The Sustainable Story - 20 years of Sustainable Living Solutions

The motivation for establishing was to make it easy for the average person or household to improve their environmental ‘footprint’. While many people are aware that serious local and global environmental problems exist, and that they are likely to be contributing to them in their daily lives, they have to do substantial research to find out which activities of theirs are the most environmentally damaging, as well as to find suppliers of goods or services which would help them reduce their ‘footprint’. Few people have the time or inclination for such research, yet with access to the right products and information it is surprisingly easy to live a much more environmentally sustainable life. hopes to help people achieve this by providing the necessary information and eco-friendly products all in one location.

This year we are celebrating 20 years of providing Sustainable Living Solutions to South Africa, so we decided to share our story. Co-Owners, Zeke and Angela share their journey below:

Zeke's Story 

Zeke's Story

Coming soon...

 Angela's Story

 Angela's Story

I started at in 2010 as a half day receptionist with the intention of supplementing my income as I was a Drama Teacher at the time. One of my closest friends worked for the then sister company and due to the increasing interest in e-commerce, they needed someone to focus on the online store.

Contrary to my current career path at the time, I was a great lover of math and science growing up and technology fascinated me. I was fondly referred to as a round peg in a square hole at the time, but little did they know that this environment fit me like a glove. My mother worked at an environmental law firm at the time too, so we were a family focused on eco living solutions.

When I started with, the website had very recently undergone a complete facelift and was a fully functioning online store as opposed to the mail order website it had been in the past. We operated from the Green Building which was fascinating in itself due to it being one of the first buildings in South Africa that was built using green building principles.

I love organising things, so it was such a pleasure to be provided with the opportunity to flex that muscle by sorting out the various processes involved in effectively managing the online store. Unlike online stores of that time ( was the most well known in South Africa) we operated very differently. Packages we sent were more than ten times larger and heavier than the standard book or CD that was being sent door to door, we were also the only company in SA we knew of at the time that used drop-shipping and kept little to no stock on the floor (we operated from a 50m2 office).

Most people ordering from us were either international companies wanting deliveries within South Africa, people from upmarket areas (due to the very high cost of these solutions) and/ or those from extremely impoverished countries who would save money for months/ years and bring in a large wad of cash to purchase a solar panel that would then be sent to their families further abroad. At the time, solar panels were the most expensive component of a Solar Power System at R45/ watt!

The industry at the time was very small and we all knew each other well from meeting up at courses or dealings through the supply management chain. It was a small family of service providers with the goal of providing alternative solutions to the South African Market. Sustainable’ s goal was to make these solutions readily accessible to regular South Africans anywhere in the country. There was not much literature on solutions available at the time either, so we also made a point of writing articles and blogs for those looking at changing their lifestyle .

In 2011, we hired another team member and stretched our wings a bit by applying for an export license so that we could ship to our neighbouring countries. Surprisingly our very first export was a battery charger to Guadeloupe, an island group in the southern Caribbean Sea. We have since then exported to many of our neighbouring countries, as well as further afield to Malawi, Tanzania, DRC and Angola. We have also exported to European countries such as the Netherlands and the UK as well as to the United States and Australia and New Zealand.

The industry exploded after the second bout of load shedding that started in November 2014. We had to switch our phones off to be able to deal with the demand. Some of our suppliers actually had to chain their doors shut and were only providing assistance to businesses such as ours who had accounts with them. It was a double-edged sword as although there was an incredible demand for solutions, stock was severely limited, and we didn’t have the capacity to assist people timeously due to being a small business with a handful of staff.

We have seen many e-commerce stores open and close over the years, we have also watched the exponential birth and subsequent growth of Takealot as an e-commerce service provider. They once approached us about supplying our solutions on their marketplace, however, we prefer to provide a one-on-one service and feel that the technical knowledge required did not lend itself to a marketplace, and thus declined.

We have a great love of what the products and services we offer, and we were the first to provide Solar Fridge Kits as well as small domesticated Solar Power Kits for those looking to invest in solar solutions (this was not available in the past).

We have also watched as others have copied our business model, some mentioning us as the reason for opening their site to some going as far as copying and pasting the information on our website (and accidentally including the URL to our site on their site too). Many of those companies have since then closed their doors. People do not realise that running and managing an e-commerce store that provides technical solutions is no easy feat and requires much blood, sweat and tears of which we have given much over the years.

Although load shedding continued to ravage South Africans, it was also the catalyst that ignited the significant growth of the Renewable Energy and Power Solutions sector. It has encouraged major international stakeholders to invest in the country and the research and development it has allowed means that solutions keep improving. These days, solar panels are no longer the costliest component of a system but rather the battery bank. Due to these reasons, batteries are also improving in their lifespan and storage capacity.

2019 saw Sustainable Online operating at its full capacity and was our best year yet. With a staff complement of more than 10 team members, we were pleased to be able to provide sage technical advice and well-priced products and solutions to our clients both in South Africa and further abroad. Little did we know that Covid and 2020 would bring about a global shutdown and very nearly close our doors.

The last two years have been tough, we have seen team members come and go, and the industry has become saturated by more and more service providers offering a wide range of solutions (from good to very poor quality). We have also seen companies and people who do not specialise in power solutions giving advice on social media (which is very concerning). We are often contacted to assist those who have made purchases through companies who have limited knowledge or zero after service facilities available.

After 20 years, we are so pleased to still be offering turnkey power solutions and eco alternatives to our South African brothers and sisters as well as those further abroad who have limited access to these solutions. We have also stuck to our principles by keeping Sustainable small and focused on providing one on one solutions for those looking to improve their lifestyle the green way. We look forward to the next 20 years!