Thursday, 28 May 2009

Greenpeace Cool IT Challenge

A new campaign by Greenpeace builds on the experience of the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics by seeking to engage public pressure - and a little humour - to move IT industry giants towards action on climate change. Greenpeace wants the IT industry movers and shakers to adopt a leadership role in the run-up to Copenhagen. According to the Smart2020 report, although the IT industry is responsible for 2% of global emissions, it has the technology to enable 15% cuts across the industry, buildings, transport and power sectors. And it's this potential that Greenpeace wants to harness with its new Cool IT campaign.

It has a Green CEO league table and a scorecard showing the progress of the twelve chosen organisations towards three key objectives:
  • Providing IT solutions and accurately measuring the impacts these solutions provide for the rest of the economy (in areas such as grid transmission, transport and building efficiency);
  • Lobbying for a strong climate deal in Copenhagen that would stimulate an increase in demand for IT-driven climate solutions by the rest of the economy; and
  • Reducing their own emissions and increasing their use of renewable energy.

Visitors to the site are encouraged to join up, choose 5 CEOs to follow, invite their friends and follow the campaign via Twitter and blogs. Greenpeace says it will update the campaign regularly in the run-up to Copenhagen.

It's an interesting idea, and it's good that Greenpeace are trying to extend their reach into the maintream, but the idea seems a little simplistic and the rating system relies too heavily on what companies say, rather than what they do. there's a danger here that it's the greenwashers that emerge the heroes, and that won't benefit either Greenpeace's credibility or the climate change debate.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

UK worst at recycling

A study by Dell, published on the BBC website, suggests Britons are the worst in Europe when it comes to recycling electrical equipment. The survey found that fewer than half of UK residents regularly recycled old hardware, compared with more than 80% of Germans. Within the UK, the Welsh are the worst when it comes to recycling technology products; almost 20% have never done so.

The results are similar to the findings of Kyocera in a survey last year, which found that only 56% of respondents recycled end-of-life IT equipment. By industry sector, retail/media/leisure were worst at 50% and manufacturing/construction/utilities best at 61%.

It is thought the UK creates enough electrical waste each year to fill Wembley Stadium six times over. Under WEEE legislation, suppliers of electrical and electronic equipment have a legal obligation to take back end of life equipment when a new item is purchased, and dispose of it in an environmentally responsible manner.

Friday, 15 May 2009

In praise of low-fi theatre

With CGI and other digital techniques making increasing inroads into entertainment media, it sometimes feels like the story is lost behind the special effects. But Nic Rawling has devised a new concept that harks back to a simpler time when storytelling was a central element of human culture, rather than a multi-million pound industry.

The Paper Cinema combines live animation with live music to create an experience which is almost like watching a film being made in your living room. The elements are simple - black ink line drawings, cut out and mounted onto recycled card to create sets and characters, which are animated live via an antiquated video camera and projected onto a screen. The tiny original drawings are enlarged on the screen, but still retain a compelling intimacy. The action is accompanied by a musical score played primarily on guitar and violin by a single musician. And that's all. The entire show fits in three small cases, making it portable enough to play at music festivals and other makeshift venues. A large part of its charm is the fact that the animation takes place in plain view so that you can see how the illusion is created, and the performance we attended was preceded by a workshop where we could try the techniques for ourselves.

The current repertoire includes two pieces. King Pest, based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, is a dark tale of pestilence and plague, scary enough to see off some of the more timid children in the audience. Night Flyer is an original story of a young man's quest to find and rescue a flying girl, still rather dark and gothic but with a touch of romance.

It's not entirely unplugged, but The Paper Cinema is still sufficiently low-fi to qualify as low-carbon entertainment. And with no technological barrier between the audience and the artists, the result is a show that is as authentic as it is entertaining. You can find out more at

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Round the World without flying

Hats off to Tom Fewins and Lara Lockwood who recently returned from a round-the-world trip during which they didn't take a single flight. Instead, they travelled a total of 44,609 miles on 78 buses, 61 trains, 34 cars, 18 boats, three bicycles, two mopeds and an elephant. You can read a great interview about their journey here.

Tom proposed to Lara on a container ship in the middle of the Pacific, and she said yes. I wonder what sort of honeymoon they'll have?

Friday, 1 May 2009

HRH Prince Charles at the Mayday Summit 2009

HRH Prince Charles' Mayday Network is in its third year, and this year's London event at Old Billingsgate Market saw a new format, in line with His Royal Highness' exortation to make climate change fresh and new so that we don't flag in our efforts to address it.

He acknowledged that the current economic situation makes life much harder for business leaders, whose plate must seem very full already without having to consider climate change as well. But the network's name was chosen with care - mayday (m'aider) being the most urgent international distress call. Despite the efforts of the network and others, this call has gone largely unanswered.

Expert opinion - including Lord Stern and the Pottsdam institute - concur that a 4 to 5 degree rise in global temperatures is now looking more likely unless urgent action is taken. This will mean war, famine, flood and hurricane plus the displacement of billions of people. Two months ago it was calculated that we had just 100 months to take the necessary action to prevent this outcome. The doomsday clock, symbolised by the network's dandelion logo, is ticking.

According to His Royal Highness, if we strain every sinew we could still arrest the worst effects of climate change. But only by acting across sectors and ever increasing numbers will we make it clear to the World leaders that urgent action must be taken at the Copenhagen sumnmit. It is crucial that they enter into the Copenhagen negotiations with the demands of business leaders ringing in their ears, because the effects of climate change are more wide ranging and long lasting than the current economic crisis.

More optimistically, Prince Charles acknowledged some of the successes of the May Day Network. For example, the launch of the May Day Journey, a website that provides a first port of call for any business, large or small, that wants to act on climate change. The initial step is to measure, report and work to reduce carbon emissions, and the creation of sector initiatives is accelerating this vital work. In addition, the Marketing Society Alliance is seeking to establish a common language for the communication of climate change issues.

Finally, His Royal Highness stated that collaboration and leadership are at the heart of the May Day Network, and it's vital that we grow the network, especially to include small businesses and non-profit organisations. He exorted us all to recruit 10 more members each, at least, encouraging others to sign up and get started on their own May Day journey. With a marketplace of over 50 businesses, round tables and even a theatrical production, the event provided plenty of inspiration to do just that.