Greyton is a charming village located in the Overberg area in the Western Cape, about 140 km from Cape Town.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Greyton, leading up to their first annual Trash to Treasure Festival, which took place on Saturday August 4, 2012.
My path to Greyton was more or less random. For some time now, I’ve been part of a mailing list for the website The Simplicity Collective, which “is founded upon the idea that a ‘simpler life’ of reduced resource and energy consumption is a viable and desirable alternative to consumer culture.”Towards the end of July, they released a post on transition towns. Intrigued, I searched for transition towns close to Cape Town, and came across Greyton. Less than a week after sending an email to Transition Greyton, I found myself carpooling (fittingly, in a hybrid car) to the quaint town, nestled between gorgeous mountain ranges.
The ‘Transition Town’ movement only emerged six years ago in Ireland, yet an astonishing 2000 Transition Towns have appeared worldwide. Transition Towns typically have the objectives of relocalizing and decarbonizing the economy, through the maximization of local, organic food productive, reduced energy consumption and renewable resources. For those dissatisfied with a ‘consumer-oriented existence’, transition towns offer a venue for authentic community engagement.
As someone who is terrified of falling into the numb-minding trap of workdays that blur together and normalizing loneliness when surrounded by people, the concept of transition towns appeal to me. And although Greyton is worlds away from the informal settlements of Cape Town in which my research is based, the concepts of buildings resilience and strengthening communities are a shared dialect.
The philosophies of transition towns seem to mesh well with the concepts of local economic development, as promoted by Ernesto Sirolli, teachings which have influenced me in the past year.
My interest in the transition town movement is twofold. Personally, I’m drawn to initiatives that foster communities and promote a non-consumerist approach to happiness and authenticity. Secondly, I’m interested in the movement because of its potential for organizing, for educating, for challenging and forcing change of the status quo.
Trash to Treasure
The first annual Trash to Treasure festival is “an education, celebration and paradigm shifting event at the local dumpsite … We intend to catalyze change in sustainable directions by inaugurating rehabilitation efforts there. Through a series of workshops, lectures, and competitions leading up to and during the festival, we will give participants a clear view and understanding of how regular waste can serve as a source of wealth, instead of polluting our towns, roads and environments as it usually does.”
I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in the festivities and take a first-hand look at how the community of Greyton is working to foster more sustainable attitudes and behaviors toward waste management at the individual level. The event was well-received by the community, and there was a constant influx of people onto the dumpsite grounds.
My experience in Greyton was unlike anything I’ve experienced in the past 3 months of being in South Africa. In a previous blog post, I described waste management issues in the informal settlement of Khayelitsha- of rat infestations, disease, mismanagement and corruption. These different experiences go to demonstrate the complexity and variability of the issues surrounding waste management in South Africa.
For more information:
- to find a transition town near you- http://www.transitionnetwork.org/
- on Greyton Transition Town- http://transgreyton.wordpress.com
- on Simplicity Collective- http://simplicitycollective.com
- Ernesto Sirolli. Ripples from the Zambezi.