Are you really eco-sustainable?


If environmental pollution drives you to be a more thoughtful consumer, here's where you can start.


Also understanding why recycled plastic is not the answer to the problem.


Reading time 6 minutes


The first time I spoke with Marco Benedetti I was looking for an expert opinion on how to design a truly eco-friendly yoga mat.


After a few minutes on the phone with him I realized that I needed to take a step back and adjust the definition of sustainability that I had built up over the years.

If I wanted to create a product that was honestly sustainable, I had to get to the bottom of the issue and not float around in the vagueness of words that have become "a trend" and whose meaning we take for granted.

I relied on the experience of Director Benedetti because he is a super expert on the subject, the summary of his qualifications will take up the next four lines of the article!

Marco Benedetti is Vice-President of the national association Chimica Verde Bionet, Director of Research and Development of the consulting company Green Evolution, member of the editorial staff of the magazines Ecofuturo and Ecquologia and Coordinator of Legambiente Turismo in Toscana.

In his words you will find clear definitions that will help you to ask the right questions and will provide you with a small instruction manual to evaluate if a product, a reality, anything or situation is really sustainable.


Definition of "sustainable product"


Question: Dear Director Benedetti when can a product be defined as sustainable?


Answer: In absolute terms, it would be when the material - in terms of quantity and quality - that we take from the environment and the material that we reintroduce into the environment have such functionality as to be able to be useful again not only to man but to the life system of the planet. Unfortunately, there are materials that come from our (anthropic) activity, such as greenhouse gases produced in this quantity and in this short time, that alter that system thanks to which modern man has found the best conditions for a development that has become uncontrolled.


sustainable development

Sustainable  /so-ste-nì-bi-le/   "matter taken from the environment   which when returned is still useful to the planet"


This inability to foresee reactions and therefore control events has not been a scientific lack (which has launched messages repeatedly over the years) but a political lack if by politics we mean the government of peoples and for these also include finance and economy. Egoism and lack of critical sense have done the rest.


So today we can speak of sustainable development as a goal not to further alter this balance but to be such it must be measurable: "more sustainable than....". In many cases lacks the reference data that a standard should establish it to be credible.

Sustainability and legislation

Q: We often talk about greenwashing, which is how to advertise using green vocabulary to attract consumers, while hiding the true environmental impact associated with that product.

Is there any legislation that stipulates that a product can be defined as sustainable?

A: there are norms that facilitate the development of products "more sustainable than the current ones" such as, for example, in agro-food cultivation with technologies and methods that we call "organic".

The figure of sustainability should not, however, only express a value related to the first part of a life cycle such as the process of producing a good but should also include all the rest of the cycle from the factory to the store, from the store to the house, from the house as waste and as waste, the system of treatment and recovery of raw material, which becomes secondary material or a regenerated, recycled or reused as required by the same EU in the various directives (such as the UAS for reducing the impact of disposable plastic products entered into force on July 3 after 2 years, approved by Parliament but not yet implemented by the government with the implementing decrees). 


deforestation-circular economy

"In nature all cycles are circular, while  man picks up returning waste that nature does not know and cannot dispose of"


Designing according to the circular economy scheme means this; in nature, all cycles are circular,from the tree that falls in the forest and is used by the biomass in the land, water and air, to the droppings of animals that revitalize the biomass in the soils. While man has taken from nature but produced goods that the same does not know and therefore does not degrade as plastic and the effects can be seen.


waste-environmental pollution

"Waste is proof of failure  of the belief  in infinite growth."


Even economists have failed in this by not predicting circularity but only growth infinite (on a large but still finite planet) we see the consequences: recovering and disposing or reusing those materials that nature is unable to dispose will cost dearly to the same humanity that biting to their creed has created an immense mass of waste that in fact are an inefficiency of the system.

However, it is not those who pushed towards this that today seems to us an abyss who pay, but the current generation pays and above all the future generation will pay. We have been cicadas who do not admit to being cicadas.


Recycled Plastic Products


Q: Does it make sense to buy a product made from recycled PET bottles?


A: The real issue is not whether or not to use material such as recycled PET but rather whether or not we need to produce and consume 15 billion PET bottles a year in Italy alone which has more natural sources than all other EU countries combined


plastic bottles-in-italy


"15 billion bottles of pet per year  only in Italy


Researching technological solutions to not waste the value of raw material is always useful.

The question is not whether technology helps us but whether we are educated to think before doing an action or only to take objects without question.

"The answer stands in consumption and conscious use  before in technological solutions"

The psychologists (of marketing n.d.r) won, leveraging the weaknesses of man to use more of what is needed;.

Look at the case of food consumption: the EU itself tells us that we have 88 billion kg per year of food waste and 40% of the population overweight, but then heavily finances the production of food as if it were never enough, instead of forcing us to make better food and consume the right amount for our health as well as that of the overexploited planet.

Our waste would eradicate the hunger that still exists in the Planet. That would be sustainable.


The Lie of Sustainability


Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest sustainability lie that is being told?


A: The biggest lie is the very definition of sustainability that circulates from industry to commerce to politics, without telling you what the benchmark is, so that everything is more sustainable even if you improve it by 0.000001% (which technically is true) but deludes on the progress when there are others who have made the same product more sustainable, for example by 70%, not to say more, and that the law puts on the same level while commerce puts it out of play only because it costs more on the shelf. Explaining the truth to people, does not reward, unfortunately, in the language of economics.

This concludes this talk, we thank Marco Benedetti very much for his willingness to answer our questions.

After reflecting on these answers, it seems clear to us that the responsibility of making a difference is still very much entrusted to individuals who must inform themselves (not without effort) and with their purchasing choices or by choosing to buy less and better can lead companies to make choices about production.

If we stop buying water bottles, they will stop selling them.


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