Stellenbosch – Sustainability Institute

Early in the morning, we left to the well-known Sustainability Institute (SI) located in the Southwest of Stellenbosch city. We were full of excitement about how the institute would be like that we had heard so much about before and during our trip. The institute was founded in 1999 in Lynedoch Ecovillage with the aim to create “a more equitable society”. Ever since it explores ways of living, learning, and teaching, which sustain the eco-systems that society needs to exist. Therefore, it has programmes for almost all ages, from the Creche now called Lynedoch Childrens House, to a primary school, to undergraduate and postgraduate diplomas, and a Master’s in Sustainable Development in partnership with the School of Public Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch. We arrived in a very nice and welcoming atmosphere at the reception hall of the institute, where beautiful artwork was displayed, created in a sustainable manner. Vanessa van der Heyde, a managing director of the institute, was so nice to welcome us and take us on a little tour around the institute. Yet, before we started the tour, we were able to participate in the so called ‘morning work’, which is part of the daily routine of all student classes taking place at the institute. It starts with a gathering of all students outside. At first, someone reads out a little poem or speaks a little meditation for all. Split into groups, the students walk off to their station for morning work – a ritual of an hour of working together for the community of the institute: some were planting herbs in the garden, some were cleaning a classroom, and others were preparing sandwiches for the pupils of the primary school. It was a great experience for us to connect to the students of the institute and to get a feeling about how it is to be part of this community of learning and practice. After that, Vanessa took us on a little tour around the Lynedoch Ecovillage, which tries, for instance, to be more energy sufficient and integrates a great diversity of people from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds in South Africa. We finished with a little walk through the vegetable and fruit gardens of the institute, not only feeding the pupils of the primary school; it also incorporated a powerful art exhibition about different food systems in the world. In addition, they have integrated a space on the campus where nature is nature without any (intentional) human intervention. The Sustainability Institute is not only an amazing and inspiring place – it is a holistic learning environment to explore fairer and more sustainable forms of living and working.

Maike Buhr

Maike studied political science as well as cultural and social anthropology at Muenster University and completed her Master’s Degree in Human Ecology at Lund University (Sweden). During her work experience at the Centre for Sustainability Management (CSM), she deepened her interest and expertise in corporate transformations to sustainability. In the research group, she is concerned with the question of how actors, especially change agents, can contribute to the sustainability transformation of the textile industry. Specifically, Maike focuses on the transformative potential of change agents for sustainability transformations in the corporate sector on individual and organizational levels. Learn more about Maike's PhD project!

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