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Green thinking in Greyton

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Green thinking in Greyton

Greyton is a town in transition – moving from what it was to what it wants to be. At the heart of this is the environment, and the spirit of community.

23 May 2013

ADSgreyton insideBottle bricks were used to build the toilets for Trash to Treasure

Nestled in a tree-filled valley below the towering Riversonderend Mountains, lies the pretty village of Greyton. It is something of a mecca for tourists, artists, well-off retirees, and elderly ex-pats, with its quaint lanes, Victorian houses and many coffee shops and top-quality restaurants.

Fences are low and old lei water channels still run past homes. The village is the tourist star in the Theewaterskloof Municipality collection of towns, just over an hour’s drive outside Cape Town in Western Cape. Greyton, with a population of about 1 600, has organised itself into a transition town, explains Joanna Dibden, the manager of the municipality’s local economic development and tourism unit. It started as a simple barter table in the centre of town where people could exchange their excess of anything. This has grown into other activities, with the environment at the heart of everything.

Working with Greyton Transition Town (GTT), the municipality, using funds from the Industrial Development Corporation, set up the 110% Green Forum. The forum is chaired by Greyton resident Nicky Vernon. It is a platform for talking, sharing resources and avoiding duplication.

The GTT has been registered as an NGO for a year, and is on its way to becoming a flagship project for the Western Cape government’s 110% Green campaign, explains Vernon. Much of the work of the GTT and the forum is done in neighbouring Genadendal, the old Moravian mission, but there is plenty keeping people occupied in Greyton itself.

ADSgreyton insideThe chipper at work at the Greyton Green Park

Trash to Treasure, an annual festival, is held in April. It is funded through the municipality, with help from the IDC. The festival takes place at the Greyton Green Park, itself a GTT success story. Once a huge, unsightly dump on the outskirts of town, it was meant to be reserved for garden waste, but was used for household waste as well. The land is Greyton commonage, and the dump has now closed. The waste has been removed or recycled, and a glorious open space has been established, filled with indigenous vegetation.

It is on the way to becoming self-sustaining, too. Cape Nature has loaned a chipper, and garden waste and other vegetation is chipped. At present, the black wattle is being cleared and chipped. The chipper waste is then sold – it is much-sought after as garden mulch. A composting operation is also being set up. Two people are permanently employed, and four temporary workers swell their ranks for the Trash to Treasure festival.

As its name suggests, the festival celebrates recycling and upcycling. The stage, where musicians and dancers entertain the crowds, is made of old tyres and bottle bricks. Found items are used as instruments; the toilet block is built of bottle bricks. There are stalls were people sell recycled, used and upcycled items, arts and crafts are on sale, and there is a real festive air.

ADSgreyton insideBlack wattle is being cleared

Old tyres are also used as gardening containers, while tree trunks are turned into seats. Plans for the park include a mushroom farm, an indigenous nursery and a charcoal brickette maker. For now, the Green Park is a favourite place for children to run wild while their families picnic amid the unmistakeable smell of fynbos.

The two-litre plastic bottle brick project is another popular campaign. Two-litre plastic bottles are filled with clean non-recyclable waste such as chip packets. Once solidly filled, these are used for building. The structures can either be plastered with clay for a smooth finish, or left as is. At present, the GTT is paying 10c a bottle brick to local youth to build a youth centre on the grounds of the Red Cross in Greyton. The money either goes to the families, or to the youth group, wherever the need is greater.

Education is key, believes the GTT, which works closely with schools, where it teaches recycling and upcycling, gardening and environmental awareness. Vernon tells of one of her favourite successes: excluded youth – those who have been taken out of school for anti-social or disruptive behaviour – have been helping with the environmental projects and making bottle bricks. “This is really helping them to turn their lives around,” she says in farewell. “Out of 15 children we originally had, 12 are back at school.”


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