Jeff Bezos reminded me of the importance of the carbon footprint

Jeff Bezos reminded me of the importance of the carbon footprint

On 2o July I could not stop myself from thinking about Jeff Bezos. He made a short journey to space, organizing his own private trip. There were plenty of headlines. And many different opinions on the subject.

Was the issue that was of concern to me if he was returned from space safe and sound?. Well, not exactly.

My concern was not in how much the space trip cost (or maybe yes), not in thinking if his decision had a coherent basis (or maybe yes) or in the high-impact maedia coverage (or maybe yes). The problem was that I couldn´ t get out of my mind the environmental impact of the trip, from a life cycle perspective.

After the trip, Jeff Bezos said its spaceflight revealed the fragility of Earth.

But was his trip a sustainable initiative for this fragiel Earth?

Jeff Bezos spaceflight. Source: France 24

Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, shifting its focus towards the economic, social and environmental development.

To be able to say that the environmental part of the sustainability is being considered, it is needed to evaluate the impact and communicate the result through effective and transparent communication indicators, such as the carbon footprint. It estimates the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the production, processing and retailing of goods and/or services, considering their life cycle and using the global warming potential as the only indicator.

It seems that we are becoming aware of the importance of improving energy efficiency at home or using the pblic transport, but we continue to maintain many unsustainable practices in our day to day. For instance. I would ask you to think about the energy consumption required by your daily interactions on the internet. Then, multiply this number by 4,200 billion Internet users.

“Houston, we have a problem!”

Knowing which activities are the largest sources of GHG in our everyday lifes, we can change them towards more environmentally friendly actions, and thanks to the information shared by the International Energy Agency (IEA), I would like to tell you three steps to take a digital detox that will minimize your carbon footprint.

  1. Cleaning: delete emails and online files that you no longer need. This action frees up space on the servers. And the social media accounts that you no longer use. The simple fact of existing and occupying space on the internet generates an environmental impact.
  2. Unsubscribe from the newsletters you are not reading: whilst the carbon footprint of an email is not huge, cutting down on the number of unnecesary emails you receive is one important way to reduce the CO2 eq emitted by these emails. And in a matter of emissions, each email counts.
  3. Choose carefully what videos you would like to play, maybe a pocast would be better.

Applying the equity principle to the environment, each person in the world has the right to us the same amount of environmental space, so if we commit ourselves to use efficiently our resources with minimal environmental impacts, the whole society will benefit.


Because this implies that the responsability is shared by everyone. That is to say, it is not only from Jeff Bezos.

The technological offer at CARTIF is varied, we are not dedicated to space tourism but we do evaluate the sustainability and calculate environmental footprints.

Therefore waiting for Jeff Bezos call impatiently!!

Creating more liveable cities using nature

Creating more liveable cities using nature

More than a year ago, we invited you to think green and it has been almost two years since we presented the concept “re-naturing cities”. Time waits for no man and it is a great achievement for us to ascertain how these concepts, which we study theoretically, become projects.

For both concepts, the implementation is being carried out with the URBAN GreenUP project implementation. Coordinated by CARTIF, its objective is the development, application and replication of renaturing urban plans in a number of European and non-European cities with the aim of contributing to climate change mitigation, improving air quality and water management, as well as increasing the sustainability of our cities through innovative nature-based solutions. The urban renaturing methodology is going to be demonstrated in three front-runner cities, Valladolid (Spain), Liverpool (The UK) and Izmir (Turkey), with the purpose of becoming more liveable cities using nature. To achieve these objectives, the consortium is formed by 25 partners (now, friends) form 9 countries which involve 3 continents (Europe, South America and Asia).

But we should not be bothering ourselves with all these technical definitions, let us try to use our day-to-day language.

Why this project and its development is so important for the citizens of Valladolid?

… Because Santa María Street will no longer be “one of the pedestrian streets perpendicular to Santiago Street” to become the first street in Valladolid with a Nature-Based Solution installed, green covering shelters specifically. These infrastructures integrate specific vegetation in flat surfaces and their structural features allow provide water for plants, humidity for the ambient and shade for citizens. They contribute to the reduction of heat island effect and improve the well-being providing physical coverage for sun and rain and, moreover, they will allow that the green colour appears in a grey zone.

… Because the time before the bus appears in Plaza España will no longer be a moment of impatience (during which we cannot help feeling “when will the bus arrive!”) to become an instant in which we can feel comfortable seeing the green covering shelters installed that will serve as a support for local urban biodiversity.

… Because one of the main avenues of the city, with high traffic density, will incorporate green noise barriers, structures designed to allow passage of wind thus avoiding its fall and it will mobile characteristics. They will include innovative substrate and specific vegetal species in order to avoid the negative effect of traffic noise for our ears (even 15dB of reduction) to please the eye, improving the air we breathe indirectly.

… Because the widely held etymological theory about the name of Valladolid which suggests that it derives from the expression Vallis Tolitum (meaning “valley of waters”), will become “theoretical” more than ever. The city has suffered important floods over the years that honor the possible origin of its name, but the floodable park to be implemented at the entrance of Esgueva River will integrate several NBS to minimize flooding and allow water drainage when heavy rainfalls or extraordinary flooding episodes occur, in that they are becoming increasingly frequent due to climate change.

It will be in a 2-year time horizon when a total of 42 natured-based solutions will be implemented in several areas of the city, and all of them will contribute to transform Valladolid into a more liveable city and resilient to climate change.

For projects such as this, we are organising the “BY&FOR CITIZENSconference on smart regeneration of cities and regions, with the collaboration of the Institute for Business Competitiveness of La Junta de Castilla y León. It will be held in Valladolid on September 20 and 21 and among the experts attending the conference are included Paul Nolan, the director of The Mersey Forest, and Ramón López, from the Spanish Climate Change Office, to present and moderate several sessions about integrating nature to create new city ecosystems .

As the psychologist Daniel Goleman says “Green is a process, not a status. We need to think of ‘green’ as a verb, not as an adjective”.

Laura Pablos & María González

Think green

Think green

We are opening this post providing a written record of we are not sponsored by a well-known beer brand. We dare to make you a direct request because we would like to urge you to do exactly what the title says: think green.

At the end of last year, Pantone® company (an authority in the field of color) chose the Greenery as the 2017 color of the year and, with a little foresight, we have realized that this color is being applied in a multitude of fields that go beyond fashion or decoration trends.

Can you imagine it? Look at these examples:

Technology is also green. Some time ago, we explained you the “re-naturing of cities” concept and the importance of developing actions inspired by nature to deal at environmental challenges in cities in the same way as the nature would do it. CARTIF already has an on-going project in this regard and another one is starting (do not forget its name: Urban GreenUp). Both imply that, in Spanish cities such as Valladolid and Alcalá de Henares, green corridors, vegetal paths, green walls and pollinator’s modules are coming to stay. This fact brings us to ask you strongly that, if you begin to see technological solutions based on nature within your city, take an interest in them from a positive point of view, we would not like to hear you saying “what the hell is going on with this beehive in the middle of my street?”.

Psychology is also green. We encourage you to know, embrace and apply the concept of ecological intelligence. “This concept is challenging our ideas about living green. With the book “Ecological Intelligence”, Daniel Goleman calls on all of us to think beyond terms like “organic” “recycled” “fair trade” and to pursue a deeper, more critical understanding of how the products we buy, use and discard affect the environment. Convinced that information is the tool we need for real reform, he offers a few lessons to get us started.” Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist and, in our opinion, his concept sums up perfectly the importance of looking at nature to encourage sustainable development, which is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Big multinationals tell us they want to be green. And we would like to think that they really want to be green. Our anticipation is very high with the latest news about Apple’s 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report. They have revealed that they are going deeper to pioneer a closed-loop supply chain, where products are made using only renewable resources or recycled materials. Moreover, an interesting advance seems to be developing in the company, a new recycling robot will be able to disassemble products and recover recyclable components of a used smartphone.

If Pantone® defines the 2017 color of the year as “a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive” … do you dare to think green?

Tag me!

Tag me!

The Cambridge dictionary defines the noun “label” as “a piece of paper or other material that gives you information about the object it is attached to.” An active social network user would explain us tags are one of the most famous ways people use to find content on Instagram, for example, therefore using the correct ones in your photos can increase your visibility, even your sales, and this is an interesting option, isn’t this? There is growing evidence about the importance of showing clear messages through labels, we cannot forget this aspect.

We explained you the meaning of nutrition labeling in food some time ago, so taking advantage of the fact that we are already aware of the importance of showing how much sugar is in our food as with choosing the right hashtag for our photos, what do you think if we know a little more about environmental labels?

With consumers becoming increasingly demanding, to declare the environmental behavior of products, that is, show their environmental profile through a label, can make a differentiation from competitors. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) proposed three categories of environmental labels according to the aspects covered and the rigor required to award the seal (and they are not trending topic at this moment).

Let’s see:

Type I: Eco-label. These claims are a voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party program that awards a license that authorises the use of environmental labels on products, based on life cycle considerations. One of the most widely used systems is the Eco-label scheme and among the multitude of products and services that are eligible to be labeled are shower gels.

Type II: Self-declaration claims. These labels are based on self-declarations by manufacturers or retailers and provide information about an only single significant environmental impact. There are numerous examples of such claims, for example, the Möbius loop.

Type III. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). These claims consist of quantified product information based on life cycle impacts under several categories of parameters and presented in a form set and verified by a qualified third party, showing environmental impacts.

Now, visualize yourself in the aisle of your supermarket with an eco-labeled product in your hand, reading the phrase “better for the environment” and listening in your head a question “who has verified this, the same company that manufactures the product?”. It’s just not the case. Labeling generates controversy, we know this, so we take this opportunity to tell you that any company that seeks to obtain an eco-label type I or III must follow a rigorous and exhaustive process, which implies to carry out a complete Life Cycle Assessment and it will be necessary to verify all the calculations by a qualified third party. This implies these processes can on no account be branded as arbitrary and avoiding the green-washing is a commitment.

Of course, we encourage you to check it #youchoose.

Where do R&D projects come from?

Where do R&D projects come from?

Have you ever wondered how a R&D project arises? How is it possible, for example, to be able to apply a photocatalytic treatment in the heart of a big city like Madrid? Ensuring respect of the environment through R&D requires a detailed plan of action, which involves many different actors and implies a very interesting four-phase sequence, to allow all the pieces fit.

Let’s see the recipe for success:

1) IDEA. Also known as the phase “Eureka!”. It is referred to that moment when, due to a known environmental issue, a company / organization / administration decides to contact a technological center to find a solution. Or, on the contrary, CARTIF researchers, on their continued commitment to update the state of the art of the technologies they develop, decide to look for a company committed to the environment to work on a new challenge.

2) APPLIED RESEARCH. It is named, in petit committee, as the phase Let’s see what we have here”.  Once the environmental issue to be addressed is identified, together with the science principles in which it is based on, it is time to decide how to apply them to the areas of demand. We have to use the generated knowledge by basic research and lead to the environmental problems selected in the phase of Idea. Here the purpose is always to produce technology for the development of the environmental issues addressed in the previous stage and the possibility of having additional aid, which supports part of the funding, can also be recommendable. These grants enable companies to address this phase with more resources and multiply, consequently, the scope of their results. Spanish calls of CDTI are well suited for this aim.

3) DEMONSTRATION. Also denominated The time to act is now. We know the scientific principles and we have checked that, at a laboratory level, the technology developed works. Then comes the time to expand the scale and test it at a higher level. For this phase, it is again very interesting to have the possibility of support from external financing. For instance, calls for proposals for LIFE Grants are the only EU financial instrument fully dedicated to the environment. Currently, there are 10 on-going LIFE projects running in CARTIF and the topics addressed are very diverse, do you know them?.

4) COMMUNICATION. At last but not least, it is important to publish the results obtained, because of that, this stage is named shouting to the four winds. Environmental awareness inevitably involves knowing on what work is being performed, the rate of progress, what improvements are being made and which companies are involved on the issue. Scientific publications and patents are a good starting point for us, as a technological center, but there are also other forms, such as environmental labels and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to make visible which companies have a commitment with the environment.

Let us look at a successful example:

The problem of poor urban air quality due to environmental pollution by nitrogen oxides is an important environmental threat for the cities. Being able to reduce this issue is presented as a great challenge (phase: Eureka!). CARTIF participated in FENIX project few years ago, working actively, among other tasks, in the study, identification and selection of photocatalytic nanomaterials (phase: let’s see what we have here). Based on the good results achieved, some of the partners involved in this action decided to keep working and contacted the City of Madrid to increase the scale of the research and to ask for applying the developed treatment in the streets of the city centre (phase: the time to act is now). After that, LIFE EQUINOX, a R&D project began, coordinated by CARTIF, in October 2013, and it is still in progress (phase: shouting to the four winds).

Let us not forget, therefore, that it will always be better not to put the cart before the horse.