365 days present too many frames to behold them all in a single glance. Yet, if the year in question is 2020, it is likely that memory has deliberately erased several portions of a year we all wish to put behind us.
Nevertheless, this is for VAIA a year to remember. Since moving its first steps in October 2019, the startup has come a long way and blown out its first candle.
In this short article, we want to relive with you the main stages of this crazy 2020.
And it’s Forbes time
First and foremost, 2020 is the year in which we got out of the virtual store and into Italian shops. If we have succeeded in doing so, it is thanks to you in particular, dear Vaiers, who point us out to partners that are always in line with our mission to promote design, environmental sustainability and care for the territory.
In February we started off with a bang, sealing a partnership with the Antica Aguzzeria del Cavallo, a historic Bolognese business that has been animating the its city centre since 1783. It is a source of pride for us to be able to join an activity that bears witness to a history of excellence in local craftsmanship. Since then, numerous sales outlets have sprung up across the country, giving you the chance to smell the scent of larch and fir from the get-go.
In March, Forbes Italia gave our three founders Federico Stefani, Paolo Milan and Giuseppe Addamo recognition as among the top 100 Italian talents under 30 in the social enterprise category. On the wave of your enthusiasm, which has supported us from the very beginning, the project acquired a national profile and began to reach more and more people. In the same month, the Cube found its place as a design object in the pages of AD Architectural Digest, a leading architecture and furniture magazine.
The spring months have severely tested the moral fibre of everyone, starting with the youngest children, deprived of daily contact with their classmates and confrontation with the outside world. You have introduced us to a use of the Cube that we would never have imagined – a support for distance learning and video classes.
We are thrilled to see VAIA reaching out to the younger generation and participating in the education of those most affected by global environmental challenges. To see a symbol of resilience in the hands of our future is a sign of hope that we will not forget.
Coming full circle
On 22 May, the first 500 trees were planted in Val di Fiemme, Trentino – one of the places most affected by the terrible storm of 2018. Like all of you, nature lovers, we pay particular attention to ensuring that the planting operations are as effective as possible. For this reason, all reforestations are carried out in collaboration with ETIFOR, a spin-off of University of Padua and our strategic partner for both the planning and follow-up of replantings and for the measurement of environmental impact.
Each intervention also benefits from the support of the forestry officials where we operate: the Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme has been managing the forestry heritage of the homonymous valley for over 900 years, an ancient example of community administration that tells of the importance of a territorial approach to forest maintenance, as we have described in more detail here.
One month later, we were on the Panarotta Mountain, still in the Italian Alps, to celebrate the summer solstice. We had planned to plant 1000 new trees, at last together with the whole community. Unfortunately, the health emergency delayed the work to secure the land, causing a postponement. Together with the Forestry Corps of the Autonomous Province of Trento, we symbolically planted a larch and a fir tree, as a wish for the new season.
During those weeks we also shared with you the honour of being hosted on various Italian TV platforms, such as SKY TG24, Uno Mattina and TG3.
From the Alps to Mount Etna
The end of the first pandemic wave has not spared the Italian tourism sector, which has lost a considerable slice of the foreign seasonal flow – up to 65% according to some estimates.
We have therefore decided to devote the summer to rediscovering Italy’s natural heritage and landscapes, venturing out between July and August to numerous locations around the country.
Over the weekend of 17-19 July, the team got together to complete a three-day trip to the Lagorai mountain range, a theatre of the Great War but above all an area heavily affected by VAIA. It was a return to our origins and an opportunity to finally see each other in the flesh, since as you know we are a bit scattered around Italy. Here you can find a more detailed diary of the excursion.
In August, however, our three founders travelled the entire length of the peninsula, starting in Trento, passing through Verona, Rome, Naples and Tropea, and ending up in Sicily.
Many of us have had a special relationship with Brussels – Marianna, Giuseppe, Maddalena, Federico, now Alessandro, have all had the opportunity to spend a period of their lives there. It is therefore with pride that in August 2020 we participated in the #vogliounpianetacosì (I want a planet like this) initiative, promoted by the European Parliament.
The richest autumn one could expect
September started with the greatest satisfaction, which speaks directly about you, about how much the community has expanded: there are 10,000 VAIA Cubes worldwide!
Autumn was above all a time that kept us busy in the woods: in less than a month we collect four planting events. On 26 September, we were in Val di Zoldo, in the Belluno area; on 10 October, in Val di Fiemme; on 16 October, in Livinallongo. On 25 October, on the Piné plateau, we were delighted to be able to share with you the first public planting. Many of you came (even from far away!) to plant the 726 new trees, one for each of the days that have passed since that fateful 29 October 2018.
By planting more than 2,500 new saplings together, we have maintained our commitment to a smart reforestation approach that accelerates natural regeneration processes while respecting them.
Your support has enabled us to take VAIA into the academic world and to bring our testimony to Bocconi University, University of Milan and University of Ferrara. We blush to think that VAIA has already become a dissertation topic in the last autumn graduation session.
For the celebration of the first VAIA Day on 8 November, we served as a bridge between important realities such as Aquafil and Green Energy Storage, facilitating the conversation between the business world, design and environmental sustainability. The birthday ended in the most beautiful way, with your contribution. We missed the handshakes, the nods and the hugs, but we hope to make up for the day soon and spend it in your company.
Marrying art, looking ahead to 2021
The month of November closed with two other important partnerships, which speak of VAIA’s relationship with the world of art and creativity. The first was signed with Eugenio in Val di Gioia, a young band from Turin who have made Nature one of their inspirational muses, and who in spring 2021 will contribute to the restoration of the Paneveggio Violin Forest. For the release of their latest single, A metà strada (Midway), the group gave VAIA Cube to twenty friends from the world of entertainment.
The “VAIA with museums” initiative started with the aim of supporting a sector that has been brought to its knees by social confinement measures. We started with a partnership that you have particularly appreciated, by offering tickets for the wonderful ArteSella open-air museum along with our product.
We look forward to 2021 full of gratitude for having been supported by so many of you. To date, more than 25,000 cubes have been shipped from our shop, warming each of your homes with a piece of wood. We thank you for standing by us during this first, important year. We will not forget it. We hope that 2021 will bring a new vision for the economy and society, more in line with the goals of ecosystem sustainability that we must not tire of pursuing. With your support, together, we will do our utmost.