Valeda Scribbles in Green!

I’ve been on a bit of a posting hiatus, but the time has come to share what I’ve been up to offline.  In summary, I have become a human sponge (the organic kind that isn’t made from petroleum products) for all things sustainability! Yes, of course there is a TON of science and tangible everyday evidence out there demonstrating the pretty scary trajectory that our precious earth and frankly life as we know it is on due to our overuse of carbon emitting fuels…. But the flip side of that and what geeks me up is the opportunities we have now that we’ve reached the tipping point demanding change.  There is SO much cool technology available to transition to a sustainable world! My biggest argument for making the changes is WHY NOT? I came from aerospace, and although there’s still some people who feel like space exploration is an unnecessary expense, when the challenge was presented and the opportunity arose, it excited and motivated enough people to put a man on the moon only 12 years after the launch of the first satellite.  If we can do that, you better believe we can create less waste (and find ways to use it in new products) and transition away from dirty, unsustainable fossil fuels that are heating up the globe as we speak and instead harness energy from the wind and sun which we have PLENTY of (just ask these kite surfers in the bay a block from where I’m living!)

Speaking of the Catalan coast of Spain, my weekdays here have been consumed by assisting Econia with some fascinating LIFE projects, researching new areas for opportunity at the vehicle recycling facilities they manage, and other projects like assessing the possibility of introducing solar power our office building.  If you’re not familiar with LIFE projects I forgive you – I wasn’t either until I arrived.  LIFE projects are initiatives proposed by businesses, schools, and non profits across Europe that the EU co-funds. From what I’ve gathered in my 4 months here, the EU has developed regulations that all member states must abide by in the areas of climate and the environment, and in turn they hold an open call for proposals every year.  If you are selected, they will fund up to half of your proposed project budget. Your proposal must be a well-developed idea that you’re willing to put your own elbow grease and dinero down to complete.  It must also be a collaboration between other EU member states (at this time, this still includes the UK).

The ones I’ve worked on so far are LIFE COOP2020 and LIFE Regenerate, both projects specifically demonstrating progressive farming techniques to keep farming sustainable in our changing climate. LIFE Coop2020 which just wrapped up focused on the benefit farms can have by forming and utilizing Cooperatives.  Cooperatives provide a means for regional farms to share lessons learned, provide a location for sales and distribution of products, and allocate a specific team that can stay on top of new technologies and management principles, allowing individual farmers to focus on the farming. This project was funded predominantly by Cooperativa Cambrils a cooperative of farms primarily focused on olives and olive oil production.  Coop2020 incorporated both fascinating micro-windmills and smart grid technology (managing whether energy is used from solar, wind or the grid depending on availability and cost at the time) to irrigate participating farmers’ fields.  The project also demonstrated the process of testing and selecting biofuel crops for otherwise abandoned lands.  As if that wasn’t enough, a boiler used in the processing of olives was converted to use biomass instead of diesel, and olive pits from the facility were used as fuel. Now that’s circular!

The other project I’ve done some work for, LIFE Regenerate, also demonstrates holistic farm management for sustainability, this time focusing on delicious Iberico ham! If you’ve ever been to Spain or Portugal, I’m sure you saw Jamón ibérico all over the place… and hopefully you got the chance to try it (unless you’re vegetarian, which I completely appreciate).  The ham is from a specific species of pig which eats only acorns for the last few months of its life, lending to an incredible nutty flavor and the thin slices just melt in your mouth.  Many farmers have learned that the best quality ham comes from happy pigs (shocker!) so they provide a pretty sweet lifestyle for the swines.  I had the opportunity to visit one of the participating farms, and I’d be thrilled to call it home myself.  Wouldn’t you?

In recent years with rising temperatures leading to weakened trees, a fungal outbreak has attacked the holm oak, the pigs’ acorn provider of choice. LIFE Regenerate is testing a theory that introduction of another well known fungi, the truffle, can protect the oaks from disease as well as produce valuable (and equally delicious) truffles! Yes please! The project also incorporates the age old but lost practice of multi-species rotational grazing to revitalize land.
I’ve seen these projects successfully demonstrate new technologies and management tactics, yet I’ve also seen that when the grant runs out the businesses involved often do not have the funds to continue  implementation. I know the goal of the LIFE projects is to then replicate the technologies in other locations, but I don’t know how much this is happening.  Do you know of funding opportunities like these in the US or worldwide? I appreciate government support of progressive initiatives for sustainability such as these, but any suggestions for how to best manage continuation once outside funding is removed?

This post will mark a shift in my blog – since my world is consumed with environmental sustainability these days, my blog will undoubtedly be to! I would LOVE feedback and encourage open conversation – let’s share ideas and learn from each other! None of us is as smart as all of us!



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2 thoughts on “Valeda Scribbles in Green!”

  1. This is amazing Valeda, thank you for sharing and addressing the climate phenomena. I can recommend perusing the website of the Mary Robinson Foundation. She served as the United Nations Secretary- General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change and is the former first female president of Ireland.

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