Time of wool

disegno edilana

A special waste deposited in a special bank. A couple of musicians and building products distributors, Daniela and Oscar, worried about the future they were leaving to their kids.

The importance of exchanging knowledge and help they could see by only looking outside their house window and seeing the building rows grounded thanks to  “s’aggiudu torrau” (the returned favour), an ancient practice still well working in Sardinia.  All of this in a town in the south of the island, Guspini, where sheep quintuple inhabitants and where time, the soundtrack of this story, flows with no hurry.

When, more than 10 years ago, Daniela Ducato first heard of the Bank of Time she thought it was the most suitable project for the 12,000 inhabitants community where she had moved following her husband, Oscar, who she met at the conservatory, where they both studied.  “Le città invisibili” (the invisible towns), an entity through which people of every age deposit their time and knowledge and receive the same invaluable coin in return, soon became one of the first Banks of Time running in Italy (today there exist 132), allowing among others the changeover of 22 degraded areas into “feeling gardens”. It’s in the bank where Tonina, a neighbour client, one day deposited quintals of wool saying she was tired of spending a lot of money to burn it –it’s considered a special waste- but didn’t know how to use it.

“I didn’t know anything about wool but at once I was astonished to find out only one part of it was being used and that, besides, a lot of money was being spent and an environmental impact was being produced by getting rid of it. So I started investigating the issue”, Daniela Ducato says. She found out that special machines were being used to take off the longest and thickest piles so that Sardinian wool could look more like merinos one, which was considered finer.

“Since in our bank there are a lot of children, we gave them some and they started to knead it and use it as plasticine”, Ducato recalls. The elderly, instead, came with suggestions.  “They told me that if put in the land less water would then be needed to farm, so we started using it to grow flowers, strawberries or tomatoes”, she says. “Besides, since wool is rich in keratin, it is also nourishing”.

Around 2006, thanks to the European energy parameters and the acoustic licensing laws, the insulating products Essedi, the building products distribution company Oscar, Daniela’s husband, owns, were being sold as never before.

“More than 80% of the products covering our houses walls are oil by-products”, she explains. “I started wondering where all that money was really coming from and what kind of inheritance we were leaving to our kids”.

From there to build in her own house and with community help the first prototype of insulating mattress was almost immediate. The lab results testing it were more astonishing that she would have never hoped for. Sardinian wool, the one having the thickest pile in the world once producing the biggest amount of milk, turned out to be excellent from many other points of view. Thermo-insulating, phono-absorbent, bactericide, it contrasts mould formation, fights electromagnetic pollution, purifies air and has a high fire-retardant effect. But there was a problem. “We tried to use a regular textile machine but since this wool is so thick it got broken”, Ducato recalls.

Once again the help came from the Bank.

“The day the town-hall cut the trees we had planted thanks to the Bank of Time, all the adults were upset. The children, instead, came to us showing how beautiful were the nests birds had made using the wool balls we had hung up for them”, she explains. “The perfection of the birds’ job gave us the idea how to build a suitable machine for our wool, which we created with a special needle punching and special hooks that resemble peckers”.

In 2008 Daniela created Edilana without using any public money. In less than two years this company producing insulating building products, interior decorations (from bookcases to lamps), jewels and accessories, packaging, solutions to improve degraded land and to create vertical gardens using Sardinian wool, has already become one of the 10 best Italian companies in the energy efficiency sector. In 2009 it was awarded with the Ecomondo prize.  All the profits of its income (561 thousand euros in 2009) are invested in the experimental research of the field. The Bank of Time, not an institution but a way of looking at life based on “showing one’s own value when giving and one’s own limits when receiving, so at the same time acknowledging the other’s value, which is something you can’t achieve with money” keeps being the root of everything Daniela does. Edilana’s products get to the main land using the local producers vans going to take bio products provisions and which once used to leave empty.

“We could do it first of all because my husband and I share the same views and dreams”, Ducato says. “And then, of course, thanks to the knowledge and the time of our community which allowed us to realize them while also saving the big community’s money thanks to the small one”.

Spanish version (adapted)

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