The hymn sung Fra’ Sole
by Giuseppe Lanzi*
Water, Energy, Waste, Environmental Education are the first key issues focused on by the Fra’ Sole Project, the brainchild of the Custodian Father of the Sacred Convent, Brother Mauro Gambetti, with the operating support of Prof. Walter Ganapini, General Manager of the Regional Environmental Protection Agency of Umbria and honorary member of the European Environment Agency , with the coordination of Sisifo.
The project did not start from scratch, since the community of friars had been seeking ways of reducing their environmental impact for some time, and the practical action taken has already allowed the Convent to obtain a Classe A2 energy performance certificate, documented by an energy performance analysis conducted by the CIRIAF (Inter-University Research Centre on Pollution and the Environment) of the Engineering Centre of the University of Perugia.
The Fra’ Sole project is thus a continuation of earlier actions, which it aims to structure into a system, with efforts designed to analyse not only the question of the building, but also the daily lives of the friars, and paying close attention to the millions of pilgrims who each year visit the Tomb of Saint Francis.
An in-depth study conducted by ARPA Umbria analysed the energy flows and the existing systems, identifying potential improvements regarding both electricity consumption and the heating system of the building. This study provided suggestions for improvements, which – taking account of the most effective technologies available – will be put into practice during the implementation of the project.
A second analysis offered a picture of the amount of different types of waste produced, as well as specific indications on how first to reduce waste and then to recycle it, with a new, dedicated rigorously separate waste collection system in all areas inside the Convent. The waste collection point system was consequently completely reorganised, and strategies are being adopted to reduce packaging even before it becomes waste.
In order for all this to work, it is necessary for all the friars in Assisi to be aware of the issues and help resolve them, acting as both operators and ambassadors for the actions; the project will thus include training and educational activities, involving both the various project partners and external experts.
The Sustainability Project for the Monumental Complex of Saint Francis of Assisi is not only a specifically environmental effort; the promoters of the project were keen from its inception that it should serve a common purpose and set an example, creating a model that can be copied in Italy and worldwide.
Any action aimed at reducing environmental impact makes sense, wherever it is performed; but on the Tomb of Saint Francis, it takes on a symbolic value that goes beyond the results of the project, and such actions in the context of Laudato si’ by Pope Francis is a fitting completion to the distinctive aspiration of the Fra’ Soleproject.
An equally important objective of the project is to spread an environmental culture at a point in history where it is no longer possible to deny climate change. One of the first significant results obtained by Fra’ Sole are the partners who have lent their support to the project, and who are making a real, practical contribution to the efforts of the Community of the Sacred Convent.
First of all, the institutions: the City of Assisi, the Umbria Region, the Ministry of the Environment and the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who have granted their Patronage to the Project, thus confirming that the approach adopted by the promoters is the right one.
Every journey, however, requires travelling companions that help us on our toils, and Fra’ Sole has found them in some of the finest expressions of the Italian circular economy: firstly, Novamont, who believed in the project even before it took shape, and was followed byConsorzio Italiano Compostatori(Italian Composting Consortium), which is creating a small circular self-composting plant in the Forest of the Sacred Convent, while we are working with Consorzio Imballaggi Alluminio on actions designed to reduce the production of waste.
Sartori Ambiente Group has created specific containers for separate waste collection in the Sacred Convent, whilePolycart has created the biodegradable, compostable shopper in Mater-Bi, which will be customised with the project logo and used in the shop run by the friars between the Upper Basilica and the Lower Basilica.
The graphics agency Ecocomunicazione has created the splendid project logo and the various communication materials, as well as the stand at Ecomondo in Rimini, the benchmark fair for the Italian circular economy which – unsurprisingly – is a partner of Fra’ Sole.
Thanks to Sarvex, all the various actions of the partners are being implemented, while we are working with Ecozemato replace all the disposable materials – used when washable items are not an option – with materials that can be disposed of along with the organic waste.
Sustainability is not just an environmental issue, however, and with the help ofBanca Popolare Etica, Etica SGR and Fondazione Finanza Etica, as well as with the practical contribution offered in these pages of the online magazine Valori.it, we will also be offering the community of friars a series of reflections on the use of money. The contribution of major names in the world of Ethical Finance will bring added value to the project.
Every project requires promotion, however, and thanks to the Press Room of the Sacred Convent and the magazine San Francesco Patrono d’Italia, we aim to reach and have a positive impact on as wide an audience as possible
Fra’ Sole is not, therefore, an individual effort, but a shared journey, a hymn to sustainability that invites the rest of the world to join in.
We gave ourselves three years to make an impact, to nurture the seed planted, and for it to bear fruit and set an example.
*Managing Director of Sisifo and coordinator of the Fra’ Sole Project