02 October 2020

Carbon neutrality: it's time to leave the right footprint (not a CO2 one)

Industrial revolution and global pollution: a motivated and almost involuntary association, which risks becoming an alibi for not changing the fate of progress. Because yes: innovation can be created while respecting - and not at the expense of - the ecosystem.

Without slipping into one of the most classic clichés of modern history, it must be admitted: man has changed the environment more than any other living being, benefiting from the treasures of its extraordinary biodiversity.

It could be said that it was done unknowingly, by the mere fact of breathing and therefore of exhaling carbon dioxide. But the matter is a little more complex than simple individual "responsibility".

It has involved the evolutions and achievements of humanity which, in many ways, it would be absurd to regret. From the industrial revolution onwards, passing through the economic boom and the post-war period, production processes have changed and many new materials have become key players of the development. Except that, by using them on a large scale, the planet has been exploited beyond the permitted limits.

Is it time to stop? In a certain sense, yes, but perhaps the real revolution of our time would be to completely re-calibrate the entire system. Resetting what can be reset, compensating the inevitable... and reaping the fruits of that progress which cost our ecosystem so much, in order to give back what we have taken away.

Carbon footprint: individuals and organisations are the eco-players of the present

Have you ever heard of the term Carbon Footprint

What is it in practice? It is a measurement which expresses the total emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) associated with a product, organisation or service in CO2 equivalent. In a nutshell: tell me how much you pollute and I'll tell you what impact you have on climate change.

In order to quantify this value - and to study which corrective measures need implementing - it is necessary to analyse the entire life cycle (LCT, Life Cycle Thinking): of the process, organisation, product or service. Once the inventory of one’s own emissions has been completed, which, in many cases, cross the boundaries of GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and the quality control of the company itself (such as imported energy, transport, product use, their disposal), it is necessary to decide how to intervene so as to reduce personal impact on the ecosystem.

The cure for the mathematically identified problem is being sought. But we could - and can - do even more: choose to prevent and lower the share of emissions generated, by working from an eco-design perspective. Designing by selecting raw materials, studying green, clean and biodegradable formulations, optimising processes and working on packaging, for example.

2020 and the planet on pause: diary of a warning not to be ignored

This year, still on-going, will remain in the history books for many reasons but, more than anything, it will remain forever associated with the idea of a stop which cannot be postponed.

Having reached - and largely exceeded - the carbon budget (i.e. the maximum allowable and sustainable emissions from planet Earth before global warming exceeds the point of no return), the world was running towards the irreparable with broken brakes. Until, due to force majeure, it went into stand-by and waited for the worst to pass.

Waters became crystal clear again, the sky was clear too, the air returned to being breathable once more and animals made small reconnaissance missions where they had not dared to set their paws before. In short, nature took over again for a few weeks.

One figure would suffice: between 1 January and 30 April 2020 there was a drop in CO2 emissions of fossil origin equal to 8.6%. It means that the world generated at least 1 billion fewer tons of harmful agents compared with the same period in 2019.

Comforting, it is true, but only if it is a harbinger of a lesson: because when restarting the machine, today, it is no longer possible to make the same mistakes as in the past.

One way only for change: between new green habits and a sustainable development model

Lifestyle, there is no denying it, is one of the most effective engines of recovery. Certain habits - such as those concerning home/work commuting - have changed out of necessity, while many others are slowly starting to be rewritten.

The trigger level has finally risen and the Sustainable Development Goals Of The UN 2030 Agenda have become increasingly too urgent to be ignored. Even more so by organisations and companies, responsible for the most significant and impacting share of overall emissions.

Everyone must do their bit, starting with good eco-design practices. Oway’s circular approach, since less suspicious times, is based precisely on these concrete choices: starting from the use of 0 km raw materials from organic and biodynamic agriculture up to the choice of 100% infinitely recyclable packaging, passing through the elimination of all superfluous packaging and the adoption of virtuous production processes managed with 100% green energy.

What has been done, now brings us to a 2.0 dimension of sustainability: to live and produce zerowaste, surpassing and achieving plastic-free teachings. The goal is not just to recycle but, above all, to minimise or completely eliminate daily waste.

And, above all, a particularly sensitive eye towards evaluating the end of life of the product. So that it can be reborn or take on different and unprecedented functions once consumed.

We are what we produce... But also what we compensate!

Let's face it: there is a physiological threshold below which it is not possible to reduce one’s carbon footprintin the life of an individual and, even more so, when it comes to industrial processes.

Trusting in the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) model by intervening on every aspect of the supply chain is an important first step but cannot by itself solve the problem of CO2 emissions.

At Oway, we have therefore decided to use the collaboration of a specialised company to analyse business processes and to measure the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by the volume of our activities. Once the impact of each phase had been measured, we took actions aimed at improving, zeroing and compensating this footprint, modifying some processes and acquiring new, more sustainable methods.

That done, we have chosen to compensate the percentage of pollution that cannot be eliminated by promoting sustainable initiatives in the Countries where technological and environmental investments are still lagging behind.

The first project was promoted in India: through the reuse of the outer casing of rice - considered a waste from a linear economy perspective, and widely available in the region - it was possible to produce steam and electricity intended for local consumption. The project involves two 1.0 MW and 0.6 MW cogeneration plants located respectively in Bahadurgarh, Patiala, in the state of Punjab, and in Mangalpur, Moradabad, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The program has an environmental utility, since zero-impact energy is generated from a plant-based waste product in terms of GHG, but it also has a social value.

Finally it's official: Oway is a Carbon Neutral certified company!

 

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