This article seeks to provide an outline the scope of professional teaching and learning activities and their connection to civic engagement and the achievement of environmental sustainability at Rhodes University and in Makana Local Municipality. Activities in the context of rainwater water harvesting and sanitation research are used as examples. The improved hydrogen-sulphide test kit was used as the tool for the assessment of microbial water quality between April and July 2016. An approach to the improvement in the design and modelling of the performance of ventillated improved pit latrines under laboratory conditions is also described. All activities described have been taking place in the context of undergraduate and postgraduate student research projects at Rhodes University. They have implications for teaching and learning, civic engagement and environmental sustainability. Teaching and learning of the concepts of sustainability can facilitate the development of the necessary connection between academia and the society at large. This can have a significant positive effect on societal conditions in South Africa. Further endeavours similar those described in this article should be stimulated in South and beyond.