Sustainability in Stellenbosch
The First Half of Our Last Day
I would like to begin by saying, on behalf of the Class of 2011, a big thank you to Longwood Gardens for the rare opportunity to have a wonderful experience like this to enhance our already great two year Professional Gardener Program.
Our last day in Stellenbosch and South Africa began with packing, breakfast and loading the cars a final time prior to our last two destinations. It was another day of experiences never to be forgotten.
Our first stop was the Sustainability Institute located in the Lynedoch EcoVillage 15 minutes from the center of Stellenbosch. The institute, working with Stellenbosch University, offers Masters and PhD programs in sustainable development. They have a number of sustainability initiatives that focus on education, ecology, early childhood development, and the teaching of hands-on skills in eco-development. The institute has been crucial in the development of the EcoVillage as a real life example of creating sustainable communities. http://www.sustainabilityinstitute.net/
Our tour guide Bryce (head gardener), who introduced himself as been “born a gardener”, was very curious about our group and our visit; he doesn’t recall any other garden group visiting before. He emphasized that in the programs, including the early childhood development, it is important to bridge the gap between man and nature as that connection is often missing. One way they create this context is by first “consulting the spirits” to stop and question whether the place is appropriate for the tree or not, and to get in touch with the greater environment both above and below foot when planting trees with the students. All of the trees on the property (mostly endemic) were planted by Bryce and the students over the last 8-9 years providing opportunities for hands-on experience.
A proud feature that Bryce showcased to our group was the wastewater treatment. All of the waste from the site is distributed either to a bio-filter or into biolytic filters (worms break down the waste) and then to the bio-filter wetland where microbes and plants break it down. The system uses pumps to run the water through a UV filter and back to the buildings as grey water for flushing and irrigation. An advantage to this system is prevention of disturbance and impacts of typical sewer system installations.
Other highlights included a recently planted ‘woodland’ area which contained a number of different plans such as: Virgilia (keurboom), Leonotis ocymifolia (lion’s tail), a huge Verbena bonariensis (purple top), buddleja salviifolia (sage leaf buddleja), and Tarchonanthus camphorates (camphor bush) to name a few. We also saw some residences and buildings being built with sustainable features and materials such as adobe brick, recycled brick, solar tiles, solar hot water and a biogas digester which collects methane gas from decomposing food waste and makes it available to cook with.