The environmental movement in South Africa is plural and diverse, but lacks a strong centre or unified framing. How can we explain and understand this, and what consequences does it have for ecological politics in South Africa? There are many environmental grievances, extensive resources available to potential social movements, and a broadly favourable political opportunity structure. On the other hand, prominent environmental organisations have faced a number of limits, obstacles and challenges that have prevented the formation of a strong, unified and popular ‘green’ movement. Movements on land, housing, and service delivery, however, have thrived in comparison, and, while they tend not to self-identify as environmental movements, they should be regarded as important elements of broader progressive environmental struggles in South Africa. Consumption may also become a powerful framing issue for environmental justice movements, and its relevance to contemporary South Africa is illustrated through a controversial township youth phenomenon known as ‘pexing’. While it is important to ensure that South African environmentalism does not become inward-looking and nationalistic, a strong environmental movement is essential for driving a political transformation on to a more environmentally sustainable development path.