To Greenpop and back again — a journey in environmental awakening

I like to think that I care about the environment. I commute on a motorbike, in part, to reduce my use of petrol on a daily basis. I compost my organic waste at home. And I recycle the vast majority of the plastic, tin and glass waste that I generate at home. I’m by no means an environmental superhero, but I like to do the bits I know how to do. You see, I want to ensure I limit my own environmental footprint on the planet as much as possible.

Recently, I had the opportunity to join a group of colleagues from Yuppiechef at the Greenpop Reforest Fest weekend at Platbos, near Stanford in the Western Cape.

Greenpop founders, Lauren O’Donnell, Misha Teasdale and Jeremy Hewitt (aka Jeremy Loops)

As I understood it, the aim of the event was to bring together like-minded, environmentally-aware individuals and succeed in mobilising them to plant in the region of 8000 trees over two weekends in March, and hopefully also to live more sustainably in the future.

The planting begins

For the team from Yuppiechef, it was also the chance to metaphorically plant an environmental seed within our company — one of four such seeds that we hope will grow into a meaningful CSI (corporate social investment) philosophy within the business. Our four areas of particular interest (all starting with an E) being Environmental sustainability, Education, Entrepreneurship and Eating / food-security. And so, with spade loads of enthusiasm and good intentions as well as enough music to make it feel like a real road trip, we set off from the office early on a sunny Friday afternoon.

To both the camping exuberance as well as chagrin of our little team, we arrived in the pouring rain and had to pitch our tents in the dark — surrounded by the sounds of other soggy campers dealing with the same challenge. Torch and headlamp lights danced like a swarm of fireflies through the falling drops of rain. The evening warmed however, as we dried off under a large, tented food court area, enjoyed great food from the variety of vendors that had supported the event, and some wonderful music from the likes of Majozi, Jeremy Loops, TouchWood and others.

Relaxing to a spectacular, narrated perfomence by Jeremy Loops

Thankfully, a little wet weather couldn’t dampen the collective spirit of the festival goers, and Saturday morning broke with clear, gentle, pink skies and the promise of a day filled with hard work, tons of compost and thousands of trees.

Morning yoga and breakfast soon morphed into a festival briefing session and an impromptu celebration of unity, shared purpose and dance. And what followed over the following 36 hours, was a wonderful expression of care for the earth by a group of free-spirited and purposeful people.

Volunteers were divided into groups of four or five, areas were demarcated, holes were dug, compost was shovelled, and planting got underway. Thousands of indigenous trees were carried, carefully unwrapped and gently located into new homes in the ground, and in the end, around 8000 trees were planted over the two Greenpop weekends!

The Yuppiechef team at Greenpop, planting, partying and enjoying artisanal camp side coffee in their Aeropress

Not only did a few hours in the sun with our fingers in the soul cultivate a quick connection with the team of Yuppiechef staff who joined for the weekend, but it also made me realise the importance of weaving in the right people in any CSI initiative or endeavour your business is thinking about taking on.

The people with a heart for the cause are going to be the ones driving the project, inspiring the rest of the business and fuelling its progress with their own vested energy, so bringing on the right team members is no small consideration. These were mine and I don’t think we could have asked for a group with a bigger green heart, a better love for artisanal coffee or tastier morning breakfast frittatas.

Team Yuppiechef at Greenpop

In addition to all the tree planting, we shared a passion for connecting over creative interests and important concerns. We engaged in discussions over good food and craft beer, and ultimately found unity of purpose around a set of ideals that showed me that a society can be rich in the uniqueness of its component parts, yet single-minded and successful in achieving a goal when motivated to do so.

And so, as we drove home on Sunday afternoon, a little sun-kissed from the many hours outside, a little sore from the hard work we’d undertaken in planting so many trees and a little tender from the blisters that had developed on our hands. I found myself reflecting on just how much some people care for the Earth, and how far we still need to go as society in general in addressing the concerns that exist around environmental sustainability.

As a leader in a company that genuinely desires to limit its impact on the Earth, I was challenged by how best to share my personal experiences of nature and a weekend like the Greenpop Reforest Fest with the 90-odd colleagues I work with every day.

I was challenged about trying to find a way to help Yuppiechef stand-out in South Africa as a small business that genuinely does care about the world we live in, and practically, operates in a way that reflects that we do care.

I was challenged about how to mobilise our efforts to reduce our reliance on couriers, to reduce our packaging and to not rely on revenue that we generate from products that are ultimately going to be found to be unsustainable.

While we have a long way to go on our journey to carbon neutrality and true environmental stewardship, I’m so excited that we’ve planted the first seeds and look forward to sharing our successes as well as our ever evolving desire and vision with our staff and broader community in time to come.

And we have a wonderful organisation like Greenpop to thank for opening our eyes to this necessity and possibility.

Written by Evan Torrance.

Thanks to Millefoto for capturing such incredible images at both Greenpop weekends.