“We need the natural environment,” explains Carmen Jordaan, “but the natural environment does not need us.” This statement is demonstrative of Jordaan’s pragmatic and balanced view on humankind’s relationship with the natural world. It’s a viewpoint that she honed during her time at the University of Johannesburg, where she earned a BSc in natural and environmental sciences and a BSc honours in geography. “I like to think that we can, to a large degree, live in harmony with nature,” she says. “We shouldn’t have to choose between us and the environment.”
This ethos is the driving force behind her role as director, founder and owner of Whole Earth Recycling, which provides a hassle-free and reliable way for homes, schools and offices in Gauteng to recycle — and it creates jobs. Today, the 40-strong team includes 24 sorters, called flight hawks, who generate their income by sorting recyclables and selling those materials to buy-back centres. Whole Earth Recycling’s warehouse provides necessary respite for the sorters from the elements, and ensures that the recyclables do not blow away and pollute the environment.
In July 2022, Jordaan and the team expanded with the launch of the Whole Earth Organic Farm, which extends their recycling solutions to include organic kitchen waste composting: Johannesburg’s first large-scale wet and dry recycling curbside collectors.
Jordaan derives great satisfaction from watching her two young children learn to embrace the natural world: “From picking up insects and spiders and saying, ‘look Mommy, the beetle loves me, and I love it,’ to teaching ouma what nocturnal means.” She is also proud of her successful company: “I am so happy to be doing something that I love and to be able to help people and the environment in such a meaningful way.”
We shouldn’t have to choose between us and the environment