Catania – In 2019, two Sicilian boys will meet “by chance” while attending the university accreditation day, where they will spend the rest of the year. Despite different university backgrounds, they share the same values on sustainability and on the improvement of the territory and local communities through a balance between economic, social and environmental welfare. The two, Alessandro and Filippo, set out to find a colleague in Sardinia to get to know the cooperative he works for, the Ecoistituto Mediterraneo, created by professors who were unknowingly involved in environmental education at the school.
Over the years, the cooperative has created a different business model with special attention to the territory and culture. It also won the Italian Ecolabel Award. Education, culture and sustainable business are the lowest common denominator for all the activities it carries out. Alessandro and Filippo, excited about this experience, decide to reproduce something similar in their home country. Taking into account the territorial, legislative and opportunity differences, the Ecoistituto Siciliano was born, an opportunity to reconcile economy, environment and social sustainability.
The Sicilian Eco-Institute takes care of that sustainable trade fairs and events, which are often combined with workshops on‘socially sustainable entrepreneurship and social inclusivenessEco-label consultancy, recovery and improvement of public assets, Erasmus projects and eco-consultancy.
“We must not only think about rehabilitating an environment, but also to make it sustainable from the point of view of the rebuilding itself over time, ”explains Alessandro. Here is an example: Two interventions have been carried out in Valverde City Park in the last fifteen years, but to date the space has not yet been open to the public. “We proposed a project that involved various institutions, university departments and the local people because our idea is to return usable goods to the community, create services and a sustainable economy”.
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Open education and training are the basis of all the activities proposed by the Ecoistituto Siciliano: “Often, communication about sustainability is about pure environmentalism or recycling. In the description of our project, we have found resistance among environmental activists who are convinced that they can not combine sustainability and economy. Instead, we want to demonstrate that it is possible to be truly sustainable through a different economic paradigm. We need to pay attention to the location, the short supply chain and the local production. The context is crucial ‘.
Alessandro refers toexperiment conducted by psychologist Philip Zimbardo in 1969 for Stanford University. Zimbardo had two identical cars left on two different streets in the United States: one in the Bronx, a slum in New York, and one in Palo Alto, a wealthy city in northern California. A few hours after being abandoned, the car was parked in the Bronx hit by vandals in the neighborhood, damaged, stripped of tires, windows, radio only a week after the start of the experiment. The car in the Palo Alto, on the other hand, remained intact.
This first part of the intervention did not surprise the researchers too much, the interesting thing happened later. The car left behind in the Palo Alto had broken down and a mirror was quickly stormed just like that in the Bronx. The same experiment was performed in several other contexts by maintaining the same procedure and observing the same type of social behavior: any object – such as a car, but also a building – left in environments abandoned to decay, neglect and disorder, will it undergo the same type of treatment in a short time.
Regenerating means not only making a place beautiful, but also making it feel like part of a community. This is the goal of Alessandro and Filippo. In the aforementioned case of Valverde, a sociological, historical and geographical study of the site was carried out through the University of Catania. An old Valverde historian was interviewed, middle school children – who received surveys – and the little ones who were asked to design their city or their ideal park.
A remarkable project has been created: a 5.7-hectare park, which will include a collaboration and study area, a sports area, a restaurant area, a cultural area and a tourist area with a camping area. 99% of the project was approved by civil society through opinion polls. The Ecoistituto Siciliano has promoted the same method of participation for the regeneration of Cardinal Pappalardo Square in the Civita district of Catania together with Legambiente, 4GoodCause, Isola.
“Sustainability is a need that gives us an opportunity. It is a positive investment in several sectors, from the pedagogical to the events that go through participation in projects on the topic promoted by foundations and organizations. The use of sustainable approaches and business models is not only beneficial to the environment, but has positive effects on the company’s image and cash flows. Through our advice, we want to provide value to our customers. We also propose impact assessments for both public and private investments, ”concludes Alessandro.
The Sicilian Ecoistituto students are passionate and motivated, prepared and with international experience, they want to promote sustainable action in different sectors and have clear ideas about the vision of the future: a fairer world in which the social aspect plays a crucial role.