Perugia, September 10 - Umbria, best known as Italy's "green heart" has become a laboratory for environmentally sustainable practises, says regional councillor Fabrizio Bracco. Efforts that are being made to protect and nurture the richly diverse culture and environment of the region can be models for others to follow, said Bracco as he opened a recent conference in the historic mountainside town of Assisi. "Umbria has become a laboratory of eco-sustainability, identifying innovative paths for a different relationship with nature and to build a friendly environment for future generations, a harmonious community within the harmony of creation," said Bracco, councillor for culture and tourism for the regional government of Umbria. He was representing the regional council and president Catiuscia Marini at the conference: "Safeguarding Creation for a Sustainable Future" which builds on the goals and values of St. Francis of Assisi, who cared deeply for the environment and all living creatures. In a statement, Bracco noted that Umbria has a deeply spiritual tradition that dates back about 800 years, to the time when St. Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan order in the region. That spirituality must be converted into concrete action, while retaining the spirit of humility and reconciliation that was part of the teachings of St. Francis, said Bracco. Those values can be applied practically through environmentally sound and sustainable choices and actions, he said. The region itself works hard at being environmentally sustainable in such sectors as water, renewable energy and dealing with waste, he added. The conference on preserving nature and creation is part of a month of church-led activities in Umbria that organizers said would include a pilgrimage walk on the Path of St. Francis. This three-day journey traces the route from Assisi via Valfabbrica to Gubbio, through woods, hills and small villages, which was first set by St. Francis at the dawn of the 13th century when he renounced his father's wealth and began his path to sainthood. The pilgrimage path exposes visitors to a taste of Umbria, which boasts a rich natural beauty, as well as unspoiled historic hilltop towns with many treasures. Some of Italy's finest medieval and Renaissance art and architecture is found in its frescos, painted by master artists inspired by the geographic beauty of the region, as well as its mystical heart. Assisi itself has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in part of its remarkable art history. The region is also known for some of Italy's finest olive oil, truffles, wine and other food products. It has also become well known for efforts to protect the environment and reduce the carbon footprint of its residents. Green energy is a growing business in the region, with businesses based in Umbria making inroads in national and international markets.