It makes sense that the Pope who took his name from the patron saint of animals would be an animal lover. So, it comes as no surprise that Pope Francis has decided to open up the 50-acre Vatican farm at Castel Gandolfo to the public.
The property, which is located 15 miles outside of Rome (that's right, the Pope adheres to a 15-mile diet), has been a summer vacation home for the Popes since the 16th century. Placed among Roman ruins, beautiful villas and breathtaking views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the farm was established by Pope Pius XI in the 1930s and has been providing meat, dairy and produce to the Popes ever since.
The decision to open up the farm was praised by the public, just like his move early last year to open up the gardens at Castel Gandolfo, which have been visited by more than 8,000 people. The farm, which employs eight people—one of whom has worked there for 33 years and served four popes—contains 800-year-old olive trees that produce more than 300 gallons of olive oil annually. Eighty cows and several donkeys supply the papal residence with milk, cheese, butter and yogurt. There is a sprawling vegetable garden, a greenhouse and ostriches, rabbits, chickens and turkeys. A van delivers food such as eggs, vegetables, yogurt, honey, cheese and olive oil to the Vatican every day. The excess produce is sold in Rome supermarkets, which allows the farm to be self-sustaining.
The Director of Operations,Vincenzo Scaccioni, chose to make beekeeping a priority when he came on in 2013. "Bees are a symbol of industriousness, unity and a community that gives fruit," Scaccioni said. "It is an example that the church, deep down, is a hive, though not one that stings, but gives honey." Scaccioni noted the farm's larger significance by saying that the farm is "precisely a sign of the pope's attention to creation, to nature, to the rural world."
The "People's Pope," as he is known, has stated that "access to food is a basic human right that shouldn't be subject to market speculation and quests for profit." He is an adamant supporter of food justice, proper nutrition for everyone, stewardship to the land and fighting climate change. Providing the public with access to the farm is a way to spread his message and show his support for a sustainable and equitable food system, and healthy planet.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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