12 Jul
Human-caused environmental degradation is a clear reality, yet we are failing to take action to preserve our natural world.

The Philosophy of Sustainability

Where are we treading most heavily? How can we reduce our carbon footprint? Human-caused environmental degradation is a clear reality, yet we are failing to take action to preserve our natural world. Sebastian Brogan, our new columnist, believes a sustainable future will only be achieved when we are driven by both the facts and the philosophy of environmentalism. Over the next four issues Sebastian will share practical tips to help us live greener, so let’s get to know him a bit better!

Q: Sebastian, tell us a little bit about your childhood.

A: Although I was born in Welkom, I grew up in Wareham – a quiet country town on the south coast of England. I was fortunate enough to walk across beautiful floodplains and through forests to and from school, and that’s how my connection to the natural world began.

Q: When did you realise you wanted to be involved with sustainability?

A: At 19 I travelled to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi for two years. My experience there made me think that if I could become a town planner responsible for sustainable development, then maybe I could changethe world a little bit for the better. I then spent three years studying a BA honours degree in Politics and Human Geography at Kingston University. I left with a first-class honours degree, but I had lost my confidence in the public sector to achieve real change.

Q: Did you gain anything from your education that helped you build a career in sustainability?

A: Absolutely! I allowed my studies to drift towards political philosophy and saw much of the thoughts and ideas of great philosophers through the lens of environmentalism. This remains a great source of energy for me.

Q: How did you end up back in S.A.?

A: I met and married a South African girl in the U.K. During a family holiday in South Africa I was given an opportunity to work for a recycling and responsible waste-management company. Until then I was still drifting towards a life of academia, but here I was presented with an open door that would allow me to pursue something more involved, practical and real.

Q: Eight years later, you now part-own three businesses in the sustainability sector. Tell us more.

A: About seven years ago I started working for a solar company and quickly learned many technical aspects of the industry. Having been involved in over 130 solar installations across southern Africa, I am now a shareholder of AdRenewables – a Hillcrest-based renewable energy and water company.

A couple of years ago, however, I realised that simply putting PV panels on roofs and capturing and filtering rainwater wasn’t necessarily going to change the world.

I chatted to a friend, Vernon Cunningham, and we both felt we could do so much more to help companies become more efficient. And thus Reef Consultants was formed – seeking to improve the sustainability and efficiency of businesses and institutions.

As part of my delivery in this company, I became an Accredited Professional with the Green Building Council of South Africa. It was through this process that I became aware of just how much strain the built environment places on the world’s ecosystems. This reality made Vernon and I set up a construction company called Blue Baobab Projects. We are developing methods and using materials that have a net-positive impact on the environment, are cheap to run and maintain, warm, safe and comfortable, and most importantly: are affordable to all.

Q: Talk to us about some of the projects you have completed recently or are working on right now.

A: Scott Bader Chemicals in Hammarsdale recently appointed AdRenewables as their sustainability partner, and we have installed 16 kilowatt peak (kWp) of PV solar, a solar thermal system, and ten solar tubes that provide natural lighting in a space that once depended upon extremely high energy-use mercury-vapor lights. We also completed a 30kl/day waste-water treatment plant in Camperdown, solving a massive environmental non-compliance issue for our client there, and are close to completing a 63kWp PV installation for Stacor Petroleum in Brackenhill – taking their total installed solar capacity to 186kWp.

Reef Consultants are currently working with teachers from a few local schools to develop an engaging and informative set of workshops aimed at increasing awareness around issues of the environment and sustainability. If we want the future to be better than today, more young people need to be able to see themselves building careers in this sector or approaching existing sectors with an attitude that can deliver fundamental change. We hope to be the catalyst that helps them realise this. We are also working with three clients in the Upper Highway area who are looking to achieve Green Star ratings for their new office developments.

At Blue Baobab Projects our main focus has been fine-tuning our designs. My grandfather was a carpenter and taught me to measure twice and cut once. Vernon and I spend much of our time problem-solving and developing innovations that will ensure that our deliveries are as smart and simple as possible. Beyond that, we have been busy building our factory out in Ashburton, as well as setting up our office in Kloof. This has included employing and training new staff members and developing the marketing materials, website and other infrastructure required to get the business going.

I love the work that I do, and I look forward to sharing some practical eco-tips from the frontline with The Crest’s readers over the next four issues.

*If you would like to find out more, contact Sebastian on 083 264 4383 or sebastian@bluebaobab.co.za

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