wynberg Boys’, they sunk a borehole and now draw waterfrom TableMountain. “There’s no evidence of the level of the aquifer dropping, however, with 1 014 boreholes sunk last month alone and with the City of Cape town planning to sink huge boreholes, Rustenburg are looking into grey water use,” he says.

They held a grey water challenge where they marked sections of a field and the pupils watered it with water brought from home over three weeks.

Mr Siebrits says the school has also removed the irrigation pipes and refitted the flower beds with dripper pipes that have holes at regular intervals and are laid underground. They have also replaced taps with aerators that have cut water usage by one-sixth.

Mr Siebrits spoke about food security and how farming land is being reduced in the Western Cape. “The Philippi Horticultural Area is under threat with the City of Cape Town planning developments in an area that has been found to be the most intensive farmland per hectare in South Africa,” he says.

He suggests the focus should be on sourcing food from the PHA as opposed to Worcester where the cost would be higher and delivery adds to fuel pollution. Local is lekker.

Matthew Kelly, a Grade 8 prefect, says they cannot be trailing the girls. “This sustainable project can lead our school into a green future,” he says.

Wynberg’s hostel prefect, Inga Helu, says they have reached the target of using under 50 litres per person a day at the hostel. The toughest hurdle was laundry. They have now stopped doing this and also ask each hostel child to bring two five-litre bottles of water from