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Joachim Juel Vædele. Photo: André Marton Pedersen

Inventor and environmentalist

over 1 year ago
Written by André Marton Pedersen, Ronald Toppe
Sustainability > Inventor and environmentalist

Inventor and environmentalist

over 1 year agoSustainability
Written by André Marton Pedersen, Ronald Toppe
Joachim Juel Vædele. Photo: André Marton Pedersen

When you're a ship carpenter on a tall ship, it's not enough to be handy. You must also be an expert in sustainability and quite an inventor.

Danish Joachim Juel Vædele is ship carpenter on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl. It is his job to make sure the ship shines. Not only because it is nice to be on board a well-maintained boat, but because a well-maintained ship can withstand more and last longer.

Sustainability in practice, that is.

Joachim Juel Vædele. Photo: André Marton Pedersen
Joachim Juel Vædele. Photo: André Marton Pedersen

- Maintenance is absolutely essential. After all, the ship is from 1914, and if it had not been continuously maintained throughout these 108 years, it would have been reduced to rubbish long ago. So a large part of the crew's working time is spent maintaining the ship, everything from the gunwales, the row, the standing and running rigging, drains, the engine, to all of the surfaces. We make sure that things are repaired when they break, that's one of the tasks I spend the most time doing, says Vædele.

- This makes us very aware of the use of resources, because when you're sailing, you can't just go down to the shop and buy new stuff. So when something breaks, you have to find creative solutions. Most of the time glue and screw things back together, but sometimes we have to build something new, and then we have to look around to see what materials that are at hand.

Plastinator 5000 Eco

Vædele likes to build things, and inspired by the Pappinator, which reduces piles of cardboard into small compact lumps, he has built a new machine to take care of the plastic waste.

Joachim Juel Vædele building the Plastinator. Photo: André Marton Pedersen
Joachim Juel Vædele building the Plastinator. Photo: André Marton Pedersen

The goal is the same, to minimize the volume of plastic that is delivered for recycling in the ports.

- When we deliver waste from a ship, we pay for volume, not weight. Per cubic metre, that is, and it is quite expensive. So the idea behind Plastinator is to compress the plastic as much as possible, get out all the air that is in a bag of waste. When we get the air out and are left with just a small block, it is much cheaper for the ship to deliver the plastic. And then we can use the money we save for something else, he smiles.

Joachim Juel Vædele and his Plastinator. Photo: André Marton Pedersen
Joachim Juel Vædele and his Plastinator. Photo: André Marton Pedersen

You have given it an imaginative name, Plastinator 5000 Eco, how did you come up with it?

- Inator comes from a children's TV cartoon series, Phineas and Ferb. They make inators, which are imaginative machines that can do things. The first one we made was called Pappinator, to eliminate cardboard. A big success, and we came up with the idea to make one that can eliminate plastic.

Why 5000?

- Harry Potter has a broom called Nimbus 2000, so a name combined with a number must be a good thing, and 5000 is a really good number.

And Eco?

- Because it is made from recycled materials.

And now it is put to use?

- Yes, it is now in use. It is, what shall we call it, a prototype. It may be that we will rebuild it a bit, but we are at least getting started.

When the air is pressed out, this is all that is left. Photo: André Marton Pedersen
When the air is pressed out, this is all that is left. Photo: André Marton Pedersen

Three R's

For Vædele sustainability is obviously more than just a phrase.

- When you talk about sustainability and being aware of the use of resources, there are four words that you can always use. The first and most important thing is to reduce, meaning that you simply consume less. The next thing is reuse. And things have a tendency to break, and then you can repair, whether it's sails, your clothes, tools that are broken. And the last thing is that when something has been used so much that it has to be thrown away, then you have to sort it so that it can be recycled. Here on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl, we sort all waste, so that for example our plastic can be reused.

Butchering the ripped sails. Photo: André Marton Pedersen
Butchering the ripped sails. Photo: André Marton Pedersen

We have a recent example of reuse, two sails were blown to pieces a few days ago. What do you use them for?

- Cloth from broken sails can be used for many things. We call it to butcher the sail, when we cut out the sailcloth itself. We use the largest pieces for sun tarps, the slightly smaller ones for hammocks, or canvas bags, and the smallest pieces for bags to hold, for example, tools. Someone who was on board as a crew member earlier sewed himself a pair of shorts out of sail cloth.

Not simple for all

Repairing and reusing is not an easy task for all of us. You must be both clever and creative. Do you have any advice?

- There is a slogan, widely used, but I like it because it makes sense. There is a lot of talk about people being depressed by climate and sustainability, because the problems are so big that it is difficult to see how you can make a difference yourself. Then you have to remember that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something, Vædele says.

- With that attitude one can contribute a little every day. Take the bus instead of driving to work, eat vegetarian four days a week instead of one day a week, turn the heat down a little, turn off the lights, buy clothes at a thrift store instead of buying new. So all people can live a little more sustainable, it's a matter of changing habits.

And does it bring joy to be able to repair stuff?

- Yes, I personally love building things and repairing, and so do all of us working on Statsraad Lehmkuhl. I think it's really fun to make things together with the others in the crew.

But Vædele has a challenge.

- The industry has given us a lot of substances and materials that are harmful, lacquers and paints and so on. In the future we have to convert to materials that are more sustainable, based on resources that also are more sustainable. All the wood on board has to be coated many times during a circumnavigation like this, and the lacquer contains solvents.

- We should encourage the industry to develop more sustainable types of lacquer, or look into the types of wood protection that were used a hundred years ago, based on linseed oil, varnish and the like, then I think that we at Statsraad Lehmkuhl could become even more sustainable.

Change of mentality

Are there other things we can do better here on board?

- I think there is a lot of low-hanging fruit. One difference in attitude between Danes and Norwegians is the use of electricity. In Denmark, unlike in Norway, electricity is a limited and expensive resource. If you can reduce energy consumption, you become more sustainable at the same time. Here on board, we are constantly looking at the statistics, how much of the voyage have we completed by sail only. This is the factor that matters most. But we use lots of electricity in our daily life on board, from cooking to providing hot water, heat and light. We can probably save something there too.

- I also believe that we need to look into the food we eat. It is perhaps a big cultural and mental adjustment for us Scandinavians, that we should start caring about where our food is produced, and how harmful the production is to the climate. But throughout the time I have worked at Statsraad Lehmkuhl, I see a change in mentality, we eat more sustainably now than we did before the One Ocean Expedition.

Vædele ends the talk with a call to everyone beeing on board the ship during the One Ocean Expedition.

- Those of us who are so privileged that we get to take part in this circumnavigation, we have a job to do when we get home, telling everyone around us that the whole world is connected. Everything that you throw away og pour into the ocean or release into the air. It does not just disappear into the atmosphere or in the water. It ends up as changes in the climate, and fish full of microplastics.

- The muck we let out comes back, and hits us in the neck, he says.

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The One Ocean Expedition is a circumnavigation by the Norwegian tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl. We aim to to share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for a sustainable development in a global perspective.

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