LIFE’s portfolio of project experiences can help expand resource-efficient practices in the EU.
Many of the socio-economic and environmental activities funded by LIFE have strong connections with the EU’s new Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe. For example:
The Roadmap draws attention to the fact that sustainable consumption and production practices can drive resource efficiency. Outcomes from LIFE’s Green Bearings project showed how to reduce power consumption in industries like ball bearing production and the Programme’s CLB project developed an environmentally-friendly method for blanching potato products. This results in significant savings in raw materials, as well as reductions in energy and water use, transport and overall emissions.
Turning waste into a resource is also promoted by the Roadmap and LIFE’s ELVES project developed a system for separating metal alloys from end-of-life vehicle engines and reusing them in new auto parts and engines. In addition, the BE-FAIR project developed new commercial uses for fishing industry waste and discards by piloting new waste management and processing practices.
Supporting research and innovation forms part of the Roadmap agenda and LIFE’s BioTyre project applied innovative approaches to develop greener materials for tyres. These materials can help to reduce the environmental impact of tyres, avoid or mitigate problems of decreasing resources and costly raw materials, plus also contribute to improved consumer safety.
Subsidies and pricing tools are acknowledged in the Roadmap as having both considerable impacts and potential. The IDEAL79 project used a novel financial incentive scheme to encourage consumers in the French department of Deux Sèvres to switch to purchasing eco-products and services.
Conserving Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services is a key principle underlying resource efficiency objectives and a large library of LIFE knowledge exists in this field - including findings from the PISCES project. PISCES worked closely with stakeholders from several Member States to identify how collaborative methodologies can be established for implementing an ecosystem approach in the Celtic Sea. Other types of water issues are covered by the Roadmap, such as actions promoting both the quality and quantity of EU water supplies. Farming is the largest user of EU water as well as one of the worst water polluters and LIFE’s Sustainable Wetlands project introduced agricultural practices that use resources efficiently in order to improve the conservation status of Andalusian wetlands.
Roadmap references to the importance of addressing food sector issues are echoed in LIFE project objectives like the AGRICARBON project which identified conservation agriculture approaches that can reduce GHG emissions and support the adaptation of farming techniques to changing climatic conditions. Land and soils also represent essential farm resources which need to be managed properly to secure supplies of food and other public goods. Hence other LIFE projects such as SOWAP have identified low-impact tillage techniques that protect the productivity and conservation value of soil. Marine resources are another part of the environment suffering from over or insensitive use and LIFE projects including the FARO initiative show how networking of fishing actors can improve the sustainability of fish stocks.
Calls in the Roadmap to improve buildings reflect a concern that most of the energy consumed in Europe is linked to buildings, and the construction industry is also a significant user of raw materials. Sustainable building practices are therefore advocated by the Roadmap and these are demonstrated by LIFE projects such as Austria’s S-House which, by building an 'eco-office' from renewable and recyclable raw materials, demonstrated effective ways to cut energy consumption. The INSU-SHELL project also focused on ‘material efficiency’ in order to reduce the impact of the concrete industry.
Ensuring efficient mobility through a greener transport system will make a big difference to EU resource efficiency and LIFE’s experience with mobility have proved what is possible. The PARFUM project for instance assessed the potential of different clean vehicle technologies (electric, hybrid, natural gas and methane) for city logistics and public transport, while the ZEM/SHIPS project developed the first hydrogen-powered passenger ship.