Sustainia — Building Blocks for Sustainable Society

Real innovations and solutions to inspire and empower people and organizations to make the dream of sustainable future real.

As humans, we have the power to change the future of the Earth — for better or for worse. If we continue with the current development model, exploratory towards our planet, we could essentially end up on a planet not suitable to live on. On the other hand, if we change the trend towards sustainable development, we can expect a brighter future. The solutions to achieve this are already here, and we are proud Sustainia has chosen the ECONYL® Regeneration System as one of 100 in 2015 to facilitate sustainable future.

How do you picture the Earth’s future? Do you see it as an impoverished planet bereft of natural resources and hostile climate? Or would you rather imagine it as an appealing, engaging, and attractive world, a world you want to live in and could provide the same welcoming conditions we are currently experiencing for future generations to come?

The latter is a vision of Sustainia. Not a distant dream of Utopia, but a feasible place of Sustainia. A place we find difficult to achieve considering today’s global rates of natural resource exploitation, resource consumption, and pollution. But it is possible. Sustainia is all about making what may seem impossible a reality by collecting readily available sustainability solutions across the world and demonstrating their potential impacts and benefits for cities, companies, and communities.

It’s up to us as citizens, consumers and organizations to make this world a reality by using these innovations and technologies, implementing them on a larger scale and using them as an inspiration to create more. There are big challenges to overcome, but procrastinating will only make them bigger. We have to start now and step on a road towards Sustainia.

The solutions are here, ready to take action

Sustainia was founded in March 2012 by Scandinavia’s think tank Monday Morning, and developed in close collaboration with UN Global Compact, the EU Commission, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s initiative Regions20, International Federation for Housing and Planning and several global companies and organizations including Novo Nordisk, DNV, Microsoft, Philips Lighting, Cisco, Realdania, Brunata, Ramboll and Gehl Architects.

The goal is to create a platform to showcase the sustainable future and show how we could live better “if we work together across countries, regions, sectors and cultures. If we boldly implemented and scaled up the solutions for our sustainability challenges that are already available,” as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Honorary Chair of Sustainia & Founding, Chair of the R20 Regions of Climate Action, put it in the foreword of the first Sustainia 100 solution in 2012.

“First, we have to stop listening to the naysayers and the pessimists. Sustainia100 is proof they’re wrong. These solutions are fully developed and ready to be used on a large-scale. They’re from all over the world; companies, states, cities, communities and people have come up with them on their own — because in addition to being better for our environment, they also make our lives better.”

Sustainia is not a dream land of impossible and costly solutions, The purpose is not to reverse development and force people back to living the simple life from a millennium ago. Sustainia embraces the achievements of advanced technologies and relies on facts, scientific research, analysis and forecasts.

The concept of “sustainable development” was introduced in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development, in the report “Our Common Future” (also known as “the Brundtland Report”). The report defines sustainable development as:
“… development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Positive approach towards change

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We believe change comes when people know what exciting possibilities a sustainable future holds.

People and organizations behind Sustainia realize that motivation for change comes from a positive rather than negative approach; that change can be built on optimism rather than pessimism. Scientific data with proof of negative environmental consequences of human impact scare people away because they are difficult to understand and make them feel nothing can be done. Catastrophic scenarios with devastating pictures of deteriorating ecosystems catch people’s attention for a moment, but does not create the excitement and engagement necessary to take action. On the other hand, when people know what exciting possibilities a sustainable future holds they act.

What if we tell you there is a smart lighting system that reacts to available daylight and level of occupancy, can reduce electricity usage by more than 60 %, and that you only pay a utility rate for saved electricity for implementing this system. Would you go for it? And there is a coating for your house that breaks down harmful NOx (nitrogen oxides) particles in the air into harmless salts and at the same time it cools down the house. Or that there is a technology to produce non-toxic batteries, which are safer, longer lasting and 100% recyclable. Or technology for strengthening materials by using nature’s own chemistry instead of the toxic chemicals being used now.

And that you can use a platform to exchange easy and quick information about products’ social and environmental performance, just like Yelp or TripAdvisor for other purposes. That there is an electric car charging network, free-to-use, being financed solely by advertising on chargers. Or that in one metropolitan city you can find an electric car-sharing service and self-service network for a reasonable price- a system which enables you to take fully charged car, use it and return it to any of parking spots in the network that are also charging stations.

Wouldn’t you be intrigued to try all those products if you just knew about them? Let’s face it! People are consumers. Consumerism is our ideology. If we see how our everyday life could be improved, we are more willing to make a change. And consumerism gives us the power to make that change.

100 bricks in the foundation of the sustainable society each year

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Each year Sustainia selects 100 leading sustainability projects, initiatives, and technologies to be presented in the Sustainia 100 annual guide. They represent building blocks of Sustainia — each solution is one brick in the foundation of the sustainable society.

The solutions are evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • They must be readily available, already making an impact in societies or in the prototype but with strong commitments for further development.
  • They must have positive environmental impact on global climate or local environmental factors. The best candidates incorporate cutting-edge technologies or methods that challenge present standards and business as usual.
  • They should be financially viable. The cost of their project should be justified in light of its promised benefits. Philanthropic business models are accepted, but affordability and financial sustainability of projects are key qualities for Sustainia solutions.
  • They should improve quality of life by enhancing well-being for the individual and for communities and by addressing social needs across societies.
  • They should be scalable. This entails that candidates can have a wider and lasting impact beyond their present location and circumstances. Scalable solutions are replicable in wider contexts and are characterized by being backed by strong partners or having a sound business model.

Since 2012 when the first Sustainia100 was presented, more and more solutions compete for recognition with each year showing new and exciting sustainable projects. This year more than 1500 solutions were submitted.

The chosen 100 come from 10 sectors and are deployed in 151 countries. They feature new ways of saving water, managing waste, building homes, safeguarding food production and other aspects of sustainability. The 2015 Sustainia100 solutions do not only excel in sustainability criteria but point to a paradigm shift in eco-innovation. We are proud that the ECONYL® Regeneration System is one of them.

ECONYL innovative regeneration system

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Aquafil developed a manufacturing system to regenerate nylon from waste that would otherwise be destined for landfill or incineration, into first-grade textile fibers.

Like Sustainia, ECONYL®’s story began with a vision of a better, more sustainable future. The firm and clear vision from Aquafil’s CEO Giulio Bonazzi was to proactively tackle the issue of waste recovery and regeneration of nylon, and not wait for others to solve it. He wanted to create a manufacturing system to regenerate nylon from waste that would otherwise be destined for landfill or incineration, into first-grade textile fibers. And at the end of its life-cycle, bring it back to endlessly regenerate it again so the regeneration cycle never ends. This demonstrates the very essence of circle economy and the products which are designed to think ahead to create regenerable products.

It was a project which had virtually no precedence, therefore, it was a risky business. But his determination never wavered despite thoughts of “mission impossible,” obstacles, or mistakes made along the way. He managed to transfer his passion to the Aquafil team and they successfully developed and implemented the innovative ECONYL® Regeneration System.Appealing material, born from waste.

Appealing material, born from waste

Due to the chemical properties of nylon, the molecules in nylon polymer can be unzipped and returned to their original state of caprolactam, a process called depolymerization. Until recently, depolymerization at a scale that is commercially viable had been deemed impossible in the synthetic fibers sector. The cost was simply too high for such a small amount of nylon to be gained from the large amounts of waste. Aquafil invested nearly €25 million in research and development and developed a completely new chemical process which can be infinitely repeated without any loss of quality or performance. The Nylon 6, made from waste, is of high-quality and has the same characteristics of the conventional oil-based nylon used for synthetic carpet flooring and textile yarns.

The waste used to feed the ECONYL® Regeneration System is collected worldwide and from different sources: discarded carpets, nylon textiles, even fishing nets. This opened completely new possibilities for global partnerships. By creating a partnership with Healthy Seas to gather fishing nets, Aquafil could tackle another environmental problem of ghost fishing nets that harm the marine ecosystem.

The great innovation in ECONYL® is the regeneration of recovered materials. The concept, however, goes beyond recycling — it means substituting the oil-based raw material with nylon waste coming from pre- and post-consumer sources. That is the paradigm shift: there is no waste, only resources.

In 2005, approximately 4 million tons of nylon were produced globally. Most of this nylon ended up in incinerators, landfills or, even worse, nature. As a result of the ECONYL® Regeneration System, this nylon can be recovered and scarce non-renewable raw material such as crude oil, otherwise used in the production of nylon, are saved. Furthermore, Aquafil creates a nylon yarn that can be regenerated again and again.

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Get inspired

The concept of regeneration is still new and opportunity is around every corner. Find out more about the ECONYL® Regeneration System and browse other Sustainia solutions to get inspired to make a change towards sustainable future.

Recycling? Yes, and further! We regenerate nylon waste into new materials for brand new products. Download our sustainable design ebook

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