Ten Questions with Francois Retief

 

Based in Cape Town, Francois is the founder of the green building consultancy Sow & Reap, which opened in 2014. He is a mechanical engineer by training and has worked in South Africa and the UK.

The more we encourage and help one another to succeed in the sustainability sphere, the faster we can change the world for the better. Playing a role in the success of someone else is a far greater achievement than succeeding at the expense of others – FR.

1. Where do you go for inspiration?
Nature. A walk on the mountain or a dip in the ocean always helps me to get perspective and think creatively. As an engineer, I am also fascinated by how nature effortlessly solves the engineering challenges we face on a daily basis.

2. What do you think is the most urgent global environmental challenge facing us?
‘Consumerism’ for lack of a better word. The fact that we are so disconnected from the source of the products we consume is a ticking time bomb and I believe the source of most sustainability concerns. This applies not only to consumer goods but water and energy as well. I believe we all need to take more responsibility for what we consume.

3. What is the most useful tool that helps you every day?
The internet. For all its flaws, the fact that we can share knowledge and information so freely has the potential to accelerate change in terms of sustainability.

4. What do you feel is the biggest issue in the green building industry that we have to overcome?
Resistance to change and the concept of ‘competition’. Holding back on information or resources for competitive advantage goes completely against the concept of sustainability. We need to nurture an abundance mentality.

5. When was the last time you were scared? What scares you?
My daily commute on my scooter! In all honesty, there are plenty of things that scare me, but I try to focus on my response to fear, rather than the fear itself. Fear is natural and encourages innovation. Avoiding fear is avoiding change.

6. What are you reading/listening to?
To be honest, I’m not a big reader. But some of the things I enjoy online are: Bryan Teare’s website and blog, The 4×4 Community Forum and Instructables, which has tutorials on how to make anything from a 3D printed planetary rover, to edible plastic pouches.

7. What achievement are you most proud of?
I would have to say becoming an entrepreneur. Taking responsibility for your own financial standing, as well as actively choosing the work to engage in is an incredibly challenging and liberating experience. I believe entrepreneurship has a huge part to play in financial sustainability.

8. What is a message you would like to shout from the rooftops/put on a billboard? Something you wish everyone could know and take to heart.
Find success in the success of others. The more we encourage and help one another to succeed in the sustainability sphere, the faster we can change the world for the better. Playing a role in the success of someone else is a far greater achievement than succeeding at the expense of others.

9. What is a nifty, ‘sustainability hack’ that you use in your daily life to live more environmentally friendly?
Eat less beef.

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