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Thando Tema

Lerato Tema Foundation NPC

Thando Tema from Alexandra in Gauteng is interested in both sustainability and youth development. He is renowned in his community for making the area safer for schoolchildren by servicing a local bus stop in a sustainable, educational way.

Tema studied engineering and related design at Central Johannesburg TVET College. He has always been community-minded; he owned his own food stall, and took great care to ensure that his products were affordably priced.

He believes in an asset-based community approach, using what is already available in his area. After noting a lack of seating and safety at a local bus stop, he embarked on an ongoing project to service this high-traffic area. He sources old school chairs and tyres and has repurposed them to create seating for daily use by more than 300 children and local informal traders.

Through this initiative, Tema has been able to engage with the children in his community about the importance of sustainability, highlighting the benefits of redirecting unwanted items from landfills. “I teach them [about] the factors that affect our environment, and the benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling,” Tema says.

He has created back yard gardens and nurseries, which attract villagers and inspire conversation, especially among young children. “One can start teaching at an early age,” he says. “To teach South Africans about our natural environment is to teach sustainability.”

Going forward, Tema is keen to continue to spread information on the greening, recycling and manufacturing of reusable materials among locals with his hands-on approach. He hopes to draw attention to the need to reduce landfill waste in particular. “Our land has so much waste we cannot handle,” he says. “Learning to care for our natural environment is essential.”

To teach South Africans about out natural environmental is to teach sustainability

Author - Andie Reeves
Thuso Motau

Thuso Motau

Chief executive
Mighty House of Soap

Thuso Motau is passionate about her roles in local, national and global communities, and tends to them — and future generations — with a great sense of responsibility.

Her business, Mighty House of Soap, has been recognised for its work in manufacturing sustainable body soap and other detergent products that are made with recycled cooking oil collected from eateries in local communities. By assisting local businesses to dispose of used cooking oil, Motau has solved a major challenge for businesses and the municipality.

“You can drink our products and you’ll be completely fine,” Motau says with an assuring laugh. “It’s true. We have moved away from synthetic raw materials.” Her products are manufactured in her factory and currently sold in low-income communities from an onsite factory shop. She has plans to work with a major retailer to stock her products and recently signed a contract to export to Germany.

Motau is the recipient of an SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award. She has received funding and support from several institutions, including the Industrial Development Corporation, the South African Manufacturing Technology Demonstration Centre and the National Development Agency.

“I have learned that the little that you do in your community can have a big impact, not only in your community, but around the world as well,” she says. “I now live by this lesson.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Motau was able to spot the opportunity to offer an environmentally friendly disinfectant service. This strategy proved successful, and with the increased sales, she was able to create additional jobs.

“It is our responsibility to take care of our precious and delicate environment,” she says. “One of our mottos is ‘from waste to value’. We live this motto by turning waste into value, and we miss no opportunity to encourage others to do the same.”

The little that you do in your community can have a big impact

Wade Seale |
Nonhlanhla Cynthia Mhlongo

Nonhlanhla Cynthia Mhlongo

Founder and director
Khwezi Innovations

Nonhlanhla Cynthia Mhlongo is the founder and director of Khwezi Innovations, a company that cultivates innovative ideas concerning sustainable and green living among the youth. She and other innovators collaborate to identify issues relating to climate change and sustainability in order to come up with creative solutions that can be easily implemented to combat these problems.

After assessing new ideas for feasibility and sustainability, Khwezi Innovations develops the product or service and then commercialises it. With this model, the company empowers young innovators and contributes towards a greener world — a win for everyone.

A perfect example of Khwezi Innovations’ exciting and creative work is their latest project, a biodegradable, two-in-one glove-like hand sanitiser that dries out when applied to your hands. After use, the glove can be peeled off and dissolved in water, leaving no waste behind.

Growing up, Mhlongo always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur, but it was during her first job, with the encouragement of her then boss, that her interest in climate change really grew. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, she came up with her green business idea. Since then, the business has gone from success to success, winning numerous awards. Mhlongo has also received a number of accolades, such as being a finalist for the Africa’s Rising Star Awards, and the recipient of a YOUNGA 2022 delegate scholarship.

What does she wish all South Africans would understand about climate change? That there is no “planet B”, and it is essential that we all work to conserve the one planet that we have. With Khwezi Innovations, she is doing just that.

There is no ‘planet B’, so it is essential that we all work together to conserve the one planet that we have

Josie Roux |