• September 04, 2012

While countries and governments around the world continue to encourage populations to prioritise sustainability, Maropeng, the official visitor's centre to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site, is showing schools and learners what they need to consider when taking responsibility for their own ecological footprints.

"We want to teach the youth what they need to think about and action, so that they can stand up and take responsibility for their own ecological footprints," says Magel van de Venter, Education Marketing Executive for Maropeng.

In its sustainability exhibition Maropeng shows how humankind first arose in the African cradle by adapting to the natural elements and later learned how to harness them to support its growing populations.

"Our ancestors adapted to a changing environment over millions of years. Our ability to make tools has developed to such an extent that now more than ever, we are able to shape and in some cases change our environment to suit ourselves," comments van de Venter.

An important message Maropeng is trying to get across to the learners is how today, we have developed such control over our environment, through agriculture and industry, that a new story is emerging, one that involves the future of our planet and ourselves. "Two hundred thousand years ago, when Homo sapiens first emerged, there were probably at first only a few hundred of us. Now, in the 21st Century, the global population exceeds seven billion people.

At first, we humans barely made an impact on the environment. But this has changed, as our technological abilities have progressed. Now our activities are causing serious implications for our planet, including the unusually fast extinction of species and global warming," explains van de Venter.

"Many learners are unaware as to how the food we eat, the appliances we use, the vehicles we travel in, the clothes we wear and so many other everyday aspects of our lives, depends on us utilising the Earth's natural resources. And that the Earth has a limited capacity to produce the raw materials needed to sustain our lifestyles," she adds.

In an effort to practice what it preaches, Maropeng has adopted a sustainable approach to business. One of the areas in which Maropeng has prioritised sustainability is in its kitchens. Besides scrupulously recycling all kitchen waste, it has opted to source the majority of its fresh produce from local farmers. Currently 65% of the food on Maropeng’s menus is sourced from within 15km of the Magalies and Cradle of Humankind areas, ensuring not only the freshest produce, but local farmers have given Maropeng an undertaking that their production processes are sustainable. All fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, milk, eggs and herbs are locally sourced.

Maropeng has also implemented additional green measures to continue sustainability when food leaves its kitchens. “We use biodegradable take-away cups, teaspoons, knives, forks and plates which once disposed of are carefully sorted for recycling,” adds Tony Rubin, Managing Director of Maropeng.

More sustainable measures were also implemented for the approximately 30 litres of cooking oil that Maropeng’s kitchens dispose of weekly. “We now have an initiative in place where all cooking oil waste is collected by a food oil disposal company from which it is recycled to produce biodiesel and soap products,” he adds.

The construction of an ozone wastewater purification system at the Sterkfontein Caves is another environmentally friendly initiative whichinitiative, which has done much to significantly decrease water consumption in the Cradle area. “The system uses ozone from the atmosphere to accelerate the breaking down of solids by bacteria and also to sterilise water. It has been designed to replace Sterkfontein’s septic tanks and provide a far more eco-friendly solution to waste management in the area,” comments Rubin.

Another water management initiative is an artificial wetland system, called a SSF CWS – Subsurface Flow Constructed Wetland System at Maropeng’s Visitor Centre. The wetland has been specially designed to naturally assist in the filtering and cleansing of the site’s grey and black water. It has been in existence at Maropeng since it first opened and was constructed in order to conserve energy by minimising the site’s reliance on sewage processing plants.

More than 1000 hominid fossils have been found in the 47 000 hectare Cradle area – more than any other place on Earth. “The sustainable management of this unique heritage site is a clear priority if it is to be preserved for future generations,” concludes Rubin.

Issued for and on behalf of Maropeng by Cathy Findley Public Relations on (011) 463 6372 or email

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