For nature: EPO marks World Environment Day
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The EPO today celebrates World Environment Day. Hosted annually since 1974, the event draws participants in over 140 countries and encourages policy makers, businesses, and individuals to focus on important environmental issues. The 2020 theme is #ForNature and calls for urgent action to protect biodiversity, recognising that a disruption to ecological balance can also have negative consequences for human health. A loss of biodiversity could create conditions that allow infectious disease to thrive and limit the potential to discover new treatments.
Sustainability and environmental protection are long-standing goals and to achieve objectives, the Office follows established best-practices, for example, Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) validation. EMAS provides a framework for full regulatory compliance with legislation and steers organisations towards sustainable business practices. The EPO was first certified in 2009 and received validation again in May 2020.
The Office's green focus has yielded positive results. In 2019, the EPO reduced its electricity consumption by 4.3%, water consumption by 6.2% and residual waste by 29.2%. This year, staff received new laptops that are expected to consume approximately 50% less energy than older computers. Improved IT infrastructure and digital teleconferencing capabilities have also empowered staff to work remotely, thereby cutting individual transport-related emissions.
The Office had already deployed remote working schemes prior to the arrival of the coronavirus, leaving it prepared for the pandemic. The outbreak accelerated several plans, such as the implementation of paperless workflows, and allowed the EPO to test its digital infrastructure. By using and testing improved IT infrastructure, the organisation is preparing to maintain environmental gains post Covid-19.
Plan for sustainability
As a large employer with sites in multiple locations across Europe, the Office has a responsibility to tread lightly in the cities where it has a footprint and contribute towards wider sustainability efforts. For this reason, when the EPO's Strategic Plan (SP2023) was drafted, environmental and sustainability issues were given careful consideration.
Through SP2023, a dedicated environmental programme has been developed and its implementation is ongoing. The programme comprises several goals, outlines individual projects that contribute to these goals, and establishes a transparent measurement mechanism. The Environmental Report tracks the Office's impact across all locations and compares year-on-year results. This allows the EPO to identify areas where greater effort is needed while highlighting the sustainability initiatives that have yielded success. The 2019 report will be published in July.
In the years ahead, the Office intends to make a significant contribution to the long-term environmental goals of the Paris Agreement 2015. This includes further reductions in paper consumption, energy usage, water consumption, travel-related CO2 emissions and waste generation.
The European Inventor Award: a look at green innovation
The brightest innovators are honoured annually at the European Inventor Award, with many of those alumni having developed technology that drives progress while providing solutions for climate and environmental issues.
- Dutch chemist Gert-Jan Gruter solved a problem that had baffled chemists for nearly 150 years. His solution helped develop a plant-based bioplastic that requires no petrochemicals, is completely recyclable and cuts associated CO2 emissions by up to 70%.
- Some 7 to 12% of the world's annual CO2 emissions are related to concrete production. By adding limestone-producing bacteria, Hendrik Marius Jonkers created self-healing bio-concrete that seals cracks, thereby reducing the need to manufacture new concrete.
- Conventional showers in Europe typically spray out around 10 litres of water per minute, meaning a 10-minute shower can use up to 100 litres of water. While working on a NASA project, Mehrdad Mahdjoubi developed a closed-loop system that consumes 90% less water and 80% less energy than a conventional shower.