President Cyril Ramaphosa says while South Africa is one of the most magnificent countries in the world, its beautiful land and coastline drawing millions of tourists, "we are seemingly at war with our planet".
"Littering, illegal dumping and the pollution of our air, our streams, our rivers and our oceans have had negative effects on our health, our quality of life and on the very appearance of our country.
"We have become the throwaway generation," he said at the launch of the Good Green Deeds programme in East London, Eastern Cape, on Friday.
The project is aimed at placing environmental care at the centre of South African culture by caring for the planet and its people.
In order to achieve this, Ramaphosa believes that it is time for citizens to change their attitude and behaviour towards the environment.
"Instead of putting litter into waste bins, we toss it out onto the streets, instead of managing our waste, we dump it in places it is not supposed to be.
"All this makes our planet sick, it makes us sick and it makes our children sick. It is time for change," he added.
One good green deed a day
To facilitate this much-needed change, the campaign encourages citizens to perform at least one good green deed a day to make a difference.
"Whether it is in recycling your waste, or conducting clean-up activities in your street, in your neighbourhood, school, or municipality, you must be the agent of change we want and need," Ramaphosa appealed to the gathering in Buffalo City.
The president hopes that this campaign will be embraced with vigour and enthusiasm in all municipalities around South Africa.
He further noted the significance of launching the campaign on International Women's Day.
"I want to extend my best wishes to all the women of our country as we commemorate the global struggle for the rights of women and girls.
"Environmental concerns must be an essential part of that struggle," he said.
He also urged the youth to come to the forefront and be the champions of this campaign.
"We want you, the young people of this country, to take the lead in being part of ward-based environmental education and awareness-raising.
"So let us commit today, right here and right now, that we will each do one good green deed a day, for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of others, and for the sake of our country," he said.