Climate change is an increasing problem globally; and South Africa is among the top 20 largest producers of carbon emissions in the world. Reducing our carbon footprint is more important than ever. The Wonder Plant social enterprise and the Spekboom Foundation have just the plant for the job.Spekboom, indigenous to the Eastern Cape, has remarkable carbon fixing properties that have the potential to offset greatly our carbon footprint. (Image: Bradley Dennis)Mathiba MolefeThere was a time when it covered vast sections of the landscape in the Eastern Cape, spreading for kilometres in every direction. But today, as a result of overgrazing farm animals, spekboom, Portulacaria Afra, is limited to small patches scattered loosely throughout the province.Indigenous to South Africa, spekboom is considered by some to be a wonder plant of sorts. Given its remarkable ability to draw large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, it is no surprise that it is regarded so highly.With climate change a growing problem worldwide, there are widespread efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment. Tapping into the under-utilised potential of local flora such as spekboom may be part of the answer.Most of South Africa’s energy is still generated by burning coal and this, coupled with the country’s energy- and carbon-intensive mining and industrial sectors, made it the thirteenth highest producer of carbon emissions in the world in 2008, according to data collected by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre (CDIAC).This also makes South Africa the largest producer of carbon emissions on the African continent, with more than 460 metric tons of CO2 produced in 2011.According to the Spekboom Foundation and the Wonder Plant social enterprise, spekboom can absorb nearly 10 times as much carbon dioxide per hectare than any tropical rain forest on the planet.Offsetting carbon emissionsBradley Dennis, a conservationist from the Samara Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, said “fortunately, environmental awareness is ripe and many people and organisations are actively working towards counteracting these threats.“One such way to combat these emissions is through carbon sinks.”According to the Spekboom Foundation and the Wonder Plant social enterprise, spekboom can absorb nearly 10 times as much carbon dioxide per hectare than any tropical rain forest on the planet.This is because spekboom functions differently from other plants in that it continues to photosynthesise during the night, thanks to its ability to store solar energy. This, together with its ability to grow in some of the country’s harshest conditions, makes spekboom the ideal plant to help offset our carbon footprint.“The plant is extremely water-wise and requires very little attention. It can tolerate long periods of drought,” Dennis explains.“And best of all, besides being very attractive and blooming wonderful little pink flowers, it is easy to grow.”Organisations such as the Spekboom Foundation and Wonder Plant offer members of the public easy access to this amazing plant, so you can play a part in actively lowering South Africa’s carbon footprint.“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” – an old Chinese proverb. Above, volunteers planting spekboom saplings at the Samara Private Game Reserve.Get involvedThere is an old Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”.If you would like to get your hands on a spekboom plant, support local business and reduce your carbon footprint, you can visit either the Wonder Plant website or the Spekboom Foundation website to find out how.“Making a difference, even if it’s as small as planting a tree in your backyard, has a bigger impact than one realises,” says Dennis.Play Your PartAre you playing your part to help improve the lives of those around you through your everyday actions? Do you know of anyone who deserves recognition for improving South Africa and its people?If you do, then submit your story to our website and let us know what you are doing to improve the country for all; we want to hear it.If we don’t get actively involved in creating a better future for South Africa, then who will? Step up and play your part in our country’s journey to greatness.Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.