living performance

Trees are the jokers of our era

To mark the occasion of the market launch of Eco Balance, Volkmar Halbe, chairman of the Parador management board, spoke with 13-year old Felix Finkbeiner, the founder and world president of the children's foundation Plant-for-the-Planet, about the power of good ideas.

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Felix Finkbeiner: We want to plant 1,000 billion trees worldwide as a symbol of climate justice. For us, sustainability is not a buzz word for Sunday sermons, but the only concept that will give us children a future like the one you grown-ups had.

Volkmar Halbe: You have taken on quite a task! We would also like to make our contribution towards it and support you by planting one tree together with Plant-for-the-Planet for every pack of Eco Balance that Parador sells.

Felix Finkbeiner: We are very pleased about this support. Our movement actually first developed without any outside influence – from a school idea. I had to give a presentation about the climate crisis. It was then that I found out about the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, who had planted thirty million trees in thirty years in Kenya and other countries. When I heard about this, the idea suddenly came to me that we children could also plant trees, in Germany and across the whole world.

Volkmar Halbe: That is precisely what I think is so great about your initiative: that it is being rolled out in such a gigantic way. This »I simply made a start, I will push it forward!«, that shows how unbelievably down-to-earth Plant-for-the-Planet is. Most things are possible if you just want them enough; if there is a good idea combined with a healthy portion of perseverance. That applies to Parador in the same way as Plant-for-the-Planet: What is crucial is that you see a thought, an idea on the horizon. The next stage is to get fellow campaigners interested in it – you can't do much on your own. I like to compare that to a jigsaw puzzle. Felix, image I put a puzzle with 300 pieces in front of you – how long would it take you?

Felix Finkbeiner: An hour?

Volkmar Halbe: Now imagine that you don't have any template to work from. Now it will take you much longer! It is the same with the company mission statement: The clearer the template, the easier it is to get good results. Let's take Eco Balance. With our new laminate and engineered wood products, we combine design quality and technical innovation with a sustainable, ecologically sound production process. In this way, when it comes to our Eco Balance engineered wood flooring, by using less timber with the same sophisticated material quality, we can conserve more resources than previously. In addition we produce in the Austrian town of Güssing – a place that is called a »Eco Mecca« because an autonomous energy oasis has been created there by means of a biomass power station. Fifty tonnes of wood are vaporised in the power station every day, above all waste from our engineered wood factory, which itself only uses green hydroelectric power. The energy generated in this way produces more district heat and power than the Güssing area can use itself – and in future even biodiesel. Whilst operating, the power station only releases as much CO2 as the trees that form the biomass previously removed from the atmosphere through photosynthesis whilst growing. The »Tree growing and tree burning« cycle is therefore inherently CO2-neutral.

Felix Finkbeiner: Sounds interesting!

Volkmar Halbe: Anyone working with forestry automatically becomes very aware that everything is in abundance. Regenerative, living resources must only be used to the same extent that stocks grow back naturally. These resources are limited.

Felix Finkbeiner: We children have exactly the same view. Just recently we were with Plant-for-the-Planet in Africa – in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Lesotho. We set up twenty children's academies there. Those are one-day workshops where we children encourage others to get active and plant trees. In this context we also talk about our 3-point plan of how we would save the world if we were the heads of government. The first point is to plant 1,000 billion trees worldwide. The second is that we have to get down to zero CO2 emissions by 2050. That sounds difficult – but to limit global warming, urgent steps have to be taken. And it cannot be impossible either. The whole technology that we need to do it already exists. We just have to apply it – your example in Güssing shows that.

Volkmar Halbe: I am pleased if we are able to influence how people think and act.

Felix Finkbeiner: The problems in the world will not only be solved, however, by all people and all companies making a positive contribution. We need more worldwide laws. Otherwise we will not manage to make everyone to really change their behaviour. Unfortunately there is no functioning policy at world level that would set up globally applicable rules of play. A rule like our third point to save our future for example: every person is only allowed to emit a limited amount of CO2 a year, which is 1.5 tonnes. Anyone who wants to emit more has to pay those who make lower emissions. That is what we call climate justice. That is why I am very happy that Parador is supporting us – not only by planting trees, but also by setting up academies together. In this way we will reach even more children, who become part of the whole and work as ambassadors for climate justice towards our success.

Volkmar Halbe: That is also a key aspect of sustainability, which you mentioned earlier: the development of society as a way of enabling everyone to participate – with the aim of achieving a community that is fit for everyone in future. As a company that does business all over the world, we are aware of this responsibility. Keeping this social aspect of sustainability in balance with the ecological, but also with the economic aspect, which is indeed the basis for achieving long-term acquisition and wealth, has always been our aim. At Parador, entrepreneurial thinking and ecology come together – from our partners in forestry management and our whole production process through to details such as the packaging of our products. That does not only apply to Eco Balance engineered wood flooring. For the production of our new laminate flooring range we also use raw materials from domestic, sustainable forestry, which do not contain organic solvents and are low on emissions. Eco Balance laminate flooring is manufactured at our factory in Coesfeld – if something is not right here, I am the first one to find out, since my desk is only a few metres from the production area. But everything is right. We make sure of that in our own interest – and in the interest of our children.

Felix Finkbeiner: I think it is good when managing directors of large companies think about the future of us children. If the company directors, politicians and citizens work together, then you could jointly save the future of us children.

Volkmar Halbe: We agree on that and I wish you all continued success!