Project Cellula


In wilderness is the preservation of the world.

H. D. Thoreau

Mathis Wackernagel and his collaborators have measured the environmental footprint* of humanity and compared it with the planet’s load capacity; according to their calculations, and in relation to the available area, man’s consumption of resources outweighs the planet’s capacity to generate resources.

The results of our continuous exploitation of natural resources lie in the demise of our fisheries, decreasing forested areas, impoverished fresh water systems, and the accumulation of carbon dioxide emissions. And overcoming our “biocapacity” also contributes to creating conflicts between resources, wars, mass migrations, famine, and illnesses that tend to have a disproportionate impact on the poor. (Source: “Planet Living Report 2012).

The consequence of inordinate consumerism is the production of waste, which we consider as such because we deem it unusable.

the consequence of a badly managed consumerism

In its annual publication, the environmental association ISPRA states that the production of urban waste in Italy stands at 32.1 million tons, whereas special waste products amount roughly 128.5 million tons a year. Not all waste can be composted or recycled; the vast majority of our waste products end up in landfills or incinerators. The impact on the environment and on society (which must pay to manage this enormous quantity of garbage) is very high indeed.

In the past, the Latin word for waste, “vastus”, defined something unoccupied, uncultivable. “Modern” waste, by comparison, is instead the product of consumerism, and is defined as discarded.

Why should waste by definition remain unused? Why not lend new life to waste products by creating new earnings and new jobs, as predicated by the “Blue economy”*?

We can start by calling waste products outputs in their first phase and inputs in their second phase, when they re-enter the production process and continue their life cycle.

The “Progetto Cellula” is born of a direct observation of the cell as the smallest classifiable living structure. Each cell can be defined as a closed, self-sufficient entity: in fact, it is capable of assuming nutrients, converting them into energy, performing specialized functions and even reproducing if necessary. A cell is thus a vital system that regulates itself, eats, digests, absorbs and re-uses the by-products of digestion and their ‘waste’. It is a system that truly works – and reality can attest to this statement!

Why not use this perfect form of management to manage our cities as well?

One person’s waste is a new product for another person.

We need to work at a local level to manage a network of “outputs” that can be shared. Every city should adopt this metabolism to control its needs and waste; for its own social and environmental wellbeing.

Through selective rather traditional demolition, we can recover and sell renovation materials in the building industry; agricultural waste can be converted to produce structural insulating panels; coffee dregs can be made to produce edible mushrooms.

A localized network allows for sharing, saves resources and creates an informed community with a heightened sense of sustainability.

“Let us not demand more of the Earth. Let us do more with what the Earth provides.”.

*Gunter Pauli

Environmental consequences of the extraction of virgin materials

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