Leading change

Unisa wins gold and platinum for green efforts

Some members of the winning team pictured, back, Silas Mulaudzi (University Estates) and Mashudu Mawela (University Estates), and, front, Nomi Mnotoza (Sustainability Office), Dr Thelma Louw (Sustainability Office), Shirley Ndwalane (University Estates), and Christine Meyer (University Estates).

Unisa, through its Environmental Sustainability Office entered the Marketing and Communication in Education (MACE) Excellence Awards and won awards in both divisions entered: a gold award and a platinum award.

“Having a mega-university footprint, it is our responsibility to support the annual national Arbor Week campaign initiated to celebrate South Africa’s trees (specifically indigenous trees) and to raise awareness about their importance,” explained Christine Meyer, Horticultural Services, Department of University Estates.

In stark contrast to the sterile, grey built environment and architecture that was once described as being ‘brutal’, the beautifully landscaped gardens host valuable, undiscovered botanical treasures of interest. The 2017 Arbor Day ‘Treesure hunt campaign provided a welcome escape from stark and stale cavernous buildings for academics and administrative support staff on both the Muckleneuk and Florida campuses brave enough to break out of their daily routine to explore the picturesque green outdoors with freedom from rule and structure and to have fun.

Play is learning

Unisa leveraged the opportunity created by the National Arbor Week campaign to also raise awareness for the need for conservation of particular indigenous trees that are threatened by extinction. The Treesure hunt was playful and designed to ensure that hunters used as many of their senses as possible, enhancing the educational value of the exercise. ‘Play is learning’ was the order of the day and included were clue cards which boasted colourful pictures of the most characteristic features of the treesures (sight) and contained descriptions such as “sandpapery hairy leaves and scented, nectary white flowers” (smell and touch), “juicy, tasty and very acidic fruit” (taste), and  “clear whistling kee-wee-ooo call given on the ground or in flight” (hearing). The clue cards, treasure maps, and information cards were custom designed by the teams representing the two campuses for the fauna and flora specific to their campus.

“Unisa is committed to creating a botanical environment at its owned facilities that is inviting to its staff members and provides a welcome break from the stresses of the workspace. The interactive team activity created a sense of community and belonging,” said Meyer.

MACE Excellence Awards

Enthusiasm and commitment made it a reality

Also excited by these, and other sustainability achievements is Dr Thelma Louw, Head of Unisa’s Sustainability Office, “We knew all along that we had a winning concept and our enthusiasm and commitment made it a reality. This external validation from peers in higher education is an incredible affirmation of what a focused team can achieve,” she said. The gold award was in the category for graphic design, and the platinum award (the highest possible accolade) in the campaigns division.

The awards don’t end here. Unisa also achieved a South African Landscapers Institute (SALI) double gold award of excellence for the Unisa e-garden in specialised construction and water wise gardening. SALI is the only representative body for, and the national voice of, the landscape industry for the entire region of South African landscapers.

In June 2015 the following SALI gold awards of excellence were awarded for the following two Unisa sites/projects: the Unisa Miriam Makeba Terrace:  Landscape construction with design by KWP Create, and the Unisa Cloghereen House: Landscape and Turf maintenance.

More achievements to boast about

In 2016, the university was able to boast again after achieving a SALI silver award of excellence for the UCECE Sunnyside playground: Landscape construction with in-house design.

In summary, Unisa has won six prestigious awards over a period of three years (1 silver award, 3 gold awards,1 double gold award and 1 platinum award).

Unisa has now also entered the e-garden project for the 2017 South African Facilities Management Association (SAFMA) Technology Implementation of the Year Excellence Award.

SALI Award

*Compiled by Kirosha Naicker