Plant Trees! – They say… but which ones?

Everywhere around the world people at large are planting trees. India planted 66 million trees in 12 hours in the region of Madhya Pradesh on July 2nd. Yacouba Sawadogo in Africa began planting trees in 1980 to save North Burkina Faso from desertification. In Niger farmers are turning to Gao trees, considered magical and extremely useful to growing crops (unlike other trees), moreover its fallen branches give wood for fire and its pods feed the animals. Italy’s current most ambitious project is called ForestaMi, which aims at planting 3 Million trees (one for each person who lives in Milan) by 2030. 
Among the multiple reforestation campaigns I am observing around the world, one has caught my attention (also the news are not covering it too much, perhaps it’s one of those things that has the potential to bring immense change): The Great Green Wall in Africa. As a matter of fact The Guardian wrote a piece over 8 years ago. All began as a conversation started by Richard St. Barbe Baker – professional forester and pioneer in environmental activism – back in 1952. He suggested a bold solution to the problem of desertification: plant a barrier of trees wide 50 km that cuts in two Africa, from coast to coast. In 2002, during the World Day to Combat Desertification & Drought, the ex Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo launched The Great Green Wall project. Five years later, in 2007 the African Union officially approves the grandiose project. What is it? In brief, it’s a wall of trees covering Africa from side to side in the region of Sahel, right below the Sahara desert, extending for 8000 km and 15 km wide. The symbol of such extraordinary project is more than just combat desertification. It’s a wall symbol of life and unity. It has the potential to decrease, if not stop, wars between African tribes/States. People come together for a bigger cause. It will give shelter to animals, feed people, and show the world that Africa can be united beyond profit. However in 2012 the project changed its vision to adapt more to the countries’ morphology, as planting solely trees was going to be unrealistic: The wall is no longer seen as a narrow band of trees along the southern edge of the Sahara. The vision is now to surround the Sahara with a wide belt of vegetation – trees and bushes greening and protecting an agricultural landscape. The new vision engages all the countries surrounding it, including Algeria and others in North Africa, not just the 11 original sub-Saharan countries of the Sahel – The Conversation
It’s not an easy task! It needs a lot of effort and especially cooperation and flexibility: The sub-Saharan countries are not all the same and the techniques (and plants/trees) must be adapted accordingly. Though lets not despair! 🙂

Why are trees important?
Trees eat CO2. … CO2 is carbon dioxide, a colourless gas we find naturally in Earth’s atmosphere. It’s produced by all aerobic organisms when they metabolise carbohydrates and lipids to produce energy by respiration – hence we humans too. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the primary carbon source for life on Earth and its concentration in Earth’s pre-industrial atmosphere since late in the earliest part of Earth history has been regulated by photosynthetic organisms (plants, algae and cyanobacteria) and geological phenomena. The “problem” with CO2 is that it absorbs and emits infrared radiation at wavelengths of 4.26 µm and 14.99 µm and consequently is a greenhouse gas that plays a significant role in influencing Earth’s surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere has been attributed to human activity, particularly deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. This increase and other long-lived greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere has produced the current episode of global warming. Between 30% and 40% of the CO2 released by humans into the atmosphere dissolves into the oceans, wherein it forms carbonic acid and effects changes in the oceanic pH balance (causing among other things coral bleaching, and also threatens the future food chains linked with the oceans). – You can deepen your basic understanding of the carbon cycle on wikipedia 😉
Last but not least, Alejandro Jodorowsky proposes a psychomagic act to heal the planet: plant a tree on the 7th of September.
I asked Giorgio Vacchiano, researcher in forest management and planning at the State University of Milan, if planting trees helps:
Planting trees to sequester carbon works IF those trees survive and grow well after being planted, IF they are replaced with others at the end of their cycle, and IF their plant does not affect other important services such as food production or flora habitat or fauna. T
hose trees will absorb carbon as they grow, so over time their usefulness will increase (if they are maintained and not eliminated, not even by fires or insect attacks). Forests have a different time than ours … but starting now is better than nothing.”

On Tropical and Boreal Forests
Most tropical rainforest plants are considered to be evergreens, replacing their leaves gradually throughout the year as the leaves age and fall, whereas species growing in seasonally arid climates may be either evergreen or deciduous. Most warm temperate climate plants are also evergreen. In cool temperate climates, fewer plants are evergreen, with a predominance of conifers, as few evergreen broadleaf plants can tolerate severe cold below about −26 °C. E
vergreens don’t photosynthesise all year round. In cold areas, winter temperatures are too low and photosynthesis takes place minimally or not at all. In the Mediterranean areas, the evergreens close the stomata (the “hatches” of the leaves) during the summer to avoid losing water by evaporation, so even here photosynthesis stops.
Boreal coniferous forests are the second most important carbon reservoir after the tropical ones. FYI, two thirds of the Boreal forests are located in Siberia.
What makes these forests so important it’s the fact that they are the ones that contain more biomass, therefore more tissues capable of storing carbon.

The Family of 5 Primary Forests (National Geographic2015)

 

So today we hear excessively about needing to plant new forests (as if it were that easy… few people are aware of the fact that forests need management) since we see them as carbon tanks. Because humanity emits more CO2 into the atmosphere than plants and oceans can accumulate, forests are ecosystems that can potentially help reduce the impact by storing carbon in its biomass. However they can also emit more CO2 than their storing capacity, hence why management and planning is needed. 

And the question is, any tree is good or some are better than others?

My Conclusions

If you want to plant a tree make a research about the area that you live in and choose an evergreen possibly. If you have enough land to plant more trees, I would advice you contact a forest management expert in your area or at a University. In Italy I would like to indicate Mosaico Verde, based in Rome they operate in the entire country even for just a quick consultancy. Something I really like about the job they do is the fact that if, for example, you live in a city and don’t have a garden nor yard whereto plant a tree don’t despair! 😀 Mosaico Verde has multiple projects you can support by simply buying a tree: you choose the area and also the tree that is good for that specific area.

To plant a tree (or trees) to clean your conscience is not ideal as the tree won’t be enough to clean the air you pollute by your lifestyle.

Take care as much as you can of the local forests: we are so used to looking at the Amazon and giving money to protect the Amazon while forgetting about our home and our country.
I asked Mr. Vacchiano about the present situation of European forests, “There is a forest expansion of 800’000 hectares every year – of which 50-70’000 ha in Italy – mainly spontaneous on abandoned fields and pastures. Means good news for carbon sequestration and hydrogeological instability, even if all that glitters is not gold – in some places, it also means an increase of fire hazard. At the same time, the very few virgin forests remaining in Europe are actually getting smaller and smaller, especially in Romania and Ukraine, due to illegal cuts to obtain valuable wood and, in part, energy biomass. At last, climate change risks stressing forests (especially in Italy) with more frequent droughts, storms and fires. I would say this is the biggest problem, which we must learn to face.”
Europe’s virgin forests are fundamental treasures of biodiversity and unique places able to make us understand how nature works without human intervention. 

Plant trees for the sake of planting them and as a gift to Mother Earth. And remember the best tree to plant is the one that grows better in your area. 

900 wild bisons live in Bialowieza (© Tomasz Kaminski)

Sources:
Scienza in rete
SciTechDaily
Waldwissen
Internazionale
National Geographic

The Brazilian Issue – Beyond the Fires

After an intense week of facebook posts about the Amazon burning, people shocked, people panicking over the “World’s lungs” burning, people calling for the end of the world etc… I finally read something that made me stop, reflect and question how much do I actually know about the Brazilian issue?
Here is my girlfriend’s post that made me think:

🌿🌴AMAZON WHERE IS THE TRUTH ???
I write this post to be able to have a broader point of view on the issue not to create useless debates and absolutely Not to justify the barbarity of the human being.
Good morning to all dear ones, I really apologise with all my heart if this morning I will have to show you the Amazon issue from other points of view, lets begin with my socio-political lesson and economics.Just as I did in front of the campaign against palm oil, which is actually raising the GDP of very poor countries, causing damage to the multinationals, which use our ignorance to hit these countries by causing us to boycott the products that contain it .. .A little reminder ... Remember that these peoples began to cultivate palm oil after the 2003 Tsunami and that through this culture they retired up on an economic level ...Now lets look at the Amazon case together.The important things to know about the Amazon is that there are many points of view on this, we indignant Western beings, we look at the Amazon as a precious asset of which we feel indirectly the owners.
If we look at Bolsonaro's policy he is trying, in a crazy and questionable way, to pull his country up and make it independent economically and socially from the presence of other peoples, from the leaders of other countries who would like to exploit its resources ... A bit like what happens in Africa where we steal their metals and minerals and to wash our conscience we build a well and a school ...Brazil is currently one of the poorest countries in the world, through the deforestation and supplying the land to the peasants Bolsonaro intends to reduce the hunger of its people, reduce the poverty of its people by making every single landowner capable of self managing his family creating jobs and wealth ... What makes LOTS of fear to the most northern countries!Yes, the green lung of the Earth is a land that will nourish its people.How shocking ... How did it come to his mind ???Now, to change the situation we should collectively take care of the next (the neighbour, of each other).If we valued this thing there could be those who produce oil, who produce food ... And those who produce oxygen for everyone ...Some nations could be producers of oxygen ... But the community should take care of providing the payment for this resource ... And then there would be more trees for everyone ... But who is willing to pay for oxygen?
That country and those people have the right to become independent ... And we who talk about respecting the resources of the planet, in beautiful fresh air-conditioned cottages, with 4 cars one for each family member ... We who throw away tons of food in the toilet ?? ?We should just be quiet !!! And 5 minutes of Shame!So the current indignation we are being pushed upon relies on our gullibility ... it's another pro-ignorance maneuver ... OURS!
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND TO STUDY ECONOMY BEFORE YOU COMMENT !!!
PS: I OBVIOUSLY FEEL VERY SAD FOR THE FACT THAT THEY BURN ALL THOSE TREES AND ANIMALS ...Michela Chiarelli ©

____________________________________________________

What follows is my opinion and my reflections upon Brasil, based on what I have researched and read.

I never studied politics and I have convinced myself that I am not interested in it simply because I don’t know enough. Also, where do you start from to make sense of what’s happening today?
I wanted to understand if the international community going so full on against Jair Bolsonaro is right, I too dislike him and have disliked him from the day he got elected president… however, now I need a deeper understanding and I feel the urgency to form an opinion which is not based upon the opinion of others. Moreover it’s not enough for me to condemn the actions, I want to know the reasons behind them.

I began by googling “Brazil GDP growth” – The Gross Domestic Product is the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period. As a broad measure of overall domestic production, it functions as a comprehensive scorecard of the country’s economic health. In 2018 Brazil scored 1.1.% … it means its economy is growing. I wanted to understand what is the current state of Brazilian economy. On Trading Economics you can see the forecast for Brazil is extremely positive, its GDP is growing fast. And especially since Bolsonaro’s election…
What does this mean?

I must share some data before continuing my point (bare with me):
Country            # Rank in population               Growth Rate                    2018 GDP
Brazil                             6                                        0,75%                              1.1%
Russia                           9                                        0,09%                              2.3%
India                              2                                        1,02%                               7.0%
China                             1                                        0,43%                              6.6.%

Let me introduce you to BRICs -> a grouping acronym referring to the countries of Brasil, Russia, India and China, deemed to be developed countries at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development, on their way to becoming developed countries. In 2010 it became a formal political institution. And in 2010 South Africa joined.
What would happen and how do you think the current world political powers would react if kicked off of their throne? …..
A report by Goldman Sachs in 2010 says that the 4 BRICs may account for 41% of the world’s market capitalisation by 2030. We are then observing the new upcoming world power countries…

Brazil had been exploited by BIG FOOD COMPANIES (mostly American) for many many years, of course after the US have used all their land they go look for cheap land in poor countries. However, it happens that an exploited country wakes up and decides to implement the so-called National-Champions policy: The idea was to select Brazilian exporting companies and transform them into large transnational corporations that bring home large revenues. How? Frequent mergers and acquisitions and consolidation across several meat segments (beef, pork, poultry, etc.) and other parts of the value chain (feed, additives) are key to the meat industry’s strategy in increasing profits. In this way, the companies used a large portion of BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank that funded such project) resources to swallow up small businesses. They continued to rapidly amass power through further mergers and acquisition activities in key meat producing and consuming countries. Flash forward to today: Brazil is the world’s leading exporter of soybeans; the second largest exporter of maize; and the world’s largest beef trader, exporting more than 20 percent of the world’s beef. It has overtaken the United States to become the biggest exporter of poultry in the world, close to 39% of total global exports.
WOW right?

I wondered why Macron has so brutally and publicly attacked Bolsonaro….
FYI
the group of seven major advanced nations is formed by: France (which is 2019 host), Germany, Italy, Japan, US, UK, and Canada.
…..and it makes sense now.
What happens if from this Amazon scandal the EU stops buying meat from Brazil? (EU is the second bigger customer)… How can you stop the economic growth of a country?…… What happens if the public opinion of that country and that president is marked negatively? ……

But but but check this report by Friends of the Earth Europe:

“The EU serves as a huge market for Brazilian soy and beef, the production of which drives deforestation and human rights abuses in Brazil on a vast scale. The EU is also Brazil’s second largest trading partner, and taken together, its Member States are Brazil’s largest source of foreign direct investment.”


They ask to stop the negotiations between MERCOSUR and EFTA, by appealing onto the human rights  and environmental principles of the European Union. Oh too bad though that the current members of the European Free Trade Association are Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Iceland: none of which is a member of the EU. They do collaborate with the EU, only they are not bound to it and its principles.
FYI
MERCOSUR –> it’s a South American trade bloc; its members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay. Mercosur’s purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency.

And Saturday afternoon just as I was reading and writing all this… I stumbled upon Bolsonaro’s instagram story which stated that the agreement has been signed!

 

Where am I going with this? …..
Goldman Sachs predicts that China and India, respectively, will become the dominant global suppliers of manufactured goods and services, while Brazil and Russia will become similarly dominant as suppliers of raw materials. … Isn’t it bizarre how Brasil and Russia burned extensively this year and none of the Presidents did nothing?
Also, The Guardian released an article clarifying about the fires and stating that it was not the actual Amazon forest burning! …

Check out this title, yet another one of the Friends of the Earth:

Do you think it’s recent?… This week’s maybe? Eh you wish… this is dated January 2011. The problem of deforestation isn’t today’s problem. You know in 2007 the Brazilian company world leader of meat production bought 50% of the shares of an Italian company leader in Europe of meat production and transformation. I will not make names but it’s all on the internet. This is the price of cheap meat.

My Conclusions:

When the Italian Pianura Padana was deforested to make space for the thousand pig farms; when  United States deforestation has caused the destruction of virgin forests by 75% percent since 1600; when Nigeria has lost 81% of its old-growth forests in just 15 years (1990–2005); …. and I could list many more but I’ll stop here. When all that was happening it was for the name of progress. Today, because we are living a moment of transition and change of the Planet’s climate we cannot call progress Bolsonaro’s manoeuvre to make his country great. No because the Amazon Forest doesn’t belong to Brazil but to all of us. The Pianura Padana though belongs only to Italy. The US Ancient forests belong to the US. Nigerian Tropical Forests belong to Nigeria (also, their country won’t ever become as great anyway, right?). Many countries’ fortune and greatness have been reached at the expense of nature (and I won’t even enter what are the other costs, ie human lives).
If this was happening 15 years ago, we wouldn’t be so alarmed but because people are in a high panic mode and shitting their pants (due to misinformation about climate change and the end of the world!) …. now the favourite game is to point the finger at the guilty one. Bolsonaro in this case. Of course because the Big Group has already done enough to take this planet to this critical point, now they can go by and set the rules to everyone else not to screw up anymore.
I’m sorry to say people but Bolsonaro, for as much as I dislike him, is not worse than any of those leaders who now turn their back at him and call him out for the Crimes Against Humanity.

It would be ideal that Brazil looked at the example of the US: how greed and ignorance turned a beautiful and rich land into a desert. Perhaps if there is anything positive about all this pressure against Brazilian fires is that perhaps deforestation will be managed better and more wisely.
I do hope that all the attention will force him to change his politics, but truth is that it’s far more complicated. Also, for us to know the truth is almost impossible. America is a great example of how a rich country doesn’t necessarily translate in its people’s wealth, but perhaps the pride of being part of such great nation pays off for being poor: in the eyes of the world we are The Americans, never mind I cannot afford food let alone go to the hospital if I’m sick.
Sadly Brazil is going in that direction, as the models and examples are not that illuminating.

Anyway, these are my considerations and you can have yours. I don’t excuse Jair Bolsonaro’s politics and ways but I do understand them. Also a few years ago Brazil had big financial problems and so to get back on track they must’ve adopted very unpopular politics (to say the least). And it worked as their GDP started going up and up, however because the GDP’s calculation is based on the invoices of course it creates a dependency upon those few huge companies that account for the majority of the country’s GDP. Meaning if its growth depends on meat, soy and corn (just like the American one!) then deforestation won’t be an option.

As you know there isn’t much we can do except for educating ourselves on the motives that drive our leaders, choose wisely what we eat, question our current reality…etc 🙂 Actually it’s already a lot!

 

A few links I read:
Economist
High Country News
La Conceria
Agriland
Institute For Agriculture & Trade Policy
The Brazilian Business
New York Times

Sustainable Tourism in Transylvania

Ten years after my first visit to Transylvania I have been invited by my friend Marta Pozsonyi as a speaker at the first conference ever organised on Sustainable Tourism in Transylvania, which took place at the University of Cluj.
Marta is a pioneer in this sense because 10 years ago she organised the first gastronomic summer campus for kids, and the following year we co-organised the second one plus an international conference for the youth in gastronomy (it wasn’t really the Slow Food Youth Network, as this came years after our conference).
This time she brought together different experts in the gastronomic field who work in Transylvania, besides Rosemary Barron who came from London and is a real food and travel critique (I say real as in she is not an instagram celebrity) and myself who came from Italy. But firstly what is a gastronomer and what professions includes a “gastronomic field”? … On the superficial level a gastronomer is a lover of good food, a gourmet, a connoisseur of good food and drink, etc. On a deeper level gastronomy is the study of food. And the food in question has a background: history, politics, art, agronomy, zoology, economy, ecology, genetics; it has a taste, it encloses the stories of those who made it from the first seed planted to the person who sold it to you, it travelled across different cultures until it got on your table, and so on.
Marta has a vision and it’s the reason for this conference: She sees a national network of producers, historians, creatives, farmers, restaurateurs, students and so on, working together to better Transylvania; to preserve the land and create a sustainable tourism from which many people can benefit.

As she was speaking my mind brought me to my hometown Giaveno, where I have tried to put together producers and restaurateurs but haven’t yet succeeded. For some reason people have a hard time collaborating, also there are communication problems between the main town and the spread out villages that are part of this town. I told Marta that perhaps this won’t happen overnight, if people are used to working alone this won’t change from one conference but maybe … maybe in some years. The importance is to keep trying and keep talking about these things. Something I found incredibly interesting is the work of Cristian Cismaru, whose  Eat-Local.ro aims at changing the way food is served in the villages. In fact he and his partner organise events, such as Transylvania Brunch or picnics or by inviting chefs to revisit old recipes, in small rural villages. Although extremely happy and satisfied of his activity, he can’t but wonder: are we contributing to globalisation by innovating traditions? … What a good question! When I was in university I went through a phase where I was against innovation. Anything too new or two creative was for me an attack to traditions and seeing how American food system and “culture” has changed the way we eat and think of food… I wanted to preserve the old grandma’s recipes. But now I realise time cannot be stopped and what we view as traditional today is perhaps only 200 years old. Think of this: tomato sauce wasn’t traditional in Italy until little over 100 years ago!!! And we had no idea over here of the existence of tomatoes, so what was traditional before that huh? … and what will  be traditional in the future in 300 years? Who knows..
I believe it’s a blessing to be able to have a great variety of foods, I believe that traditions will be moulded on the national and local tastes. A chef coming to a village to cook an old recipe in a completely different way can be viewed as an incredible experiment and the locals can really benefit from it. We must not forget that what is being done by Cristian is to bring together the locals and offer them something new! We are so used to think and design events for the foreigners that we forget to include the people living in the area… this is different. This is creating a sense of community by organising gastronomic events that can sparkle a new idea, a new encounter, a new way of viewing the same food/recipe. It also gives pride to local producers, something that we too often take for granted. Cristian Cismaru found a way to preserve life and culture in the mountains 🙂

The presentation of Tibor Hartel on the agricultural space in Transylvania and the potential in development has also caught my attention as it is a topic extremely dear to me. What is the aim of landscapes? – He begins by asking us. We want to work toward landscapes that work for both people and biodiversity. An answer so simple and obvious, yet the reality is much different unfortunately. The problem is that usually local authorities (I’m not talking about people like Tibor Hartel nor the people present at this conference) don’t cherish the land they manage and sell it for whatever use only to earn money. … During my travels I’ve seen a phenomenon I really dislike: I go to a country and find myself in a hospitality structure built by foreigners for foreigners, where the local ecosystem is bent (or completely destroyed) for the sake of making it ideal to welcome a certain type of tourist… there is nothing left of the local culture if not the world reckoned cliches! Basically if the locals don’t recognise and don’t value their culture, this will be exploited and you will slowly lose your sense of identity. While designing a touristic plan one should ask him/herself where can we modernise yet stay Romanian (and this opens another question: what is being Romanian?.. what is Romania? what is Transylvania?…). I think the biggest lie ever told by globalisation is that there is only one way to become modern, and that is to copy what America is doing, to sell Romanian souvenirs made in china, to open burger places instead of traditional restaurants etc.
I believe also that integrated farming is the new old-way of preserving life, biodiversity, and culture. And regarding this I would like to share with you a reality in Colombia I happen to follow and one day will also visit… Deveras – founded by Michel Pineda. So we move back to a farming that integrates on the same area: animals, forest, vegetable garden etc.

At last… chef Oana Coanta of Bistro de l’Arte in Brasov spoke about her experience. Her bistro uses 80% local products and she is doing her best to educate the customers. However, she says there is a difference between the foreign customer and the locals. Foreigners are very curious about the provenience of the produce, while locals never ask and don’t care. I believe this is just because they have not been taught to ask nor to think about it. We, in the west, have been bombarded in the past 10 years with books and notions about the importance of local food but there are countries where such thing is still obvious so people don’t ask. In Belarus the meat you find both at the market or in stores or in the restaurant comes from Belarus, so do the vegetables. I wonder if it’s the case for Romania…
I am a firm believer though that the customer must be educated. We never think of this but McDonald’s and all the crap that has been sold to us from the American companies have educated our taste… so if chefs don’t re-educate the customers, who else will? Sure it’s a tiring and frustrating task but I consider a chef much more than just a person who cooks.

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#GiavenoCannucciaFree is done!

It’s time to wrap up the project on the plastic straws I set up in my home town Giaveno (read here).
I’ve been pulling it to the side not wanting to really write about it because to sit down and write meant also to reflect upon both the success and the failures. I realised what blocked me for over a month was to admit the failures and I didn’t want to measure myself with that. However the block extended to ALL my writing, so it’s time I write.

My vision of the project was a big one, also my expectations were slightly driven by my naivety. I believed that I could really convince everyone to stop using plastic straws, because to me such a change was beyond necessary for the environment. But soon I had to accept that different people have different priorities, and some people (trust me we’re still speaking of a minority thankfully!) don’t care at all about the environment and the wellbeing of the planet and its creatures. However, many people have surprised me beyond my expectations! Almost 40 bars/restaurants opted for change on a total of 60! Of those 40 who chose to stop using plastic straws, some decided to slowly get rid of all single-use plastic…
Moreover, with the Mayor Carlo Giacone we began to work on a decree to ban single-use plastic in all public offices and schools. I called the Mayor of Lampedusa (an island in South Italy) Totò Martello for some advice on how to make this happen as he was the first Mayor in Italy to ban completely all single-use plastic (to the extent that not even stores could sell it, and tourists cannot carry it). I admire his strength and the projects he’s got running on the island and I believe he is an example to follow. When I called him in October the first time I told him about my project saying that I want to try and see if this can be done without forcing people through a law. But this wise man told me from the very beginning that a decision was necessary from above: people have to be forced first and then after they need to be educated about it. So the decree we are working on here in Giaveno includes education to both the public and the owners of pubs/restaurants etc. I am thrilled!

Something I had sort of planned on doing was a cross-generation workshop on plastic pollution and possible solutions: I wanted to get 4 high-school girls to teach to elementary children. In theory I even met the right girls who are passionate about this subject and love children, I also had an entire elementary school. The problem? Organisation! My organisation. As I was doing this project I had my modelling work and I had lots of other things, I was also finishing writing my first book. So I never managed to sit down and create the teaching project. It saddened me but I did get to involve a middle school for an art competition 🙂 This idea was pitched to me by Marta C Bertola owner of the Cafè delle Arti along with two teachers of the private school Maria Ausiliatrice, Katia and Letizia who absolutely loved the idea of having children draw the official flyer of the campaign.

We decided to have multiple categories and more than one winner (although only the most voted would become the official flyer):

I was super happy to meet the artists as I found all the works so incredibly creative and original!! I didn’t mention before but the school I got involved is my old school and I found out my teacher still works there (it was pretty damn awesome to go back and see her).
So the last step was to print the flyer and distribute it to the bars and restaurants who signed up for the campaign.

Everyone chose their best option. However, I did walk into some bars only to find out the owner forgot or didn’t take it too seriously. I felt bad at first because I did believe in the word given and even in the signature they put on the papers I presented them. This was a social experiment, after all it made me think of how for some putting their signature on something is not such a big deal, perhaps it’s the same as putting a “like” on a sad post on facebook and feel relieved to the thought of having “contributed” somehow to that cause – when in reality you didn’t. Oh but who cares as long as we feel better and lighter about ourselves without actually doing something, right? That is a minority thankfully 🙂 Plus I came back to remind them LOL
I had a feeling when I started this that somehow I became a nightmare for many people, like I became that person pressing the buttons of responsibility and bringing the attention on something they did not want to think about: oh no yet another problem I need to think of!
The thing is… sooner or later we need to face these things, and in two years time single-use plastic will be banned from Europe (but why wait 2 years when we can act now?).

I think as humans we have kept our eyes and ears shut for way way waaaaay too long. Now we wake up to a nightmare and I do get it that many people still want to sleep: you know when it’s Monday morning, the alarm goes off, you turn it off and roll to the other side to keep on sleeping? I’m not ready to get up and go to work, I’m still tired, I still want 5 minutes (ahem another 5 years?? No please) . Those who did get up 30 minutes before the alarm went off, had/have the duty to start waking up the others and shake them from their dreams. Basically at times you meet the one who smiles and gets up, other times you meet the one who insults you 😛

Either way…. we won’t stop!

Overall I feel it was a good thing this one, it definitely rang a bell for many (many more than I even know, as word spread). I get messages from people telling me they stopped giving the plastic straw to their children and explained them why. I think the weakness of this whole project was the fact that I was alone doing it – ok ok besides Marta, Letizia and Katia helping on the side with the art part – so I was a little limited on expanding all my ideas. Perhaps that is what I see as a “failure”, that not all I imagined came true…
However looking back I can’t but love the surprise of how this project evolved naturally on its own, I started it and set it free to have its own life – but of course still being there as a parent, just not suffocating it with my expectations and/or fears. I had trust!
Never forget, every action counts… and adds a drop to the Ocean ❤

What is Sustainable?

Lately, after the plastic campaigns I have launched, I began to question myself about the word “sustainability”. And what exactly means being sustainable? I observed people and myself and found interesting how many times we care so much about one thing (lets say for example about not using plastic bottles anymore) and then we forget to question what is it that we put on our skin. Why?
I believe because we don’t think of being one with the world and the environment.
Last week I was invited to a conference in Milan organised by SkinEco, an international organisation about ecological dermatology. And before that, always last week, I bought a book about natural fibers because although I work in fashion I know almost nothing about what I wear.
What we put on our skin, what we wear, what we eat and what we use is all connected. And caring so much about the Earth made me realise I need to care about myself too. But it’s not that easy and straightforward as I imagined. We live in an era where information is polluting our minds making it really hard to understand what is really sustainable and healthy.

I sat down and thought about what sustainability means to me:

  •  It has to do with TIME: Whether it’s fashion, beauty products or food it must take its natural time to become the final product we consume. Then, while clothes should be made to last, food and cosmetics have different life-spans. A food that lasts 5 years on the shelf is not sustainable for our bodies because inside it’s made of substances that were not meant for nutrition (not everything that is edible is good to eat, especially when you don’t know the longterm effects on your body). The time I’m talking about is also linked to personal responsibility, with that I mean to use and reuse the clothes you own despite fashion’s dictatorship. Or if you’re done using it give it to a friend who will continue to wear it (then you might wonder what to do with your very old t-shirt – oh hey vintage is back btw! LOL – well use it as a cleaning-the-house uniform or gym-uniform or gardening-uniform or use it to clean… there are many ways you can use old clothes, throwing them out should be the last resource). Last but not least, we should start to think about this –> the time it took to make it, the time we use it and the time it lasts in the environment after it’s been used. Humans have invented brilliant things only to discover later the harm of them, we must THINK LONGTERM!
  • It has to do with RESPONSIBILITY: Responsibility of human, animal and Earth’s life and wellbeing. It is not acceptable that millionaires business owners leave the people (and the animals!) making their business profitable starve and live in inhumane conditions. As consumers we too have the responsibility to educate ourselves about what we buy. We cannot just point the finger, nobody can point the finger. Be conscious of who you are supporting and what you are supporting.
  • It has to do with COSTS: To produce a certain way it’s obvious that costs will go slightly up. But this would mean —> a dignified pay for the workers, a dignified and respectful life to animals. The industries, lets say it, have fooled us into believing they can make our food and clothes for cheap. They didn’t tell you how. Nor did they tell you that someone on the other side of the world will suffer from our beautiful and fast lifestyle. From now on keep in mind, every time something is cheap, someone else is paying for it. Cheap meat = animals are raised without respect, packed in cages, fed with GMOS (not always but… where does all the gmo corn go? think!) etc. Cheap clothes = women/children in Asia work like machines only to be able to survive, they have no rights, nor a real home.
  • It has to do with RESPECT: This is hard, it’s not just about respecting a person or animal but it’s about respecting my skin, my organs, my endocrine system on the long run (going back to time). Farmed salmon is very bad for children’s and pregnant women health, sun screens are full of endocrine disruptors, synthetic fabric can irritate the skin, etc. For the sake of external beauty we lose our health sometimes. But skin is not an impermeable layer protecting the inside from the outside, there are many ways chemicals enter our bodies even when we don’t eat them directly. So this is the respect I urge to see from the industries of the future, to think “All-listically”.

This is what means being sustainable to me, these four areas cover ethics, justice, and health.
As a model I work in the beauty industry and I can’t pretend anymore not to be touched… also I would be a hypocrite to take care of the environment and plastics and then turn my head the other way concerning micro-plastics in cosmetics, creams and fibers.
Starting from defining what is sustainable, I will research, try and write about sustainable brands and cosmetics/creams. They exist! 😀 But we need to start educating ourselves about what is in our products!! Many of you read the food labels, very few read the cosmetic labels… I understand, I tried last summer to read the label of the creams I have and it was all so complicated! If food ingredients have names we don’t know how to pronounce well cosmetics’ only readable ingredient is water ahahahahahahahaha AAAAAAAAAnyway … Stay tuned! And comment about your views on sustainability.

 

From Bars to Classrooms … Evolution of a Campaign

Hello world! Hello dear readers! 😀 Finally I want to give you an update about my campaign on plastic straws. It’s been a month almost since I started and I must say I am very happy about how it evolved.
There are 60 places (bars/restaurants/pubs) and among these over half agreed to stop using plastic straws starting in January 2019. What surprised me was that some didn’t wait for January and decided to opt for paper straws immediately.
Over half means the majority: the majority of people, if given an opportunity to change and choose between going in the direction of sustainability and do good to the world, will choose that way. 😀
The minority (and I’m telling you, the campaign ain’t over yet) is reluctant to change for different reasons, let me illustrate the excuses people adopt to keep using plastic straws:

We keep them for children… if a child asks you a straw you can’t not give it to him/her
Uhm well, I even went to interview children and ask them if they really needed straws to drink. They told me they never (or very rarely) ask for one, it’s usually the adults who give it to them. Why? Two are the main reasons: 1. adults assume the child can’t drink from the glass, but it’s not true because once a child ends sucking from the bottle he transitions to drinking from the glass directly; 2. adults think that if the child has a straw he/she will less likely spill the drink and get dirty, hence the adult doesn’t need to be too careful to the child (this is called laziness). And when a child does ask you for a straw, we adults can explain them why it’s better without it. Many bar owners tell me it’s not their duty as it’s not their child. I think we should ALL participate consciously in the education of the children. I say consciously because we are still unaware of the fact that we are all indirectly educating children.

– I don’t know what are the alternatives nor where to buy them
For this matter I’ve physically found where one can order sustainable straws in Giaveno. I have also made a research of Italian online shops for paper, or biodegradable straws. When doing such a campaign it’s important to know your territory in order to aid people to change, many don’t buy online and need a local store that sells these alternatives. So keep in mind…

– Sustainable alternatives are more expensive
True!! And it’s not a bad thing I ended up thinking. Why? Because it will put you in the situation of thinking whether you need or not that thing. Is it necessary? Like really necessary? It is the beginning of asking important questions. When things are cheap we don’t question the fact that maybe we don’t need them, this means we will be more likely to produce more waste. How can you value something that hasn’t been valued from the start?

And at last you meet people who tell you there are worse things to think about and that they are older than you and have seen and understood the world, unlike you duh
Ehh these people exist and it’s ok 🙂 I learned that sometimes it’s easier to raise a wall and live in your beautifully protected garden believing outside is evil and nothing you do will change that. I learned to smile and leave those people in their garden 🙂 Why? Because you can’t change who doesn’t want to change, you can have power over people who are already on your same path or are ready to walk on it.

From bars….. to classrooms….. Marta, the owner of the Caffe’ Delle Arti, gave me the idea to include a local school. So naturally and unexpectedly a collaboration was born between the elementary/middle school, the bar, a highschool and myself. What we will create is this:
A group of highschool girls and I will create educational workshops for the children to talk about the harms of plastic materials such as straws, bags and cutlery.  The middle school is entitled to make the logo that will be chosen  through an exhibition at Marta’s bar and the winner will have the logo exposed in all the bars/restaurants/pubs of Giaveno who stopped using plastic straws.

I am also in contact with a group of women from the Association Donne Di Valle, who organise art workshops using materials we usually throw away. These women have the wisdom and the manual skills to re-use and re-make that which for most would be considered garbage!! I would like them to collect the plastic straws and use them for the workshops in the local schools.

Soooooooo it’s all moving… the project has a life of it’s own I am simply accompanying it ❤

Me Interviewed for National TV

I got interviews quite a lot about this and it’s super positive. It’s good to talk about something concrete that is being done, this way perhaps more people will get inspired to come out of their shell and act. Every drop is necessary to the ocean.

The Beginning of Plastic X Coffee

Where to begin if not with a WOW 😀
I am still amazed and lack words to describe this past week. It’s been beautiful and powerful and it made me realise how something apparently so small has a big impact and big echo. As a matter of fact, we got National TV coverage!!!! Which helped spread the word about the importance of keeping clean our marine world, this campaign is just one example of many projects around the world.

Plastic X Coffee is a community project with a potential to become world spread. I’ve got flooded with messages and texts of people living in the area of the Natural Reserve of Torre Guaceto telling me they always collect plastic during their walks. Also, people from other sides of the world told me they do clean up always and would love to find ways to raise awareness among other members of the community.

A sense of community is what is needed nowadays. We must understand how important is the space where we live: many communities taking care of their peace of land succeed in having a whole world clean and happy.
I have always dreamt to save the world and I have always wanted to come up with an idea for the entire world. Now I know, that in order to change the world we all must start cleaning our homes. For me Torre Guaceto is home ❤  And if you also do something in your home, for your area; if each one of us takes this responsibility back, then the world will change! I guarantee the world will be saved! The Natives knew this… Each Native Tribe took care of its forests, waters, lands, animals, people… and the whole world was a healthy place!

No matter what some people say, change is possible and begins here (where you are) and now!

Gratitude is such a powerful energy. Now I know. Plastic X Coffee is about that. Is a Thank You for helping everyone keep our/your local area clean. And everyone can do what he/she can. What I mean is: you can be the person collecting a bag of plastic and getting the coffee, or you can be the one buying the coffees without necessarily collecting the plastic (because we are all different, and you might just wanna relax on the beach and tan… still you feel grateful to those who keep that beach clean), or you can be both. Everyone is needed, everyone is necessary. I say this because some may feel obliged to spend money or collecting, though the best for everyone is that you do what comes from your heart ❤ On Sunday morning, when I got to the bar of the Reserve a coffee producer, Antonio Doria (Caffè Borbone), gifted 1kg of coffee (that makes 130 coffees!!!) because he believes in the campaign and is very sensitive to the ecological issues of the Natural Reserve. Later came my brother Francesco and bought 20 more coffees!! I know he is not the kind who will go collect plastic on purpose, but he is the guy who won’t leave his trash behind and will collect something nearby if he sees it. That is more than enough 🙂