Ten Questions with Thulani Kuzwayo

Based in Johannesburg, Thulani Kuzwayo is a strategist, designer, and thinker. He was previously the chair of the Africa Regional Network of the World Green Building Council and a managing executive of the Green Building Council of South Africa. He most recently launched the podcast Afrika Greencast.

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food – Paul Prudhomme.

1. Where do you go for inspiration?

Because I am always switched on for various stimuli and inspiration, I often stumble upon it in various places from different sources. More often than not, it depends on what I am working on at the time. My interests include music, literature, film, theatre, design and architecture. There’s a cross-pollination of inspiration. However, I find physical activity helps me reset.

2. What do you think is the most urgent global environmental challenge facing us?

It involves what I feel is the root cause and the various ways environmental challenges find expression. Human greed and selfishness is the root cause of what plagues society as a whole. In the developing world, I’d say it’s the failures at the water, food and energy nexus. It carries with it so much. It’s about human development, equality, the economy, and environmental sustainability.

3. What is the most useful tool that helps you every day?

I enjoy using my smartphone and trying to take full advantage of its computing power. I find it very useful. In terms of apps, I find the mobile payment apps convenient, for planning and preparation I use Evernote – I enjoy this one.

4. What do you feel is the biggest issue the green building industry in South Africa has to overcome?

The expense myth. Generally, development motives in South Africa are about redress and in the private sector, it’s about profitability. Both approaches foster short-term thinking and planning horizons because they favour expediency and often result in locked-in inefficiencies and thus stifle progress. Green building is an investment that’s responsible.

5. When was the last time you were scared? What is it that scares you?

The last time when I was watchumakalit scared, was when I almost drowned. There was a rough undercurrent, I misjudged. My life flashed in front of me.

What scares me though, are my life goals.

6. What are you reading/listening to?

I’m reading four books at the moment: Jonathan Tepperman’s The Fix, Mazisi Kunene’s uNodumehlezi kaMenzi, Wangari Maathai’s Unbowed and the Bible (well it has 66 books which I aim to finish this year) and I aim to let it impact the way I live.

7. What achievement are you most proud of?

In being part of raising the consciousness in the public sector of the role that green buildings play in climate action. Various spheres of government are currently in the throes of developing policies that begin to stipulate green building as mandatory.

8. What is the best part of your work day?

The morning. That’s when I am best able to analyze and synthesize information I need to take in. It’s often a quieter time for reflection too.

9. 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.

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food – Paul Prudhomme.

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

Avoid waste (time and resources), beneficiate what’s wasted (see how else to use it or make useful).

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