It was planned to be the day of sustainability, design, environment and territory. And so it was, despite the new restrictions that have once again confined us to the screens. We blew out our first candle by hosting top-level speakers, who gave us valuable accounts of the issues that revolve around the world of VAIA. A day dedicated to the community, to unite around a new vision of the future in these difficult times, and to seek together outlooks that are up to today’s challenges.
The three talks were full of ideas, stemming from the experience gained by our speakers on the front line. For your convenience, we summarise a small selection of the discussed topics. The complete live broadcast is available on our Facebook page.
The future of business is sustainable
Notice: the first talk’s title is an affirmation, not a question – a sign of the maturity with which the business world is tackling the transition to eco-friendly business models.
The words of Giulio Bonazzi, CEO of Aquafil, are emblematic: “those who do not start the journey towards sustainability will hit a wall; the problem is not if you die, but when.” The company, based in Italy with production facilities on five continents, is a world leader in the production of regenerated nylon, a process that has been included among Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s case studies.
By recovering fishing nets and other items from the four corners of the planet, Aquafil manages to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 90% compared to traditional nylon. The secret is “to see where the linear economy ends its first life cycle“, and step in to generate a new one.
The profitability of sustainable companies, Alessandro Santini recalls, is demonstrated by the attention paid to the sector by investment funds with a long-term vision. By focusing on research and development, companies improve upon the attractiveness of their neighboring areas, and succeed in retaining their own talent, as Optoi demonstrates with Upsens, an Italian startup that has joined our discussion.
For Salvatore Pinto, founder of Green Energy Storage, behind environmental sustainability lies the opportunity to develop a European technology sector that can export innovation around the world. The startup, which has raised a record €2.2 million in equity crowdfunding, focuses on perfecting alternative lithium batteries, the missing link in the renewable energy chain.
What is VAIA’s role among so many high-tech solutions? In the words of Federico Stefani, “society needs symbols to accompany the key moments of transition“: just as with the storm two years ago, VAIA proposes itself as a gateway to understand the sustainable revolution.
Design and planning – between sustainability, community and innovation
At VAIA, reducing environmental impact has always been synonymous with design. And for some time now, design has been moving away from the simple elaboration of forms, to sit at strategic tables in the figure of Chief Design Officers. This evolution is clear to Simone Simonelli, professor at Polytechnic University of Milan, for whom sustainability must now be implicit in every project; the real challenge is impact. He is echoed by Francesco Cattaneo, a former general director of Habitech, who sums up the essence of sustainable building as being aware of construction’s environmental impact.
In this second talk, special attention was paid to the figure of the craftsman, the one who, through doing, knows. The craftsman values each step of the process, to minimise fatigue and the use of materials. As mythical as they may be, warns Francesco Faccin, artisan workshops cannot be turned into a museum, otherwise their creative function would be depleted. Simonelli agrees with him when speaking of the ‘liquidity of craft knowledge’, and of how today’s programmers should be considered craftsmen to all intents and purposes, given their ability to translate ideas into reality. One way to preserve traditional craftsmanship, says VAIA co-founder Paolo Milan, is through technology, by relying on a more conscious use of e-commerce platforms.
If design is a way of participating in a debate, the VAIA Cube has entered it head-on. Using “the most technological material there is”, it responds to everyone’s need to find meaning in a world saturated with products and ideas. The fracture designed by our Giorgio Leonardelli represents the wound in the forest by splitting the cube in two, restoring uniqueness. The packaging, designed by Gabriele Motter, brings the tactility of wood outward. The use of natural materials opens up a new channel of communication, from the home to the surrounding environment.
The future is resilience
Federico Stefani summed up the progression of the day very well: starting with concrete matters such as business, energy, environmental policies, moving on to design and the way in which forms speak to society, we arrive in the third talk at personal experiences and at the emotions that nurture change.
Mia Canestrini is a zoologist who has been tracking wolves for years, often literally! For her, living in close contact with the wolf means discovering new details and being guided along unexplored paths.
The wolf is a master of resilience and draws on the pack for its strength: it is through this metaphor that Giuseppe Addamo, co-founder of VAIA, reads the importance of the community to overcome difficult times. But the wolf is also a neutral expression of nature, of a force that does not bend to our judgments and expectations: this is why entering its territory requires a different kind of attention.
The introduction of this animal in Yellowstone National Park has allowed us to unveil one of the most fascinating ecological processes, as Giorgio Vacchiano points out: the so-called ‘trophic cascades‘. By highlighting the extraordinary interconnection between different parts of the ecosystem, the insertion of an apex predator led to a reduction in the pressure of deers on vegetation, encouraging the return of animals such as bears and beavers. A phenomenon that is repeating itself in Italy, given the progressive spread of the wolf.
The power of stories found space in the third event. Such as the story of Paola Giacomini, who crossed the steppes of Russia from Mongolia to Krakow on horseback, bringing a message of peace between peoples. Or like Vacchiano’s dissemination activity, which focuses on working with young people to reduce the gap between direct experience and theoretical knowledge, the main obstacle to a more aggressive action on climate change.
Face to face with the community
We couldn’t end our birthday without a moment to get to know each other a bit better, alas, always at distance.
We asked our most loyal Vaiers what connects them to our project – be it the planting ritual, the opportunity to visit Trentino from different regions, the love of the forest and nature, or a shared vision of the future we want to create.
We put a real face to the team that has led us to enjoy the past year’s successes: the three founders Federico, Paolo and Giuseppe, and the contribution of Gabriele, Alice, Elisa, Andrea, Marianna, Silvia, Federica, Stefania, Gabriele Catania, Alessandro Dietre, and Maddalena.
Our greatest wish is that we will soon be able to shake hands, resume the conversation together and enjoy the live events we have prepared for you. VAIA will continue to be a symbol that, in its own small way, accompanies the valuable work of entrepreneurship, research and dissemination that we have witnessed today.
The event is part of “Il pianeta che vorrei” (The planet I would like) project, realised with the collaboration of H2o+ Association and with the contribution of Fondazione Caritro.