OUR SUSTAINABILITY COMMITMENTS
OUR SUSTAINABILITY COMMITMENTS
Against a backdrop of pessimism and resignation, we were tasked with finding a way to inspire sicilians to look afresh at the beauty of their own surroundings, to recognise the untapped opportunities lying dormant as the island seems to be held hostage in social immobilism and set adrift toward environmental disruption. This is why we designed a Journey around two principles: minimising environmental impact and maximising positive social impact. As in the graphics above, we kept the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals framework in mind when assessing our impact.
We chose to complete our journey in a carbon-neutral way, by bicycle and with solar panels to charge our electronic devices, carrying no disposable plastic, to denounce illegal waste dumping sites, to include in our photographs and interviews dozens of people who made sustainable practices and heritage protection the very essence of their associative or entrepreneurial endeavours. We did our best, in other words, to ‘connect the dots’ by including in our itinerary the most inspiring personalities and the most praiseworthy initiatives in the whole of Sicily.
Human transport is responsible for about a quarter of global emissions and emissions from this sector are rising faster than any other (Source: WEC). Even though we hadn’t been on a bike much since our teenage years, it seemed like the most affordable and sustainable means of transportation for the Journey. Cycling is not only a different way to approach traveling altogether, but it is also a practice strangely more popular in countries where the climate is a lot less pleasant than in Sicily. Contributing to the creation of a ‘cycling culture’ was important for us, just like the fact that we avoided almost a ton of CO2-equivalent emissions (SDG 3, 11, 13, 15)¹.
Recently, the levelised cost of energy for solar photovoltaics has dropped to historical lows, making it the most affordable source of renewable energy. Aside from industrial scale plants, the market offers a wide range of portable solar panels like the ones we took with us to charge our electronic devices. Due to the limitations of solar generation, we also took two 20.000A power banks to store the energy produced during the sunniest part of the day. With storage, we managed to accumulate over 12 Kw/h of clean energy² generated during the day (equal roughy to 1000 iPhone 6 full charges), avoiding further emissions, staying off-grid and saving water during one of the worse droughts of the last decades. Not everyone knows that a copious amount of fresh water is used up by gas and coal fired power plants for cooling purposes (up to 44% according to a report by windeurope.org) (SDG 7, 11, 12, 13, 15).
Waste management is an increasingly pressing issue at a global scale. Plastic, in particular, poses a grave and imminent threat to our ecosystems and to the food chain (read our work on ocean pollution HERE). During the course of the Journey it would have been impossible given the temperatures and the complexity of the itinerary, to not purchase a single bottle of water. Most of the time we carried and refilled our own bottles made of a highly degradable material; when that wasn’t possible and a bottle had to be purchased, for each one we bought we took three out of the environment. We constantly and peremptorily refused to take any disposable plastic item (bottles, bags, cutlery, straws) and used wooden toothbrushes, natural deodorant and soap. Whilst on our way, we publicly denounced several illegal waste dumping sites as well as arsonism – which is, unfortunately, a widespread phenomenon in Italy during the summer.
Food has always been pivotal for the Sicilian economy. That is why we decided to partner with the Slow Food Foundation, which strives to protect biodiversity and gastronomic traditions. We agreed to document all of their ‘Presidia‘ in Sicily in the course of our Journey. A Slow Food Presidium® is a gastronomic specialty made with raw materials whose source is a vegetable variety or animal species or a traditional processing method at risk of extinction; in fact, its market price rarely reflects its social and environmental benefits. For instance, all honey is sold on the market at the same price, regardless of whether or not the species of bees is an endangered, indigenous ecotype.
Again, rather than shooting photographs of endangered animals and plants, we spoke to the people whose life is devoted to preserving their soil, their beans, their grains, their cattle, gathering testimonies of their human experience. Only thus, we thought, would our Journey gain traction and credibility. We also met and spoke to all of those who, we thought, are working to foster that value culture which would be conducive to sustainable human development: anti-mafia organisations like Consorzio Libera Terra Mediterraneo, urban regeneration initiatives like Associazione Culturale Culturale Cannistrà, FARM Cultural Park, l’Associazione Periferica, the Central Sicily Museum and Cultural Network, several virtuous town administrations (e.g. Montelepre, Montalbano Elicona, Scicli, Savoca et al), environmental organizations like WWF and Mare Vivo. We were pleased that some of our posts went viral on Facebook, reaching up to 275K feeds. Most importantly, we hope to have led by example, making our Journey a meaningful one.
¹ Our CO2 calculations were made on Climate.org for a medium size vehicle making 8l/100km.
² 2 solar panels x 28W x 3 hours per day x 81 days