Africa: More than a speaking tour, a dream come true!

By June 28, 2017 No Comments

When I come back from any trip, my (secondhand) smartphone’s storage maxed out with photos, I like to wait a couple of weeks before going through them. With a rested mind and digested memories, I always seem to read my photographs with a different eye.

But this time is different.

Looking at the pictures that I took in May of my speaking tour in South Africa and Mauritius, does not change my point of view at all:  Every second of my trip felt like a dream as I lived it. And when I look at my photos today, it still feels like one! 

Let me show you what I mean…


With a two-day journey from San Francisco to South Africa forcing me to a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt, I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to give a talk in Germany (making the most of my trip lowers my carbon footprint but more on that at later). With the help of FES (Frankfurt’s waste disposal agency), the owners of the unpackaged shop Gramm Genau had organized a full house event. 

I hopped back on the plane for another transcontinental flight. Since I refuse in-flight meals (I carry a sandwich in my cloth bag), I arrived in Johannesburg starving, but happy to find snacks in bulk in the terminal!

I opted for nuts and the local jerky.

Once in Cape Town, my stay was hosted by Hotel Verde, dubbed Africa’s greenest hotel. While I wish they offered composting receptacles in their rooms for my orange peel, and a room key other than plastic, other sustainable practices definitely stood out.

The next morning,  a strenuous hike took me to the top of Table Mountain: I was surprised to see not only my first dassie

but also a very good sorting system of bins, including compost!

After an abseil down,

I participated in a couple of radio interviews, my favorite being with Afro Daddy, who said “Dang, your family’s trash is smaller than my hair!” LOL

When I arrived at Ocean View House, tears flooded my eyes: This place is amazing.

They had composting and they gave me a suite with a koi pond all to myself for Pete’s sake!

A walk and dinner on the beach and I was ready for some zzz’s.

The next morning, after a 5am rise for a TV interview, I headed to the Two Oceans Aquarium to be greeted by no other than a rescued penguin who fought his way out of the water, to hop on my lap and demand to be petted -just like Zizou, minus the water ;-). 

The setting for my talk, which was sponsored by Rethink the Bag that night, was one of the best I have experienced. And it will be hard to beat!

The following day, I took a sightseeing tour with a couple acquaintances,

past some (more) penguins,

and some baboons,

all the way to Cape Point.

A few hours later, I arrived in Plettenberg Bay and met Rhian, the unstoppable force behind Eco Atlas, who took the responsibility of organizing the amazing stays and sponsored transportation of this tour.

She also put together a very successful event that night. I have never felt as much positive energy and prospects from an audience as I did there.

Sadly, a few weeks after my visit, raging fires devastated the area and displaced thousands, many of them were probably present at my event. My prayers goes out to all those that have been affected by this tragedy. May it give you the force to come together, stronger than ever before.

After a restful night gracefully hosted by the Cornerway House,

Rhian took me on a walk

to Robberg peninsula with her family.

Then it was time to say goodbye over some bulk nuts,

for Plett Air Safaris had offered to take me to my next stop…

A stay hosted by Kwandwe Private Game Reserve!

As I sat contemplating the view, tears of gratitude filled my eyes again. I just wish I could have shared this with Scott!

But I dried my tears of joy, and went for a safari, past the white rhinos…

and the elephants,

ending the day with an alfresco cocktail as the sun went down.

After an early game drive,

it was time to leave. And leaving this place is not easy…

but I could not wait to get to Durban and meet Colleen, the icon of zero waste in South Africa, the woman behind A Life Lived Simply blog and this amazing tour! Inspired by our lifestyle, she has been able to also reduce her household’s trash to a jar and she shows that zero waste is possible there too. Meeting her was like visiting a sister: We had never met in person but it’s as if we had known each other our whole lives.

After giving a well attended talk at Durban Botanic Gardens,

she gave me a tour of Food Lovers Market, where she grocery shops. 

I sure was impressed with the bulk selection…

from jerky

to cookies

I found myself with bulk envy!

There was even a bread slicer available for customers.

But Colleen was not yet done with me: the next day, she treated me to a sunrise snorkel,

and then a microflight over Ballito.

Right up my alley!

We ended the morning ordering the most deceivingly wasteful drink I have ever seen (something, I would typically refuse, but this one deserved a picture and a fight),

On the left: drink as shown on the menu. On the right: what was served, i.e, two coasters, 2 synthetic tea bags, 1 box! – And I am working on getting this changed!

but the good memories take over the bad ones… I arrived in Johannesburg and met another angel: Noleen at Food and Trees for Africa,

And then, in the township of Alex, I met Mamvi.

She is supported by FTFA to grow fruits and veggies, and I got to plant a tree with her!

It was another full house and late night for my talk that day.

Nonetheless, I was eager to wake up in the wee hours, for my third attempt at ballooning (my two other tries in California got cancelled for various reasons). And this time around, I was not disappointed. 

The ride was, as you can imagine, breathtaking!

After saying goodbye to the zebras, 

I flew, nose and mouth covered (they spray insecticide down the whole length of the aisle),

to Mauritius… but with these blue waters calling my name,

I could not resist going snorkeling

and litter picking.

Compared with other beaches that I have cleaned up around the world, this ones was surprisingly trash free. I credit it to the locals maintaining them, but also to the fact that many of the drinks on the island are sold in returnables.

Finally, I met Vanessa of ThinkBox, who, with Mauritius Commercial Bank MCB

organized by biggest event so far, with an audience of 1700 people! Not bad for an island and the conclusion of a tour!

The next day, it was time to start heading home.

But Noleen had a surprise reserved for my 5 hr layover back in Johannesburg: She drove me to the Emthonjeni Community Center of the township of Zandspruit to meet the staff of its very special swap shop.

It’s a place where residents like this man,

can bring recyclables that they’ve picked up in the streets

and get credits to can spend towards clothes and household items.

What a wonderful incentive to reduce litter and provide necessities to those in need!

What also caught my eye in this part of town is the beautiful presentation of the loose food sold on the sidewalks.

From potatoes to tomatoes

to onions.

Time was running out as my flight home was approaching, but Noleen had yet another stop up her sleeve: no #zerowastetoursa tour would be complete without a visit to the local recycling center! And it did not disappoint: they pretty much sort as many types of material as my munipality in California does!

They take metal and glass,




and they even mulch!

In a corner, I also found cardboard binders… Had I had room in my carry-on, I would definitely have picked up a couple for my boys: Perfect for back-to-school!


Rest assured, I take none of this fantasy for granted. I am aware of how blessed I am to have been able to forge such amazing relationships throughout the world with the spreading of zero waste. And it keeps surprising me how big and wide the zero waste lifestyle movement is spreading. 

Thank you, thank you to the amazing sponsors of this tour, thank you for giving me the gift of experience: incredible adventures and dear human interactions. My life has forever been enriched by your generosity. And so I hope, others’ will also be, for you having brought my talks to them. 

Thank you:

And last but not least, thank you to the generous donors of the Durban event who have allowed for the offsetting of this entire tour!

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