Let me tell you the story behind my name, Koketjo Neo Makapane Mohlatlole…
My previous twitter handle was Koneom and included all my names: Koketjo, which means addition. My mother was an only child and I was an addition to the family. Neo, which means gift: I was seen as a gift to the family and Makapane, which I got from grandfather. I come from Mokopane and I sometimes joke that I am Royalty from Mokopane and my name was altered to confuse the masses. I intend to use all my names as a first name at some point. I used Koketjo throughout my schooling career, I started using Neo after I turned 21. Makapane will be used after 35.
What’s my new twitter handle?
@GreeNeo_GDC Follow me!
Where was I before the Green Design Centre?
I was a Senior Event coordinator with Thebe Special Projects Conferences and Events (the company that owns Decorex SA). We worked on various events and exhibitions throughout the country. Before then I worked on the Continental Tyres Hospitality programme during the FIFA 2010 World Cup. I am a qualified tour guide and I am passionate about my country and its heritage.
Why such a passion for greening?
I went to a farm school for my primary schooling. There we were taught about sustainability and some of the green ethos was “knocked” into us. We planted our own orchard and plants around the school and we had a bird feeding area on the playground. The school had its own sewer system, the water was used for irrigation and the other stuff was used as manure for the plants on campus. The school’s boreholes dried up twice when I was at the school and in that period we learnt the importance of conservation and using only what you need.
I came from a village where you had to walk for kilometres just to get water, so I get a little mad when I see fresh water being wasted. When I moved to the city I noticed how people just consumed a lot without doing their bit to reduce their usage and thinking about producing for themselves. It doesn’t have to be hectares of mielies; a small garden patch or a fruit tree can go a long way. At my grandmother’s house we have trees with fruit for all seasons and there is always some or other vegetable growing in the garden. I have recently started a small patch myself, with a few herbs I got from Food and Tress for Africa.
I have seen the difference that can be made by just changing to energy saving light bulbs. That made me even more curious to want to try out other energy saving products out there and I aspire to making them all part of my life at some stage. Working at the Green Design Centre, I am aware of products that are available and how they can help reduce your carbon footprint. I believe everyone can do their bit, South Africa is such a beautiful country if every person did their bit to reduce their usage and start supporting sustainable projects, we will leave behind a great country for future generations.
What are my future green aspirations?
I would love to live off the grid, educate more people about the importance of going green and teach them the steps to achieve that. There are so many opportunities in the green economy: I see myself one day setting up a sustainable project throughout the country and hopefully something that could help green the rest of Africa.
My top three greening tips:
1. Always keep the 3 R’s top of mind, Reduce, Re-use and Recycle. It helps a lot especially when you are starting out.
2. Use a brick or 2 litre bottle with water and sand in your cistern to reduce water consumption.
3. Car pool or use a taxi or the bus. A lot of areas have taxi and bus routes which means you can reduce your carbon footprint immediately.
And it doesn’t need to cost you any money either…
Use a watering can to water your garden, instead of the hose. Rake your leaves instead of blowing them. Use your waste to create your own compost, don’t buy it.
How have I greened my life?
I use energy efficient light bulbs and am looking at getting LED’s now. I use a taxi from time to time. I don’t use the tumble dryer, I drip dry my clothes. I have started a herb garden and will soon be moving into veges. I recycle bottles and plastic. I support local businesses. I made a pledge through 49m to switch off unnecessary appliances and that helps as well.
The cleverest green tricks I’ve seen to date?
Using heavy curtains or blinds to help insulate a house. Planting different vegetables amongst each other and not in rows; this helps to feed the soil and the plants get even distribution of water.
If money was no object, how would I green my life?
Firstly, I would buy a house and install an integrated solar and heat-pump system. I would install double glazed windows, to ensure that the house is well insulated. I would set up my own food garden. I would also install a home automation system to help control the energy usage of the house from a central point
Do I have a green hero? Sure!
Alosha Lynov has recently moved to Knysna and stays in the Tsitsikama. I have been receiving his newsletters for the past couple of years and I got to meet him recently. He is working on some interesting projects in the green space. What I like about him is that he actually lives green and he is not just running his mouth like a lot of people. He also has a book that he distributes freely, called Sacred Geometry.
I also admire Simon Gear; his book Going Green is helping make my journey a lot easier.