One Planet Cities Durban

One Planet Cities Durban
9 min readApr 26, 2021


Where are we now?

“We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited. All we need is the will to do so” — Sir David Attenborough

It’s hard to believe that the One Planet Cities project kicked off almost three years ago! Along with four other global cities and regions — Saanich, Canada; Elsinore, Denmark; Oxfordshire, UK; Tarusa, Russia and most recently Vila Mariana in Sao Paulo, Brazil — Durban has been making waves in the delivery of One Planet Living. In this newsletter, we reflect on where we started, where we are to date and where we’re heading with the One Planet Cities movement.

A group of attendees at the first ever One Planet Living training session held at Innovate Durban’s Point Waterfront offices

At the start of this journey, we needed context into which activities were having the biggest impact on the environment in each of the participating cities. An ecological footprint analysis was undertaken to understand how much we were using and consuming in relation to the environment’s capacity to support our needs.

An Ecological Footprint (EF) estimates the biologically productive land and sea area needed to provide the renewable resources that a population consumes and to absorb the wastes it generates.

Despite varying social and economic circumstances in each of the regions, we found that (apart from the obvious energy carbon footprint) food and transport have the biggest impact on the environment — not just in Durban — but in Saanich and Oxfordshire too.

Awareness is key, so with this in mind we set out to build the One Planet Durban community and help shift the thinking on everyday actions we could take as individuals and small organisations even in these more difficult areas of our day-to-day lives. Vegetarian catering at events is one small example which we hope you enjoyed — although expecting less packaging from suppliers proved an unexpected challenge, even when asked, as the dreaded cling film appeared in quantities around lovely recyclable biscuit boxes!

With transport, we have found that the ‘need to be active’ (following lockdown) has made us want to walk more and avoid driving wherever possible — we hope that you’ve had a similar experience. From a zero carbon/energy efficiency perspective, we continue to be inspired by how much the renewable energy space continues to grow in SA. On that note, we just got wind of the newly launched Smart Buildings web hub. This hub is a ‘one stop shop’ to best practices and dialogue about the work South African Cities are doing to achieve Net Zero Carbon Buildings, as part of their broader commitment to inclusive and sustainable urban development. Of interest to all, too, will be the recent release by the IPCC Durban office of a Climate Change booklet.

In the first phase of our project (2018–2019), the objective was to enroll local schools, businesses and non-profit organisations to build collaborative One Planet sustainability action plans. These action plans would align with the ‘City-wide vision’ adopted by a group of Durban professionals and civil society members during a ‘visioning’ exercise at our very first One Planet Durban workshop in 2018. By the end of phase one, we had achieved this objective with 5 schools, 6 non-profit organisations, 7 businesses and 1 private homeowner coming on board.

In the second phase of our project (2020–2021), we set our sights on enrolling 10 new businesses that were looking to put sustainability at the heart of their operations. Little did we know Covid would throw a spanner in all our works and we’d have to adapt our ‘modus operandi’ to deal with a global pandemic.

Despite the challenges of the past year, we’ve to date enrolled 6 new stakeholders. Included are 3 businesses, 1 non-profit organisation and 2 schools. Have a peek at all our stakeholders involved globally here and use the search bar to filter to ‘South Africa’ only.

Some exemplars in each category include Green Office, Breathe Ocean Conservation and Danville Park Girls High School.

Green Office is an independent print solutions company, with a focus on efficiency and sustainability. In a recent blog, sustainability consultant, Sarah Stalberg, talked about how One Planet Living helped provide direction at Green Office through its ‘beautiful simplicity’.

Breathe Ocean Conservation is a Durban based NPO that is striving for a plastic free ocean. Breathe founder, Sarah Ferguson, has found the One Planet framework to be a great way to structure their long and short-term sustainability goals.

Danville Park Girls High is one of our leading One Planet schools. Towards the end of 2020, Fiona Mann, Eco-champion and Life Sciences teacher at Danville, presented at our first schools webinar on ‘embedding sustainability into the curriculum’… check out the PowerPoint presentation here and get in touch with us if you’d like to see all three presentations from the schools webinar series. Don’t you just love the name of their annual green business venture OMG! (Originally Made Green).

And of course there are others too — a One Planet Green B&B (literally and figuratively) where your colleagues from out of town have to stay; a business, Lamp Light Gear, that makes amazing products from inner tyre tubes; coming on-stream are bigger businesses who ‘get’ the imperative behind One Planet Living — and have plans in the making; an Inanda crèche that could only afford one action under each principle; other pre-primaries that conserve water, recycle, grow fruit, veg and one a medicinal garden, keep chickens (and count the eggs in Maths lessons!), have food tunnels, solar cookers and Green Businesses — all bringing life-changing foundations to young children and their families. Another school Eden College has raised over R270K for the conservation of rhino’s.

Speaking of schools, we recently featured in the WESSA Schools and Youth Unit March newsletter ‘Snippets’ — which can be found here. We are looking forward to having two new independent Durban schools coming on stream soon, watch this space.

We are also exploring applying the One Planet principles to an informal settlement identified by Green Corridors. Inspired by the community’s efforts to get its waste problem under control, we see the potential to explore what more can be done to improve their living conditions using the One Planet principles for guidance. We have introduced community leaders to the concept and invited input on what they thought could be potential solutions for water management, energy provision, waste removal, transport, sustainable food, economic opportunity, materials + products, health + happiness and culture + community……(all of which were relevant!). Using all ten One Planet principles, we have begun to create an action plan as a route map for sustainability in this settlement.

On the advice of the community, safe and reliable energy was at the top of the priority list for improved living conditions. We are in discussion with eThekwini’s Energy Office, the Electricity Department and Water and Sanitation Department to propose realistic options that are a clean and safe. We believe that there is major potential for this project to become a case study for sustainability in informal settlements in SA. And proof once again that One Planet Living can be applied to so many different scenarios.

A community participation session to explore potential sustainable solutions in an informal settlement.

Updates to our online action planning tool:

Our first stakeholders to enrol in the One Planet Cities project were also part of the first batch to ever trial the online planning tool — Since the initial launch of the platform, there have been phenomenal developments and updates to its functionality.

Our stakeholders have used this tool to build their profiles which have been published on our ‘Showcase’ page and shared with the local and international community. They’ve also been able to create their sustainability action plans as a practical route map to their desired outcomes. If you haven’t already seen it, check out this short clip on how to get started on your action plan.

‘Action planning’ on

Three product types have been introduced on the platform — Free, Basic and Pro. These packages have been designed to suit differing levels of sustainability reporting and complexity. The Free version can be used to create a simple plan of 30 Outcomes, Actions and Indicators (OAIs), the Basic version can be used to create 60 OAIs and the more advanced Pro version with a Sustainable Development Goal lens, or others, can be used to create 150 OAIs.

With all of these developments, a paywall has been introduced for companies. The use of the platform does, however, remain free for schools and discounted to all NGOs and NPOs according to turnover. That being said, the use of the One Planet Living framework is still freely available to anyone who would prefer to physically write out their plan on paper or on a computer just using Word. Our Goals and Guidance documents and one-on-one support at Bioregional are available to assist you at any point.

eThekwini Municipality’s Economic Council
Bioregional SA is now also leading the Green Economy workstream of eThekwini’s Economic Council (EEC) — commenced by Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda towards the end of 2020. The EEC is made up of stakeholders from private sector, government, non-governmental organisations, academia, labour and various other institutions. The primary objective of the EEC is to advise the Mayor on appropriate recommendations that will stimulate the eThekwini economy and create jobs. The EEC has adopted 15 workstreams that aim to deep dive into the various sectors with the plan of coming up with innovative and collaborative projects. eThekwini is also participating in the City Business Climate Alliance with C40 Cities and the World Green Building Council for Sustainable Development. Although at the early stages of the initiative, we would like to align this with the EEC and Green Economy workstream, planning to map potential solutions on

With some months to go on this specific aspect of One Planet Cities funding, we are keeping the momentum going and continue to engage with a wide range of organisations that are keen to join the movement and Build Back Better. For those looking to be inspired by One Planet success stories and local sustainability exemplars, here is the link to all ten of our newsletters — themed under each of the One Planet Living principles.

Bioregional SA will still be here to support all who would like to engage on One Planet Living and best of all, continue to write and update their own action plans to make a difference in our City. It is the beginning of a ground swell of change — let’s continue to join hands to keep this going.

One thing the pandemic has proven is that we can adapt should we have to. We have the power to shape a new world that is inclusive and sustainable. But we can only see real change if we all work together. And our future is shaped by the decisions we make today. Let’s make those decisions one-planet compatible. By sustaining healthy ecosystems and preserving biodiversity, too, we can help achieve one-planet prosperity for all.

As Earth Week 2021 kicks off today, we are inspired by this year’s theme to ‘Restore our Earth’. The official Earth Day toolkit guides us on the natural processes and green technologies that are currently making an impact. So this week — spend time in nature, organise a clean up or be a part of climate literacy. For our local schools, the first ever One Planet Youth Summit starts today! This event is being held in California (so timezones might prove to be a challenge for us Durbanites), but we encourage you to register to stay informed on the exciting outcomes of the week and to receive recordings + links to short films that are likely to be shared. We look forward to seeing what comes from these connections.

We leave you with this, from a recent blog about fungi (yes, you read it correctly) by Ben Gill, Head of One Planet Customer Success:

“Our own wellbeing, like that of fungi, is completely entangled with the health of the ecosystems in which we live. We need to mimic fungi and use our own unique capacities to rebuild the health of global ecosystems. One Planet has been designed to strengthen such connections within and between organisations, allowing them to collaborate effectively and deliver Shared Outcomes”

We look forward to furthering the One Planet Durban journey, with you.



One Planet Cities Durban

Part of the ‘One Planet Cities’ project, funded by KR Foundation, with five cities piloting an online platform to make sustainability action planning easy.