From Thistles to Bio-Plastics Fuel – Gunter Pauli

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.

thistle-703584_1280Photo: Pixabay

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.

Zero Waste Fair-Fashion

Imagine the weight of 14 cruise ships.

Zero waste fashion is the goal for tonlé, an ethical fashion brand in Cambodia. The average waste from a textile factory can be 40 per cent. tonlé leaves 2 to 3 percent waste – not quite zero but almost.

Creativity and determination to use piles of factory scrap material has resulted in some stunning designs as well as clever ways to use even the tiniest scarp and turn it into bags, scarfs and necklaces. The even tinier bits are turned into recycled paper by mixing it with paper scraps from pattern making and the office.


You can either use all the material when designing garments to achieve zero waste. Or you can generate clothes from the remnant materials. A combination of both these approaches are used by tonlé, which has a design team that searches through piles of factory cast-off. Thus, the team saves the cast-off from ending up in landfills.

The Blue Economy is based upon the idea that there should be zero emissions. Waste is used to create revenues. A creative approach to thinking is required to ensure that there is no waste. We need to develop a climate where we always look for possible ways to improve upon what we are doing.

How can you achieve a closed loop in your business?


Coffee Flour – Converting Waste is not always Simple

Morning brew!
Millions of people around the world  love and need a caffeinated kick in the morning.

Coffee beans are seeds extracted from cherry-like  fruits and traditionally the leftover fruit has been left the decompose. But what is the best way to use waste? How do you balance a new business idea with existing practice?

Gunter Pauli, Blue Economy, says, “In nature, waste does not exist and there is no unemployment. Recognising the opportunities of everything around us is the key to a system that may provide for the entire world population. Without depleting mother nature.”

Designing businesses by using already existing resources and adding value to locally available  materials are some of the core ideas in Blue Economy.

The idea to minimise waste from coffee production may seem sound. The production of coffee flour could help boost local economies and helping coffee growers to earn some additional income. Farmers who want to use the waste as nutrient should  be able to continue to use it as a fertiliser. Using coffee flour could also help reduce the carbon foot print of growing wheat. But there is a delicate balance to make sure that the production of coffee flour is not going to negatively affect local farmers and the Earth resources. You can read more about pros and cons here.

Yet this kind of thinking is interesting. Using waste instead of producing resources to produce something.

What kind of ideas do you get while thinking about waste in your own life? Can you invent some way to use the waste as a resource?

Coffee grounds may be common in coffee lovers homes and this waste can be used to grow mushrooms. And while I ponder over a great idea for my tea waste, I will continue to use it to fertilize my plants.

Photo. Coffee Flour



Recycling and Sustainability

Recycling is great!

And recycled paper can be used to create the most stunning artwork. I love these paper insects created by Belgium-based ad agency Soon for paper company IGEPA Benelux. The colourful critters will be used in a brochure advertising a new line of recycled paper.

But even if I adore these insects, I think it is important to reflect upon recycling. Is recycling the optimal solution?

Can we create a better paper – a paper that does little or no impact upon nature? Maybe stone paper is a step in the right direction.


Gunter Pauli, initiator of Blue Economy, says that”Doing less bad – is not good“. A change in the way we think about resources is needed.

Blue Economy strives towards getting rid of the need to use resources, which is different from Green Economy where you try to develop methods that are environmentally friendly. Thus, Blue Economy is a shift in thinking that takes time to embrace and  include our daily thinking.[

IGEPA – making off from Soon on Vimeo.

Photo. Soon