Friday, December 30, 2005

Wrongs of reply

I had an interesting email in my in-box last night. It was from the letters editor of the Sunday Times. He had read my letter about the death threat made to Jeremy Clarkson by an MP (previous blog) with interest, and was sorry my views had not made it to their pages. He also hoped that I had read the ones which had. 

It is now old news, at least in the news media sense, so I have no illusions that my reply to him will be published, but that's what blogs are for:

"As to the selection, yes, I did see it. Some robust defences of the fact of man's contribution to the fact of global warming (with which I have significant sympathy), and a rebuttal of sorts that was only to be expected from Mr. Challen."

Sadly, I still remain unclear as to whether he actually asked for Mr. Clarkson to be killed, though I noted there was no denial in his reply of this claim.

For an MP to do so seemed especially shocking, and the lack of attention paid to this perplexing. Maybe his boss is still coping with being investigated for being rude about the Welsh, and the police more preoccupied with women reading out casualty lists? I know which sounds like the greatest 'threat'.

But mainly I remain concerned that the interests of the future are being dominated by those whose agendas err on the extreme, and whose methodologies I believe will do more harm than good to the cause of persuading - in a civilised manner -  such folk as Jeremy to change their views and/or ways.

I do wonder if I will ever find out if an elected Member of Parliament did make a statement that I can only suppose would constitute a hate crime, or even a legally-enforceable threat, much less see him taken to task for doing so.

At least it may have served to stop our Jezza suggesting (again, I seek confirmation), if in jest, daft notions that troublesome cyclists should be rid of by being ridden over. Who knows what impressionable person may take this as an instruction from on high. 

With great power comes great responsibility, guys! Did history... or Spiderman... teach us nothing?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Richard Sandbrook

I was looking, as ya do, at one of those year-end round-ups, and came across a list of those who had passed away. So, as you do at my age, I checked to see who I had managed to outlive, if perhaps not yet out-achieve. One entry stuck me:

Richard Sandbrook , who has died of cancer aged 59, was a founding member of Friends of the Earth, UK. A former accountant with a passion for the environment, he helped define and develop the concept of sustainable development. He recognised early on that green issues should incorporate concepts such as social justice for those who depended on the natural world: that green issues and poverty should be tackled as one. He also believed that it was better to persuade global companies such as mining concerns to adopt greener codes of practice rather than ostracise them as enemies.

I didn't know him. I didn't even know of him. But what I read here reveals him to be an inspirational character to all we are trying to do with

I wonder what he thought of the situation we are in now? It doesn't really matter, because at the very least he must have known that he tried, and did his best to improve things. And that is one heck of a legacy to leave.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back to reality

Last night I watched a genial romcom called 'The American President'.  Usual stuff. Boy (widowed prez) meets girl (environmental activist/ lobbyist). They flirt. They think it's a 'bad idea'. They say 'what the hey'. It is a bad idea. His ratings plummet because he is now exposed to 'character issues' (maybe he should have taken up smoking cigars) and ends up having to do for political reasons something he promised not to to survive, which kills off her cherished vision, her job and, of course, the relationship. He has an inspirational moment about democracy and in the course of a very nice speech puts it all to rights and gets back the girl.

It was interesting to watch, because at around 10 years ago I was surprised to note that the issue at hand (well, at least as the girl's 'cause') was global warming, and a few quite strident predictions and warnings were already being made. They all got rather swallowed up in the relationship stuff, but they were there. And I think the boy was a Democrat.

Of course he ends up 'doing the right thing'. And that's where as a year-end wish you do find yourself rooting for the message. In fact the movie did try, at least initially, to address the fact that at high political levels there are all sorts of competing interests, that to buy off Peter you need to pay Paul, and that the electorate tends to vote with pretty much anything other than its brain.

So I went to bed smiling, but then awoke to open the online news to find that the UK's Green Belt is being concreted over faster and faster, for all sorts of reasons that made no sense to me. 

I guess that's what movies are for; they give you a brief respite from reality.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Amazing what folk will put in the bin... and then wish they hadn't

I'm on holiday this week, so these are going to be short and, in the spirit of the season... sweet.

I liked this one:

A German decorator is flogging (or trying to) the name tags of the 32 World Cup finalists used in the televised draw . He 'found' the slips of paper in a rubbish bag while cleaning up after the draw in Leipzig.

Sounds like a neat bit of reuse to me.

However, party poopers are starting to make lawyers happy already as FIFA who, having presumably thrown them away, now wants 'em back.

As you know, sees opportunity in what we throw away at every turn, so my sympathies lie with the little guy, to whom I will give the last, very reasonable word:

"The material was found in the rubbish bin by me and I'm the owner now".

Blistering Attack

So far; so good.

The family Christmas has proceeded well, with all concerned happy
with what they got and no major disasters to spoil the day, if you
don't count my indigestion.

Our experiment with present wrapping worked well, and if I have my wits about me I'll try and attach a picture of our tree to show the
results. Suffice to say that substituting newspaper for wrapping did
not impede the boys from their task of getting at their presents at
all. In fact I don't think they noticed. And the debris was
immediately used to create the roaring log fire that kept us warm as
we sat around the tree. I have no clue as to the e-consequences of
this, but the central heating wasn't required all day as we ran
around in new wooly jumpers.

Only one aspect of the conspicuous consumption has threatened my e-
smugness, and that is the sheer number of torn and discarded blister
packs. Those semi-rigid pieces of plastic that require welding
torches (I jest... though one that resisted a cutter blade, even when
my index finger did not, did get attacked by a gas lighter to gain
access. The smell was awful).

I'm going to do a piece on these in the new year. As they are
essentially unavoidable, and I am sure like many others I'm not quiet
clear just where they can be recycled. It must be possible. I don't
know if they have more in common with pop bottles or plastic bags,
but most are clear and surely amount to a fair potential.

In true spirit he boys meanwhile have found a fair number
ofreuses for some already. Many domes and whatnot from blister packs
are now adorning the battlescape we are creating for their Warhammer

Now, if we can just find a use, or at worst a way to recycle all the
grey plastic (it rejoices in a lovely word something like 'sprune',
at least to the gamer community) we'll be sorted.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Damn the torpedoes

I never knew sending a Christmas card could be so stressful. Usually it's worrying who you may have missed. But this year it has been more the other way around.

As we are basically working full tilt right up to end of play tonight (though we are taking next week off) to hone the site for its 'New Year's E:volution' in January, we didn't really get around to much in the way of sending out the traditional greetings to all those we have met and been in touch with as part of's activities.

Sending out a bought card was not really 'us', and frankly hand-crafting re:used jobbies would have taken all year (and cost us money we don't have... plus the whole 'is it eco'-thing we thought it best to avoid), so we decided that the most appropriate way would be an 'e-card' mass mailing.

(If you are reading this and didn't get one, it's on the site... so Merry Xmas!)

We've had oodles ourselves, and many from the world of 'ENV/REC', so we thought it would be ok.

We also decided to create ours in-house. And in keeping with our style we thought that while it should be e-levant, a little humour would not go amiss for the time of year, despite the seriousness (check this out form today's Indy: We (the UK) are set to dispose of 3 million tonnes of waste this period of what 'we' (royally) are all trying to do.

But boy, did we get our knickers in a twist. First we worried what was dreamt up as an ironic take on the 'BIG' issue - global warming - may not seem so to those who couldn't see it for what it was and decide to get offended. In the end we figured that such folk would have a problem no matter what, and having tested it on a few, admittedly friendly, contacts across the industry, decided to plough on. will never cut through the mass of 'safe' stuff in this arena if it takes the 'please everyone' options. And in a separate blog I have either addressed (or if not, one day most certainly will) look at the tendency to ignore the happy majority and over-react to the lone, and often unreasonable complaints of an eternally unhappy minority in stalling or stopping a lot of well-meaning initiatives.

Having had cards which have tried to flog us stuff or bolt a rather clunky public service message into the festive greetings, we thought we'd just have a laugh, make a point and wish everyone a goodie.

I just hope that those who may not get on board with that sentiment simply hit the delete key or politely ask us to take them off our mailing list so they don't get bothered again. Which is another heart-thumper when you hit that 'send' button on the mailing programme.

Site sign-ups are pretty clear-cut. We have to presume they don't mind a little update, or in this case a festive 'e-llo.

But then there are those who we've met at events, corresponded with in some form or other and, in the case of many from the media world, been in touch with by proxy via our PR. All we legitmately believe to at least have a resonable interest in, and as this is the first mass mailing in a year we can't really be accused of overdoing the keeping in touch bit. Hopefully if they do not, the disclaimer and 'remove me' invitation will be adequate, though it's a shame to have to put that message at the end of a Christmas card.

There's also the small matter of duplicates, as it seems there may have been a few duplicates sneak in if more than one of us got a card from someone. We're trying to sort that out on the system now.

Anyway, what's done is done. Hopefully we'll see this harmless relationship effort be taken in the spirit of the season. So at worst it results in a thinner mailing list, and at best a few more folk from the last year get reminded of us and what we're trying to do.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Score one for the good guys

This... is how I like my activism:

Members of Greenpeace posing as wood buyers bought 30 metric tons of timber in a remote Brazilian state bordering Bolivia, used an agent to obtain permits that falsely stated the wood had been legally cut, and then parked the truckload in front of a police station in Sao Paulo. 

Nice way to make a serious point and grab the necessary headlines. 'Nuff said. 

However, bearing in mind the number of complicit official individuals, I do wonder (it was not mentioned) what kind of follow-up there will be on those involved. I merely ask because activist groups do tend to prefer the big hit and tire as easily as the rest of us with the grubby follow-up.

It is worth pondering the creation of an online 'Hall of Shame' where those caught with dodgy digits dipping where they don't belong get posted for all to enjoy (legal stuff permitting). Even a tad closer to home.

One for the new year's evolutions on

The proof is in the pudding?

This from the New York Times:

Entitled 'Global Trend: More Science, More Fraud', it's inspired mainly by the South Korean cloning scandal, but highlights this as part of a global explosion in research that is outstripping the mechanisms meant to guard against error and fraud.

The article goes on to suggest an initially reassuring triple safety net to catch dishonesty and bad research comprising peer review, which starts with experts advising governments about what research to finance [I think I could raise a cynical eyebrow on how effective that is in the real world]. Then comes the referee system, which has journals ask reviewers to judge if manuscripts merit publication. The last is replication, whereby independent scientists see if the work holds up.

Equating the rarified world of medical research with tabloid TV journalism is a leap, but I was pondering this last night as I watched a programme about what we'll be eating this Christmas. Fortunately I have never been fussed about turkey, but any vestige of desire to try was snuffed out by what I saw. 

Frankly I think I'd have been down to a spout omlette by the end, because they even had guys (you know you're getting old when Professors look like grad students) in white coats showing us our Xmas pud was a toxic wasteland. 

And that's just the organic brigade hooking up with a media industry on the hunt for a quick max yuk-rating ratings-fest. But soem of these academics were pretty cred-worthy. And post-CSI, show me a bit of whirly lab kit and I'm convinced.

So it's hard to imagine the goings-on when it comes to getting objective information of things like climate change.

As the piece ended: 'While millions of articles are never read or cited - and some are written simply to pad résumés - others enter the pressure cooker of scientific [and biomedical] promotion, becoming lucrative elements of companies' [to which I could add any interest group from governments with a target looming to pressure groups with a fighting fund to fill] business strategies.

Quite. Makes it hard to know who to trust, doesn't it?

Substance abuse

I used to believe, and indeed here have often advocated that 'something is better than nothing'. Now I wonder. 

Because my acceptance of this notion was predicated on the assumption that the something in question would be an interim measure only in place until a much better something could be developed. 

However, recently I am starting to suspect that often certain 'somethings' are actually worse than nothing, because the way such high-powered games now get played seems to have been changed by the players.

Selfless statesmanship is well and truly on the back burner. Even national interest seems quaint.

In the pursuit of a legacy that egos demand be basked in during their lifetime, and no matter how tenuous its substance and the heck with the consequences once they are gone, few politicians' or policymakers' ambitions seem to extend to actually make a real difference. Instead the new measure seems to be seen to have 'succeeded' in 'making something happen', slightly irresepctive of what that might be.

And it's pretty much across the board, from sanctions on nukes to consensus on emissions. 

The latter of course is an area I tend to track more closely in this job, and hence being the one to which this blog most refers. For instance, what was issued so triumphantly in the communiques of the majority of the mainstream attendees (from all corners, and some quite 'passionate') at the recent Montreal climate event does not seem to me to translate into very much.

So I just wonder whether a bunch of folk saying 'progress has been made' or 'views were expressed' or 'most were agreed' really gets us anywhere other than to make it all go away for a while. And that means the public shrug and keep on doing what comes naturally. 

So maybe there is a case for a full-on, 'all or nothing' deal so that it gets thrust into, and stays on top of the agenda until something is sorted out that will make a difference.

At least one consequence of global warming is that Hell may actually freeze over. 

Monday, December 19, 2005

An apple a year.. may cost us dear

In our kitchen is a fruitbowl, which tends to brim with a varied selection, usually dominated by satsumas, as supermarkets seem incapable of not selling them on two for one deals. Fortunately my family eats quite a lot of fruit, so the turnover is high. But it is often not enough to prevent something at the bottom going waaay past ripe to a sort of hirsuit Mekon phase, being green, evil and not a little fuzzy. The kids don't eat these.

Nor do they eat an apple that is anything but firm, crips and sweet. And certainly not if there is any evidence of a brown tinge that may extend beneath the surface.

I was pondering this recently when I watched a cowboy movie set in the American Civil War. In one part, a fugitive had sought refuge in a cellar, which had a a harvest's worth of apples in barrels (one of which he ate, with the discarded core being his undoing). How come a hundred years ago apples could make it though several months, but these days you'll be lucky to reach a week before they exceed their 'kids'll-eat-it' date?

Well, it seems help is (actually has been for a while) at hand:

(by now you'll need to subscribe... why can't they just be nice like the Telegraph, BBC and all sorts of other fine folk, and just leave it up?).

What it reports is that of the country’s bestselling apples are being treated with a chemical, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), that enables them to be stored for a year before going on sale in supermarkets and grocery stores.


I must confess to being a bit torn. On the one hand anything that prolongs the storage life of produce seems like a good thing in the cause of preventing spoilage and hence waste, but I have to say sinking my teeth into anything coated with something ending in '-ene' is a bit of an appetite supressant.

But my main question is, what the heck did they use to achieve the same effect back in the the good 'ole days?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Better than nothing, but..

I have a certainly sympathy with politicians. They are, more often than not, 'damned if they do' and 'damned if they don't'. 

They are frequently lambasted, by folk like me, for spending all their time talking when there really is a need for a bit more doing.

Thing is, it has to be conceded that it may be worth trying to figure out if doing the wrong thing is worse than doing no thing at all.

What these chaps do have to do this quickly and well, which we do not, is resources. Oodles of them. The staff and money to check things out in trying to come to a good decision. All we have is what we can read off and online, or glean at the odd conference we we can blag our way into, and then apply to what we've learned a bit of street knowledge and common sense to what we opt to do... or support.

It may not be perfect, but it is better than nothing, and at least enables us to reflect the very real situation of harassed concern and general confusion that the average person in the street must be experiencing each day.

For instance, we are getting a proliferation of press releases and applications for directory entries from various organisations and businesses (usually the same thing - money does flow) that boil down to buying off the green guilt you may feel for being a devotee of 'Mobile ExEm' (Ok, needs work, but it represents Excess Emissions By Travelling. But you get the picture: you are one who likes to sit in a car or plane) by paying someone to whack a fir in some allotment to compensate for your... er... allotment of carbon footprint, trading, offset thingie. Or something.

Hopefully you are engaging with our dilemma, in that this has to be better than nothing... but...

I was minded to contemplate this more deeply by the latest one we've had where some chap is selling Amazonian trees to be prevent them being felled. Top Laudable so far.

And as a marketing incentive, this smart cookie with an eye to PR is auctioning off on eBay his 4x4 and contributing the proceeds to the progamme. Even more laudable.

And further, its future lifespan's emissions will be compensated for by the requisite swathe of Brazil being cordoned off. Better yet.

You can see where this is going, and indeed in the blurb the fact that a 4x4 will still be guzzling its way around has been covered by the fact that it is now 'offset'. What would be great is when it gets won it's by someone who actually needed a 4x4, in which case its impact would be lessened still further.

I guess I am still uncomfortable with the notion of buying off unnecessary, wasteful consumption and consequent emissions in this way. There just seems to be too much of a message that you keep on sailing on, doing what you do, and if you've got the bread you can make it all go away. Only it doesn't really.

But it is better than nothing. So I think it's going into the directory, so you can decide.

Do so with care, though. I'm not naming any names, but make sure whatever you choose to support is kosher. The one that piqued my interest and provoked this blog is from a company whose main industry seems little to do with planting trees, though there is a tie-in and the expertise may well exist. Hence our agreeing to carry their details.

Just... if you are buying off your guilt, make sure it's actually, effectively, efficiently... really benefitting the cause you think it is. And you are really doing your best in support by keeping on doing what you are doing in the way you are. Less can be more.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Spirit of C..ompromise

As we bear down on the festive break (we're still debating whether or not to go X(mas)-rated), we are rushing to put together a little year-end promo piece to a select group of 'major media influencers' to introduce our site's imminent 'New Year's Evolutions'.

I doubt any of them will be reading this, at least now, so I don't think I'm giving too much away by saying it's going to be a teaser series of re:use ideas (with even the thing they are sent out on being, in Junkk-fashion, itself re:useable - I hope with such a self-imposed requirement we are not setting ourselves a rod for our own backs that will become a bar too high to achieve one future day) sent out in series, based on the theme of the TwelvE:ways of Christmas. Cheap, quick, hopefully impactful, useful, welcome... and doable in the time (fingers crossed).

Thing is, one part of the concept is to get noticed by hitting 'em 12 times with 12 sequential packs that assemble into a whole at the end, thus demo-ing the Junkk advocacy of loyalty-based ideas to reward folk as well the brands they stick with.

Our one concern is whether we're going to cop it from some of the more 'T-huggable' (potential in those first four letters in future I feel) because we're 'wasting' resources with a multiple mailing. And it's true. We are being more wasteful than we could be. But that's the problem when it all gets finger-pointy; there'll always be a reason not to do something. So to do what you need to do, you just have to do what you hope is best, and accept some compromise is inevitable.

This came to mind as I was reading the online version of one of our proposed targets; one that can get a bit finger-pointy on occasion.

They are promoting a very worthy charity-based effort involving an auction. Good on 'em, and best off luck.

It has all sorts of neat stuff those with a few spare bob can bid for to help those less well off.

The usual. Meals, sports events, etc, with the rich and famous. Tasty and tempting one and all.

But I was lured to the actual article by the following on the homepage, replete with swanky picture:

"Drive your peers wild with envy when you cruise past in a new Bentley, driven by a chauffeur with a uniform and an air of superiority. You'll have to hand the car (and driver) back at the end, but you'll be a king for a day."

I know why they did it. It was one of the more visually interesting offers and would probably elicit the best response. But you can see how those of a more literal e-disposition may see fit to wonder if driving around in a multi-litre limo for no good reason is really in keeping with saving the planet.

Hence my seeking to instill a certain acceptance that we need a spirit of compromise in the way we all view the efforts of others.

One final smile: the last (saving the best?) bid on offer is a green makeover from their very own e-lady: She'll visit your home and suggest how to make it more environmentally friendly: how to eat better, lessen electricity bills, buy pollution-gobbling plants... (Not previously offered)

I especially liked the fact that it closes with the disclaimer that it requires her 'agreement in relation to location'. 

You could always do a combo with the Bentley!

Online, Offside and Out of Order

More than a few years ago we were the beneficiaries of a generous piece of support from some fund or other that got us onto the broadbandwagon sooner rather than later via wireless. It was a really, really big help to the genesis of where we are now, for which we are eternally grateful. By what I recall it was a few forms, then a chap from our local ISP came round and stuck an ariel in the loft (which may even still be there) and we were full-on.

At some later stage Ross went broadband, and I guess we must have upgraded, as that is what's poking out the back of the PC now.

So far, so smooth.

Until yesterday. I got an email from the fine folk who bestowed the grant on us which started by telling me how, as part of the terms... yadayada... I was obliged to respond to a survey they had attached, and was required to do it pretty quick smart. 

Now as we benefitted from this grant, I have no problem giving something back, but felt the tone of this could have been better to put me in the mood to cooperate. So I guess I clicked the link to the survey URL in a less than tip-top frame of mind.

But I could not have imagined the true horror that confronted me. 

Yes, I know a bit about the internet, but frankly it is a tool that let's me do what I do, and I leave the tech side to others.

Bearing in mind we are also talking a lapse of two years, and are no longer running the wireless facility, I was confronted by page after page of highly complex questions on matters of IT which we had no clue about, on on matters of timing for which we had no records any more.

So I emailed the 'initiative body' to request some human assistance. And in short order got a call. However, having explained my predicament I was simply told it was this online form or nothing, and nothing wasn't an option.

So I tried my best to fill the thing out, despite no opportunity to select 'I don't know', automated insistences that I had to put in figures to proceed even though I didn't know them, and some of the dumbest questions I've ever read, that bore no relevance to our circumstances then or now. And to cap it all, when I hit yet one more of scores of 'next' pages, the thing was dispatched as complete, with no opportunity to review. Whatever the computer the other end gets it will be u.s.e.l.e.s.s.

I have no idea why such things are drawn up as they are a waste of time, money and effort all round, and embody a culture that values being seen to do stuff at the expense of actually getting any stuff done. Think how many more could benefit from this grant with the money wasted in this futile exercise.

Just once I had a good one. A chap called about a grant we'd had and we chatted, in-depth, for 30 minutes. I shared, he... and his service... gained useful feedback.

So I emplore the box-tickers everywhere... if you really need to justify your existence: no more automated surveys!!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I say... do as I say, ok?

Let me get Jeremy Clarkson out of the way right now (and I don't mean
in the Colin Challen sense - see previous blog).

In a piece in the same paper, that was nothing to do with anything
ENV/Rec, I had a bit of an eye opener. Seems about 20-odd years ago,
just outside Cannes, the man-boy himself had an adventure in his
Dad's 6-berth gin palace. The era and the location and the hardware
therefore leads me to suspect that Jezza's origins are not quite like
other folk. As they say, the rich are different to you and me: they
have more money.

And not worrying too much about many day-to-day concerns can often
shape the way 'one' views life, and how it gets lived.

But at least he's not telling me from on high how to live mine, and
good job too; as I suspect if he did he'd have little appreciation of
what I am juggling at the mo', just trying to keep things real.

It did set off a notion, though. And casting my twitching eyebrow
about several other, more 'e-focussed' samples from the media, I get
the feeling that there some writing on our behalves who do move in
more 'elevated' circles than the norm. What I once assumed to be the
empoverished writing arm of the urban glitterati's chattering classes
seems to have been hijacked: by those who operate on a slightly more
upwardly mobile fiscal basis in plotting the courses set by their new
ethical compasses.

So we have ladies who take taxis to visit their eco-coordinators.
Stories about the new breed of e-yuppies who are eschewing big cars
in favour of Priusses (though usually by buying one as well as the
fast one and the off-roader) and cutting back to one or two overseas
flights a year only (I read a great piece by some double-barrelled
lovely who 'could have gone anywhere for the weekend' but plumped for
Lisbon. Nice. We were torn between a walk in the local park, doing
the garden or an Xbox evening in... and even for those options we are
indeed luckier than most). Or the odd poacher-turned-gamekeeper
(more estate owner turned, well, still estate owner, but not driving
about it as much, one presumes) feature writer who used to
hunt'nshoot'nfish dad's estate, but now finds reading about 4x4's
selfish as he visits the planet's other side.

Now, you are who you are and you've got what you've got. But by golly
I'd love a bit more input and advice that I can identify with as I
try to marry good e-practice with the fiscal realities of balancing a
normal household lifestyle and budget. And no, not from the other
extreme of some cave-dweller skinning their own vole to toast in the
solar oven.

Something that helps me make a difference that I can actually afford,
fit in with my work, kid and other obligations, reasonably get on
board with without starving, dying of boredom or killing myself, and
then share with the rest of you as doable. OK... yah?

It ain't WHAT you know, it's also who YOU know (who can share lots more what's)

Fairly soon now, you'll be seeing a bit of a change in Hopefully improvements all round that will get you to what you want to know even more easily and quickly.

Of course, much of what we can share depends on what we're told, and we're still having fun getting some public servants to help us, help them... help you. I guess we still have a bit of work to do to get them on the side of the public, communication-wise.

So we still find ourselves happily relaying the words to the wise from those with much bigger budgets, more staff and resources. 

But we'd like to think we can add our own little contribution. As with the following, to which I have added a few Junkkly extras that may or may not help, but at least show that at we are trying our best to identify with you as much as possible:

* Over six million trees were bought last Christmas in the UK, most of which were thrown out after December, creating over 9000 tonnes of additional rubbish -  buy a tree with roots so it can grow again.

Hmn, how does one heft one of those into the lounge? And nothing like watering through to the shag pile to make for a good brown stained-start to the year. We still use the plastic tree we bought 20 years ago. Practicalities aside, I don't know which is the better environmental option. Certainly I don't have to go out each year to get one, which in turn has to be brought to the shop to buy. We're honing in on a much rumoured Xmas tree made out of wine bottles we hope to feature!

As regards disposal, I was listening to Radio 2 the other day and a gardening chap said councils are obliged to take them in. These guys have the shredders, so at least it's worth taking them to the municipal dump so they are disposed of as carbon zeroally and compostally as possible.

* Buy electrical goods that run off mains electricity rather than batteries. More than 680 million batteries are bought in the UK each year, but just 5% of those are rechargeable - the rest are land filled.

Or.... here's a notion. Don't buy a gift that uses any electricity at all! Especially daft ones. Check this out from an article headed "A gift list that would get Santa sacked":

A consumer magazine surveyed 12,000 people to issue a "useless" presents list to warn shoppers what not to buy, which was topped with an electric ice shaver, second an ice cream maker and third a foot spa. Also on the 40-plus list of what not to buy were: electric can openers, vertical grills, aromatherapy diffusers, epilators or hair removal appliances, heated rollers, hair curling wands and deli-slicers.Toasters, kettles and hand-held mixers are deemed more useful.

As to the battery issue. Well, of the non-recharge variety, the rest we use in this house don't get landfilled, they go to the self-same municipal dump where the tree would go, as there's a bin there just ready for 'em.

* Over Christmas as much as 83 square km of wrapping paper and 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will end up in UK rubbish bins. Use string to tie up your parcels so that the paper can be reused.

But what about the eco-consequences of making string? Just kidding. But have you ever tried wrapping a non-rectangular gift with string, though? I think we'll be sticking (pun intended) with sticky-back plastic (for the older Blue Peter watchers). Our contribution is to use newspaper for wrapping with holly from the garden on top, but that's mainly because we're tight, and the kids don't give a hoot.

* We use an extra 750 million bottles and glass containers and 500 million aluminium and steel drink cans over Christmas - what better way to relieve seasonal stress than smashing your bottles at the bottle bank and recycling your cans.

And.... better yet... visit to see how they can be turned into soemthing else... especially those more exotic shapes you get for the parties. And I do include the cans! There was a Japanese ale I had that came in a alumimiium can shaped like a beerglass. Whipped off the top and it made a wonderful vase!

* Up to 1 billion Christmas cards (17 for every man, woman and child) could end up in bins across the UK. Send recycled cards if you can, and remember not to throw them away when Christmas is over as they can be recycled!

Or... create something snazzy from last years' cards (ok, now you know. Save the bits from this year for next). Or... send a witty e-card you have created, and see if it gets past the AOL filter. But whatever you do, don't just write 'from [your name] and the family' and nothing else. At the very least drop a few lines on what's happened. Otherwise they become what I call POLAR (proof of life annually revisited) cards, and simply are way to let the recipient know you are not dead yet. Which is sad, at best.

* Remember - the main sources of extra rubbish are packaging and cards, glass bottles, drinks cans and Christmas trees, all of which can be recycled! Check your Christmas recycling and rubbish collection times.

Which you can do on when the councils start telling us what they are. Otherwise, we're as [3] wise [persons] as you are. Unless you tell us, of course. We're planning on putting this tool of the people even more in the hands of the people:)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Going underground

Don't know how long the URL will last, but this is as good a time as any to have a ponder on the 'next big thing', planet-saving-wise.,2782,69711,00.html

And in case the URL drops here's the salient bit:

The energy industry has found a new way to dispose of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide: pump it back into the underground oil reservoirs from whence much of it came.

Now I'm all for innovative solutions, but I have watched Total Recall. So there's something about vast reservoirs of a totally different gas in solid state lying latent in the earth, ready to swap itself with the current atmosphere, which makes me a tad anxious. 

However, there is some reassurance that some mighty minds are aware of that:

However, not all oil fields can be used for CO2 injection and storage, so there is a need for other gas-storage sites. CO2 storage has been tried only in sedimentary rock, but the Northwestern and Southeastern United States are made mainly of basalt rock

And a bit of pragmatic caution as well:

However, the technology is no "silver bullet" in the fight to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases, says Matthew Bramley of The Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental organization: "Energy conservation and efficiency and investments in renewable energy should come before expensive carbon-capture and storage technologies," Bramley said.

So for now I'm still favouring using a lot less of the stuff on top of producing none at all when we do. So solar, waves and a few other get my vote for now. 

This is more the way to do it... sort of

It has all been a bit unseasonably heavy on matters of protest lately, so here's one on a more appropriately lighter note:

Basically environmentalists handed out 150 plastic ducks at international climate conference in Montreal on Friday in a joking stab at U.S. opposition to new U.N.-led talks on global warming.

Beats death threats. But guys... plastic ducks? I guess it was reuse if the recipients had a sense of humour and/or kids, and/or still take baths (a whole other direction we shower-takers could take). If not, I wonder how they got disposed of? Are ducks a PET (#1)... ok, ok, I'll leave it there.


Sticks, stones, pies and eco-fatwas

It may seem like I have something of an obsession with J. Clarkson, Esq. He certainly crops up in this blog a lot.

But there are some reasons for this, if not excuses. For a start he writes in the Sunday Times, which is a paper I read. And currently that exerience is then topped off with Top Gear in the evening.

Plus it's a pretty safe bet that some aspect of one or other of these will involve his relationship with the 'mentalists'. Them with kickers in twist; him mocking. And as I noted a while ago, if the other did not exist, each would have to invent him/them.

I also just plain find our Jezza an entertaining read/presenter, with a fine and funny turn of phrase, complemented by some pretty good journlaism if you strip away the ratings-required bull-baiting.

So it was with a meaure of sympathy I read his article this week:

(remember the link is only good for a week)

It started with a bit of joshing about his recent pie-inspired escapades. So far, so silly. He flames; they flambe.

But then, as he pointed out, things took a more sinister turn. To quote the piece: "a Labour MP called Colin Challen made a speech in which he said he wanted me to be killed. No more pies. No more early days motions. Executed. Maybe he was joking, maybe he wasn’t."

Um. No. Not even. If this is true (and I see no reason to suspect otherwise, despite JC's many flights of hyperbole) not from anyone is this valid. Especially from an elected member of parliament. With all the PC stuff we have flying about that is nonsense, this is... deadly... serious. 

JC goes on: "I believe in freedom of speech. Plainly the honourable member for Morley & Rothwell does not. And nor does Tom Brake from the Liberal Democrats, and nor does that girl with the big bum who pushed a pie in my face. In fact no one from the environmental bandwagon has even half an inkling about the concept of debate."

Which by the evidence of my eyes and ears is sadly all too true. A large proportion of the self-appointed guardians of the planet seem to view persuasion as not really worth bothering about in favour of coercion. And they seem to be tacitly supported by a bunch of folk who I'm sure would be horrified if they really got their heads around where this can lead... or indeed has arrived. And by not remaining silent, but tacitly condoning such excesses of expression, they are allowing things only to get worse.

I agree with much of JC's opinions, but on matters environmental disagree on many more. I still don't know if man is or isn't responsible for global warming, but I figure whatever we're doing sure isn't helping. And on balance I feel his hedonistic extremes, whilst great fun, should be tempered with some sort of caution (easier to require than define, of course) for the more impressionable to grasp the consequences and shape their lifestyles accordingly. But it's a free world, he's just doing his job and can say and do what he likes. 

For instance, as he says: "I believe that western governments are in the process of spending billions of pounds trying to stem something over which we have no control. I believe that this money could be used to make the world a fairer, more peaceful place. I would much rather bring clean drinking water to an impoverished village in Sudan than bring a wind farm to the shores of Scotland. You might not agree, but surely you can see it is a reasonable argument."

Yes, I can. But I do have other options I'd like to look at and raise. Only it's difficult when the side I'm pitching from seems to be dominated by  the Colin Challens of this world.

Which makes getting's brand of positive, proactive, choice-based, fun, money and time-saving persuasion all the more important to get out there.... and working.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Them and us

At we are still groping towards the best way to deliver a free service that all can enjoy contributing to as easily and enjoyably as anyone can in deriving worthy information or entertainment value.

I don't know if we were ahead of our time, had less faith in human nature or were just a little more eager to ensure our corporate sponsors felt secure, but from day one we have asked for a registration.

And it has caused us some negative feedback.

Well, we're not alone.. sadly:

In case the link above drops soon, it's about  popular reference site Wikipedia, which lets anyone create and edit entries. They have tightened the editorial rules in an effort to stamp out vandalism and the posting of deliberate misinformation. The site will now require visitors to register before creating new entries.

We feel for them in this as a lot of our site depends on allowing access to contributors to add to our base and keep it updated.

Two obstacles do not make a righteous consumer-friendly website policy, but there's really nothing we can do. 

And it's nice to know we're at lest in good company. And with, at least when you register we can tell you stuff about your area. With luck, we'll also be able to stay on top of those little tinkers who seem to want to spoil things for the majority.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Mazda Kevorkian?

This one caught my eye:


In a nutshell, Mazda is recommending its employees walk to the office, rather than commute by car, as part of an effort to improve their health and protect the environment.

I have to say I admire the intention and courage of conviction being shown here.

Now, all we need to do is get everyone driver who was thinking of buying a Mazda to follow the same practice and we're tickedy-boo.

But as I doubt that was the reason for a consumer PR I'm flummoxed. But in a nice way. Hey, what ever floats their boat.

Self-inflicted damage?

As you know, I sometimes stray from the more obvious env-path here, but in most cases issues can in some way be linked if you try hard enough.

I was reading an interesting article prompted by the proposal that health treatment be predicated on lifestyle:

It was a thoughtful discussion about the thinking behind this, and likelihood of its fair application, and if it is fair at all. Like so many things, for instance so many debates about issues on the environment (see, I knew I could get it in!), I couldn't argue with much of it, if at all, but really didn't see where to go from questioning such practices, which is easy and populist, but ultimately a route that avoids responsibility for dealing with some cold, hard facts.

I also thought of a small new wrinkle that could be fun (in a spanner to the works kind of way) to throw in the mix: what about workaholics?

If the smoker and the drinker are to be spleens-tested, with stress such an avowed killer then surely such souls who push themselves for family and country in pursuit of productivity (whether in terms of hours spent, of effectiveness per hour I would not care to debate here) should equally be penalised?

Yet another way to favour those who are able to work 9-5, take paid time off when they feel 'stressed' and retire at 60?

And another way of easing the pensions problem.

Friday, December 09, 2005

How the British plotted to defame all Americans?

In the wake of the accusations of misleading, 'selective' editing leveled, possibly with some justification, at the BBC over their recent 'Real Story' feature, I thought I'd tweak an eyebrow at this headline from a major national daily recently, that seems to me to fall into the 'stir it up for ratings no matter what' category:

How America plotted to stop Kyoto deal

It had the following intro: "A detailed and disturbing strategy document has revealed an extraordinary American plan to destroy Europe's support for the Kyoto treaty on climate change."

It seems the basis for this story is a 'plan'... "put together by a lobbyist who is a senior official at a group partly funded by ExxonMobil.."

Smoking gun-wise, we also have that " of his colleagues who describes himself as an adviser to President George Bush ­ was the subject of a censure motion by the Commons last year after he attacked the Government's chief scientist."

So what have we got here (allowing for selective editing on my part)? A draft plan, put together by an individual American, possibly on behalf of an American company, and his link to the American government is a colleague who 'describes himself' as an adviser to Dubya. Hmn.

I don't doubt the facts. And though I may not approve of this chap's actions, as the article conceded he's doing nothing that is illegal or really to be unexpected when the stakes are so high all round.

But as my subject title seeks to show (with a cowardly ? at the end to show it may or may not be accurate; another trick favoured by those with an eye to a lazy rating), the actions of a UK editor for a UK paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the rest of the UK media, its government or people.

Some of my best friends are Americans. And knowing their environmental views, I am pretty sure most, and a lot more like them,  do not really deserve to be tarred with such a broad brush in this way. I know in the democratic process the government and those it governs - from corporates to the average Joe - often are, and should be, seen as one. 

But in this case I don't think that headline did anyone any favours, especially those seeking balanced debate based on objective information.

Which is a pity, because this is a rare medium which seems to have grasped that something needs to change, along with our climate, and is throwing some worthy effort at doing something about it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tiger in a turkey hut, more like

Well, that didn't take long! And I think my 'Cat. Pigeons' allusion was a tad tame with regard to the recycling 'expose' earlier this week.

First up, we have the PR from the chief protagonist, who obviously should have right of reply, which I guess this is as good as it gets: 

But I do recall the report saying they had been at the time invited to reply more fully, and claiming to have documents proving their role to be more innocent, which were then not forthcoming? Who knows?

It will be interesting to see how this pans out (if it ever does... 'out of sight, out of mind..'), but a few observations based on what I saw:
"...categorically deny the allegations that recyclable material was or has been exported for disposal to landfill. We do not deal with ‘mixed household waste’ which the programme repeatedly confused with ‘recyclable material."

Containers with their name on the shipping docket full of what looked like household binbag contents, sitting in Amsterdam, destined for a dead letter address in Jakarta?
“No prosecution has been brought against the company by the regulatory authority"

Not sure, but the programme seemed to be showing the regulatory body was not exactly a paragon of effectiveness in such affairs, putting their lack of action in a less than defensible (or defence-worthy) light in this case.
“.. one would have expected the BBC to have at least considered what possible motive [we] would have to export material half way across the world for landfill?  Commercially, it is absurd to suggest that material would be exported for landfill

Fair point. One I asked.
In considering the two sets of containers filmed at Rotterdam and Jakarta, Grosvenor noted:
“..containers of recyclable mixed papers filmed in Jakarta were not owned by Grosvenor, but originated from a German recycling company which could contain papers from throughout Europe, and we have evidence to support the fact that it was recycled.."

Woooo. Conspiracy. Odd that recycled paper from the UK originated from Germany and gets mixed with some household goo and then shipped to Indonesia. What we need is to follow the paper trail (groan)!! 
“We noted the programme deliberately omitted statements and input from other organisations and representatives who provided positive testimony to Grosvenor’s recycling.”

As media are wont to do, sadly. And it can really suck. Not quite sure how such character references counter the facts in this case though. And how did they know the BBC omitted these statements if they weren't shown the programme?
Next we have this from a concerned recycling group:

This was not really meant for the consumer, and boy does it read that way. They make a good point that the public needs to be reassured by audit trails. I just wonder how that will get into the average householder's mindset to grasp well enough and hence demand. Smoke. Mirrors. 

Meanwhile, Materials Recycling week reports:


"Green Party members of the London Assembly will be asking the London Mayor to take action over the allegations that Grosvenor Waste Management sent the rubbish to be landfilled in Indonesia. 

Green Party member of the London Assembly Darren Johnson said: “It is completely unacceptable to export household recycling halfway around the world. This scandal highlights the urgent need to get waste recycling plants up and running in London which would create jobs and help the environment.” 

Which is one way of reacting. No sense of self-interest here at all. I have my tar and feathers waiting.

And this from WRAP's CEO:

 “Recycling is one simple way in which we can all make a difference, and more and more people are doing it regularly. Local councils and the Environment Agency (EA) need to play their part by making sure that what is put out for recycling genuinely gets recycled. In this way, we can all use the growing number of recycling services available to us with confidence.” 

Which is a wonderful endorsement for saying... recycling is a good thing to do.

The Community Recycling Network (CRN) UK has apparently slammed (how very red-top... bet they just offered an opinion) private sector waste companies and suggesting that co-mingled wheelie bins are the “lazy way” to recycle. 

It also seems householders are able to ask for full audit trails to find out where their recyclables are going. No mention of how. Anyone know?

Apparently Grosvenor is now considering what legal action to take against the BBC for a "singular, unsubstantiated attack on the company.” 

We await the outcome of such considerations with interest. I'm taking bets now. Who's up for it being in the 'old news' bin before Christmas, and quietly shelved by all parties who have got what they needed out of it. Mainly their jobs' worth.

I think I'll revisit a few of them to check every so often. If I forget too... remind me.

No such thing as bad publicity?

With the rather less than spectacular results of my recent 'pitch' still smarting, I was pleased to read this very interesting article by Martin Webb in the Telegraph Online (of whom all hail for making it free and unlimited to access... I hope. If the link drops ask me and I can send a copy).

And as I cannot always presume to elicit a reply at all from such busy folk, let alone in print, I can at least turn to the trusty blog to preserve what I wrote just now here:

"I truly hope to have the good fortune of meeting Mr. Webb one day.

When some of such pitching concepts were first touted around, seeking participants, we applied and often got as far as a telephone interview.

I remember chatting with a BBC researcher, and amongst a few other concerns broached the subject of it not being intended as yet more car crash TV designed only to boost the channel's ratings at the expense of those featured. I was assured not; it being the BBC and hosted by a major money editor getting cited in reassurance.

Thank god we didn't get chosen! 

As non-business-trained folk with a creative idea based on a well-considered but still sincere and ethical plan, I can only imagine how we would have got savaged to the delight of the nation's viewers. 

Or if our main aim (nothing but publicity - who in their right mind gives over a massive %age of their precious baby just for an injection of cash that can be blown in a fortnight without highly structured mentoring? Not to mention taking time to ensure well scrutinised partner relationships in any deal) was too easily identified, we may have been just get edited out. We have talked to and met some actual 'victims' to know what really takes place. (see below for more).

I'd love to think that out there is a genuine effort on the part of all relevant parties (entrepreneurship grants/funds/mentoring, business chambers and other such groups (CBI, FSB, FPB, etc) and, yes, media companies) to try and put together what Martin describes. 

I for one am fed up with the spectacle of the coliseum being served up to appeal only to the masses, and would delight in getting a true sense of what it takes (warts and all) to innovate and build a business on a good idea, but with a genuine desire to make things work - from all parties involved - at the core of such a program/me."

Frankly, I'd really wish that we could score as slot with Mr. Webb. Santa... are you listening!???

More than coincidentally, this very topic was at the same time being discussed in the more than fine 'bricks' newsletter we subscribe to (scroll down), which adds some real personal stories to the pot.