Sunday, 21 December 2008
It's not just an eco handbook - it also covers bullying, animal rights and other topics in keeping with We Are What We Do's central mission of changing the world for the better. It's funky, accessible and full of tear outs, make and do projects and stuff to get kids involved. After all, you're never too young to start.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
The Honda Clarity, on the other hand, is a genuine breakthrough in automotive engineering. Powered by a hydrogen fuel cell it is effectively its own generator, and takes no longer to refuel - with compressed hydrogen - than a regular petrol car. And it looks - well, just like a normal saloon car, really. It may not be as fast or as sexy as the Tesla, but that's not the point. It actually looks like Honda might just have designed a regular car neither kills the planet nor requires us to make compromises.
Monday, 8 December 2008
There are houses in our town that really go overboard with their Christmas lights, collecting money for charity from the people that come to see them. It's a kind gesture that gives pleasure, but perhaps its time to find another way to help. With energy so expensive, they could probably raise more for charity by just donating the amount they would have spent on powering the lights. On one level our lives would be a little poorer for not having the displays, but it's time for new thinking.
Our son is eight now, and pretty well informed on environmental issues. I'm sure I could explain to him that our Christmas lights are no longer a good idea and he'd understand. But it would make me feel like I'm stealing some of the fun from his childhood. And I don't think I can do that until I can find another kind of fun to put in its place.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
This follows on from the release of an interim report on October 8th which called for an 80% reduction in all greenhouse gases by 2050, to include shipping and aviation.
David believes we can meet these ambitious targets, without adversely affecting quality of life, largely through better energy efficiency and energy management. In terms of power generation there are two scenarios. The first is primarily via renewables; the second through fewer renewables but increased nuclear power. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is not an option during the 15 year timescale, because of time to market. This raises the question of whether we should continue to invest in coal fired power plants during the intervening period. The committee’s recommendation is yes, as long as the plants are designed for CCS to be retrofitted.
In order to achieve these targets, both corporate change and culture change are required. We need to change our behaviour, make more considered purchasing decisions and do things more efficiently. The anticipated cost is between 0.5 and 0.8% of GDP - around one third of the recent cost of bailing out the UK banking system. It’s not a large amount and, as the Stern review pointed out, the cost of doing nothing is much,much more.
Sunday, 30 November 2008
For the bathroom-hog: Frog Shower Timer from www.bynature.co.uk
For the comfort queen: Naked In The Meadow gift set from www.nakedbodycare.co.uk
For the little one: Organic cotton Lion Rattle from www.otoys.co.uk
For the green goddess: The Little Green Book of Beauty from www.ethicalsuperstore.com
For the wildlife lover: Elephant Dung Paper Notebook from www.objects-of-design.com
For the kids: Santa wind-up or shake torch from www.nigelsecostore.com
For the fashionista: Funky gear from www.fashion-conscience.com
For somebody who has everything: Watering can donation from www.presentaid.org
And why not use Christmas tags that turn back into trees - Plantable Holiday Gift Tags from www.ecohip.org
Data shows that forest area in Indonesia has decreased from 162 million hectares to 98 million hectares in the 50 years up to 1996. The problem is compounded by illegal logging, forest fire and widespread corruption in forestry industry.
Friday, 28 November 2008
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
The cemetery was chosen for the project because it is one of only a few open, sunny places in the city, which has a population of 124,000 crammed into 4 sq km (1.5 sq miles). The installation cost 720,000 euros (£608,000) but will keep about 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year
Santa Coloma de Gramanet has four other solar parks, mostly on top of buildings, but the cemetery is by far the largest. The full story can be found on the BBC website.
Monday, 24 November 2008
Inevitably, my son needed the toilet during the journey. We clambered through the carriage in one direction only to find that somebody had locked themselves in at Reading and despite much banging on the door was refusing to yield to needy passengers. So the only option was to repeat the ordeal in the other direction. Moving through the train was so difficult we decided to leave our seats at the previous station to ensure we had time to reach the door before our stop.
I assumed at first that this was an unusual situation caused by some unforeseen event, but no. Fellow travellers told me they use the service regularly and it’s always the same. The train is woefully inadequate - too short for the volume of traffic and with no luggage facilities to speak of, despite an itinerary that crosses half of England and links several large cities.
Inevitably the delays increased throughout the journey and we missed our first connection so our journey had to replanned along the way, causing much stress and delay. The journey back was even worse - we couldn't get on the train at all. In fairness to Arriva and Virgin the other sections of our trip were perfectly acceptable, but the damage is done. If I have to make that journey again, I'll take the car rather than trust Cross Country Trains to get me there.
It was reported this weekend that fares are to go up by 8% next year. If the objective is really to get more people off the roads and onto public transport, it’s the standard of service, not the fares, that should be increased.
Friday, 21 November 2008
The units are being trialled at a factory in Slough, where they are able to be moved to any point in the production line on demand.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Graham helped develop an electric car for a company in Hampshire but now wishes to go into business himself. He is currently trying to raise funding of £100,000 to build the prototype, and around £1m to go into production. His plans are at www.turbo-electric.com.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Waters around the atoll have risen 10 centimetres in the past 20 years. This might not sound significant, but the total land area is only 0.6 square kilometres and maximum elevation is only 1.2 metres above sea level. It has been estimated that the Carteret Islands could be largely submerged and entirely uninhabitableby 2015. About a third of the 2,000 Carterets Islanders have apparently refused to be relocated, but in early 2009 the first 40 families will begin the exodus. A group called Tulele Peisa ("riding the waves on our own") has been founded by Carteret Island resident Ursula Rakova to drive the fundraising effort.
Take a look at the videos and photos about the plight of the islanders by independent film maker Pip Starr.
Monday, 17 November 2008
Debtor countries have an ecological footprint larger than their own biocapacity, and creditors exist within the limits of their biocapacity. Back in 1961 ecological creditors included the USA whose biocapacity was considered to be 50-100% larger than its ecological footprint; today its ecological footprint is considered to be 50-100% larger than its biocapacity. Other countries that have moved from ecological credit to debt include China (now at a deficit of 100 - 150%), eastern Europe and most of north Africa.
Humanity’s demand on the planet’s living resources now exceeds the planet’s regenerative capacity by about 30 per cent and at current rate of increase we will need two planets to support the World's population by the early 2030s. Despite these shocking statistics, WWF concludes that a sustainable world is not an unachievable goal: the solutions are there before us and within
our grasp given the personal and political commitment of individuals.
Friday, 14 November 2008
The associated website is well worth a visit, although it has less impact than the enlarged photos and not all of them are included there. There are free ecards, mounted prints to buy and educational resources. Lots of relevant links and addresses, too.
This is a fantastic body of work in its own right, but it's given extra resonance by its mission to inform, inspire and educate. The courtyard of Oxford Castle provides an evocative backdrop, too. Just beautiful.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
It's astonishing that nobody involved in planning this event seems to questioned the wisdom of the act.
Monday, 3 November 2008
Formula Zero, on the other hand, is a zero emission racing series powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology. Launched in August 2008, it already operates the world's first championship for hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles and, as the technology and commercial interest develop, it plans to scale up to full size racing by 2015. It's supported by the FiA's Alternative Energy Commission, and will only use renewable hydrogen sources.
Six teams from international universities are taking part in the inaugural Formula Zero Championship, including one from Imperial College, London, called Imperial Racing Green. The first race took place in Rotterdam in August 2008 and further races are planned in South Carolina, USA and London. Could this be the future of motorsport?
Thursday, 30 October 2008
The standard – called PAS2050 – is a consistent way of counting the greenhouse gas emissions embedded in goods and services throughout their entire life cycle – from sourcing raw materials, through to manufacture, distribution, use and disposal.
The aim of the new standard is to help businesses move beyond managing the emissions in their own processes and to look at the opportunities for reducing emissions in the design, manufacture and supply of products. This will then help businesses make goods or services which are less carbon intensive and ultimately develop new products with lower carbon footprints.
The Carbon Trust has already piloted PAS 2050 with 75 product ranges across a wide range of companies including PepsiCo, Boots, Innocent, Tesco, Cadbury, Halifax, Coca Cola, Kimberly Clark, The Co-operative Group, Scottish & Newcastle, Coors Brewers, Müller, British Sugar, Sainsbury’s, Danone and Morphy Richards.
Some of the results include:
For its Botanics shampoo, Boots has redesigned its logistics network so that products could be delivered direct to stores, reducing road miles and packaging. This alone has reduced the carbon footprint of making the shampoo by 10 per cent.
By working with one of its suppliers, Innocent helped identify an opportunity for the supplier to set up a group of employees to look at how they could increase the amount of waste materials being recycled throughout the factory. In the first month, waste to landfill was reduced by 15 per cent, and within six months the reduction reached 54 per cent.
Defra has also carried out research testing of the PAS on up to 100 food products through their production, manufacture and distribution and is studying the greenhouse gas impacts of food preparation and consumption in the home.
Critics say that the PAS2050 standard is unneccessarily complex and that this will make it uneconomic to apply across the entire range of a company's product output. If you want to assess the benefit of PAS2050 to your own organisation, you can dowload it free of charge here together with a guide to its use.
Monday, 27 October 2008
Is the enthusiasm of marketing staff driven by their awareness of the commercial benefits that can be gained by publicising the green initiatives once they have been carried out, or their closer connection to the media and the hot topics of the day? Either way, it's good to see that marketers are leading the way.
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Moving on, he offered four solutions. Our economic systems must learn to value the environment. Our leaders must match rhetoric with action. Taxation must be relevant and transparent - and here he cited the futility of vehicle duty changes that penalise people for historic purchases rather than taxing gas guzzlers at the point of purchase. And finally we must recognise that sustainability is about more than carbon, we need to reconnect with the natural environment in order to understand our relationship with it and address our impacts on it.
His closing point was that far from being overwhelmed by the scale of the problem, we should be encouraged by the fact that if we take best practice in each sector now and make it the norm tomorrow, we're half way to success. Judging by the buzz at EcoConnect, that seems a realistic aim.
Monday, 20 October 2008
Now, it's probably not Honda's fault - I'm guessing the contractors or property agents have left the lights on by accident. But their brand is not visible and the building has Honda emblazoned on it - so it's their brand that is being damaged by association with this act of environmental negligence.
Either nobody has told them yet, or they don't care. Anyway, I'm off to find a contact from their website and see if I can get the lights turned off.
Sunday, 19 October 2008
If, like me, you tend to read a book just once, borrowing from the library makes much more sense than buying, both financially and environmentally. Go on, check out your local library - I'm definitely a convert.
Thursday, 16 October 2008
energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband yesterday committed the UK to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, overturning the previous target of 60%. Miliband also stressed that the government would not be distracted by current economic conditions: "In tough economic times, some people will ask whether we should retreat from our climate change objectives. In our view, it would be quite wrong to row back, and those who say we should misunderstand the relationship between the economic and environmental tasks we face".
Miliband also announced an amendment to the energy bill to allowing small-scale energy producers such as homes with wind turbines or solar panels to sell electricity to the grid at a guaranteed price. A similar strategy has helped Germany to create a huge solar industry. A full report of Miliband's speech is here.
So, as the establishment finally embraces the need for urgent action to combat climate crisis, is there still a place for a Green party in British politics?
Commentators at recent green events I've attended have emphasised the importance of mainstreaming green issues if we are to achieve the critical mass required to achieve the required reductions in greenhouse gases. Having a separate political party dedicated to green issues can only perpetuate the misconception that somebody other than the population at large is responsible for addressing the problem.
Sunday, 12 October 2008
The researchers were surprised that the foxes spent so long on sea ice but concluded that their odessy is essential to find food to sustain them through the winter. Sea ice is expected to reach record low levels this winter, making it harder for the foxes to travel and potentially leading to lower survival rates. There is also the risk of increased conflict with humans, as the foxes search for food near settlements.
Saturday, 11 October 2008
The concept employs a plastic membrane stretched over a floating pontoon, resembling a giant trampoline. Banks of solar mirrors track the sun to reflect its rays onto pipes where water is superheated to create steam and thereby generate energy. With 350 days of guaranteed sunshine and calm coastline, RAK is considered an ideal site - raising the unlikely prospect that this tiny emirate could become an exporter of renewable energy.
Thursday, 9 October 2008
I wonder if they offset the carbon for the flight?
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Richard's view is that seismic shifts are needed to effect the changes we need in global consumption patterns. They key to this is dematerialisation, with products giving way to services, and new business models along these lines are already being developed. But conventional thinking on intellectual capital won't allow us to achieve sufficient scale quickly enough.
An "open source" approach is needed to create the momentum for a new technology to spread with sufficient speed, similar to how Java has become so ubiquitous that Richard estimated every member of the audience had 3 pieces of Java on them.
There are already some good examples of the power of open source - Curriki being one. This online information resource (another project which originated at Sun) provides disadvantaged teachers and students around the globe with open access to high-quality educational materials, challenging the vested interests in education. This collaborative approach, with people freely sharing their knowledge, is rare in the commercial world, but in my experience the one place it's currently thriving is in sustainability circles. It's heartening to see how willing people are to share their knowledge and expertise on this topic.
But to really effect the change we need, the new technologies we develop must be substitutional, not additional. As Richard pointed out, commentators feared that the emergence of Amazon would kill books because we'd all download the texts. That didn't happen, and book sales are higher than ever.
His ultimate conclusion was that we have no choice but to embrace the new world order because our challenge is about survival of the species; the planet will take care of itself, and may do a better job without us.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Energy is seen as a basic freedom but decarbonisation of the economy is essential, and necessity is the mother of invention. We will find ways but it will proably be the private sector that seizes the opportunity. As an example, if we only converted one 10,000th of the sun’s energy to power we would have enough to sustain a population of 9billion.
If we fail to accept the challenge of decarbonisation, the great powers will battle for resources. Sir David King considers that the Iraq war may have been the first example of this. The cost of that conflict is estimated at $3 trillion. It’s estimated that the global emissions trading scheme which emerged from Kyoto will be worth $1 trillion when it first goes global. If the US government had invested in finding alternative energy sources rather than going to war over oil, then we could be in a very different place now.
We need visionary leadership from the great powers, and we need them to mainstream climate issues. It's not about making freestanding speeches about climate change, but making climate part of every speech as a key part of government strategy.
Monday, 6 October 2008
The problem is that when global warming reaches the same degree of crisis that provoked this global economic meltdown, there will be no prospect of recovery. Economic cycles are relatively brief and, whilst many may suffer genuine hardship, we all understand that if we can weather the financial storm it will pass in a few years and equilibrium will be re-established.
Somehow we need to harness the kind of hysteria which is generated by current financial fears and transfer it to climate and population issues. Because once the planet is bankrupt, there really is no going back.
How can a big brand like Starbucks make such a massive misjudgement, that risks undermining all the other apparently credible social and environmental projects it's undertaking? Its a perfect example of how the activities of one department can conflict with those of another if care is not taken to ensure that policies on key issues are not communicated clearly and consistently throughout an organisation.
Friday, 3 October 2008
Most of the people I spoke to had no idea that initiatives like the Carbon Reduction Commitment would cause them financial pain if they didn't get their houses in order, and were still thinking that an environmental policy is largely about demonstrating to customers that they're doing the right thing. But in today's difficult economic environment, the potential savings to be gained from cutting waste present an even more compelling argument.
Some days it really does feel like I'm making a difference.
Thursday, 2 October 2008
The Houses and Parliament and the Bank of England both score G, and between them emit over 21,000 tonnes of CO2 per year - the equivalent of 14,000 people flying between London and New York. In fact, only 1% of buildings achieved A rating, and the Department of the Environment's headquarters only scored E.
This initiative should be useful as a means of highlighting the issue of carbon emissions from public buildings, but I hope it doesn't lead to calls for old, wasteful buildings to be bulldozed to allow new, energy-efficient buildings to take their place. Quite apart from their aesthetic value, conserving an old building is usually more sustainable than replacing it with a new one. And modernity is no guarantee of sustainability either - City Hall scores E despite having opened only in 2002. The Guardian has the full story here.
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
A very satisfying day, as it turns out - we had to bring in extra chairs for the morning session and both audiences displayed a very gratifying level of engagement with the topic. Some very animated and productive conversations took place at the end of each session, and overall there was a great deal of positive energy. I really think this would not have been the case only a year ago - the people I was talking to then were a lot less receptive. If we can keep this momentum going, we have a really good chance of making the changes that are necessary to mitigate the effects of climate crisis.
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Tidal turbines are described as similar to wind turbines but with much shorter blades which turn more slowly. They are anchored to the sea bed and aligned to the tidal flow. The UK has almost a 10 per cent share of the global tidal power resource, representing 13bn kilowatt-hours. More than 80 per cent of the potential is located in Scottish waters.
Monday, 29 September 2008
Carbon Diem is the world's first automated carbon calculator. It uses GPS to measure the speed and pattern of movement, using an algorithm to identify the mode of transport being used. It can therefore calculate the amount of carbon dioxide that a journey has emitted and keep a constantly updated diary of a person's carbon emissions, without any need for input from the traveller. As a result, a user can easily track their environmental impact and, if they choose, modify their behaviour to lower-carbon alternatives.
It's a great idea, but I wonder how it tells the difference between walking and crawling along in a traffic jam? And it may be difficult to track journeys made by tube when no signal is available underground. But anything which makes monitoring environmental impact easier for the user can only be a step forward.
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Surprisingly, though, the Americans aren't the biggest per capita users of electricity - that "honour" goes to Icelanders, who used an astonishing 26,101 KWH per person in 2005.
Friday, 26 September 2008
Economic crises come and go, but irreversible changes in the planet's balance are happening now and will continue to happen irrespective of share prices and interest rates. And companies without carbon abatement programmes are simply burning money - increasingly so, as energy prices rise. This is no time to take our eye off the ball.
For the most part, though, the speakers at the Boardroom Edge-backed event presented compelling and well-formed arguments to support the greening of business, not merely for altruistic tree-hugging reasons but because it makes good commercial sense. It helps us to run leaner businesses, attract the best talent and compete more effectively. It finally seems that carbon is firmly on the corporate agenda, and this time for sound commercial reasons. Now the challenge is to dismantle the conventional business structures so we don't have to occupy huge glass monoliths in order to demonstrate the size and stability of our businesses.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
First observation is that the interactive session on sustainability was not so well attended as the others running simultaneously with it - perhaps an indication that the channel's engagement with the issue is lagging behind that of the organisations they supply. Second observation is that if this is the case, the resellers who do engage with the issue stand to benefit hugely because they will little competition. And final thought is that if refresh cycles for hardware become longer - as many of us expect - then resellers will be forced to face up to the fact that they need create new revenue streams to replace this lost income. Services around balanced device deployment, energy management and paper-free document solutions are natural choices.
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Monday, 22 September 2008
I have been impressed by the number of people who have entered into the spirit of this, especially one colleague who spent more on a train ticket than she spends on petrol for the entire week normally, to make a journey which started and 6.30 am and took twice as long as driving! There are plenty of bikes parked in our lobby, too. Altogether, half the 48 people who came to our office today did so without using their car - and we saved as much CO2 as a 32inch TV would create if used for two hours per day for three years, about 75Kg.
Today's event is a great way to draw attention to the fact that it is possible to leave your car at home, but I'm not sure that anybody found their journey either quicker or cheaper by public transport. Bus fares here are pretty high and the service fairly patchy. I doubt whether many people will continue to travel in the way they did today - but at least it gets the debate going.
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
On the plus side, though, my cranberry and pecan nut flapjack from the quaintly-named Honeybuns came in a package where the printed inner was designed to be re-used as a bookmark. Nice touch.
So, that's Honeybuns 1, First Great Western 0.
Friday, 12 September 2008
Thursday, 11 September 2008
Since 2005, Shell Springboard has attracted over 500 applications from small business owners throughout the UK. 75 businesses have meet with regional judging panels and 25 of those have been supported with funds. You can read some of their stories here.
Shell comes in for a lot of criticism, much of it justified, and we could be forgiven for labelling this activity window-dressing. Certainly the investment is a drop in the ocean compared with Shell's annual profits. But without their support, some of these small businesses would not have had the funding to grow, and might not have survived the first difficult years of trading. So, credit where it's due - and the best of luck to all those competing for this year's award.
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Currently, 47% of the World's population lives in an urban environment, and this is expected to increase to 60% by 2030. Meanwhile, the population is increasing by 6 million people per month and migration from rural to urban areas is increasing fastest in the developing world (in fact, migration from urban to rural is the rule in many developed countries). This is partly driven by changing rainfall patterns, which have caused a 20% reduction in agricultural output according to the Hadley Centre.
Efforts to alleviate global poverty are working - which is, of course, a good thing. But there's a trade-off. The World Bank calculated that in 2005 250 million households had an income greater than the equivalent of £8,000 sterling per annum - not a massive amount but well above the poverty line in most developing countries. It predicts that the number in this income bracket will be 2 billion households by 2050. And as these people acquire more disposable income, they will increase demand for certain products.
So what does all this mean? Well, the arrival in the cities of these newly affluent individuals will put increasing pressure on the food and water supply. Water is currently a free good in these areas, but increasing scarcity and demand will make it a tradable commodity and cities will compete against farmers - and the wealthier cities are likely to win. Without sufficient water for irrigation, food production will be compromised in currently fertile areas, accelerating the rate of decline in food production. Demand for food is expected to increase by 50% over the next 20 years; the conflict is clear.
Climate crisis is now a widely accepted phenomenon and the debate has moved on from whether or not it exists to what we should do about it. But even if we fail to prevent global warming, the full consequences could take decades to manifest themselves. Meanwhile, subtle changes in the weather pattern are being exacerbated by urbanisation to create food security issues which are already being felt and which will become critical within our lifetime.
Monday, 8 September 2008
It's a fantastic concept, which has already earned its founder Polly Gowers the Triodos Bank "Entrepreneur of the Year" title at the Women in Ethical Business Awards 2007, a place in the Semi Finals of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year and a BlackBerry Women in Technology Award in 2008. Is this the idea that could finally topple Google as the search engine of choice?
Friday, 5 September 2008
Offering handouts to compensate for rising energy prices would have sent entirely the wrong signals to a generally affluent nation which urgently needs to curb its consumption. Yet the replacement of the proposed fuel poverty package with an energy efficiency programme was announced almost apologetically. I'm not saying that we should not provide state support for those whose income is insufficient to sustain them, but support should be provided holistically, not focused on a single category of expense - and especially not on a commodity on which our disproprotionate reliance could prove to be our downfall.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Acme Climate Action is the brainchild of an agency called Provokateur which displays a heady mix of ideas and ethics and is also behind the We Want Tap campaign. A great example of the ongoing shift from the worthy, earnest but boring approach to important issues towards fun, mischief and mayhem. Long may it continue.
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Sunday, 31 August 2008
Friday, 29 August 2008
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
There are three wind turbines on the hillside above Stornaway. I heard that a plan to build a major wind farm with 200 turbines elsewhere on the island was finally rejected in April 2008 after many years of wrangling. There will be more wind farms there, but none on such a massive scale. Of course they will change forever a wild and ancient landscape, but so did the building of the standing stones, brochs and blackhouses of which the islanders are so proud. Could wind farms eventually become the tourist attractions of the future?
Monday, 25 August 2008
Sunday, 24 August 2008
I'm liking his green hints and tips page, although those who read my previous post will be interested to see that washing machine balls aren't much in evidence there!
Saturday, 23 August 2008
Friday, 22 August 2008
According to a report in The Guardian, the companies involved in the pilot project will display their labeled items at an eco-products fair in Tokyo in December, and the products are expected to start appearing in shops at the beginning of April 2009.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
This project follows the fine example set by Ian Thorpe with his Pump Aid project, which provides low cost water pumps using locally-sourced materials.
Monday, 18 August 2008
Samsung also boasts that this phone and its charger are also free from "harmful bromine-infused flame retardants" - but I thought these had been banned throught the EU a couple of years back under the RoHS directive anyway. Samsung is a huge global corporation and one of the World's top 10 brands - a fact which earns it instant credibility with the majority of consumers who don't have the time or inclination to examine green claims. I wonder how it will perform in next year's Greenpeace Green Electronics Guide?
Sunday, 17 August 2008
A question – since energy saving lightbulbs are compact fluorescents, presumably they consume more energy when powering up than they do when actually lit. So in a room which is often vacant, but visited frequently – like the toilets in an office – is it better to leave them on all day or to switch them off when you leave the room? When we first installed such lights in our office, we were told to leave them on all day, but that was fifteen years ago. Has the technology moved on since then, or did we just stop paying attention to it?
Saturday, 16 August 2008
Currently about 5% of UK grid electricity is generated from clean hydroelectric and wind sources, and in 2005 the government said companies buying such renewable electricity tariffs could report them as producing zero emissions. However, environmental campaigners and energy experts have called into question the benefits of green tariffs. The Carbon Trust has indicated that concerns over green tariffs are similar to those over carbon offsets: transparency, double counting and additionality – ie whether they cut carbon emissions over and above what would have happened anyway.
Hence the move by Defra, which could prove costly for larger businesses, which from 2010 will have to participate in the Carbon Reduction Commitment. The cap and trade scheme will not just impose levies on companies with above-average carbon emissions, it will also rank them in a league table, causing potential embarrassment for organisations which have previously earned a reputation for carbon busting.
A consultation will now take place on this subject, but it's likely the controversy will continue for some time. In the meantime, organisations which are serious about cutting carbon should focus on reducing energy use rather than relying on the potential carbon benefit of renewables.
Friday, 15 August 2008
So, what do you do with your junk mail? Dump it in the recycling bin (or, worse still, the waste bin) - or unsubscribe? The easiest way to avoid receiving direct mail which is personally addressed to you is to register with the Mailing Preference Service. And since March this year, the Direct Marketing Association has also offered the Your Choice scheme to opt out of unaddressed mail. It will only protect you from mail drops by DMA association members, but it's a start.
If senders persist, you need to let the sender know that you don't want to receive future mailings. Preparing self-adhesive labels to attach to packages and return them to sender with an explanation is probably the least labour-intensive method. Yes, I know the transport impact of the returned package needs to be taken into account but if it’s sent via the normal mail system this is negligible and at least it will prevent further impact from unwanted mailings. There are more useful tips at stopjunkmail.org.uk.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
However, the rejuventation of water freight won't all be plain sailing. A proposal to build a commercial wharf near Heathrow, which would have saved tens of thousands of lorry journeys around the M25 or through central London, was recently shelved. Meanwhile, former wharves are being sold off for waterfront homes. In fact, so many of London's wharves have been sold off to developers that those that do remain have protected status; a plan to extend this protection to the rest of the country is awaiting government's response. The regulatory body which oversees the canal network, British Waterways, was founded to support their use for leisure and heritage use and a revival of their use as a transport network would require a major change of its focus and remit. In short, whilst the freight companies recognise the opportunity to cut their carbon - and their costs - by moving goods on water, the government and regulatory bodies are not rising to the challenge. Whilst we continue to subsidise the road network, the potential to revive the waterways as a transport network will probably never be realised.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
It's interesting to note that before any radio advertisement can be aired in the UK, it has to be submitted for clearance and any any claims must be substantiated to the satisfaction of the relevant authority. Yet press advertising is not usually scrutinised until somebody complains. I'd like to see the radio system adopted for all types of advertising, then consumers could be more confident that advertisers' claims are "legal, decent, honest and truthful". In fact, it would also benefit conscientious advertisers, who already perform this kind of due diligence only to find their position undermined by the less scrupulous organisations.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
I'm not against carbon offsetting per se - take air travel as an example. Even if you do your best to avoid flying to meetings, sometimes in a global ecomomy there's no alternative. When you've exhausted all the other options, incurring a specific carbon impact and then offsetting it is OK. But that doesn't make the activity carbon neutral. What offsetting does is neutralise both the negative carbon impact of the act you wish to offset and the positive carbon impact of the action taken to offset it. At best, it gets us back to square one (although that depends on the effectiveness of the offsetting project - and that's a whole new can of worms). It's just a gesture.
Personally, I find it more credible when a company claims to be low carbon. This acknowledges the fact that the vast majority of businesses have a detrimental carbon impact, and that the best we can hope to achieve is to reduce it. By all means take some steps to help mitigate these impacts by investing in carbon-positive projects - and even pick some individual impacts to offset. But to claim that any of this makes your business carbon-neutral is just disingenuous.
Monday, 11 August 2008
The report's projections suggest that the potential contribution to a household's energy consumption that could be achieved with a turbine is so low that electricity prices would have to rise eight-fold before it became even remotely viable financially. Worse, over 50 per cent of installations have a carbon payback period of more than 20 years, which is beyond the expected life of most turbines.
Despite this damning evidence, the UK government is still prepared to give grants or tax breaks for a roof turbine. The Low Carbon Buildings Programme, Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) for domestic installations and the Code for Sustainable Homes. all encourage the adoption of small-scale wind energy. Perhaps in future such schemes should require actual carbon saving projections to be taken into account.
Friday, 8 August 2008
The project began in April, and biofuel accounted for 2.1% of UK road fuel for the first month of the scheme, against a target for the year of 2.5%. 865 was biodiesel, the rest bioethanol. Scientists and campaigners have warned that biofuels could cause more problems than they solve, with concerns over the destruction of tropical forests and impact on global food supplies.
The RFA's environmental standard is intended to address those concerns and covers issues from child labour to water and soil conservation, although it doesn't take into account the impact of changes in land use, which experts have warned could cancel out the environmental benefits of biofuels.
Under the RTFO, suppliers are supposed to ensure that 30% of the biofuel used meets the voluntary standard. Data shows most biofuels were imported, with the majority of identified supplies coming from the US. However, at least 6m litres came from palm oil, a highly controversial crop that has been linked to severe deforestation and threats to orang-utan populations in south-east Asia. This could be an under-estimate because half the biodiesel used was untraceable.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
Whilst we should all be encouraged to reduce our energy consumption, it's a basic neccessity of life. Many MPs feel that energy prices should not be left to market forces and highlighted the lack of controls in Britain’s liberalised energy market in a parliamentary report last month. Some are calling for the UK to adopt the French government's approach and restrict energy price rises to the inflation rate. Certainly this would help vulnerable households which this winter could find themselves unable to afford heat and light.
For expert advice on how to find the cheapest energy providers, sign up to Martin Lewis' excellent moneysavingexpert.com - regular alerts will advise you on when and how to act to cut your energy bills. Tips on how to cut energy consumption are available from the Energy Saving Trust. And if you're committed to cutting your carbon, greenhelpline.com compares tariffs from renewable energy suppliers which can save an average of 2 tonnes of CO2 per household per year.
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
He's busy adding new cities to the site but while you're waiting from walkit to get round to including your own city, you might find that adding the Co-Pilot application to your PDA is a worthwhile alternative. It has a walking mode as well as the normal route planning and driver's satnav features and can even be used to avoid buying printed maps for countryside walks.
Finally, if you do decide to walk it, tell Green Thing. Walking was its first ever green thing, in October 2007.
As a marketer I understand the power of labels to shape people's perceptions and I think adopting the term global warming undermined early efforts to promote awareness. It's just not threatening enough. Ask any bunch of Brits over 40 what it means to them and a good proportion will smile as they recall the long, hot summer of 1976 and murmur "bring it on". The term climate change is less friendly, with fewer positive connotations, but still rather too neutral to describe a process which could ultimately mean the end of civilisation as we know it. I'd like to propose that we all adopt the term "climate crisis" as a more accurate representation of the situation - then perhaps more people would understand the enormity of the challenge that we face together.
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
A mischevious colleague has just suggested that I should charge it in my car and, if necessary, take the car for a drive just to provide a charging opportunity. Thanks, Steve, but of course I mean when I'm using the car anyway. In fact, if the impact of charging my phone in the car is lower, maybe it can even help mitigate the carbon impact of driving in the first place. And because I'm bound to be there in the car to hear it beep when the battery is full, I'm likely to unplug it sooner than if it beeped at home when I'm in another room. So which is greener?
Anybody know? I'd love to find out!
Monday, 4 August 2008
CIWEM calculate that 22 million tonnes of bottled water are transferred between countries every year - ludicrous when you think about it. And, according to the Bottled Water Information Office, the average briton drinks 37.6 litres of bottled water per annum. It may seem like a small gesture to ask for tap water, but if enough of us do it - just like anything else - it really can make a difference.
Friday, 1 August 2008
They were as follows:
1. Mindless printing resulting in increased paper waste (40%)
2. Leaving lights on (37%)
3. Lack of recycling bins (33%)
4. Excessive air conditioning in summer and heat in winter (29%)
5. Excessive use of paper products, like cups, plates, etc. (27%)
6. Co-workers not recycling (27%)
7. Co-workers not printing double-sided when they can (24%)
8. Too many cover sheets when faxing or printing (24%)
9. Having to store paper copies of existing, electronic files (24%)
10. Leaving computer on and not powering down when going home (23%)
Go on, be honest, how many of these are you guilty of?
Thursday, 31 July 2008
The question of choosing a car is a little more tricky. For a start, only new cars are included in the rankings - indeed, only new cars rated "top 10" by What Car? magazine. Because there's a second hand market for cars, we can console ourselves that the one we discard will be re-used, however there's a good chance that further down the food chain somebody will replace a car that has no market value and will end up as scrap. Keeping our car for longer could therefore be a more sustainable option than trading up to a fuel efficient one, as long as it's not a real gas-guzzler, but I haven't yet managed to find a source of comparisons that includes previous models.
New Vehicle Excise Duty bands to be introduced next April will ensure that the most polluting cars pay more tax. The current 7 tax bands (A to G) will be expanded to 13 (A to M). Owners of cars in Band A do not pay anything. From April 2009, owners of cars in Band M will pay £440, increasing to £455 in 2010 - and there a also new "showroom tax" on new cars which pushes a Band M car's tax up to £950 in the first year.
Only two cars on the What Car? list fall into band A and attract zero tax: the Volkswagen Polo 1.4 Tdi and the Seat Ibiza 1.4 Tdi (which uses the same engine). Both have emissions of 99g CO2/km. But they aren't the cheapest to run: for example the Ford Focus 1.6 Duratorq TDCi has better fuel economy which more than offsets its Band B tax liability, although its emissions are 114g/km. There's a useful article on economical motoring here.
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
I emailed Tesco's customer services team but all I got back was a standard-issue apology that I had been disappointed by their service. And my next delivery arrived with the bottles in bags just the same. Come on Tesco, sort it out!
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
It's a neat idea, but I was rather disappointed to see a disclaimer at the bottom of the analysis to say that the carbon footprinting methodology used doesn't comply with relevant standards. To me, this undermines its value as an accreditation scheme. I want to like this scheme, I really do, but I'd find it easier to do so if it used publicly-available standards for its calculations.
Sunday, 20 July 2008
The simple design, based on an ancient Chinese water-lifting device, uses a bicycle system to raise water through a pipe using washers knotted to a loop of rope. The Chinese used leather, but the Pump Aid version uses recycled plastic. A mould can be made from clay using an original washer and then when one breaks, a replacement can be made by melting down in a tin can any waste plastic available locally and pouring it into the mould. Rope is also easy to find, or can be substituted by locally-made tree bark twine.
A billion people around the world lack access to clean water. According to Ian Thorpe, a child dies every 15 seconds from unsafe water - the equivalent to 15 jumbo jets full of children crashing every day. Pump Aid is already supported by Aquaid and Thirsty Planet but requires additional sponsors to ensure that this shocking statistic is reduced, both in Zimbabwe and beyond.
The elephant pump won the St Andrews Prize for the Environment in 2005 and the World Bank Development Marketplace Prize in 2006. More info at http://www.pumpaid.org/.
Friday, 18 July 2008
The strategy outlines 18 steps that CIOs should take. These range from activity as simple as making sure staff turn off PCs after work to carrying out more complicated audits of the energy use of datacentres. The plan is to focus first on the quick wins, by encouraging behaviour change to reduce waste and save money. Eventually the programme will evolve to recommend the use of energy-efficient technology such as energy re-use systems, virtualisation technology and the introduction of thin client computing.
The government also called on private companies and individuals to follow its example, claiming that turning off computers outside work time will reduce annual CO2 emissions by the same amount as if 40,000 cars were taken off the road.
There is additional advice on carbon-saving actions here.
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
There's a great article about its founder here, too.
It may not have all the answers, but DEFRA's website might be a good place to start.
Friday, 11 July 2008
Marketing magazine claims that the car industry spent £76.4m on outdoor ads in 2007, up 32% on the previous year - possibly due to the introduction of the CO2 reporting rule for press ads.
Monday, 30 June 2008
Sunday, 22 June 2008
Spent most of this week trying to assimilate the good stuff I heard at three separate sustainability events. More on those later.
Friday, 13 June 2008
Friday, 6 June 2008
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Clearly as marketers we depend on making an impact, but in these days of inconvenient truths the medium really is as important as the message. I’m much more impressed by companies who present a compelling message in a simple way than by those who disguise their message with loads of unnecessary embellishments.
The question is, what to do with the unwanted items? So far I have been returning them to the sender with a polite letter suggesting that the item could be re-used since I have no need for it. Does anybody have a better suggestion?
Friday, 23 May 2008
Friday, 16 May 2008
The Commission feels three areas should be focused on in this work: energy generation and distribution; monitoring of energy consumption in buildings; and moving to more energy efficient 'intelligent' lighting.
It is predicted the EU's energy consumption will rise by as much as 25 per cent by 2012 if no action is taken. The IT sector currently accounts for two per cent of global CO2 emissions. Full story here.