Monday, January 30, 2006

National Pride

It doesn't happen often, but I must confess felt a twinge of pride when I read the following: UK number five in global eco-league table.

Rather typically, we find ourselves just off the winners' podium, but for such a spiffy bit of research to be at that point out of 133 other countries I reckon that's a big up to us. Well done chaps and chapesses! Admittedly our overall environmental health factors did help a lot, but we did do a lot better than some I frankly would have expected higher.

And then... cor blimey g'vnor, there's nice, way aye  (and whatever makes for a pleasantly surprised exclamation in NI)... if that was not enough, it also seems that "British businesses lead global eco pack".

Double dose of wonderfulness Brit-wise. Do note however, that the results are based on how well a company performs relative to its peers, rather than using a standard yardstick to measure them against. 

But, hey, I'm not into splitting hairs here. Well, not in this article at least.

That headline is a bit extreme for this topic, but I have to say that
I'm more than a bit dubious about how effective the internet, and
especially specialist comparison sites on it, really are at finding
the best deals. I was prompted to write this by an ad in the Sunday
Times, purporting to compare all the major suppliers of energy

The reason for my doubts evolved from some frustrations I'd had the
day before. I was on the hunt for a device to enable me to digitise
my old 35mm slide collection (time to get the porty online and earn a
crust). After a fair bit of surfing I had zeroed in on what seemed
the most promising option, which via the usual Googled-up sites
(Kelkoo, Pricerunner) was swinging in at a sale price of £129.99
(usually £159.99). None could get it lower, and in some cases even
managed to add a few extra tens of £.

Fortunately, as I sat ready, credit card in hand, the online site I'd
opted for suddenly popped up a sign saying its security certificate
was not recognised, so I bottled. And as the family were halfway out
of the door for a day trip I had to leave it there.

So imagine my surprise, and a pleasant one at that, when I sauntered
past a branch of Jessops to see the self same thing at £69!

It's a free market, and people can charge whatever they think they
can get away with, so it's not really a con. But anyone who has
convinced themselves that online automatically means best value is
buying a a dubious line.. along with sinker and hook.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Dirty Money

When I was a nipper, one thing my mum impressed upon me was just how dirty money was. There's actually a very effective commercial on TV at the moment about how your chopping board has more bugs than your toilet seat, using a wooden board bedecked with succulent foods to make this point as it reveals itself to be a loo cover.

When you think about it (and it's bets not to at dinner time), there is probably nothing else that so quickly gets passed, literally hand to hand between us all.

Health not really's main area of consideration, but as it still falls under 'environmental' I found this piece worthy of not (excuse the pun):

It's about a U.S. Web site with the great title of Where's George? that tracks the geographical circulation of money, and as it, like diseases, is carried by people around the world, there's an opportunity to plot the spread of a potential influenza pandemic by tracking the circulation of dollar bills.

Where things do get closer to our area of interest is their point that human movement is a main cause of the spread of infectious disease, but with modern-day travel involving boats, planes, trains, cars and other means of transport it is virtually impossible to compile a comprehensive set of data on travel.

I'd hazard there's not much we can do about it, but it is a small but significant thing to note that our desire, determination and easy ability to travel long distances quickly that is adding another potent environmental burden (global pandemics) to the mix.

Now, wash your hands.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Your tax dollars at work

And before we go any further I know it should be '£'s', but somehow 'Your tax pounds at work' just sounds daft. Just like a ITV cop show chase scene down an alley in Penge looks naff, but the exact same one in CSI:NYC looks well atmospheric.

Anyway, to get my bloggly, eye-twitching, ROI of the Rovers juices flowing this hour, I have just alighted upon this:

While I have no problem with anything that is trying to make a green difference I simply have to wonder if this is the best use of £1.3 million of your and my money. 

Apparently 200,000 van drivers are to be encouraged by the government to improve their driving skills, in an initiative aimed at reducing vehicle and fuel costs for businesses and helping the environment, through funding 200 instructors to train 3,500 (or 17.5% of total, and over £400 per newly inspired lead foot by my calculations) van drivers across the UK.

How about subsidising them to convert to something non-polluting? And I'm rather wondering what the time frame is here. Hopefully there will be much better alternatives in place way before this little to gets worked through. And the best part is you don't need to use most of the cash for the scheme administrators' salaries and instructors' pension plans!

Things that make you go... hmnnn.

What do bean counters count when there are no more beans?

This from yesterday's Telegraph: Lloyd's abandons paperless system.

It's actually nothing to with environmental benefits or consequences as far as I can see, though one might ask why that aspect could not play a significant part. And I must make clear I am not well equipped to understand the logistical issues, but it just strikes me that there was the potential of saving an awful lot of paper that will now again go to, along with.... £70 million.

However, these may give a clue:

"the platform was not optimal in ensuring more efficient business processes for the Lloyd's and London market and as a result it will close."

 "The problem was underwriters and brokers just didn't seem to care about getting involved and making the market more technology based."

"Like all institutionalised projects, it fell foul of politicking, agendas, and civil service management structures, which drove costs through the roof."

Lloyd's role "should be primarily on standards setting, not building infrastructure"

Well, that's ok then.

We're in the business of trying to promote better ways of helping the planet. It can often feel like we're in the wrong one.


I know a few potentially relevant folk do read this blog, so I'm slapping this (with thanks to PRW) up here in complement to all the other feverish activity we're devoting to seeing how we can get in on the act ourselves.

In a nutshell, Wrap are "asking groups to suggest ideas which they believe will have a significant impact on minimising packaging or food waste from the home. The project should involve a retailer or major brand, though, in order to maximise the chances that any successful innovations are widely adopted...   and are keen to encourage applications from project teams which could include manufacturers, packaging suppliers, designers, as well as brands and retailers. All proposals must demonstrate a potential major impact on minimising household waste.”

If that's you.. go for it. And good luck. Just remember who passed it on:)

If that's you and you would like to go for it with us... it's amazing how much luckier people can be if they work at it. Together.

Sometimes you can end up with a result that is much greater than the sum of its parts. 

In case you read this before we get in touch with you, we're waiting at:

Strike up the bandwagon!

I was the only 6th-former in my school not to be made a prefect. It was not that they could pin anything wrong I'd done on me (not that there was much, and certainly nothing to get me invited to join the Lib Dems), but there was little obvious that I had done right either. As my house-master commented: 'If you devoted half the energy you do to avoiding tasks to actually carrying them out as asked, you'd be looking really good'. Which brings me to today's blog.

Lurking within our information categories is a section headed 'CSR' (by the way, after months of posting and pasting, it has only now been pointed out to me that you can create a hyperlink on a word without adding all the http.. gubbins. D'oh! But I'm still trying to get around only being able to upload with these still intact any way other than un-spellchecked emails), which stands for 'Corporate Social Responsibility'.

Like many things in life it's hard to fault it in theory, but somehow the actual practice seems to to often fail to live up to the promise, intentions or what 'we' might reasonably expect.

Apologies if you have already clicked the link above, as you'll gather there's nothing there... yet. We are but a small, self-funding enterprise still seeking revenues, and so we beaver away as best we can, and will get to it soon.

I think we'll need to. It's a topic that needs addressing.

I don't like slapping links in under such category without there being a article above it to 'set the scene' ( tries to stay objective and factual, but is happy to add well-reasoned arguments/opinions to broaden the scope of knowledge and provoke debate, which we encourage by popping across to the Forum), but as it's the blog I'm going to make a small exception.

It's just because these all have arrived or we've stumbled across in just the last few days:

And my personal favourite:

Leaving you to read for yourselves to ensure my choice does not affect context (the trail of the last story showing how things can acquire twists and turns as they progress), I select these key sentences:

"..criticism of the move being self-serving, because there is already a ban on marketing soft drinks in schools starting in September."

"The organic food movement has been hijacked by supermarkets intent on being seen to be green, but their disrespect of food miles shows they are anything but."

"It’s a good sign these companies recognize that American consumers are beginning to develop a green ethic when it comes to purchases, it’s too bad that they’ve relegated that market possibility to a ton of advertising hooey."

Amen. I'm not saying I agree with all of what all of them have said. And it can be easy to cherry-pick in some cases. But it's clear that there is a growing disconnect between what a lot of businesses are doing, are saying they're doing and are perceived as doing by some potent sectors. note that the majority of these articles were not from the eco-activist sector.

Now, I haven't done this for a long time. What would be great if there was a genuine way for these big brands to do something tangible that does make a genuine difference, won't cots them much and potentially drive more sales, rather than p****ing away money pretending they are doing stuff when patently the snake oil ain't selling. Now, what would be worth supporting with a fraction of your smoke 'n mirrors budget if you crank out packaging, are seeking to appeal at a local level or engage with a more environmentally-aware traveling public?

Answers (in case you missed the hint in the last line) please, to

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Standby for action!

Now this is one that really needs addressing!

Britons waste the equivalent of around two power stations' worth of electricity each year by leaving TV sets and other gadgets on standby.

Link To Story

Because I know that, despite my best efforts, I often come into a room next morning to see that red light still glowing. So I think the answer has to be to to get rid of the standby. It's to easy to use and forget. So let's go back to on or off. Simple. And I still get to use the remote.

But then you read the full article and you see the whole issue is not quite that easy. Overseas manufactuers with access to UK markets. Systems that require constant power to function correctly ( to think I was moaning at my Mum for killing her whole system at the socket each night, which meant I kept having to reprogramme her set-top box every day). But for once I do think the answer is clear.

Let's take a stand against standby.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Pros Of Pro Prose

When I was a struggling copywriter (as opposed to a struggling whatever I am now), I attended seminars held by top creative gurus. They always involved doing concepts, which was fun, and usually for 'issues' stuff, which was even more meaty. 

And I once had my ad held up as the best of the bunch. 

Not because it was the most striking idea, but because I had tried to deal with the topic in a way that addressed the positive apects of the product/service's solution throughout. 

As the guy kindly pointed out: "it's easy to devote a full page or most of a commercial to the juicy fun of a problem and then hope people get inspired enough to dig out the solution and why they buy the product via the logo (or now, URL) at the end... but it's much harder, more worthwhile, and ultimately of more value to the client to come up with something just as creative that shows people how to engage positively thoughout". I liked that advice, and always tried to live by it.

So it came to mind when I was sent the following URL, which is a commercial by/for Greenpeace:

In case the link doesn't work it's basically  'what would happen if a plane was rammed into a nuclear power station makes it not worth the risk'. I share it because I think it's a very powerful, single-minded piece of communication, executed well (though I have to wonder about the nuclear family's choice of holiday location). Plus, of course, a fair argument against.


Whatever the cons of nuclear power (and there are a few I can conjure up) in the 'best way to deal with global warming' debate, I have to admit to being unsure about terrorist action being used as a primary. Though now it has been raised so powerfully, and if nuclear is embraced, I really hope that the things are designed so that IT JUST CAN'T HAPPEN THIS WAY. Frankly I think if a nuke is their option of choice it is more likely to be something easier to acquire closer to home, and dirtier to deploy nowhere near their homes, that will be opted for. So maybe devoting some energies to tidying up other areas of nuclear concern elsewhere may be a good use of activist resources.

And by the logic used in the commercial we should probably avoid hydro-electric power in case the dams get sabotaged (though I'm sure the guys upstream of the 3 Gorges would have been keen to pursue that argument).

Frankly I'm a lot more concerned by cost-cutting corporates and complicit pols simply being alowed to get away with 'whoops' when there's another 3-Mile Island or Chernobyl. Or when we have a salt mile with as much space left as our landfills, and they still haven't figured out a way to deal with the stuff.

So I have to say I was a lot more encouraged by a snippet within this piece, which is pretty much about the same debate:

Environmentalists are preparing for a battle with the nuclear industry to persuade the public that green, not atomic, power is the path to the future.

"We are going to war with the nuclear industry -- but with a positive not a negative campaign," Tony Juniper, head of Friends of the Earth, told Reuters.
"We are not going to repeat the negative messages of the 1970s and 80s. The campaign for us is to show that the alternatives such as renewables and greater energy efficiency can work and nuclear is not necessary." 

Good luck to him/them. I'm much more in favour of such an approach. The tricky bit will be making it as interesting as a plane slamming into a reactor, and as end-benefit driven as that not happening.

Mr. Fixit

It's always nice to be able to point at something that's actually on our site as a result of someone  - the Community Service Volunteers (CSV) to give another worthy bunch a plug, sending us stuff they think we and our readers may enjoy:

It's as simple enough, but inspiring tale, and very 'Junkk'.

The Oscar of the title is a chap who takes in stuff that isn't working, fixes them and then gives the newly useful items to those who can most benefit.

I'm inspired and hope we can track him down. He may have some tips he'd like to share!

And maybe we can point some stuff in his direction that can help him help others.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Marvin has a point

Kids on a sleepover. Wife asleep. Waaaaaay too frosty to do that
gardening I'd planned, and with no heating in the shed my latest pet
project may need to wait a few more weekends.

So of course the best thing to do is overload my already fried brain
by surfing around signing up to a bunch more newsletters. It really
is amazing what's out there if you start looking at odd links tucked
away on more frequently travelled sites.

And one thing struck me. We are not alone. At least when it comes to
the dreaded registration confirmation issue. Because having signed up
to various newsletters that politely advised that 'I would get an
email confirmation with a link to activate...'; I didn't. At least
until I looked in my spam filter. And there they all were.

What was funny, in a tragic sort of way, several of these had little
pleas to 'put this email sender address in the favourites folder to
avoid being intercepted', which of course I wouldn't have known about
had I not been up early on a Sunday and looking at places I don't

Life... don't talk to me about life.

Getting noticed for all the [your thoughts here] reasons

As you'll have gathered, I was (still am) a tad grumpy at the reaction of some news media to our little bit of Xmas PR. While it has to be admitted it was designed to get us some coverage, and did involve some resources, it's hard to grasp with getting told by one major that they're not in the business of free commercials for start-ups, and getting slagged off by another for wastage when the item sent was a paragon of 2cnd-usefulness.

So I had a certain sympathy for a couple who I read about who have announced... well, for reasons of derriere coverage let me instead quote from a publication, Grist, that quotes some publications:

"Leaving London this week, a pair of drivers set off on a trip around the world, pledging to use fewer than 50 tanks of gas, hoping to "show people that in these hard environmental times they can save fuel." By driving 14 hours a day. For 70 days. No wonder Shell is sponsoring them."

I have to say that when I first read about this, my eyebrow also twitched a bit at the logic behind the message, but you do what you think you've got to do, and in light of our experience I thought it best to keep it zipped to avoid seeming hypocritical. But we did take the decision not to share this editorially  as it simply didn't make much sense to us.

However I have to raise it here in this blog, because it certainly got a fair bit of coverage, and outside of more overtly enviro, and some might say insightful organs as the mighty Grist, there was little questioning of how exactly consuming all these resources (They are planning on using 'only 50 tankfuls, which is my Golf for two years, but there is the small matter of "Some of the fuel has already been transferred to depots along the route, while the rest will be flown out to other points of their journey at a later date... The couple will be accompanied by a crew travelling in two Volkswagen Passat estate cars, including an independent witness, a videographer, a writer and two mechanics") really is the best way to make this point.

Maybe it was deemed worthy thanks to the participation of that well-known non-start up, non-commercial organisation, Shell. Or maybe they have better PR. I wonder if this adventure was one of the Springboard entries?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Sail of the century

If am frequently, and correctly, taken to task by my colleagues for diving off on tangents. That said, if I didn't, would doubtless not have come to pass as it started off as something I felt I wanted to do that really had nothing to do with my day job.

Anyway, I just wanted to share an upbeat tale of something that happened today, that ended up being more than relevant to what we're up to.

Doubtless thanks to our attending some very "you went where?" exhibition, I was sent some magazine that should have gone straight in the bin but couldn't resist at least flicking though... 'just in case'.

And my attention was caught by an ad for a public speakers' agency (and as what goes around comes around, let me share their URL here because they were so helpful: - just make sure you have in mind telephone numbers first if you're serious), and more specifically the picture of Anita Roddick, of Body Shop fame.

We're still very much trying to think up ways to get 'out there', and though I knew the answer I thought I'd phone to see what it would take to get such a person to speak on our behalf. 

Well it should have been a very short conversation. But having got the small matter of 'if you have to ask you can't afford it' out of the way, I ended up in a delightful conversation with a lovely lady called Lucinda about what we were up to and who would be best for our needs (and budget). Sadly, the latter made this aspect of our chat quite short in duration , but I was grateful for her advice and insights.

But the great thing was that thanks to my 'brief' we got onto the subject of her brother, who is Robin Swan, and a rather accomplished fellow all round. Not least of which because he's renowned for such things as going to the Antarctic and clearing up the mess the various other bods down there can't be bothered to deal with and simply discard. So already there was a link.

But it gets better. Warming to a mutual theme, she also told me that he had sailed a very special yacht that used sails made out of old plastic bottles (check it out on . The rest of the site is worth a gander, too). How awesome, not to mention relevant, is that? So on further tangents I will of course be getting in touch to see if we can feature this on our site. 

Everyone will gain, including the sponsor... Coke. Now, what are the odds of getting hold of some relevant guys from there to whom we might pitch a worthy story to make this a tangent that also pays off, literally?

Ah well, you can have too much of a good thing. But... you never know.


I return here, briefly, to follow up on the proposed increase in incineration recently announced, which has stirred up a rather unsurprising amount of controversy.

It's because of some points I picked up following our being put on the Friends of the Earth mailing list, and I have to say that in amongst all the issues raised (from breathing a huge, selfish sigh of NIMBY-esque relief that if these things are plonked in a backyard, it won't be mine, to the one I shared before on how sending up more smoke didn't seem the best idea if global warming is our biggest problem) a few key ones they made did strike me.

For instance: Incinerators are extremely inefficient generators of energy producing more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than old-fashioned coal-fired power stations. That is a fact, if an FoE one, and I have at present no counter information to doubt it. This alone puts up big red flags for the wisdom of this approach. These things are also, by all accounts, very expensive.

But the big one for me is that they require long term contracts that force councils to continue giving waste to the incinerator company, rather than recycling it. For many, many years. It locks us all in to not only a dubious solution, but one that prevents embracing better ones.

This all makes me feel this is a policy that favours those with targets to meet, those working on juicy design, build and operate tenders... and few others.

With the caveat that it is a view from one side, albeit backed by some hard-to-dispute facts, I share the following as worth reading at least: (I've been meaning to ask Emma to create an info category for such issues for a while, so this is a good one to kick off with. But what should it go under? Waste Disposal? Pollution? To avoid being accused of bias I think maybe both). There may well be equally well reasoned and supported counter-arguments, so if and when we get them we will of course share these, too.

Less Fun on Sunday?

The curse of the Martin Albatross strikes again!

Sunday Times considers closing Funday Times kids' supplement

Typical. This was one of the 'influencer media' we'd targeted who seemed likely to feature and reach a relevant audience. I was a bit amazed that it had a staff of five. Shows why we are struggling here with only three of us to generate all the original stuff we have to create, plus acquire and sift all the rest. I hoped they find new homes soon, as I thought it did a good job of informing and entertaining.

It is interesting that it was not deemed to be attractive to advertisers. My kids certainly grabbed each week. I wonder what the reasons were?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tax needn't be taxing, unless the Govt. really needs money

Today my kids' rucksacks gave forth a letter from the school head, which in two pages' worth of 'exciting times', 'deserving the best' and a bunch more management speak, basically explained that due to money problems staff were going to be let go and class sizes going up. So as you read, I am busy drafting a 'Cross of Ross' for the nationals under the title 'Education, Eddukation... er.. EdUkayshun'.

Because you do tend to wonder where the money goes. And why what people say they'll do... doesn't.

So it was with slightly more than the twitch of an eyebrow that I read that fuels such as biodiesel are getting taxed.

This surely cannot be right, for all the reasons explained in the article. But it just as surely makes sense, as it has not missed the number-crunchers' minds that the more 'we' do move to less taxed, more environmentally-sound fuels, the less revenue there will be. Our Government is probably the one with the biggest 'can I afford to be green' dilemma of us all.

Speaking personally, I'm still debating an LPG conversion, and the main thing delaying my decision is that the calculations are pretty tight, and if the price gets bumped up much more it simply isn't worth it. And with a poor history of doing what they say they will,, or worse retro-actively clawing back costs,  I simply don't trust what I'm being told any more.

And you can't buy back trust.

Burning Issues

This is certainly one that needs to be in the form of a question. Last night the news was full of the fact (well, as seen in documents) that Waste incineration is 'set to rise' :

It's not too surprising that this is a favoured option as all those holes in the ground we used to lose the stuff are full.

As I prepared to leap around with my 'how the heck is burning stuff going to help ease global warming????!', I was placated a tad by the promise that the solution would be making "energy from waste", a process in which incinerators are used to power electricity generation plants.

Beyond all the issues about nasties up the pipe and left behind, I must say I had my doubts. I know most things can be made to burn, but how efficiently.

I do note that Friends of the Earth labelled as "myth" claims refuse can provide green energy.

And that DEFRA refused to comment on the report.

So... what is it, chaps? 

Made ya look!

I was very disappointed, not a little angry, somewhat worried (selfishly, on behalf of and totally unsurprised at the news that blackmailers had targeted with a web attack the site of a student, albeit now a very rich one. 

Alex Tew had created The Million Dollar Homepage, which in four months did exactly what it says on the URL. Best of luck to him.

Now it seems some extortionists have followed through on a denial of service threat since he failed to succumb. Good on him. Bad on 'them'.

Heck of a good way to find yourself back in the news though. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The rich are different to you and I...

The usual conclusion to this is: '... they have more money'. But I
am wondering if it could not also be said: '... they'll always find
some willing media to be taken for a ride.. and drag us with them'.,,176-1981516,00.html

It was a fluff piece about a super rich couple, and could be
discarded as such, but as you may have gathered by now I have a
slight problem with people in glass (or in this case crystal) houses
heaving bricks around. Especially with the support of the same media
who give us a hard time trying to get coverage 'as they're not here
to advertise new business ventures'.

But as these guys have cropped up in the same paper before for their
'environmental' views, I wondering what is being served here by
pandering to them. Other than a nice trip.
In case you can't access the link, as 'part of their launching
themselves into London society', this couple invited paper to join
them, and to hear the lady partner's “strong views” on animal
welfare. Their planet-saving efforts did not seem to encompass
avoiding flying at the drop of a hat, and they don't 'do commercial',
so let's hear it for the greenhouse gasses by using a private jet as
a taxi.

At least they plane-shared with the journo, which is nice as we're
told that for the property whose purchase that this jaunt was all
about, 'energy must be provided by solar panels and the pool
naturally cleaned with marine salts, not chlorine'.

If it were not tragic, it would be funny, which it also is (at least
they came off looking like complete... well, you decide). But just
what... are we mere mortals supposed to make of this? Why are we
being subjected to such people as examples of worthy eco-behaviour?

I know more down to earth stuff can be less entertaining, but I
really feel there's too much on the facile attempts of the uber-rich
to be green, and not enough on how more normal folks can really make
a difference.

Here's a standing invitation to Ross-on-Wye to see how I'm making a
clamshell rucksack out of a vacuum cleaner if anyone's interested. If
you take the train we'll pick you up at the station:)

Swings and roundabouts

As we hone the website's new pages, I am thinking that a lot that I share here will start being featured within the relevant category on the site. 

So for a kick-off, where would be best to put this, which is an interesting piece (from the US, but still more then relevant) from one of our many daily online surfing expeditions, about insurance for hybrid cars:

Well, it certainly makes sense for us to start creating a section (sorry Emma, when you get time) on Hybrids, as we do refer to them a lot and they are 'topical'. But I certainly had not imagined that would ever stray much into the world of insurance. 

But, of course, why not? And this article shows why.

We're all about incentive-based ways to re:ward consumers into better environmental practices as a sound marketing activity. So... corner the green £'s insurance money by cutting a deal on driving a hybrid.

But as the article cautions, be careful of any claims made. 10% off a loaded amount doesn't help much. As with green energy and a bunch of other 'green' schemes, it can often be hard to figure that the only thing that's getting saved is a dodgy marketer's kids' college fund.

We're all doomed. Oh... no... we're not.

Well, Prof's little bombshell was never likely to just drop in the pond without a few ripples.

I must say it certainly got a few of the Forum pages we play with quite excited, unsurprisingly. Not to mention the media, though it seems to be restricted to an unsurprisingly limited few of the majors:

Anyway, to counter the downer of yesterday's commentary, here's one to cheer you up: Tony Juniper: There is no reason to despair Signs of climate change do not confirm that the point of no return has been reached

Mr. Juniper is another hugely experienced and well respected individual in this arena, so we must also take him seriously.

Thing is, and as the title above pretty much covers it I don't propose to analyse his piece in detail, we now have two eminent, concerned voices saying pretty much two different things - not about what's happening, or indeed why we need to address them, but the consequences.

I tend to err on the side of Mr. Juniper as there really is no other choice. And what I do like is that he shares areas of positive behaviour, though again they still tend to feel somewhat remote from the point of view of this person in the street.

What we do need to ensure is that people don't 'give up'. Which is why this article on the reaction of the green community (as opposed to..?)  to Prof. Lovelock's piece is worth scoping:

It's quite interesting, as I have often felt many of 'them' have alienated the public with a rather unremitting diet of 'we're all doomed' messages. Now they are in the position of saying 'it's not quite that bad yet'. Quite correctly, if it were then we might as well just kick back and go out with a bang.

I do note this, however, from Mr. Porritt: "If there was one scientist you would listen to on a proposition of that kind, it would be Jim Lovelock. Is he right? I simply don't know. I'm not enough of a scientist to make a judgement. With many people you would be tempted to dismiss the idea, but Jim is different."

So maybe we're not getting quite such opposing views here as first thought.

As we are more about factual and/or objective information that can lead to positive solutions and/or actions, and stuff with which the consumer can easily engage, I tend to restrict's participation in such things to this blog (plus our entirely uncontrollable Forum) as it is still all so up in the air, and frankly there are many out there who know much more about it. But it doesn't stop me having concerns, and an opinion. 

That said, debate my be healthy, but delay could be deadly, and that makes me part of the problem as I see it.

So, when I look at the amount of resources I am consuming with what is, basically hot air, I think it may be better to focus more on doing our little bit in promoting lots of little bits that cost nothing (in every sense) and can cumulatively help a lot.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dying to have an opinion

Though not strictly ENV/Rec in nature, by virtue of blogging before on the small matter of eco-fatwas I was disturbed, and hence now feel moved to write about the following in the Sunday Times: 

Morrissey supports animal rights violence,,176-1986256,00.html

In a nutshell, singer Morrissey, who is a vegan, it seems has publicly backed violent attacks by extremists against scientists and companies involved in medical research using animals.He has also turned his attention to chefs Jamie Oliver and Clarissa Dickson Wright, labeling them enemies of the animal rights movement. I think they killed what they ate. As opposed to all his fans who get it in polystyrene trays from the Superbutcher fairy.

It feel really sorry for all who cop such unfortunate attacks, especially the latter because they are only doing what the rest of us do, if perhaps with darn sight more honesty.

Fortunately, he has not seen much support for his stance, even from animal activists.

Where familiar, and worrying, chords got struck was where he apparently claims he approves of dubious tactics because “you reach a point where you cannot reason with people” , going on to claim: “Intelligent people who are forced to act because the law is shameful or amoral.” That's what the vote is for.

I fear this is some warped justification we may see coming into play in the environmental debate, only adding to the distractions to actually finding areas of consensus and doing stuff.

Whatever we die of, it surely should not be for disagreeing with someone who thinks they know better than we do what's good for us.

Is neutrality enough?

If you were being borne down upon by an aggressive, threatening enemy, would would you like on your side? Switzerland? Or the USA?

I just ask, because I have been wondering if the cause of neutrality (which I was going to say is at least better than nothing, but of course is sort of, by definition, just that), is often enough.

What has inspired me to ask is nothing quite as global as world wars (and Iraqis may have a view on the answer I allude to above), or even Kyoto, though it is sort of related to the latter.

It's just that every day we get several PR releases from major businesses trumpeting  that they have gone carbon neutral. Usually this means they have at last stopped chucking their paper in the landfill or donate their PC's to the requisite worthy causes. On occasion, they have facilitated staff doing something helpful. But it just all seems so internal. Even when there is an outreach of sorts, it usually some bit of PR tokenism like supporting the MD's wife's hairdresser's dog walker's eco-consultant's fun run.

So we tend to say 'well done', and not mention it in our pages. It's simply hard to imagine what possible interest it would have with our readers... who are not dissimilar to their existing and/or potential customers.

What always seems to be missing is the next step. It's a bit like every bit of plastic, cardboard & paper product I use having an arrowed triangle on it with mysterious numbers inside. The maker has done their bit, can point to such commitment at the CSR section of the AGM, and then forget about making it really, truly, madly, deeply, mean something that the public can and will respond to. By telling them, helping them and guding them to use such efforts in a positive and mutually-beneficial way.

So please Mr/Mrs/Ms blue-chip PR person, next time you fire off something about what you are doing, spare a thought for how it could be made to make your public work with you to make things better.

Maybe we should call it Carbon Positive. That... I'll buy into.

Just call me Mr. Albatross

Ah well, it looks like we are going to get consumed in a ball of flame after all, so I think it's important some deckchairs get re-arranged.

Actually the title comes from an uneasy feeling I have that when I support someone they end up crashing and burning. If the reverse is true, i may have a career opportunity on hand.

This came about because over the weekend, and now this morning, one Mr. M. Palin has hit the news.

Readers of previous blogs will recall that I had allowed my eyebrow to twitch when he had a go at one J. Clarkson for filling our screens by driving cars around, but didn't seem to see how that may not be much different to flying hither and thither in airplanes to entertain us in simply another way with escapist antics few can afford but delight in dreaming about.

However, having penned a more reasoned piece in his capacity as Prez of Transport 2000, I was erring on cutting him some slack.

Somewhat presciently, I ended by wondering if the editor's blog on the T2000 (isn't that the heartless killer robot in Terminator) did not bode well.


Globetrotter Palin brought down to earth by eco-lobby

It would seem his defence is that his adventures reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging people to remain on their sofas. However, with a thing called the 'Palin Effect', whereby he has inspired more long distance travel on the part of the consumer than just about anyone, that may not quite fly (ahem). And even I can ponder a detour to Nepal to climb K-serasera en route to Singapore; whereas the purchase price, insurance group and fuel consumption keep a Bugerrati XLS 1000i firmly in my dreams.

Apparently, though it is also denied in the reports, Transport 2000 has grown increasingly embarrassed not just by his journeys but his attempts to defend them. No kidding.

However, Stephen Joseph, director of Transport 2000, has said: “Criticisms of the travelling he does as part of his job miss the point. You can’t make a travel series in a London studio unless you want it to turn out as an Ealing comedy.”

Equally, you can't try and run a business in our part of the West Midlands unless you drive a car. Which is why I get a little frustrated with the sanctimonious, 'my agenda is better than your agenda'-driven finger pointing that ends up with nonsense like this going on all the time, leaving the average Joe in the middle.

Anyway, if you have to ski in Verbier, the Times also printed a link to a way to do what you want in a slightly better way than previously. I wonder how many of those taking us to task actually do?

I don't like Mondays

This from today's Independent:

It's a commentary by James Lovelock, the originator of Gaia theory. It does not make pleasant reading. He has his detractors, from both sides of the environmental debate, but it's hard to fault a lot of his logic, let alone opinion, and anyone who figured out global warming 20 years ago (when I for one was deciding between the Aston and the Ferrari as the car I'd most like) has to be worth paying attention to. 

Of course, this all does coincide with a book 'The Revenge of Gaia', published Feb. 2 by Penguin.

I think it is a least worth reading.

My 20% is better than your 20%

I'm simply being naughty here. So I apologise in advance for what is
perhaps more than an eyebrow twitch at what's possibly still a BTN
(better than nothing), though it still most certainly also struggles
to satisfy my cost:benefit measure.

On TV currently is one of several high-budget commercials which, if I
recall correctly, or indeed much of anything, involves something
about doing 20% of something. Basically I think it's a don't waste
stuff message, involving switching off lights. So far, so ok, why
not? Well, apart from where the production and media funds could have
gone to better effect.

However, in one thing struck me as an example of what seems to be
'pet projectism', whereby one branch of 'this is what we are saying
you should do without much in the way of new ideas how to,
suggestions on paying for it or incentives to do so' takes it upon
themselves to prioritise the right thing as they see it.

I just wonder why the main protagonists of this ad, gambolling about
in what seemed like a leafy inner London suburb, needed a dirty great
big black 4x4 SUV to go about their planet-saving affairs picking up
loft insulation. It's more switch of a light; fly to Verbier for the
weekend. And no, it didn't look like the Lexus hybrid. I can see how
a Prius may have been thought too obvious, but it just seemed like an
odd message as part of the mix.

From print column commentary to broadcast commercial executions, I
can't help but feel a slight disconnect between what the media
luvvies of Notting Hill think can and should be done, and the reality
of the lives of the majority of those who need to share in the waste
reduction process.

Unless... it was deliberate. Wooo. Subtle.

Friday, January 13, 2006

At least there's always someone worse off than you

OK, it has been a so-so week and today's fun and games with a few of our glorious media partners inspired that last, less-than-sunny rant.

So I have decide to share a bit of pure and simple fun.

Many will be aware of Dilbert, the iconic comic strip by Scott Adams which has been skewering with laser-accuracy and consummate wit the idiocies of corporate life and behaviour for years... lots of them. How each day he comes up with one that is both bang on and makes me laugh out loud is a wonderful mystery.

What many may not be aware of is you can have it delivered free to your desktop:

I guess his model is that you will be attracted by the associated merchandising, etc, but whatever it is I salute him, I thank him and I will help him any way I can. Like here.

Humour is the only way to stay on track in this crazy world.

Mystic Martin

Poor Emma. Today marks a full week since the last of our final installment of The TwelvE-ways of Christmas mailing, and having allowed enough time she was calling up the various journalistic recipients to make sure they simply had received them. That's 12 envelopes, 12 1st class stamps, 12 CD holders that all turn into calendars (well, except for £1.44's worth of 2sqcm paper - making this worth a visit - and some recycled/clable paper) and a Folda Holda that turns into a CD Tower.

But there had to be one joker in the pack. As I predicted in my Blog of Dec. 15: "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."

Yes, dear reader. To a girl who was only asking to confirm delivery, this environmental defender of the faith had to get on his high horse and, having been offended by the massive 'waste of resources' we'd subjected him to, moved on the preciousness of his time and thus, as a consequence, his consigning as not worthy of his attention anything that obviously has to be passed across a table in the required manner during a taxi-accessed, expenses-covered luncheon at The Ivy, or in a lobbyist-funded lap-dancing bar in Bangkok, having flown half-way around the world to hear a bunch of pols trade statistics with a bunch of eco-warriors.

This from a publication whose Sunday edition more often than not runs a series of specials when they could easily do it all in one, for the simple reason they want to keep us on the hook. And by virtue of having my address send me skip loads of 'we think you'd be interested in this' tat.

And, in the hushed tones of Yoda, there 'was one more'. For different reasons, but again we've had this one before.

She actually liked the site, but her paper 'was not going to run a free commercial for us!' For heaven's sake, we are free to the public, with a wealth of useful information, advice and opportunities to make a positive difference. Do we at least not warrant being brought to the attention of their readers?

And this from a medium that will commit acres to such pressing public concerns as a restaurant whose gimmick is they serve you in the dark (lower lighting bills I guess). But don't they charge for the meal? I rather think they do. And are Toyota giving their hybrids (I still can't figure the plural of Prius) away? The only difference in commercial model is we don't cost the public anything.

How I hate being right. What a bunch of hypocrites. Probably a good job it was not me on the line, as we may have got coverage for all the wrong reasons. But we need them more than they need us, so I won't name names... yet. But again I doubt they'll be reading this. If you ever do, you know who you are, and shame on you.

I rather think we'll quietly cut back our efforts at trying to engage with the anybody that thinks they stand a bit higher than the rest when it comes to the environment, especially when they set themselves up to speak for us, or to us, with such attitudes.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Blogged Down

Not my day with blogs.

Here's another experience of a niggle, and I truly hope our site
doesn't do the same thing to anyone, as it does seem prevalent
because we've had it a lot when signing up (or at least trying to) to
various newsletters, etc.

The irony is that this time I was trying to get on a blog networking
site. Again free, so it's hard to be too grumpy.

But of course it had a registration, and of course there was a
requirement for a username in addition to email, passwords, etc.

Fair enough.

But I have a very unique user name, so having got to the end of the
form it was not happy bunny time to have the whole thing go back to
square one because: 'User name already exists'. Pretty unlikely, but

So I tried again. Only this time the same thing happened because:
'email already exists'. I don't think so! I suspect it had logged my
previous attempt, but now I couldn't apply with my own email address.

With luck they will sort it out as there was a contact form, but...
sheesh. As I say, if we do it to you on sorry!

It reminds me of a time I had an online account with BT that required
a password, and it kept rejecting all my attempts, no matter how
obscure and how much I jumbled the letters and numbers up.

Eventually one worked. But I was well narked by then. So imagine my
embarrassment at a later date when I was discussing the account with
a very nice telephone support lady who asked for confirmation of my
password, which was: BTsuxbigtime4wastingmine. Fortunately, she
thought it was funny.

Stop press!

The previous one was sent in by email, but I'm adding this subsequently via blogger using Firefox. Hope it works!

No sooner had I sent this blog off than I got a confirmation from the site I was now subscribed. Go figure. This has happened before, with an error or failure message actually itself being in error. Trouble is this often results in repeat attempts and all sorts of fun creating duplicate entries without realising it.

Oh, and I also got a very nice email from the admin guys syaing they had got my feedback and would respond shortly. Hope they won't think I'm a nutter!

The importance of being Martin

As a Martin, I am always drawn to anyone who shares my name. I actually get two cracks at it, because it is my surname, though of course there are many for whom it is their first name.

One such is a chap called Martin Lewis. He runs a website called Money Saving Expert, and perhaps as a consequence of this (or it may have been the other way around) is a regular feature on a variety of broadcast outlets, such as Radio 2. He is very popular, and very successful (probably as a consequence of the former). 

No wonder. He offers a lot of very useful free, money saving advice. I have to say that I find his weekly email newsletter a chore to read in layout terms, and the site is if anything even more difficult to get grips with (don't get me started on trying to figure out the Forum pages, let alone participate), but an audience of several hundred thousand is not something to be sniffed at, and he is to be applauded for attracting, and helping, so many.

Without him, I would not have found out this week about , which does just what it says on the tin. Got me to the cheapest fuel in may area right away. I also liked the fact that they did have a lot of additional extra info that are of relevance to our mission, so I have written to see if we can hook up.

Martin is another one we wrote to to do the same, and invested one of our TwelvE-ways of Xmas packs to do so. But by golly he has some firewalls and gatekeepers in the way, so I am hoping our message will get through.

Blog (below) standard

Writing this on a website that provides neat, free stuff makes it a
bit rich for me to grumble about another similar entity, but the
blogger I/we use for this very blog can be very frustrating at times.

When it works, it's great. But when it doesn't, it is hair-tearing
out time. And at the moment that's proving almost daily.

For one thing, it seems to be totally schizophrenic depending on
which browser I use, be it for reading or uploading. IE, Firefox,
Safari, Mozilla... all produce a different result, and seldom the
same one twice.

Sometimes I can edit, check spellings, play with type, add a picture
or insert a URL, and sometimes I can't. Often the feature to do it
isn't even there, or on other occasions it is, but doesn't work.

For this reason I started using the email upload feature, whereby you
create the blog as an email and 'send' it off to be published. This
has worked reasonably well, and at least enables hyperlinks, but you
still need to go back via a browser to add pictures. One frustration
is that if I create in Word (to check spellings), and then import as
an email, what uploads to the blog can be a real mess.

But lately even this is playing up, with typefaces bouncing around in
size and shape like yoyos. Often they appear off the blog format
screen. And when I try to correct them via the admin section, I end
up with a screed of code that is impossible to decipher. And the
latest quirk is sending it off only to find it never gets there. So
one day three will doubtless appear at once.

The long and short of it is that until I can bring this blog 'in-
house' (meaning money we don't have to spare), please bear with any
oddments that we can't sort our end. Including things like sloppy
spelling. I can see them, but I can't sort them out.

I wouldn't mind, but 'they' do have a help desk, and I have tried to
use it to resolve this, but no one has yet answered. As anyone using knows, we do try and answer with issues on the site, and as
quickly as possible. So I can't figure why you'd have such a feature
and then not live up to it.

Now, let's see how this comes out onscreen. Fingers crossed!

A million housewives every day...

...knock back the bubbly, way hey!

Apparently, Sainsbury's sold more bottles of champagne than tins of
Heinz baked beans over Christmas.

The rest of the article goes on about all sorts of marketing and
affluence-related issues.

But I just can't get the fact that booze outsells a family food
staple out of my mind.

If you buy into some woods today, you're in for a big surprise

Let's start with some good news. It seems that to my growing list of enlightened media (with the exception of The Economist, who have just announced their updates are going paid subscription. Boo) giving at least some measure (extent and/or duration of access tba) of free access to information I can add the Guardian. At least I can now add a new political and social balance to those news feeds I have traditionally had access to (Telegraph, Times) and used (mainly by virtue of being delivering daily to my desktop, free... and with archive access), and whose news and opinions have doubtless shaped, if not influenced, some of my factual knowledge base... and possibly opinions. 

Now it kinda goes downhill from here. The Guardian is not what you call enviro-sceptic (no op-ed's from Jeremy Clarkson I'd hazard, though I'd bet a small nuclear plant he has something to say about the following within the week), so the front page I saw in the newsagents this morning stopped me dead.

Anyway, I came straight to the net to read more, and was greeted by this e-version, which was equally striking:

Global warming: blame the forests 

as it goes on to share, in what they deem a startling discovery, living plants may (let's cling on to that word for now) emit almost a third of the methane entering the Earth's atmosphere. And methane is not helpful, warming-wise.

In what I'd say was masterful understatement, they go on to opine that it will also intensify debates (ya think??! I am braced for a reaction from 'interested parties' which will make the reaction to the Beeb's landfill expose look tame) on whether targets in climate change treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol should be based entirely on carbon emissions.

In an associated very interesting fact, bearing in mind my target-based systems phobia, is that suits like these  because, surprise, surprise - they are easily measured. Taking sinks into account is less popular, even though they remove carbon from the atmosphere. But they are more difficult to measure. So.. it may be wrong, but at least it gives us an easy result. Nice career if you can get it.

Before your break out the chainsaw, the report doesn't see planting forests as a bad idea, thank heavens, though that seems at odds with the headline to me. Author Dr. Mahli at least feels that "Putting a tree where there was no tree before locks up a lot of carbon and this [new research] perhaps reduces the overall benefit of that by a fraction". Phew.

However, on balance I must to confess to a having felt a bit of smug 'toldyerzoism' momentarily, but for all the wrong reasons. I just have a major niggle about the culture of keeping on doing stuff and buying off the guilt by whacking a tree in the ground to compensate. It seemed/s the wrong way to tackle things, sending a compromised message, and looking all too easy to fall into the hands of every shyster around trying to play it for what they can get. 

But I have alwasy felt that greenery.. was good. And I'll take some convincing I need to cut down my back garden and turn it into a forecourt. But John Prescott must be thinking the rapture has come, so look out Sussex!

Anyway, this blog is more often than not a way to see policy getting shaped, and this is a case in point.

On balance, we'll stick with reading stuff, sharing what we think is for real and valid, and let you decide. It isn't exactly the purest journalism (we don't, yet, have the budget to maintain 'Our Man In Havant'), but then I don't think very much of what the mainstream reports is either these days. We all see an item, maybe follow up, ask a few questions (but often not), and then whack it up there and see what happens to the ratings. 

At least this report was by a team from the Max Plank Institute (supported by an expert from Oxford University), published in Nature and picked up by various news organisations, including the Guardian, and thence via me to you here. And that's not a bad provenance chain, at least for the facts. I'm not quite so sure about the interpretations and/or reactions.

However, at least we will keep on sharing such stuff with a sprinkling of eye-twitch, a hint of 'is this really the case?', and wherever possible with a counter view to put beside it. But I do think we're going to play down our focus on the information side of such issues, at least in areas such as climate change. For one, a lot of other, bigger guys are already doing it. And frankly, it's just getting us in a spin, so I can only imagine what it's doing for those with less chance to collate and review the various resources daily. First something is good, then its bad. Where the heck does that leave you to do for the best?

But mainly I think we'll focus a tad more on doing what we are desingned to do best, and I know can only help: which is try to reduce waste and promote efficiencies through end-benefit driven ideas, information in a form the general public can engage with and respond to, along with support and, where possible, associated rewards of saved time, effort and money. Sound like a plan?