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Chianti, from woodland to energy: a case of circular economy


by Giulio Saturnini


For millions of people, from all the corners of the earth, “Chianti” is synonym of excellent wine and a quality lifestyle. However, Chianti is first of all an unmistakable landscape where nature meets the work of man in a unique synergy. According to various studies and historic research, this area was anciently even greener with a huge forest covering the whole area enclosed between the rivers Arno and Ombrone.
Still today, 50% of the whole Chianti area is covered by woods. It is chiefly coppice (“bosco ceduo”, from the Latin “caedo” cut), able to regenerate naturally and therefore especially suitable for firewood. Oak trees, Turkey oaks, beech trees, cypress trees, stone and maritime pine trees dot the ridges of the hills meeting the intricate underwood of bushes and shrubs. Chestnut trees are found over 500m still used in the typical constructions for wooden beams and rafters, and in viticulture to shape the poles and support columns of the vineyards. Nothing gets wasted from the woods.
It can be said that in the Chianti ecosystem the farming and craft working tradition has, for ages, applied what is nowadays one of the strongholds of circular economy, also retrieving what in other places would be considered processing waste. The main application of this principle regards the production of “cippato” (woodchips), that is wood reduced to tiny shavings, reusable as natural combustion to generation electric energy and heat. A concrete example of this kind of circular economy is found at Greve in Chianti, where only recently the woody biomass power station (woodchips, precisely) has started working, used at the Council swimming pool, the first of its kind in Tuscany. Thanks to the support of the farm Travaglini of Torsoli – the first to have become aware of this production chain “from the wood to energy” – the plant will favour the local farming economy, it will incentive the cleaning of the woody areas and will give an environmental boost due to the reduction of Co2 emissions in the atmosphere.