Thursday, September 29, 2005

BugBears - the Prequel

Peter is out and about in London fighting traffic wardens and talking to students. Another bug bear blog I'm afraid. This time it is about my local council. A few months ago I moved into a new flat down the road from where I use to live. At my old flat, I would recieve my one black bin liner and my one recycling bag each Monday. Throughout the week I would dutifully fill my recycling bag (and not so much in the black bin liner), pop it out on a Sunday, and hey presto, it was taken away on Monday morning, and I would recieve new bags.

Now I didn't expect this to change when moving only 200 yards down the road. But it has. For the worse. For starters, I am now rudely awaken at about 6am by the road cleaner. Now, I know they like to clean when there is little traffic round, but at 6am? I'm grumpy in the morning anyway, and this just makes it worse. Sometimes they don't take all the rubbish. Secondly, they don't leave any bin bags. At all. Not even one. My flat (and it is only one bedroom) is looking like a landfill site. I refuse to throw out anything that can be recycled, so my flat is rapidly filling up. 'Contact the council!' I hear you say, well I have. About severn times now. The first time I was sent bags in an envelope through the post, and was promised they would make sure I would recieve bin bags in the future. And I'm still waiting. The last email I had from the council was the beginining of September, promising a bulk delivery to me of 26 black bin liners, 26 recycling bags. Still waiting for that delivery.

Now, I thought councils had recycling targets that they wanted to increase? Okay, so I'm sure my contribution doesn't make a huge dent, but how many other people have complained to the council, and not had a response? Many people know how to recycling, and know what to do, but its no good if the council doesn't provide the bins/bags for people. Councils tend to have poor reputations with their local tax payers. I certainly don't think too highly of my local council at the moment. Wouldn't it be great if I was proved wrong by a council?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bugbears, the sequel

It's kind of Emma to 'pick up the slack' for me. I had thought I could maintain a dignified 'one a weekday' blog, but circumstances are just getting out of my control.

I was away at the Factory pretty much 48/2 over the weekend making stuff for our fREsher's fayRE stands, then had a nightmare journey to, around and back from London on the Monday delivering it all. That meant all of the previous 3 days' work backed up and Tuesday was a loooooong day.

And I did try to do a blog, honest. It was about the nightmare journey, and when I get a moment I will try and repeat it. But the creation system here did something odd when I tried to add a picture, then swallowed it all when I saved it as a draft and I still can't find it. So it was exit, stage left, followed by a bugbear. Or several.

One day I'll do a blog about these, too. One day.

For now I think Emma and I will just pop up a blog when we are in the mood, have something to say and can spare a moment.

Thinking about it, that is a blog. What I was doing was writing a daily column. Now, where can I find the time to do that I wonder?

Bug Bears

There isn't enough hours in the day, there really isn't. Hence why I am writing Peter's blog for him today. He's a busy man you know. Now before I start, I need to make something clear - Peter is King of Blog (or blag in some cases!) and I am Queen of Forums. So please excuse my ramblings today. I'm a bit of a blog virgin, but I will give it my best shot. Here it goes...

I have been working on for almost two years now. I have done a lot of reseach during this time, particularly reviewing other websites. During this time, I have developed a few bug bears about website design/layout/navigation/content etc. Here is my list:

1) Pink on a white background just does not work. Barely readable, and my eyes start going fuzzy after a few seconds. White on a black background looks scary too. I know it is personal preference, but these colours really don't do it for me.

2) Broken Links. I'm searching a website, come across some really interesting information, want further details, so click on the link to find...error page... blah...access denied... blah blah...that just really annoys me! Website links should be checked regularly.

3) Slow loading pages. Broadband has done wonders for the internet. Some websites forget that although many people have broadband, many others are still on dial-up. Sitting at the computer for half and hour while waiting for the homepage to appear is time wasting, and your website can lose traffic because of it.

4) Online forms. I much prefer to have an email address to write to, so I have a sense that someone will actually read my email, and reply. Many times I have sent an email using an online form, and haven't recieved a reply.

5) This is by far, my biggest bug bear. (Peter will smile when he reads this). Out of date information! Agghhhh! There are a few websites I visit regularly. Under the 'latest news' section there are the 'latest' articles from April 2004! If someone keeps going to your website, and its not updated regularly, your going to lose them. I'm proud to say that something new pops up on almost daily.

I'm not saying that is perfect in comparison, but I like to think we have most things covered, and what we don't have covered, we are working on :)

Friday, September 23, 2005

No Waste Like Students

I sat down next to the cat to watch the sixth instalment of No Waste Like Home last night. I was particularly interested in watching this episode as being a graduate (well two years ago) I was intrigued to see how well the six students would do. We are also promoting at some fresher fayres over the coming weeks, so I wanted to see if students had changed much since I was a student!

They were accurately portrayed – a typical student house share with lots of mess, music, televisions, computers left on all day, along with the heating, topped off with up to 17 bags of rubbish each week. I found it amusing that the one lad would go down the street and drop off the bags of rubbish to his neighbour’s bins.

I feel strongly that people respond more to visual representation of what they are doing to the planet, and this was justified when Penney took the students to a local landfill site to follow their rubbish. They were shocked by the amount of rubbish dumped there, and it really hit home.

One of the tasks of the students was to convert another friend/business/family to be greener. They opted for a local restaurant. Encouraging the restaurant to recycle their food waste seemed an easy task for the students – and the restaurant still recycles over 80% of its kitchen waste today. It could be argued that the restaurant only did it to look good on TV, but I think that they were inspired by the students. Students are big influences in society, and to get them on board with will be fantastic. At the end of the day, they have loans and other debts. The students on the programme were more than happy to try out money saving ideas with Penney. By also going to they can save some money too. Oh and help save the planet.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Score one for us! is nothing if not a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, with the consequent highs and lows such events can impose on our morale.

So it's nice to have a pretty big 'up' to report. Yesterday I gingerly opened an envelope from Michael Nuttley, the Editor of NMA (New Media Age). It contained a copy of their latest weekly edition, which he had kindly forwarded.

Those who read my blog from last week will recall that, as a consequence of meeting him at a 'do' in Cardiff, we found he'd subsequently asked a reporter to do a review of, which caught us on the hop as it is still being perfected.

Hence we were VERY nervous. This is a magazine that deals with the cutting edge of online media and marketing, and is read by all the folks we need to reach... positively.

So it was with some relief that we found that not only was it a pretty good review, but we had actually been awarded the accolade of 'Website of the Week' by them!

The review did raise a few issues that we can and will (in fact are, hence the fact we have not yet made a major PR noise about it being live yet) address, and one we can do little about, namely the potential confusion with

But, on the whole, not too shabby.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Paranoia is KNOWING they are out to get you!

Two unrelated items inspire today's blog.

Well, they are now related by the reasons for this blog, but you'll see what I mean soon.

First up, a nice bunch of folk we have had dealings with - - had recently sent us some feedback thingy that I had logged away to send back when I had a mo' on a 'why not if it helps?' basis.

Now I've just found that they have had (well, felt the need) to issue
a 'statement' having been tackled by some respondents on the whole
'is it eco to print out forms?' issue. And then they have delved into
a lot of counter-pointing computer time stuff that I rather fear will
get them in further knots with the very guys they were trying to

On balance, I think the little bit of shared info about cutting and
pasting .docs and emailing back, which they subsequently shared but
earlier either didn't know about... or forgot... would have cleared
the whole thing up nicely.

The other, in which the protagonists will remain nameless as both so
far seem to us ok folk, but perhaps shaping up to have a bit of a
spat, involved a make of eco-stuff being 'outed' for a relationship
with something nothing to do with the eco-world, but not what most of
us may like to deal with, if I can be so obscure. The inference being
that one could/should affect one's intentions, purchase-wise, because
of the link to the other.


I just know that before long, it's going to be us. We won't mean to.
Wemay not even know until it happens. But from now on, I'm wearing
clean undies, just in case. Washed in the 'right' brand of washing
powder, of course. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Busy as a beaver

Of course, wouldn't have existed but for one. In fact two. Beavers, that is. Without my young sons losing their neckerchief woggles, I wouldn't have started working on a concept to locate items for reuse from things that would otherwise get thrown away.

So it's all their fault. Sorry boys. 

Because we are currently living in exciting times, which is one above (or is it below?) the rather dark 'interesting'.

And it is stretching Daddy and his merry crew to the limit, both those within Junkk Towers and those working on our behalves.

As I am on a metaphorical roll, the beaver lodge we are building is starting to take shape, but I do concern myself that the swift, but careful pace of construction is getting tested by the number, and indeed size of logs that seem to be coming downstream at the moment. And looking at the next few months these babies are going to be like tree trunks with outboards.

With our various PR and marketing efforts starting to bear fruit, we are finding ourselves required to be in two, perhaps more, places at once, yet until the income stream kicks in we do not have the funds to expand our resources to cover the demand. I am erring on the side of cloning as an option.

But in one area we have so far been positively woeful, and no amount of cloning will make a whit of difference. And that is selling ourselves to the right kind of innovative sponsors. It has become clear that have built it, they may come (and indeed are coming, even before our launch roll-out), but they won't until we can prove a lot of them have. 

So in the spirit of focus we're shifting all our efforts and resources to simply making the site so gosh-darn useful that a whole lot of folk will find it hard to resist... daily.  Then, and slightly more tricky, we get to share this notion with them. Bet ya never saw a full PR campaign strategy knocked off quite that blithely!

But it would be a silly set of sausages who didn't accept that one happy day we will need to sell ourselves so we can keep on doing what we like to do. Or for that matter, know what to do if someone calls up and wants to buy in. 

Which is why we found ourselves up in sunny Telford yesterday talking with some very serious chaps about funding and sales and stuff. I think it went well, though they seemed to be in some state of shock at the way were doing things, though I'm happy to say there also seemed to be a lot of support for what we are trying to do. Not every day you get to be part of saving the planet whilst having some fun.

They may well be able to help. But in case not, if anyone out there happens to know someone who'd like to take a small punt to make a pretty good living by adding some hard-nosed, bulging-Blackberry, top level contacts-driven, S2S (suit to suit) smarts to making our idea for actually work as a business, please point them our way... tomorrow if poss;)

Monday, September 19, 2005

One in the eye for sensible debate

For this blog at least, it was too delicious, though on reflection there are some ramifications that make it less so.

I opened my Sunday paper to find that a person of green persuasion had decided to seek out  a right wing celebrity commentator and register disapproval of his less than 'mentlaist-friendly opinions in the time-honoured, some would say almost obligatory, fashion: a custard pie to the face.

But good lord above, if Jeremy Clarkson didn't exist, they’d have to invent him. Come to that, if the less chilled side of the environmentalist movement didn't exist, he'd have to invent them. I have a conspiracy theory revolving around this very notion if you'll bear with me.

In this particular case it all went to plan. She was suitably messianic in her conviction that she represented all good folks, and got in a few fun facts about where he was going wrong, it being a democracy, with free speech and all, custard pie excepted. He was as gracious as anyone can be when they have to fork out a few quid for dry cleaning secure in the knowledge that they've been delivered a few more years' worth of free publicity and boosted readership. 

I could be convinced that in fact Jeremy is in fact in total cahoots with them, such is the regularity with which he delivers ammunition to inspire their baking squad, and to which they allow their soufflés to inevitably rise. And it's here that it, or rather I, get serious. 

As is to be hoped with the bizarre family in the first episode of 'No waste like home', he is often so grotesque in his views, those of a more fence-straddling bent may actually fall over to the other side in response. And if that were the case I'd say it was a work of genius on someone’s part. Publicity (and there's no such thing as bad..) for the green movement, ratings for Jezza (and there's nothing like a big bad rating.. or is that bad big rating) and maybe the great ‘getting on with our lives’ brigade register enough to be a little more eco. 

Trouble is, he often goes and spoils it by being a pretty insightful journalist at the same time, making a whole lot of sense about a whole lot on waffle and garbage that gets inflicted upon us. I’m afraid to say that in winning hearts and minds I think I know who is gaining some covert nods. Neither side make me feel they speak for me, but getting nanny’d and scolded and guilt tripped about trying to get through the day is not putting me very onside.

It is sad, because is trying to succeed by walking a middle ground. But it is proving so difficult. And one reason is glaringly obvious, and that is to engage any form of media coverage one has to be a bit extreme. I guess I could work with that. But I worry that in doing so I join a very exclusive club, with as its priority an agenda that is highly self-serving. And in so doing we cease to possess the right, or indeed chance, to make an impression with the vast majority who are trying to do their best for the planet by just living their lives in the most optimal manner given the circumstances.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

No fuel like an old fuel

Nothing like a bit of a do to get the camps staked out. And now we're
getting slightly over our fit of the vapours it's interesting to see
who said what when the pipe was kinked.

In the greed corner, we had the likes of our Gordo saying it's OPEC's
duty to pump up the volume. There's a good 50 years' worth more (is
that all??) and he'll be cosy on the beach with his full index linked
by then, so some other pol can pick up the tab.

In the better dead than fed corner, we have some enviro lobbies
saying that actually it's it's a good thing as we stop using our
beastly motor cars. Forget the airplanes and all the rest (though a
very sparky young guy speaking from some group/magazine - The
Ecologist? - on the BBC the other morning did seem to be making a
lot of more practical sense and points, with tax-free air fuel thing
included, than the business spokesperson who was stuck in the 'it's
very difficult to change ' groove), let's just score a point here to
keep us in conferences, because we're not for profit and there'll
always be a pension.

Actually I couldn't agree more about it being a wake-up call. Though
it possibly could have been planned out a bit better so that those of
us without access to public transport to do our jobs, etc, or the
limitless funds to absorb the costs of conducting our careers, had a
wee bit more of a chance to sort something out.

In a matter of weeks I have seen the cost of filling up my tank go a
wee bit past inflation. And it's not like I can pass the cost on to
my customers, and hence the general public. Well, not yet.

So I guess I could stop going to things like the MRW conference the
other day. But then how would I meet anyone who might want to take an
ad out on

Which means... stop?

I don't drive because I like sitting on motorways. I drive because I
have to. And as the public transport system cannot meet my needs, the
best I can do is hang on to my car until I can afford a replacement
that has an acceptable an environmental consequence.

Until then, whatever happens the government will need to maintain its
addiction to revenue, so it looks like using fossil fuels will be
treated as a luxury item. This may drive a further wedge in the
country/urban divide, as the latter tend to be better paid, and need
their 4x4s more for style than substance. It will also be a fun one
to explain to the less affluent in the electorate.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

D'oh Nuts

I may be missing something here, but I doubt it:


As rising floodwaters swamped New Orleans, Louisiana's chief epidemiologist enlisted state police on a mission to break into a high-security government lab and destroy any dangerous germs before they could escape or fall into the wrong hands.

"This is what had to be done," said Ratard, who matter-of-factly put a sudden end to his lab's work.

It looks like a sad tale of loss and noble sacrifice. But isn't it a tad on the barmy side to keep stuff like this (dangerous germs.. bless) in an area that's prone to natural... excesses? If they have to do it, perhaps down a mine, and preferably one unlikely to get waterlogged. 

'Fall into the wrong hands'... what about floating out into the street!?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Would you like a side order of spam with that?

Emma's first foray, and she has fan mail before the electrons had stopped whizzing to and fro. What is it about blondes????!

But before you think the green god of jealousy is striking, I had already called 'he who lured me to the blogside', Lloyd of Perfect Path, to ask if there was such a thing as blogspam.

Sadly, it is so. Hence, having got excited about the nice feedback of late, though perhaps wondering what Iraqi dinars had to do with saving the planet (I actually had got a rather nifty geo-political link concocted in my ego-draining delusions), I guess we remain either alone in the wilderness, though perhaps appreciated by a silent few.. or maybe many.

Another bubble burst.

Though not a flood, something must be done, and Lloyd says there's not a lot that can be. Apparently the software to hijack a blog is simple.

So for now I guess I'll have to switch off the reply button. I'll also see if I can delete those we have had so far. Though I may leave up the first one that had me fooled enough to reply, as a reminder that for all the net can do for good, there are those who will seek to compromise it.

If you ever want to get in touch, there is always!

No Waste Like Water

Here goes my first contribution to Peter’s blog. He missed last night’s episode of No Waste Like Home, so here are my comments instead.

After meeting Penney at the NEC on both Tuesday and Thursday, I was determined not to miss this week’s episode of No Waste Like Home. The couple in question lived in a swish London apartment, and had a good disposable income that was spent mostly on designer clothes and food. Their biggest vice was water consumption. I can’t remember the exact figures, but the water supply they used for bathing and showering in a week could have provided nine people a ten-minute shower everyday. The dishwasher was used for a couple of plates and cups, and clothes were washed everyday. If food didn’t ‘look right’ it was thrown away, and if clothes were unfashionable, they were also thrown away. They came across as a little snobbish. I was able to relate to this, because unfortunately I do have a few friends like this who I nag constantly, and will do even more after seeing this episode. In the first week they managed to cut their water usage by three thirds, started recycling their waste, reduced their food bill and food miles, and reluctantly took their clothes to a second-hand shop. They even purchased organic clothing made from hemp, cotton etc – but they preferred their designer clothes. By the end of the episode, they decided to buy local organic produce online, rather than traipse around the local food market (they didn’t like the look of the food in the market), and had delivered leaflets to all their neighbours campaigning to reduce water usage in their block of apartments. After the episode had finished, the couple had got the local council to install recycling facilities, purchased a Hippo Water Saver for all of their neighbours, and wrote a letter to the prime minister about the environment. They felt that Penney had really inspired them, and they felt that before they knew about the three R’s, but didn’t know how to incorporate it into their lives. I think this has helped to show young, busy people, that small changes can make such a big difference, and not affect street cred!

Stop Press!

No, I mean it... stop the press!

Oh heck... too late.

While we were in the NEC a reporter from an online marketing publication called New Media Age phoned to ask a few questions about

I guess it was following my meeting the editor last week, when I was telling him what we were up to, and as he showed an interest I followed up to say we'd get some info to them when the site and launch were ready.

But it looks like the cannon has been well and truly pole-vaulted, and they have done a REVIEW!!!!

Sadly it's a subscription magazine (and one we had yet to add to our 'time-to read' and budget-stretching list of publications to digest weekly), and not as prone to lurk on the shelves of WH Smith here as in Soho, so if anyone has a copy, please let us know!

We really, REALLY hope they have been nice, and whatever happens really, REALLY, REALLY hope they will do another one when we have all the new stuff up!

Oh well, they do say there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Nice knowing you...

From today's Independent:

"Global warming 'past the point of no return"

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover."

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Just back from the NEC again, having decided on another 'investment' in time and money to further the cause.

Fortunately, it proved well worth it.

Having 'done' the Recycling Expo on Tuesday, we decided to focus more on the Direct Mail and Incentives Show next door. Usually this is a rather depressing task for any of an environemental disposition, as there is a staggering amount of wasted resource and utter tat that gets consumed in these affairs.

However there were some glimmers of light, literally, with as an example a company promoting wind up stuff like torches, which was a bit more like it. Sadly the unit costs (at several ££) are still pretty much out of our range for's purposes, though we may consider a batch as bigger prizes.

Getting closer to our budget were several arboreal incentives, including a tree in a tube, seeds imbedded in a card (you don't reycle, you compost and end up with a plant) and even a cactus in a keyring. So far, so alliterative.

The problem is we're free, so paying people to register is a rather expensive business model.

However we did quite well for meeting some good folks, and got called over to the recycling show a few times. Penney Poyzer had returned for a book signing, so we now have a copy of hers (review to follow), with a nice quote for the site which she inscribed on the cover. We'll stick it on the site, most likely under testamonials. She also got to see my 'works in progress' on the rucksack and the extension chord from the old vacuum cleaner I found, and seemed suitably bemused.

These party pieces also came out again when we were kindly introduced by the MRW PR team to a BBC producer, with whom we chatted for a long time. He has a show in production using eco-gurus (I had heard of a couple, but they're not 'celebrities' as such) who are subjected to surviving off the waste. Can't say I envy them that task, but it does sound interesting and quite close to what we're up to. I doubt they'll have access to a laptop and net connection to source or upload ideas though. He didn't mention the name but we'll be keeping our eyes open!

We got there in an hour door to door. Same back. It is a sad fact that to do that any other way than car was not an option, either in terms of time or financially.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Too hot to handle

We have a list of happy problems, which, happily (in some ways) grow
daily. Things like being told our server costs could hit £2k a month,
to which I reply 'if we need that much server use, then we're getting
the kind of traffic we can actually sell to more than cover it'.

One that does concern me is that I really do like to reply in person
to those nice enough to write to us with kind words. Every company
says that of course, and when you're small enough it is still
doable... just... even when the days are long. A few quick lines at
the end of the day round it off a treat.

But when it grows too much more I don't think I'll be able to do it
in person and cope. So I guess the happy problem is figuring a way
around that.

What is not a happy problem is our difficulties communicating with
people who have email accounts with those big guys like aol or
hotmail. And I don't think we can solve this problem, as it is out of
our control.

A user called Zoe, who has a hotmail account, wrote to us
yesterday. As she is registered, at least she must have managed to
set her default settings to allow the sign-up confirmation, so good
for her!

All I did was write a quick 'thank you' for her support. And it
bounced! Now I don't know if it was because my email wasn't on her
list, or because the logo is in our signature, but it is so
frustrating that such simple communication is restricted between two
people who obviously are happy to be in touch.

I really hope that we can find a way around this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Foot in mouth disease

I thought today may be the first working day when I didn't post a blog, but as I watch the sun sink over the Wye there is too much worth sharing.

This morning I weighed up a round trip of about 150 miles, parking, munchies and two of us out of the office, and still decided in favour of going to the Materials Recycling Week ( ) RWM 05 (there'll be a link off MRW I'm sure) exhibition at the NEC. About 2 hrs later, having diverted to pick up Emma at home, we arrived.

At first it didn't look good. More big bits of kit than you could shake a WEEE directive at. Great for an ex-Civ Eng who still has a poster of Raymond Baxter on his wall (RIP Tomorrow's World), but perhaps not so relevant to our core audience. And Emma's toecaps, while dainty, can express 'Focus' in a very sharp manner.

But as we scooted up and down the aisles, we did find a few nuggets of gold. People who we could help, and people we may be helped by. I was especially taken with a young man from DEFRA who got quite taken with and vowed to make 'them' take note. I have to say, from councils to community groups to govt. departments, there is a promising new generation I have high hopes of engaging with positively.

Anyway, pitches were pitched, cards were exchanged, and I truly look forward to seeing a fair bit more professional activity of the site very soon.

The thing that helped us most in this was my deciding to take my laptop sling with me. This simple but (if I may so, and despite feedback from a few grinches who have said the exact opposite) stylish example of reuse (I must finish my vacuum cleaner rucksack... soon!) caught a lot of eyes and opened up a lot of conversations.

One of which was with Penney Poyzer (between the Google links and MRW's posts, I'm not too sure how her name is spelled), the host of BBC2's 'No waste like home', to whom we were kindly introduced by the lovely Anna, Rebecca and (whatever the male equivalent of lovely is, becuase he really is a nice chap, and I sit here still singed by the attitude of most editors) Paul of MRW. Thanks guys, and I hope the link is a good 'thank you' start, and I will add to your blog soon... promise.

Anyway, back to Penney. And the reason for today's title.

Followers of this blog will remember that I have not been overwhelmingly complimentary about the show in the past, though looking back my blogs were, I feel, balanced in what was good and what was bad. At least on a personal basis, which is what a blog is!

So finding myself presented to the frontperson I was basically thinking to myself 'Whoopsidaisy', or words to that effect. In the end I decided to 'fess up. And here a very nice thing happened. It is obvious from the show that she is a very pleasant and gracious lady (though I think the script and editing does her few favours, as in real life she is a different, and much more interesting person), but she immediately accepted that there may be alternative viewpoints, and did so with good humour. She even waived aside our apologies for driving there (she had trained in) by pinting out that we had car-shared, a fact that had not occured to us.

She also seemed to express more than a passing interest in which, from someone much further advanced towards the Holy Grail of public awareness (to our... er.. zero. When will that launch plan kick in???) was more than welcome. I might also add that, having appreciated more her professional background, it was very encouraging.

I sincerely hope we will be able to engage with her some more, and more often. I overheard her comments in the press briefing (see MRW, above, I guess next week, to read it) and this is one highly informed, passionate yet pragmatic lady. She is also, like us, not so bound by various affiliations to be 'on message' to the detriment of objective public communication, which was one area with which I had felt the TV series was not doing such a good job. That said, it does seem to be getting better each week, and I'm sorry I missed the last episode.

I have also just read Rebecca Allmark of MRW's review of her book, and it looks like it is more what we have been advocating, and one we will buy. Without having read it myself I will hold comment, but by way of atonement to a very nice person, and astoundingly youthful grandma, let me point you in its direction:

Penny, I hope we will talk more, help each other... and, in so doing, the planet.

By coincidence, her next show features student life. And next week we hit London's University Fresher's Fairs to see how we can inspire students to save money and time via reuse.

Coincidence? No. I'd like to think it's karma:)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Peter is visiting the factory

It was only yesterday that I read of one of our major literary figures (typically his name now escapes me) who named his garden workplace of inspiration 'London', so that if anyone called they could be told that he was 'away in London'.

Hence today's title.

With our imminent roll-out and all that entails (and there is a lot), plus our visiting the the Materials Recycling Weekly (check out some nice things they said about us here: ) Recycling Waste Management exhibition this week (fuel protests, or indeed  fuel, permitting - I may have something to say about this soon), I need some more tangible examples of what we're on about.

So, I'm off down the she... to the factory.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

If you don't learn from history...

I don't usually write at the weekend, especially one when I am under threat of serious sighing from our Chiefs of Stuff and Prose & Comms if I do not get down my shed and make something. 


But things conspire to thwart me. 50% of my shed time was lost by spending most of yesterday picking my kids up from a birthday party in a neighbouring village. A small matter of floods, landslides, closed motorways and jobsworths blocking access to 'their’ town for some odd notion that failed to compute, or turn out to be justified, when it came to getting to my kids. How the 4x4 brigade must have giggled, even though it is of course all their fault it's all happening.


Anyway, as I at last prepare to head for the shed, I was idly watching a BBC programme that seemed to be about predictions from the 60's, and coverage of them (how I miss Tomorrow's World). It featured fascinating insights from a variety of folks, including a set of 9-year-olds from a London comprehensive who were frankly outstanding in terms of intellect, creativity and expression. Don't tell me an ‘education, education, education’, education has resulted in a better, er, education.


But there was one contributor whose thoughts really resonated: Isaac Asimov.


He'd been asked what he saw come the end of the century. Basically he focused on population control and all that failing to address it would lead to in the next 50 years. He mentioned a bunch of stuff including pollution and its consequences, famine, wars of desperation. But he said that really was a most pessimistic view because he was sure we'd sort it.


Well, we're here. And guess what. He was right. And he was wrong.


Sadly all has happened just the way he said it could. And it’s because we haven't, are not, and it doesn't look like we will address the big issues first, if at all.

Friday, September 09, 2005

There's a welcome... initiative... in the hillsides

I'm looking out of my window towards the River Wye.

Honestly, there could be fewer places than Ross nicer to live and work. But it's not the best of places to do business, because as part of the service industry, and in particular one heavily involved with fmcg marketing and high level government (aspiring, that is) access, we're not exactly at the heart of the action.

And for all the wonderful opportunities offered by the net, there really is no substitute for good 'ole fashioned networking. Face to face, 'what do you do' events that put you in direct touch with a person with whom some mutually beneficial synergies may be explored.

Why I am writing this, now, is that yesterday at crack of dawn I set off to Cardiff University, where I had been invited to participate in an all-day event called 'Adding Value to your Work Through Creativity and Innovation.'. With a title like that you can see why I was tempted.

I walked into a room with a large number of folks, perhaps 90 in all. They were naturally weighted to learning institutions but with a fair number of Council representatives, the odd business (like me, and they don't come much odder than that!), plus the usual 'gawd knows what they do' consultants.

The day was pretty much split into two lectures, one given by a very passionate sociology lecturer, and the other by his direct opposite, a very quietly spoken, wry but equally committed Professor of Engineering.

In between these talks, we were set tasks, both as individuals and as small groups, basically to 'set our minds free'.
And, fair enough, they had an agenda too. Money. To develop what they had started. Did you know that when it comes to global inventions, one fifth of all of them, and 70% of all the significant ones came from the UK? That was courtesy of the Japanese government, back in 2001. Thing is, the guys overseas are not too concerned about us any more. Apparently we are squandering our talent for invention. That is a BIG PROBLEM. And these guys, are trying to do something about it.

Well, I'm up for it. And without being too self-centred (we'll do what we can, when we can, to help in return, but it won't be with money) I think could be not only a beneficiary of their desire to DO something, but a poster child to inspire all those in the equation... public, government, authorities, business and funders.

Because is about taking a new approach to the ‘waste’ problem, by giving consumers, manufacturers and retailers end benefits. Consumers save money and in doing so, put less into landfill. And manufacturers/retailers make money by giving their product/packaging and extra selling point – a second use for things that they produce (packaging/products) and that people might otherwise put in the bin.

Trouble is, the innovators and creators are not the gatekeepers of progress any more. It's the po-faced, grey folks with Specsavers twofers and a meta-matrix that needs creating and box that needs ticking. So we have a certain... challenge... ahead of us.

And they were talking ‘We South Welsh’, which may exclude me/us (a few miles the wrong side of the border), and raises another issue as I see it of diluted efforts through too much being frittered away in separate empires. But in this case I think it’s a matter of ‘you need to start somewhere’, so more power to their elbow.

Was it worth it? Yes. I had fun, learned a bit... and, most important of all.. made a few valuable new contacts which may, if they choose to develop the relationship, work to’s and their advantage equally.

Businesses like mine (creative, innovative, call it what you will – basically people who look at the world in a different way) need to hook up with people like these guys who recognize the value of creative solutions, and are willing to do something about it.

I’m looking forward to the ride.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Charity begins in SW19..?

Fresh from a seminar on such things the other night and with our
launch imminent, plus the initiation of our own news feed, I'm
drowning in press releases; both those we're putting out and those
we're getting in. Such immersion has made me interested in how what
is written can get re-interpreted subsequently.

So I'm wondering what happened here: <bold>Oxfam tells Britons: "Don't
give us your rubbish"


The facts are clear, and fair enough.

Seems we're a scummy lot and dump a bunch of tat on the poor old
charity, which costs them half a mil to sift. That's half a mil not
going to where it should.

The Association of Charity Shops has estimated that in total about
£4.5 million was wasted each year on the problem, and went on to ask
people use common sense in deciding whether the items are suitable to
donate to charity shops or whether they should be recycled elsewhere.

You know it's coming...

The thing is, was this the right way to go away about it?

In our high street, there are half a dozen charity shops. I've pretty
much given up going most of the big names because they really don't
give out the vibe that some stuff we didn't want but did not seem
skipworthy was, well, up to scratch. So it all goes to a local animal
shelter, who seem cheerful and happy to look, hand pick and generally
sift away. So I'm happy to see stuff go to a good home and in a good
cause, but they wouldn't be my first choice; I'm a bit more human
before animal in my charitable preferences, and a lot more teaching
and assisting than giving. Hard to teach a cat to fish and all… well,
at least better.

So I just wonder if this message a) was the right one, and b) got
broadcast as it should. I don't know about others, but frankly I felt
that I'd just give all the swanky charities a wider berth, and I'm not
sure that was the best result.

Especially as I don't think those that do drop off the real tat will
be in any way dissuaded from continuing to do so. And that means what
exactly, by way of a result? About the only positive message I could
get was as a potential consumer, that they have high standards, but
really what's incoming doesn't bother me, and I kind of expect some
quality control prior to that which I exercise on my own as I rummage

So hate to say it, but it’s simply a cost of doing business,
especially when your supplier chain is out of your control. But at
least it’s free! And there may be a chance the supply may be reduced.
Unless they're trying to get to new stuff, which is unfair competition
to local shops and away from's reuse support.

An example of unwanted goods that fell in the 'how could they’
category was a box of assorted false teeth donated on Monday to the
charity's store in Wimbledon.

Now that seemed a hoot to me. Certainly not for the bin. I couldn't
say for sure, but wouldn't it be great if instead of a problem they
spun it positively by taking a quick pic with the mobly, and popping
it on some website that catered to the SW 19 area in such matters,
especially with a FREE service for charities, and maybe lured in some
Damien Hirstesque cove with Tate Modern in his sights. he may even buy
some other stuff while browsing.

Now, if only such a site existed.. if, oh...!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Talk softly, but carry a big thesaurus?

I have mixed feelings on forums, even though we have one on,
we take part in more than a few as part of our daily grind, and this
blog itself sort of being an area of open comment.

There is no doubting the absolute value of a like-minded group sharing
information and thoughts. Better yet when others can be attracted to
seek help and contribute.

And sometimes there can be even greater benefits to be derived from
spirited debate.

But there's that small niggle that even in areas of comparative calm
(though to be sure all things environmental can be pretty heavy and
hence stir the mightiest passions) there are those who get more than
they bargained for when they make an 'innocent' suggestion that ends up
with some quite negative feedback.

It is very relevant to, because we live and breathe by the
contributions of our audience, young and old, novice planet saver to
eco-warrior. Indeed, it now occurs to me that even on individual idea
posts, there is an opportunity to comment, so these in effect become
mini forums.

So now I'm wondering if that is a problem. And also part of a bigger
issue we need to address.

I'd like to think that there will be no such thing as a bad idea on Common. Obvious. Maybe even poorly thought through. But
never bad.

Such thoughts were brought to mind by a series of exchanges on a forum
we follow.

Basically a nice person had shared a reuse (hence our interest)
opportunity she had discovered. And for a while the subsequent posts
were positive. Then came the now almost inevitable 'but is it truly
environmental on a global scale?' question.

Now that in itself was entirely valid. Frankly I had a whole set more
that sprung to mind, though most were more on a practicality basis. But
on balance I figured, hey, it's cute, it's neat, and why not? But like
the whole disposable vs. cotton nappies episode, which somehow seemed
to drag in the environmental costs of donkey transport in India, it can
all get a bit 'deep'. Matters of tone can then make things worse. While
'I'm not sure that going to work because...' is a possible route to an
alternative viewpoint, 'That's the most stupid thing...' tends to end
in MAD. It's a feeling I get when I watch BBC Question Time when
everyone, panel experts and audience alike, are so informed and
impassioned (and chosen to be that way), that I don't feel the true
contributions, appreciations and feelings of normal folk are adequately

And that's what happened in this forum: Much Deepness in the Mire
(which is also a small village West of here:). Average person ends up
having a big green finger been wagged at her, backed by all sorts of
shaming stats.

I'm not sure what the outcome was, but it seems pretty certain that by
the end all concerned were wishing they had never touched the keyboard,
which is a pity. Especially because I'd suspect that the initial
contributor, and those like them, may not be as keen to share again in
the future.

Hence I'm inclined to relook at our posting system, because I never
want anyone to feel they can't post without risking ridicule from those
more vocal or who 'know better'. is for all those who care,
even if it is a little bit, and I don't want to see things getting
dominated by those who care perhaps too much.

Of course it would be a shame to lose the chance of feedback, as it
can be used to improve an idea, and indeed there may be a need for wise

I'm not quite sure how we're going to walk the line, but to ensure even
the softest voices are heard I do think we need to create a totally
welcoming environment.

Hmn, 'a totally welcoming environment'; not a bad phrase at all on
which to end.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The 'F-word'

Life can be hectic - and stressful - at Junkk Towers, so that word is
heard a lot. And it is invariably directed at me:


Of course, it is easier to say than to do, especially when there is
just soooooo much neat stuff to investigate, create... and share.

Also some recent events have contributed significantly to complicating
matters. Many good. Some perhaps less so. In fact I'm beginning to hate
my 'ra-ra' maxim that problems are merely opportunities that have only
just presented themselves, for solutions that simply await discovery.
No, mostly they are stuff I could do without and wish would go away.

On the up side, our Chiefs of Stuff and Prose and Comms headed off
recently to forge some worthy alliances. This seemed to show that when
I'm not around things work out a lot better, and the logical
extrapolation of that is... I should stay in my shed. So off I go.

Also our launch roll-out is 'imminent'. And our marketing agency is
getting serious interest all around, from schools, unis, councils.. you
name it. All, so far, except the number of sponsors we'd hoped for at
this stage. The very people with the most to gain are the ones who are
dragging their feet. And worse, we can't seem to get a handle of what
is inducing such lethargy. If we know we'd address it... if we could.

So rather than beat ourselves up on unfathomable issues, we're just
going to go and concentrate where we feel most comfortable. No more
worrying about corporate decision chains for now; we're targeting real
people, not targets.

We've built it, and we're going to devote our efforts to seeing if we
can make the people come.

Hence our focus is going to be on our core message and site function:
re:use. And we're devoting our efforts to getting this out, via our
roadshows, PR, etc, in the hope of getting the public enthused, and
onboard. And if the everyday folk back us, the media will take note.
And if the public and the media back us, then we figure that eventually
we'll get the corporate and commercial support we've been seeking.

And if we don't? Even if all else fails, the site is unique, it's
there, it's WYSIWYG, it's free and it can be used by one and all for
common good. It can, and will grow, no matter what.

That's a heck of a legacy already.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lessons from New Orleans?

Here's my simplistic view of the whole planetary environmental problem.

There are now a lot of us.
Some of us can afford to buy stuff we don't need.
And we all like to travel a lot if we can.

Addressing even one of those issues effectively is political dynamite
no current statesperson I can think of, or even group of same, is/are
capable of, much less articulating, at least not at the same time as
staying elected.

Especially because of how things now get shared and perceived, thanks
to our being connected in a communications sense in ever more immediate
and intimate ways, which are not always helpful in getting considered,
balanced views. The stampede of hype and its thirst for short-termism
can trample any slowly developing shoot that needs time to adapt and

All topics for another time. But for now let me concentrate on New

A week or more on from Katrina, there seem to be many - in most cases
justified - angry questions raised and passions roused, but also a few
opportunistic camps being staked out that are getting in the way of
looking at this as objectively as I'd like.

'Maybe Bush will address global warming now'. 'The world's superpower
reduced to a 3rd world nation'. ‘It’s all the fault of school Moms’.

Responsibility for actions and (lack of) reactions maybe topics for yet
more blogs, for sure, but the main issue here seems to be that a vast
area was flattened or flooded, and more critically a modern city of
millions of souls was built below sea level, and the barrier designed
to keep it all out was designed to withstand a force a few notches down
from what can, and did, eventually happen. And this despite a lot of
warning, for instance...


But has there never been a category 5 hurricane before? Or is this just
the first time it came ashore where a whole bunch of people were
concentrated? It's a numbers game that can obscure what is actually the
problem and how best to solve it.

There seems no doubt that there is some nasty stuff brewing around the
planet, and 'we' are likely responsible for a significant percentage of
it and almost certainly making things worse, though I'm still trying to
get a handle on how much.

Unless the bigger issues in the mix get prioritised first, much that
grabs the headlines seems a tad like worrying about whether the
deckchairs on the Titanic were made from recycled cans and fairtrade
cotton (PC-alert! That's just making a glib point.’s efforts
at encouraging reuse are much less in the great scheme of things,
though we all become cumulatively significant).

And just like all the other positive-intentioned, proactive guys out
there, at we'll continue doing our little thing, because
that's all we can do. It’s also possible that beyond our inherent
usefulness to users, maybe we will have value beyond our service in the
future, when we have an audience who can be motivated to respond and
are significant enough be listened to. At the end of the day, it is the
actions of individuals which will count.

But for now, to those in power, activism and the media, I have one
thing to suggest:

'Focus, people... focus!

Don't look for the soft or symbolic targets; the easy victories. Ignore
the lobbyists from greedy corporations, and at other extremes those
eco-pressure groups with their own agendas. And don't pander to the
media's desire for ratings-rich stories. Now is the time to concentrate
on the big stuff.

All we need to do is prioritise what that is. Peat burning in
Indonesia? Air travel? Carbon-based power generation vs. nuclear?
Amazon logging? Please let's address them in sequence… pronto.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What's in a word?

I DEMAND that you read this. Not keen?

How about I ASK you to do so? Better?

Actually, I'd say I do neither. I write it, and you're welcome to read
it, but by inference I'd say I'm closer to inviting you than requiring
you to read, for free, and with no pressure, what I feel like sharing.

So I was a bit perturbed by the tone and words adopted by a BBC online
programme today, regarding anonymous surfing. It surrounded the age-old
debates about what a site can and should ask of its potential users.
It's public domain, so here is the URL to the online article:

I guess it was as balanced as any piece of journalism can be (they who
control the medium control the message, a fact is a objective as the
editor who oversees its inclusion... or not, and the writer’s choice of
adjective immediately confers a certain subjectivity to any sentence)
but I raised my eyebrow at some of what was written:

"We are not necessarily buying at these sites, and they do not charge a subscription, but they still demand we register our details before we take a good look around"

"They might want an e-mail address from you in order to send you the information you need in order to get onto the site; that's often quite a sneaky way of getting information out of you."

As this goes to the core of what is trying to do it hit home.
So as there was a request for feedback, I gave it. And in case it gets
consigned to BBC cyber-ether, here it is (aren’t blogs great!):

[] do not DEMAND details; to operate effectively we simply
need to ASK for them. It is an important distinction in terminology
worth making. The option exists to do some things without them, but to
use most of the site we do need them.

Why? Well for a start we have a localisation facility, and it's pretty
hard to tell you what's happening in your area if we don't know where
it is. To avoid any concerns about snail junk mail, we just ask for the
first block of the postcode to get a rough geographic area.

Other than that, we ask a name so we can greet in person on the next
visit, and an email address.

We need the latter because we invite uploads of information that can,
sadly, be abused. Hence our asking for terms and conditions to be
accepted, to focus minds on responsibilities and protect those taking
part for genuine reasons from those who may do so for those that are
less so.

Again questioning matters of terminology used, it is hard to see how
adopting a system to make sure you are who you say you are (at least
briefly) and are accountable for what you say or suggest is ‘sneaky’.

We are debating a few other requests, such as an age, primarily to try
and tune content more appropriately on subsequent visits. Doesn't it
make sense to deliver information to our different viewers in ways they
would enjoy and value more? And so what if the ads are complementary?

It seems odd that where money is involved there is less concern. eBay
is doing ok. And no one seems very worried about the ads in their
newspaper, or the commercials on their TV. How else does anyone imagine
one funds a free-to-user website? It’s not like we have a licence fee.
A few bits of personal information that are hardly intimate seem a
small price to pay. My spam filter deals with pretty much all unwanted
ads these days, and I can set it to accept newsletters that have
further information I do want.

At the end of the day, one just has to ask whether the value of what
you are getting, for free, outweighs the… er... what were the downsides

It should simply a matter of choice. But one wonders how long it will
be before minority agitation, legislation and fines follow (and not
necessarily in that order), and we end up all the poorer as a result.

I simply cannot understand the acres of scaremongering that gets
committed to putting off those less experienced on matters nettly and
emaily from enjoying the vast resources on offer. It simply falls into
the hands of those who seek more control by constraining those who seek
to offer as much as possible for free.

We'll do all in our power to make you want to use, and as
easy as possible to so. If there's an issue that's causing a problem,
tell us, and we'll change it if we can. But if, despite all our
efforts, you don't want to be part, then we're sorry not to have been
able to share all we'd like with you and sadly bid you a fond farewell.

Plus there’s always the ‘unsubscribe button or the 'delete' key.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Neros 'R Us

We're pretty powerless against Mother Nature. New Orleans shows that.

When it comes to pollution, she's got some of the nastiest, smelliest,
global warmingest ways imaginable in her repertoire.

And as one looks at a contrail etch across the sky it's hard to imagine
how that, and the daily thousands more like it, stack up when the
planetary engine kicks over and the exhaust vents itself out of a Mt
St. Helens or Pinatubo.

There's not much that can be done about such events, especially on this
scale, because we have no control over them.

But we do over our own actions.

So I simply share the following from the news today, quoted from the
Royal Geographical Society's annual international conference in London:
'Burning peat bogs set alight by rainforest clearance in Indonesia are
releasing up to a seventh of the world's total fossil fuel emissions in
a single year'.

One seventh. 14%.

Now I'm sure there'll be some debate, and another bunch of experts who
will pop up to make a counter-assessment, but the RGS seem like a
pretty well informed bunch to me. So I'll go with these facts.

As you know, my greatest concern in the whole planet-saving debate is
global warming, and in turn that seems to be tracing back to greenhouse

So anything that tackles these emissions gets my full attention. And I
really rather hope it will attract those others who profess to share my
concerns so that they commit as much effort to this... seventh... as
they do to the [how much?] popping out of the back of a Fiat Panda 4x4.

In saying this of course I do not advocate we do not still address all
other areas of man-created pollution and waste, as this would indeed
represent a joining the Hoe-down in the Forum. But not to prioritise
our efforts in the face of such information as above is surely
Emperor-level folly on an equal scale.

It will be interesting to see what noises get made by the major noise
makers about all this. I'm sure they'll need a conference about it. So
if it helps, Bali is right next door.

Friday, September 02, 2005

No waste like a TV waste... Nappy Every After?... #3

Having got back only in time to watch the last 5 minutes of last night's show, it is really not for me to offer much of a coherent review, but
I'll quickly plonk this up now in case it gets repeated soon or can be

What little I saw seemed more balanced than previous comparisons. And the numbers on the nappy costs were telling. Again, I'm relying on fleeting memory, it was a weekly/daily (?) £8 on laundered green nappies, £6 on disposables and £3 on home-laundered greenies, which was a 60% saving on disposables. That's pure cash. but it does not factor in the work involved, though it was mentioned. And this is a major issue, even with full-time mums, which cannot be ignored.

Personally, I think this shows a clear opportunity. Green Nappies should be subsidised to make them launderable. Some kind of voucher system to encourage genuine use. Easy for me as a local taxpayer to say so, but it must be worth checking out the numbers, which I'm sure have been and 'it can't be done'. So let's look at them again, and see what can work.

For a family like the one shown, the amounts of money saved were obviously a real incentive, though I'd really like to find out what the heck they were doing before to 'waste' 60% on gas and another whopping
% on water (we're non-metered here, so that isn't an issue, though we don't abuse it).

At least it has got people talking, and that's all to the good. I'm feeling that I'd have preferred a broader spread of different families
and opinions. One size does not fit all, especially with kids.