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Regionally produced green electricity was used for the construction of the WALA laboratory building. The building has a fitting green roof and façade, uses energy-efficient lighting, has a heat recovery system, and is heated with CO2-neutral pellets. As such, it is around 25 percent below the requirements of the Energy Saving Ordinance (Energieeinsparverordnung, EnEV 2014). When designing the grounds, surrounding trees and shrubbery were conserved whenever possible, while also creating habitats for the indigenous linden burn cow beetles and sand lizards.
What does climate neutral really mean?
The Paris Climate Agreement saw states agree to limit global warming to well below 2°C, if possible even to 1.5°C. This can only be achieved with an immediate and drastic reduction of CO2 emissions. The goal of greenhouse gas neutrality requires long-term and fundamental change. We regard this challenge and responsibility as an obligation – and want to make our contribution. That is why we have made it our priority to reduce WALA’s CO2 emissions to the absolute minimum and then fully offset these unavoidable ones.
CO2 is actually a natural component of the Earth’s atmosphere. In small amounts, it is even necessary for the balance of our planet. Plants need CO2 for photosynthesis, as they turn it into life-giving oxygen. CO2 also regulates our planet’s climate and the pH value of the oceans. The situation only becomes problematic when vast quantities of greenhouse gases are being regularly released by vehicles, factory farming and deforestation. This causes temperatures to rise and results in the greenhouse effect.
A company can be said to operate in a climate-neutral manner if its production or services do not increase the amount of climate-damaging gases in the atmosphere. Another important factor is the way in which this is achieved. There are two basic possibilities: avoidance and offsetting.
Since the start of 2020, WALA has achieved approx. 75 percent CO2 neutrality by consistently avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. This ‘genuine’ neutrality does not need to be offset. However, we see it as our duty to work towards reducing harmful emissions even further. After all, offsetting only combats the effects of climate-damaging gases. We want to eliminate their causes.
How we reduce our CO2 emissions
WALA heralded the transition from fossil to renewable energy back in 2001 by switching to 100 percent green electricity. We are also continuously increasing our own electricity-generating capacities by installing photovoltaic systems.
Since 2019 our laboratory building has been supplied with biomethane. Since 1 January 2020, all of our gas needs have been met by biomethane: the company from which we obtain our biogas converts organic waste produced in Germany into energy. With this switch, we avoid producing approximately 1,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Renewable energy now accounts for 91.9 percent of our total energy requirements.
We are continuously working to reduce harmful emissions from motor vehicles with a series of measures in the area of operational mobility management. We have already received several environmental awards for our efforts in this regard.
How we naturally absorb more CO2
Our natural cosmetics and medicines are made from natural raw materials: from farms that work according to organic and Demeter standards, from controlled wild harvesting and from our own medicinal herb garden. Is that already contributing to climate protection?
Yes, as organic farming not only does without synthetic fertilisers, it also absorbs more CO2 from the air with its humus-rich soils. In addition, organic cultivation uses around 30 – 50 percent less energy.
Demeter and organic methods also promote biodiversity, which makes a positive contribution to climate protection. For example, research shows that biodiverse plant communities store more climate-damaging CO2 in the soil. We also require biodiversity in order to be able to cope better with climatic changes in the future.
How we offset unavoidable emissions
Despite all our efforts to reduce our CO2 emissions, we are still responsible for a small amount of them, for example as a result of necessary business trips. We offset these unavoidable emissions via atmosfair, a non-profit organisation that finances climate protection projects all over the world. Information about the project we support with our offsetting payments can be found in the article ‘Lovely leftover’.
PHOTO: WALA Heilmittel GmbH
TEXT: Nadja Reibel, Stefan Weiland