Seeing possibilities and opportunities in weeds.
Gunter Pauli manages the difficult task to combine science, business, sustainability, and ethics. He is the initiator of Blue Economy where the main idea is value should be created with what is locally available. He says that”Doing less bad – is not good“ and a change in the way we think about resources is needed.
One of Gunter’s ideas is to create value out of waste. In the video below, he talks about something that we normally consider a weed, namely the beautiful thistle with its leaves with sharp prickles. Lots of weeds are actually beautiful but they are “a plant in the wrong place”. Due the practice of letting farm land rest in Europe this flowers can be found in abundance in certain areas. And the great news is that thistles can be used for the production of thistle oil.
Never heard of thistle oil? Well, it can be used in the production of bio-plastics, lubricants, elastomers and herbicides.
Recently, the Italian petrochemical industry has experienced some though times. Together with a company that specializes in biodegradable plastics, Novamont, Gunter suggested to ENI, an Italian multinational oil and gas company, not to close the facility but to convert it into a bio-refinery. Thus, instead of using imported petroleum, the company started to convert the “useless weed” into oil. The leftovers from the oil production were also valuable. Some parts can be used as animal feed, which in this case reduced the costs for local livestock keepers by 2/3. And believe or not, the flower leftover can be used in cheese production.
Can local economy generate more money than global market?
Gunter believes that it can – a local economy can lead to a strong multiplier effect where more value is generated by capitalizing on what is locally available. Seeing opportunities is the driving force behind all innovation and by putting up criteria for the ideas such as there should not be any waste is an inspirational approach as well as a necessary approach to ensure that we design sustainable solutions.
In Green Economy the focus is on developing methods that are environmental friendly while Blue Economy strives towards getting rid of the need to use resource. Ideas are developed by examining how nature solves problems.
You can read more about Blue Economy in Recycling and Sustainability and Coffee Flour – Converting Waste is not Always Simple.