Sunday, April 30, 2006

An Englishman's home is.. a government cash cow

I almost passed over this one - Council tax bills 'to rise by over 40pc' - as being irrelevant to an environmental blog (though I have strayed into Cross of Ross territory before, and doubtless will again), but if the amount in question doesn't have me reaching for an AK-47, then the principle will.

When we moved into our current home, it was a big, rambling wreck, and having assessed our ability to maintain it (by looking at the rateable value and making reasonable projections over our lifespan) we have injected a small fortune renovating it, using contractors initially to do the big stuff, and our own DIY efforts subsequently, when we had the skills, time and, frankly, no more money spare. There has been a lot done, with lots more to do.

Amongst other things, I am seriously looking at all the various eco-things we can do,. Now these are major capital expenses, with the benefits kicking in only after a period of many years. So it is only worth doing them if we are going to stay here... and reap the rewards.

This proposal of tying the tax to the house value in this way is therefore a double whammy environmentally. For a start I now fear for our ability to afford to live here, and certainly question any additional investment which simply raises the value and hence our ability to afford to stay here.

Is everything in this cursed country now designed to supress saving, effort and forward thinking? And all to fund the money-pit that is their parasitic, unproductive administrative systems, put in place to keep 'them' in power and clover, and rest of us under their thumbs while they concoct further ways of funding them.

Bloody, barking madness.

A sober view on oil and its alternatives

It's by an academic, so I guess it will end up simply being yet one more of millions of talking points to be endlessly debated, but I took the time to read the following and found it it an interesting analysis of the current situation and, more importantly, potential future solutions to our need for personal transport: Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense: the myths about high oil prices

The first section is a bit dry (ooh, the drink related hints  in complement to my headline abound), but then it does arrive at matters environmental.

And the author makes the very same point that I have being banging on about (if in a slightly different way), that high oil prices are not a 'good thing' for carbon emission reduction, because all that's going to happen (and already is) is the oil companies look around for other places and ways to hoik the stuff out of the ground.

His solution is ethanol, hence my title.

I have always maintained an idealist view of the whole thing, and would love to see hydrogen being 'the one', with no more than water dropping out the exhausts, so long as the small matter of making it envirofectively can be sorted out, plus the small niggle caused by my reading once that water vapour was also a greenhouse 'gas'.

But as it is a looooong way off, I'm coming round to this way of thinking.  Read this and maybe you will, too. It's not a cure, but it seems a practical way to reduce emissions, though I still wonder about swathes of country being mown down to 'grow' petrol, which as a matter of scale seems likely to put in the shade the whole valid vegetarian point about the amount of land required to grow crops vs. a cow in terms of feeding a person. How many acres of the Amazon to the gallon do you get?

Now, what do we do about it? For a start there's a bit to note about tariffs to bring ethanol up to a parity cost with four star and/or protect our local farmers. 

So we have to get the pols weaned off the notion of pleasing pressure groups and making dosh. Not an encouraging thought to start on present evidence.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A nice analogy is a joy to read... and share

I'm not usually one for jumping into the fray of escalating email exchanges, but I caught the tail end of yet another academo/journalistic spat about climate warming - A Tart Counterpoint To Ibbitson's Irrelevance - and without comment on who said what to whom, why and who has had the latest laugh, would just like to share what has been called a parable, but I'd say is simply a neat analogy for the whole 'who do we believe?' brigade who use the ongoing confusion as an excuse for inaction:

[You are] flying on holiday and the plane is ½ hour out over the Atlantic. Of 150 aerospace engineers on board, 90 say that there's been a fuel leak and the plane has 40 minutes of flying time left. It's time to turn around. The other 60 say that there's no conclusive evidence of a leak and [you] should not turn around because it would inconvenience the CEOs in business class. Who [do you] listen to? The answer seems clear: You listen to the journalist who tells [you that you] should really do something about the in-flight service.

The conclusion is also worth sharing: '[The] debate is about risk, not certainty. [We] might choose to listen when more than half the experts are warning of a problem that threatens our entire species'.


PC = Petrified of Consequences?

I had a call from one of the organisers of the MAD show yesterday. It was rather flattering, and encouraging for, that they sought my advice and a few useful leads on something. Though considering the topic maybe I am not so sure!

Seems that, as part of the show, they are setting up a debate on a theme of something like 'can we spend our way out of the environmental mess we're in?', I believe meaning Fairtrady, Ethical shopping, to which my immediate reply was 'of course not, as just about any consumerist activity we partake in can only add to the environmental consequence if what we are really trying to sort out is global warming as a priority'. Which would have put me on track for what they were looking for, which was someone to argue against the motion... except they needed someone famous.

But we did go on to have a great discussion on who may be suitable, and it proved very tricky, if not impossible, to think of anyone. Because, like me, those up for a bit of 'head above the parapet' debate don't really live lifestyles that would sustain the position, unless it was accepted by fellow debaters it was more from a philosophical standpoint -  guys like Bjorn Lomborg and David Bellamy. Best I could come up with is that guy (Ethical Man) from Newsnight's wife , but she turns out to be on a par with our household commitment-wise, or Swampy of road protest fame, though he's probably a local councillor by now, en route to a seminar on global warming in Bali. 

What was equally interesting was the number, and composition, of those lining up in support of the motion, to which I had to add myself, selfishly, because is in the business of advocating buying environmentally... if we must trade and buy at all, which in any consumer society on a planet of ever-expanding population we are fated to do.

But there were a few surprises in there, and in discussion with MAD it did strike us how few, even from the more activist end, are seeing merit in being confrontational any more, or at least taking a high contrast stance. In a way it's sad. The fear of being ridiculed or lambasted has already bleached the colour from most debate, but PC-considerations, now backed by draconian powers of legislative muscle in support, have rendered it all pretty much blank. 


Maybe that's why we're drowning in so much talk with so little do. Because unless the talk gives clear direction its hard to take action, so everyone just keeps on waffling.


Learn from history

I just learned about something from history that I though was inspiring, by stumbling across the fact that the other day was 'Arbour Day' in the US.

No biggie, but it does serve to remind us that our forbears were aware of environmental issues and prepared to do as much as they could to improve things through concerted public engagement and action.

Nanny State. Nanny Do.

Yesterday I was walking the boys to school (no eco-upmanship meant
here. It was lovely morning, we don't live too far away and I like
the exercise), with part of the trip taking me past the local council
offices. And I noticed one the 'officers' waiting at the bus stop
outside, I presumed to go to 'head office' at Hereford.

How laudable is that? By contrast, the same day my Mum's Health
Visitor dropped by... in her car.

Contradictions abound. On the one hand, are we prepared to accept
someone we pay essentially spending half a day traveling for work on
our behalf by taking public transport, or would we prefer them to
make the most of the day and their services to us by rushing around
in the most efficient (if not eco) mode of transport?

Sadly, the environment is usually something 'we' advocate as far as
we can, but often without wishing the requirements of actually making
a difference to our lifestyles impede the most efficient and/or
effective (will I be taken to task for these words?) ways of working.
In all the critiques of government policy, this is something to bear
in mind.

The biggest obstacle to making much difference environmentally is the
human condition, dominated by the need to compete. This, combined
with now instantaneous global communication and access, means that
you can't do much in your local sphere that sets you at a
disadvantage for fear of someone else not too far (or very far away)
gaining the upper hand and putting you out of business - be you a one
person band, a multinational or a country.

I could tell every ad client I am hoping to acquire that to meet with
them will take all day (and who pays for my time traveling?), but I
don't think I'll get many, or make much. Equally it is obviously
necessary to do something about air travel. But it can't be
unilateral. And the UK can do all it wants with emissions, but if
China doesn't...

I have not set myself up to say how this can be tackled at a macro
level (because I can’t see how other than by advocating some drastic
solutions which would be career suicide even to ponder out loud in
this PC-age), choosing instead to hide behind commentary and, to be
immodest and a tad more noble, a certain amount of small tangible
doing via

But there are those who do claim to be up to the task, and I don't
envy them. Especially as, so far, they seem to be making a pig’s ear
of it. I can accept the failings if they are honest, but just too
many are down to greed, self-interest, ego, vanity... (and a lot of
other less than complimentary words).

I really live for the big picture, blue sky statesperson who means
what they say, says what they mean, and can actually get the ball
rolling with something tangible.

Stand and deliver

It's all getting a bit hectic here, with the dust still not yet settled from the Ideal Home show, we are looking at Internet World early next month, and the MAD show at the start of the next.

And while our stands are considerably smaller and the display 'dressing' now well established and safely ready to be wheeled out, the amount of work still seems to pile on.

One is pretty much my own doing, because for Internet World I asked for a speaking slot as a condition of commitment, and now the consequences have come home to roost. Not just doing the thing, and hence preparing for it, but also having to get it all ready - about now - for inclusion in the various programme packs.

And while I have it all pretty much sorted out, getting into PowerPoint now as I hope it will be on the day is proving a bit of a challenge. For a start , things are moving so fast there are things i included originally that are already redundant, and new stuff that really begs to be included. Plus my Mac doesn't seem to want to cooperate too well with Emma's PC on this, and as she is the one who knows who the programme works, she's going to need to transcribe my notes into pretty, clickable screen shots. And she's away 'til Tuesday on well-earned leave.

Equally the commitment to MAD is accelerating a bit beyond turning up and looking pretty for a few days. For a start we have decided to take the opportunity to recoup a bit of the investment by selling some stuff on behalf of a few partners, and the logistics of that is a whole new ball game. 

Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

Having penned my initial feelings about Tesco's announcement of a £100 million fund to cut carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency, it has been interesting to see how it has been received. And on balance, so far it has panned out quite predictably.

The general mood across the 'green lobby' (the composition of which I am a little unsure, but seems, unsurprisingly, to be mainly those activist organisations with well-developed access to the media. It is important, as ‘they’ do seem to be allowed to speak for ‘us’) seems to have been cool, though in many ways not as cool as I'd imagined.

But some pols are happy. With, for instance Liberal Democrat spokesman on the environment, Chris Huhne MP, making a fair point that the amount committed by the supermarket was double the £50 million the Government had allocated to micro generation in its budget. 

I am currently ambivalent. For sure, 'every little bit helps', and £100m out of profits of £2billion is not that much when you look at what else gets 'invested’ in.

There is also the small matter of the balance between what helps them out (wind turbines do, eventually, reduce power consumption... and costs) and what is of any tangible end benefit to me as a shopper (though as a person living in the same county as several, reducing environmental impact is always a plus).
I just wonder how much impact we are going to see on what we get presented on the shelves, and spend our one in eight pounds on with every visit to the supermarket.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Ask not what you can do for your country, but help your country do more for the planet

There's little not to like about a charity gig. If you are a music lover you end up getting a load of great entertainment, often at a fraction of the cost. If you are a performer, you get a load of publicity, often at a fraction of the cost. And if you are the beneficiary, you get a load of coverage and money (assuming it does not all get consumed in expenses, no matter how generous the contributors' time).

So I cheerfully endorse all behind 'The Big Ask' gig.

After Thom's little spat courtesy of the Times a while ago, when his last tour's carbon costs were lobbed back at him, I'm sure this one will be a truly no-waste, no eco-cost deal at all. All turning up in Priuses and drinking tap water rather than bottled, and only snorting coke grown in Penge rather than flown in from Columbia. And definitely every effort to maximise the public access and financial contribution without tons of freeloading media luvvies and celebs hogging backstage going for a ratings/career-boosting soundbite about how they make sure their tour jets use biodiesel.

It reminded me of a 'green' (there's that word) event we attended, and at which First Lady PJ was to sing, where I read in the blurb that the sound system was to be powered by solar. As it was a night gig that was going to be a feat, and when I arrived sure enough about 3 40' artics had disgorged a lot of very big black boxes that had dirty great big cables running off diesel transformers. It would have been a very quiet gig without them, so I think one can get a bit carried away when you start worrying too much about 'cons e-quences'.

Not so sure about the 3% 'target' it's all about, as you know what I feel about targets by now, and it all still seems a bit vague to me, but as awareness building it's a BTN (better than nothing). I guess I'd just like to see more energy and effort going into motivating and educating folk with realistic tangibles.

Me, I'll keep on with looking for more end-benefits for the individual consumer with our gig: 'the small, but often, DO'.

Any colour you like, so long as it's....?

I feel sorry for the Green party. They bagged the colour (oddly left lying around by those who got first dibs on the others - though I do recall that in marketing focus groups it's not a good one for branding purposes), and have been banging on faithfully for years on pretty much the exact thing all the others have woken up to in about the last... er... week... it seems.

So now we have 'Vote Blue. Go Green' from the Tories! What's next? 'Let's not go into the Red' (as in 'consumed by ball of flame', though with Labour the more traditional fiscal allusion may not see this being taken up currently), and 'The Future's Bright, The Future's Green' (with due deference to the jumble of the Lib Dems and Orange in terms of colours, slogans, etc). What ever happened to Go Green. Vote... er... Green?

Frankly, I am worried that the trusty colour, and indeed term, may be losing its appeal and hence power. 

We certainly vetoed it for the website and branding, along with any swirly re-arrows, as we felt it was all too associated with actions and views that were not reflective of where we wanted to be (how ad-speak is that?) and what we thought the public we seek to attract and serve were thinking any more.

But with green being the new black in all but name, what the heck can we use as a colourful rallying call?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Piper Paying, part deux

I recently quoted 'He who pays the piper calls the tune' with an example of the exception that proves the saying, namely a lot of senior folk 'investing' money, which we pay them to improve our lot, a bit too much and too often in areas designed primarily to improve theirs.

Anyway, karmic balance of sorts is sort of re-established when one reads Asda suppliers rail at demands for marketing payments , though it does seem pretty extreme.

It seems the store's suppliers are not too thrilled at being asked to fund its marketing activities. I'm presuming this does not mean co-op ventures involving their products in the store, but a sort of generic tithe just to keep the store competitive overall against its rivals. 

I've blogged on this before, and it seems a lot of other retailers are jumping on the bandwagon. But it all does seem rather quaint. But also surprising, as one can only presume the stance being taken implies that the suppliers need the stores rather than vice versa, though one does have to accept who is paying whom. I guess this holds true if all the stores gang up, becuase if you can't see it you can't buy it. Which would be naughty, wouldn't it?

But I have to say that for my favorite brands I do go where they are available, and these days do tend to shop across a spread of big stores, especially as I am trying to 'buy local' and this gets me to a few more locations each week. And if that means I can only get my Ginger Ale at the Spar, so be it.

The future's bright, the future's... being squandered

We're not big on waste here. Of anything, and that includes money. 

So when I read something like this - Orange ditches £10m Animals work after a month - I have to shudder, plus the ad man in me thinking of the sheer amount of blood, sweat and tears that this would have represented as well.

I'm well aware of the importance of brand consistency 'n all, but I really hope the shareholders are happy at what the seemingly rather disjointed processes that were behind this lead to. And please god it was not just the vanity of some newly hired individual making his or her mark. Mind you, it may explain why each day I do see that another Marketing Director is 'pursuing other options'.

I can only imagine what could be done with £10 million, especially in the area of, say, reusing and recycling phones.

The enemy of my enemy... will stab me in the back as soon as they can

I am one of the few people in the world that doesn't use eBay (more than compensated for by my wife,  so the household is still pretty well covered). Odd, really, as I can only admire them across every level that has inspired its success. These include the consequential, and ever more significant environmental benefits, which I doubt were highest on the agenda from the outset, but are nonetheless very welcome now (except perhaps, by charity shops, who are seeing the really good stuff that brought customers in now drying up by being diverted for pocket money).

It is part laziness, as I can't really be bothered with all the negotiating and payment hassles followed by all that wrapping and sending. And I must confess to living up to my role as's LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) screener by simply giving up in horror whenever I dip in to see what may be available or how I might try to participate. To me, it is simply a bewildering zoo, and when we were debating our own site's shortcomings a while ago, it was so frustrating when I tried to cite eBay's failings vs. our own when all, quite correctly, pointed out that it didn't matter because they were an established, successful brand and people worked with it despite the... challenges. 

So I read with interest that 'eBay [is] rumoured to be starting 'anyone but Google' alliance (note well the word rumoured as I pass on this xth hand piece of ether-based gossip).

I must declare an interest as I really like, and use, Google. I also can see how their site/navigation works, and presume that it looked pretty much like this from the beginning, when they were not a major, successful brand. Ho hum.

The piece does point out that this (if it is true) is/would be a defence against Google's inroads into what eBay does, which I guess makes most things fair enough.

But I just don't like the negativity associated with that headline, whose provenance of course may not rest with eBay.

All I know is that when you make alliances on such a basis, it may be wise to look over your shoulder a lot. Which must be such a fun way to spend your day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I read an online column by a motoring correspondent/agony uncle who rejoices under the moniker 'Honest John'. He makes for a worthwhile read, especially as, like me, he delights in the odd punning headline and a rather light-hearted if barbed and eyebrow-twitchy style of commentary. ButI'm not sure if I have quite forgiven him yet for accusing me of being tiddly once when i wrote to him (at least he wrote back).

Here's a typical exchange that I do trust shows why I include him in my weekly reads for this blog and's growing store of objective viewpoints:

Two drags Prescot

Six months ago, I paid £2,000 to convert my Land Rover Discovery V8 to liquefied petroleum gas, which then cost about 30p per litre. Since then, two things have happened to make me despair. First, LPG has shot up to 44p per litre. Second, Tesco has taken over two of my local forecourts and withdrawn LPG. I tackled Tesco about this, but it dismissed my concerns and waffled on about its green, bio-fuel credentials. It will soon be impossible to purchase LPG in some towns.
D.K., Prescot 

The price has gone up because, due to favourable tax treatment, the base fuel represents a higher proportion of the cost. Whenever LPG becomes popular, the price seems to go up. Funny, that. 

'Let me tell you a story 'bout a guy called Said...

... who stuck to his guns, and without meaning to be rude, said '!@$£ off' to pumping out crude. Oil, that is, black gold...

(with apologies to the Beverly Hillbillies).

I always wondered what I do, taking pot shots down from the bedroom window with the BB gun, if up bubbled the UK's only inland oil field.

Would I stick a cork in it and keep Mum? Or would I take the money and run (or become a hedge fund manager and screw everyone over. Why do these guys exist again?).

Anyway, it was inspiring to read in the following: Eco-friendly Belize wary of oil fever, that PM Said Musa has said: "We have to make sure not to skew the whole economy of the country by becoming dependent on oil," adding, "In everything we do, environmental conservation and protection is a central concern. We can't sacrifice that for short-term gain," 

But there are reasons for less optimism, if you listen to the head of the Belize Alliance of Conservation NGOs, who has said: "The country will close its eyes to environmental degradation when the dollar is flashed." 

Here's hoping he's wrong and Mr. Said sticks to his guns.

Black holes generate ‘green’ energy

No sooner do I/we get a bit of a boost about the quality of our blogging than I find myself caught with my 'blog pro' knickers round my ankles.

Because I've come across something I feel worth blogging about, but have no clue how best to credit it for alll sorts of 'ethico-legaloid-copyrighty-'it's the right thing tado-ist' reasons.

I first read about it in a nifty science summary newsletter called 'Science in the News', but the link was a tiny thingy that got me to an MSN site, but they in turn seem to have lifted it off a site called (which I do also subscribe to and read... usually, but missed this effort) who they link to but I can't see it anywhere.

Anways, as the only URL is from the mighty Bill & Co, here it is so you can figure out who to credit

Me, I just blog here.

And all I know is that I caught the headline Black holes generate ‘green’ energyApparently new study reckons these jobbies are the most fuel-efficient engines in the universe, and if you could make a car engine that was as efficient as one of these black holes, you could get about a billion miles out of a gallon.

There is also the small matter of getting to the filling station. Is it just me, but is the word 'green' being bandied about an awful lot lately? I don't mind reading such fun stuff, but let's not forget that energy, in any form, is only of value if you can acquire it for less (and that covers many parameters) than it generates. Which is a yardstick to apply to some closer to home.

I'm doing my bit!

Vindication! If from a slightly odd quarter.

Boys' toys are all very well, but a second-hand Volvo is better

'Producing a car accounts for more than 10 per cent of its environmental impact, so second-hand is better. By chance, I own the perfect second-hand blue Volvo if they want to buy it, but that wouldn't be as much fun as showing off their new high-tech gadgets.'

Me, I own a perfect-ish R-reg Volvo. What's more, it's as green as grass. I'm thinking of having a sign made up: 'The green, mean Junkk machine', and if anyone asks how its' green simply pint at the colour. The mpg is woeful, but I can't afford to swap.... yet.

It's funny, but most of the useful commentary (not to mention compelling environmentally beneficial information) seems to be from those in the media not directly associated with the environment. Which is, perhaps, why they better reflect what most of us are feeling.

MAD. And a little bit bonkers.

We're getting ready for our next batch of shows, and it's amazing the paperwork one has to wade through.
Oddly, now we are fast becoming 'veterans', and in the case of the next two they are at the same venue (Earl's Court 2, just like Ideal Home), what we are asked to do is seldom the same.
But we had to chuckle a bit with one fun piece of paper that has been uncovered for the forthcoming MAD show.
And that's the 'Telephone Bomb Warning Checklist'.
Not to be flippant about a deadly subject, but we were wondering if they were serious when it says to 'complete this form as you go along', or 'follow up your call [to the Control Centre] with a copy of this completed form', which has a list of questions such as 'What kind of bomb is it (type of explosive)?'.
I have read it. It will be somewhere on the stand. But even if we did have a phone I'm afraid I'd ask a few pithy, pertinent questions and possibly offer a few opinions to the caller before legging it to the nearest exit to tell someone.
But at least I now have my very own boxes to tick. And can only imagine what resources went into creating this form which, if I am any judge, will never be used by anyone, even if circumstances dictate, which of course one prays it will not. I'm just surprised there is not a fine for not complying.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Blog God has smiled a wry smile

Nice to share a bit of good news...
A wee while ago, in one of my tangential trawls off e-Broadway, I stumbled across a site 'Does what it says on the tin'-styly entitled, in confident fashion, 'Best of the Web Blog'.
Anyways, I had a gander at the environment section, and it certainly had a fine selection, including several I am happy to subscribe to already.
It's interesting to note that 'blog' spans a fair spectrum, as a few are more what I'd deem online magazines, rather than my preferred personal definition of a personal journal, but all are very good company to be in.
"What's this," you cry, "!!!!!?"
Well, yesiree. Because nothing ventured, nothing gained 'n all, I rather immodestly put Junkk Male RE:View up for, er, review, and have just been kindly informed as follows:

Best of the Web is pleased to inform you that the blog you submitted has been approved and added to the following category within the Best of the Web Blog Directory:

Your blog will appear in the directory after our next update, typically within the next 24 hours.

Thank you for helping to grow the BOTW Blog Directory. We are happy to list your blog amongst the best.


Best of the Web Blogs
Not sure who I thank, but if you're reading this: 'ta muchly!'. And to any who have passed this way as a consequence 'Welcome!'.
I think it is also time we had a little look at how we up our game 'feed' and promo-wise.
Not to mention getting on that 'Best of the Web' with When you're on a roll...

Back-scratching #101

It's nice when it works. And it's even nicer to help those who help us... help everyone.

So I am pleased to say that we have had our first 'mass upload' of data  from a major fmcg brand, and it is frankly quite a milestone for us.

Better yet, they have decided to gild that lily and attach ideas as well, with some really neat ones in the mix.

So a big 'thank you' to ecover, who now pretty much 'own' the 'E's' of the Ideas section for now.

I'm sure they won't mind us hoping that they soon find a few more joining them.

And we'll be doing all we can to keep spreading the word about them and their lovely products.

Paying To Promote The Piper, Who Still Calls Their Own Tune

I have figured out that it is pretty pointless (other than a bit of venting, which can be therapeutic) writing in to most media forums (though the Telegraph blogs do seem a notable exception), as the anonymity imposed makes the value of such effort altruistic at best. And the sheer volume of these things, and numbers contributing to them, has fast diluted any value I can assess in moving a view or cause forward. It simply serves to add to the media owners archive of nifty facts and quotes.

But I still can't resist writing to someone who at least has the grace to put a contact address on their work (mine is, even though there is scant chance of them replying.

At least, thanks to this blog, the words need not be lost, and can be preserved in a relevant environment. 

So here's a little something I just sent to Sunday Times Columnist Rod Liddle:

Re: 'Brown's African squanderlust' & 'Bin the rubbish bag police'

I have not long returned (if not recovered) from a month exhibiting at the Ideal Home Show (supposed theme: Recycling & Sustainable Living. Not.) to catch up on a few back issues of the Sunday Times and, naturally, your columns. It gave me the chance to read two in sequence, and though you may wonder how (or why), link them together. 

A real frustration, to this householder/consumer-as-source-of-funds at least, is the sheer amount of money being wasted in the name of cutting back on... er... waste. We are seeing millions of pounds poured into meeting targets at the expense of real environmental benefits, with quangos, and even commercial businesses being funded to duplicate each other and set up massive administrative systems, ad campaigns, etc, before much money actually goes where it could do some good. 

I'd prefer investment to be made in making it impossible for people not to be able to behave responsibly, and better yet see the value in doing so. Sadly this seems an less favoured approach, with predictable consequences -  News story

Before we start forcing anything or finding countless ways to fine, we must get the mechanisms, infrastructures and incentives in place first... and efficiently. The trouble is there is little being done to hold anyone accountable, much less take those responsible to task for so woefully failing to do so.

The problem is that we now live in a culture that values being seen to do something more than actually doing anything. And which rewards success but fails to penalise failure. It happens because 'they' know they can get away with it. Just like Mr. Brown.

Sure it makes a lovely photo. And for that, and not following up, relentlessly, is where most of the media must share in some of the blame. And while any copy highlighting an abuse may score a temporary rating point, then letting it pass simply makes one part of the problem.

You say in your piece Mr. Brown flew some hacks for this photo op. You mean the taxpayer paid (on top of the planet, unless they planted over Belgium to compensate carbonally - another story) for this???! 

There seems to be an addiction to squandering cash on hype over substance, unsurprisingly with those who do not bear the consequences of the commitments made to boost their status. ROI is often used in business as a fair measure of a project's value. And, simplistically, the checks and balances of someone paying for it and seeking to be paid back are fairly effective. When the return is not viewed as a financial gain against a financial commitment, the waters muddy. And it must be accepted that there is undoubted value in many worthwhile social enterprises. But what we are seeing more and more is the return being much more in favor of the commissioning individuals, or at least their empires (which is pretty much the same thing). 

And it doesn't really matter much whether we're talking rich western waste or third world poverty, one thing above all matters most, and that's overpopulation. Stick several thousand more homes on a flood plain in Surrey, and where their extra rubbish ends up (in a hole or up in smoke) is not going to be counterbalanced by savings elsewhere, no matter how many Priuses get made for them to drive. Equally, pumping money at any group that have little else to do other than that which comes naturally is unlikely to reduce their impact on the immediate environment's ability to sustain them.

Like you, I am no mathematician, but it doesn't seem too hard to imagine the closing gap between finite resources and an ever-expanding global consuming society. Especially as we now have a new component to the equation, in the form of the negative impact our consumption is having on the resource-production side, which serves only to speed the process up.

Malthus had a point. And it's looking like Mother Nature may be gearing up a few tricks to rectify the imbalance. 

We can't stop it, but we can reduce it. But not when it's being guided by politicians who view their legacy no further than the day they retire on gold-plated pensions, idealists who would prefer to be loved now than share in hard decisions (the benefits of which will only kick in when they're long gone), and populations who are easily seduced by a media that seeks the instant gratification of big ratings hits rather than the ongoing, campaigning effort that goes into shaping futures.

Truth & Consequences

Like most of us, I feel I was made to make things. Some do so more
than most, and more tangibly, and I guess I fall somewhere in the
middle ground of those who 'create' concepts, or words (or websites),
etc, as opposed to actually constructing a 'thing'.

And so it has been since the start of time. But now a rather odd fly
that has always lurked in the ointment has started to really make its
rotting presence felt, and that is the consequence of making
something, and especially in terms of its global impact.

For sure, it was only sensible to be concerned how one's new
invention would perform across all sorts of criteria, from safety to
economics, but there really was no question to the value of trying to
make it.

But now I wonder. As populations ever-expand, the potential for
people to dream up and then wish to see through their ideas will
surely keep pace. Which inevitably means the consumption of
additional resources to meet new demand, should it be generated, when
a successful product comes on line. And though I have no clue on
economics, I suspect that it is the only way for things to proceed
without falling into chaos.

I recall the dilemma of my ad agency's success, which I saw as being
like a shark (a fair analogy in other ways, too): to survive we had
to swim, and in swimming we consumed, which in turn made us grow. So
we had to swim and consume a little faster to grow a little bit more,
ad infinitum.

I know where I am going with this, and I don't think I want to make
the journey. But the sad fact is, thanks to the situation we find
oursleves in, I feel cursed by worrying about the consequences of
creating, which is a heavy burden to bear.

For most, ignorance (or at least blissful unconcern) is profitable
bliss, but I am not sure how long the system can sustain it as an


...further to my last blog: what will happen is that the whole thing
will sort itslef out, and by posting this, the others now appear.

I guess this is the equivalent of either Ctrl+Alt+Delete or, if all
else fails, janking the power out and having a coffee.

Oh (all's well that ends) well. Fingers crossed.

Out of Control

These are testing times. No, really. As many will know, much as I
admire anything that is useful, powerful and above all FREE, it can
be frustrating when it all goes pear-shaped and you have little
control over finding out why, putting it right or getting in touch
with someone who will help.

This latter is important. I am proud that we at are there
to help, and will get back as soon as we can when (not if, as
gremlins are inevitable) a cock-up occurs.

Sadly, this is not so true of, who I use for my Junkk
Male RE:View blog. I've just noticed that while the latest posts are
on the admin section of the site, they are not viewable.

I know from experience that there is no point asking anyone why (it
has to be admitted that they do run a slightly larger operation) or
what to do about it, so I am now working through the bowels of the
FAQs and Forums. Not the best use of my time.

I really wish I could get this under my control, as this is happening
too often. And unlike, if they don't care enough to make it
work or at least help me, then it's not really worth it. Sadly, for
now, money keeps me loyal, if critical.

Anyway, this is a test to see what happens. If this appears then it
will be a glitch and I'll just resend those that didn't make it
before, which will therefore out of sequence or get duplicated. Sorry.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Every big bit helps

I don't know if it says anything that I still can't recall if this actually Tesco's strapline.

Anyway, just saw a little snippet in the Sunday papers (in this case, The Express) that Tesco is going to invest £100 million in sustainable technologies.
The size and tone of the piece seems to suggest a slight eyebrow-twitch of their own, but to me it's a £100 million BTN (better than nothing) until proven otherwise.

Now, I wonder if they will still be getting public funds via WRAP, or might this generous organisation be persuaded to support efforts being conducted by those who don't already make billions in profit?

Because I have just read it a few days later and it would slot in a treat here, let me add this not disimilar set of thoughts on the matter from FOE.

And with another day, another viewpoint, this time from the business section of The Independent (answering my first question, and adding weight to my subsequent musings)...

"To counter the negative publicity being drummed up by lobby groups, there is to be £100m for environmental initiatives - everyone is clambering aboard this bandwagon, it seems - and some sort of "multi-pronged" community plan is about to be hatched in an attempt to make Tesco seem even more warm and cuddly than it already likes to think it is. In so doing the company plans to go beyond the rampant consumerism of its message to date of "every little helps"."

...and The Telegraph:

"With yesterday's annual result came details of a £100m investment in wind turbines, solar energy and geothermal power for its new stores. If this were a vacuous political statement to buy off the "green lobby" it would be a very expensive mistake. In fact it is simply the latest investment, and there will be more to come, in what in Terry Tesco's judgment will be the next big thing for supermarkets."

I'm kinda hoping they are on the money, as this means that at last business may be seeing doing the right green thing to be an opportunity. Breath is being held as we speak.

Cutting emissions

Just back from a long weekend break with the family visiting friends and relatives in bonny Scotland.
As it has a 2L engine, alarm, electric gizmos and lots safety features the Golf doesn't, we opted for the Volvo. And a very good job it did, too. Trouble was, ignoring wear and tear, etc, in fuel alone it cost us over £100. Because, ignoring the trip computer (which claims a potential 450 miles range at every fill-up, when I'm lucky to score 300), I just found it's doing 30mpg. And that's pants.
Trouble is, I think we're stuck with it. The small matter of the purchase price of a new one cuts out that option, and the trade-in for a more economical model puts us in very dodgy territory. At least we know what we have lavished on it in terms of servicing, etc. Which puts us between a rock and a hard place.
The nation's pols, however, do not have to trouble themselves with such concerns. But this of course does not render them immune from some dilemmas: Cameron pledges to cut car emissions
Just back from, one presumes, flying scag-loads of minions and journos for a photo-op in the snowy north of somewhere, the Tory leader 'will unveil ambitious plans today for a range of incentives to make hybrid or "dual-fuel" vehicles the norm on Britain's roads'. Great, unless of course you are popping up and down to Scotland, when they confer no value to man, bank balance or Mother Nature.
Trouble is, he has turned down the Government's offer of a petrol-electric Toyota Prius, which has of course got us into a flurry of ridiculous finger-pointing which gets us nowhere. Daft and divisive. And they wonder why we have given up voting.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Your World. Your (Well, the Independent's selection from its readership) Verdict. And mine.

Took me a bit of getting round to, but here I am at last at the positive, proactive manifesto following the Indy's big enviro splash.

Frustratingly, while the the previous editions are online, this one (dated April 3) does not seem to be, so I am reduced to copy-typing the ideas mooted, but fortunately (for my carpal tunnel if not the planet) there were not that many. I don't propose to go into the 'Fors' and Againsts' they listed, but rather will add my own, with comment, if they agree or differ.

Fit new buildings with solar panels or wind turbines

Sure, why not? And why not encourage the same on old ones? But let's just remember that there are 'issues', such as the article below this very suggestion in their very own paper, which reports 'the solar power industry has warned that it is on the brink of crisis as a result of governemnt incompetence in the awarding of grants for householders'. For guys like me looking at this as an option, not most encouraging. Plus for those in a whirl for a turbines, well, just make sure the house can handle it.

Label products according to their effect on climate

How twee. Why not? But given the choice I'd prefer the space be used to make the thing useful.

Force passengers to pay environmental cost of flying

More like forcing the world's governments to multilaterally force the world's airlines to cover that cost, which would then get passed on as a consequence to the passengers. Frankly I'm feeling more radical, as this smacks of just making the whole thing into a great big income generator like the congestion charge, with little end-benefit to the global environment, and a massive cost in socio-economic inequality. If these things are screwing up the planet as we think they are, and risking the ire of the travel industry, we just have to stop traveling as much. So I'd advocate trading in the right to fly, based on the individual.  How commy is that???! It's a zoo. It's not going to happen. We're stuffed.

Make energy-efficient light bulbs compulsory

Sure. Build in tax breaks and make their purchase a no-brainer. There are now designer models and even halogen spots, but they are pricey! By the same token we should be yanking baths and power showers out of bathrooms, too. Ironic, having scooted a few pages along to read an Indy correspondent ponder health and safety from the security of his bath. Just mentioning, is all:)

Encourage people to work from home

Sure. I am holding my breath. As I write, from home.

Use the law to encourage recycling

See many previous blogs. First get the ways to recycle sorted. Build in incentive-based systems. Next prioritise they real offenders vs. the accidental ones and prosecute on actual abuse and environmental impact and not the ease of prosecution and getting paid. Then worry about forcing.

Ban 4x4 cars from cities

And, while you're at it, anyone from the country, with bad back, the rich, etc. Daft & divisive. If it's a safety issue, prevent them from being built. If it's about emissions, then address fuel consumption through pricing. Same problem as flying. Daft and divisive.

Reduce packaging on products

Yayyyyyyy! Mind you, it may help to encourage products and packaging with a 2nd use. Whadyathink?

Ban patio heaters

I agree these things don't make any sense, but again it seems more damaging by being socially divisive than having any significant environmental benefit to warrant being one of the top 10 best ideas to help save the planet. For this reason it will doubtless have the greatest energy expended on it. Another war I will watch from the sidelines with distainful eyebrow raised .

And one that did not make it from the front page:

Make Public Transport cheaper to stop people driving

Well, ok. But in a relatively affluent country I'd say it would be better to make it really convenient first. A car is a mighty expensive thing, yet we still use it. Why?

Apparently all these ideas are being forwarded to the All Party Climate Change Group, led by Colin Challen MP, who I seem to recall felt his greatest cause a while ago was to have Jeremy Clarkson 'dealt with'. Ken Livingston is obviously on the bandwagon, accusing JC, and him alone, for global warming. Who pays these guys' salaries?I'm encouraged at how this discussion will pan out already.

So out of the ten I see the following:

Positive - Solar/wind on new builds - Cheaper Public Transport - reduce unnecessary packaging
Economic (dis)incentive - Flying
Advisory - Labelling products
Er, how? - More homeworkers
Ban! - 4x4s in cities - Compulsory energy efficient bulbs (ie: getting rid of those existing, and their fittings) - Force recycling - Patio heaters 

No mention of insulation, which I understand is a massive issue as we're talking domestics, Along with electr(on)ics with standbys, etc...

About the only thing I had much time for in the whole paper was much later on, with some chap called Miles Irving foraging the country for edible plants and then selling them to top chefs (ref given: I can't probably can't afford to eat at the restaurants in question, but it isn't hurting me, and is at least an example of actual doing.

Reality Hijacked

When I were a lad, your allegiance to a DJ was based on him (or her)
acting as a proxy for your tastes, haunting places you could not get
to and bringing you what was new, fresh and great.

Nowadays, massively overpaid talking celebrities are given a playlist
generated by a committee, the access to whom is limited by a murky
world of gatekeepers and those with the tools to gain access. Hence,
even in the supposedly egalitarian world of the internet, a back-
bedroom overnight sensation more often than not turns out to have a
label, a PR or at worst a brother who works in the BBC.

So I was touched today to get a an email from one of my new-found
Stalag Luft Ideal Home chums, pointing me at the paper-clip story
(which I had coincidentally already picked up on) and suggesting that
we need a similar 'gimmick'.

Sadly, while I can only agree, I had to opine that the problem is not
so much the gimmick, but rather the mechanism to get it circulated
virally in sufficient numbers, and within a short enough time, that
the next level of hired, connected fixer could persuade the media to
report it.

Little, if anything these days gets in the major print or broadcast
organs without a shove. And if you have enough money, you can make
even the most despicable of entities look innocent and part of the
'people's voice'. It's why we long ago gave up on music contests.

This was brought to mind by a piece in the Mail on Sunday a few weeks
ago (yes, I'm still catching up on my reading, along with my blog)
about advertisers who pose as young girls on chatrooms. Apparently
agents working for multinationals are using these avenues to pop in a
covert message or two hundred thousand.

So... what's new? It's sad, but inevitable. And the only real scandal
is the way so many play along, with unchecked quotes, gushingly
endorsed awards ceremonies and the like, based on such rigged nonsense.

Which is why we are not above asking a few loyal Junkketeers to
mention our name when they're on their forums.

When you're right you're RIGHT! When you're WRONG you're wrong

I need a filing system for my blogs. And a search function. I'm sure
it exists. And equally sure I can't afford one.

So I'll just have to allude vaguely to a blog or two 'a while ago',
inspired by a piece by MRW editor Paul, citing a major national
paper's policy of never admitting they were wrong. I was not in
favour of this approach.

So it was interesting to stumble across a small section in this
Sunday's Times, entitled 'Red Letter Days Limited', when it should
have been 'How we totally cocked up a story big time a hurt a bunch
of innocent folk by being sloppy and now arrogant'.

I couldn't find it on the online section (surprise) to quote, but
basically they have admitted that when they wrote the week previously
that said company's sales 'had collapsed' and it was failing, it is
in fact 'performing well'.

No I remember reading that original piece and thinking 'give that a
miss, then'. I'm not sure the correction I saw comes close to
repairing the damage done.

There is another way to throwaway

A nice little story about a nice little idea that became.... bigger: I've swapped my paper clip for a house...

Basically this chap just kept swapping stuff and gaining a little at each stage (gaining a lot latterly as the inevitable media interest and involvement pushed it to a new, and less genuine level. But I guess we wouldn't have known about it otherwise).

I really only mention it because of the comment by the reporter at the end of his piece: 

'I am somewhat distracted. My attention has been caught by a small blue plastic object on my desk. It is the lid of an old ballpoint pen. Once I might have thrown it in the bin but now I pick it up and turn it thoughtfully in my fingers. Today, a plastic pen top... tomorrow a villa in Tuscany.'


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Too good to fail

UK plastics recycling scheme quickly ends in less than half a year, because it  'was too popular, council says.'

Hmn. Wonder when we'll be asked to take the green glass out of the kerbside bin?  

Recycle, the possibilities... for making money are really all that count.

Now.. what if we could find ways to reuse all those caps, pots, etc. Now that would be an idea!

Things that make you go... do what?!!!!

OK, this one (from the Guardian) seems pretty clear cut: UK scientists attack oil firms' role in huge Arctic project 

Because it seems "The US Geological Survey is lining up a project with BP and Statoil to find oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, under the auspices of a flagship scientific initiative intended to tackle global warming."

Er, no. 

"But the head of the British Antarctic Survey, which coordinates UK activity at the poles, has said he is "very uncomfortable" with the idea and has questioned its ethical and scientific justification."

To blooming right!!!! We should not be looking for more of the stuff to dig up and burn. And not using weasel ways. Next thing they'll be coming up with under the guise of research  is hunting whales to eat.

Credibility Gap

One of the reasons I'd figured on our having a disappointing level of visitors at the Ideal Home show was the near lack of coverage. It dawned on us that with a name like the Daily Mail Ideal Home show, the rest of the media may not be too interested in promoting the event, and especially not any credible environmental journalists who may have been suckered in, like us, by the theme, to at least check it out, if not make any foolish mention.

So imagine my surprise to at last get to the Independent of April 3 (the day after the close of the show, which I'd purchased because it had the defeinitive 'Your World. Your verdict' manifesto of reader opinion on how to fight global warming - of which more, another time), and find nestling in its pages a small piece by their 'Green Goddess'.

I almost skipped it, starting as it did with something about her going for a spin with her eco coach, but my eye did catch mention of the show.

Seems she and he decided to visit. Though not mentioned, I can only presume this was not "press day', but somehow she felt it 'good to see [it] reflect the public's growing interest in green issues' which seemed straight out of the press release. Perhaps more accurately, it was interesting to note the cynical way any greedy business will slap green on anything to seduce an gullible public, who will have paid for entry before they becoming any the wiser, seduced by glowing reports from a compliant media.

They did at least notice and comment on the fact that the eco-areas were completely deserted, which probably would have included ours had they stopped by, but for some reason this was yet another journalist who missed us. It did however dawn on them that endless patio heaters and jacuzzis might not empitomise the best examples of enviromental good practice. Oddly, the majority of the half dozen eco-exhibits were plonked in the same area as these.

And, er, that was it.

Then she was off home to watch 'It's not easy being green', pitching for an urban version where a newspaper columnist is filmed going green in London. I'm not sure, but maybe Penney Poyzer has already cornered that, with the slight twist of using real folk. And at least she did not seem to assume that the rest of us would share in the notion of an eco-coach as the de rigeur accessory for the Chelsea. 

Even if this piece was satire, it passed me by. 

I will need to compose myself a tad before getting back to reading what the rest of the Indy readership have to say, which hopefully will be a bit more in keeping the the real world the rest of us live in.

No wonder we can't seem to get coverage. We don't move in (or is it disappear up) the right circles.

Super Campbell

Today seemed like a bit of an enviro-fest on the BBC brekky news, so
I was disappointed to only catch the tail end of a live interview
with Sir 'Ming' Campbell, leader of the Lib Dems.

But what I caught seemed vintage. Basically, Auntie's morning honey
vanilla of the day and he were trading blows on who did what to save
the planet, mostly revolving around his V8 Jag.

Anyway, it seems that, conveniently, yesterday he stopped using it.
Yesterday. Today he's on the news telling us that we must do
something about climate change.

I guess it is better than nothing, but had he not noticed there was a
small problem before now? And to lump him and Thandie Newton together
(no small feat), I did catch that he was not retiring it, but rather
selling it to the highest bidder. So it looks like he pockets the
cash for a 2nd hand motor, someone else may (or may not) get a bit of
a deal, and a gas guzzler continues its merry way.

I even heard the word 'Prius' being bandied about. I just hope that
it is not dug out only to pop up the motorway to a press call.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rubbish needn't be a dirty word. But it can be.

I awake to another glorious day (at least in Ross-on-Wye) here at Junkk Towers. That is doubtless bad for the water utility guys, and hence us, down the the pipeline - though I have managed to really stir it up with the council by asking what it would take to reintroduce the water wheel our property used to sport when it was a mill in the 17th century. Only this time the bread being made would be money, in the form of reduced energy, from the brook flowing alongside.
Anyway, it has been hard to resist being outside from dawn to dusk, and I have attacked the garden with enthusiasm. And it has attacked me back, as I now sport a few thousand bramble cuts.
But it has enabled to me to successfully test my latest creation, which is a device to get such high-volume, low(ish) weight material from the house to the local dump. And it worked a treat (see pix of Mk#1MP (for Manpower) trolley)! I must also commend the facility in question (I'll leave you to decide on the value of the trolley - which in addition to its (car, if not me) energy sparing features, also saved the vehicle interior fabric from being shredded), as the various skips were many, varied, and well laid out to maximise the recycled goods.
I just hope that having commited all this effort, it did all go where they said it would, which in the case of the garden waste was advised to be shredded and turned into compost.
If you watched Ch4's 'Britain's Rubbish' you may have reason to question, and simply wait 'til post 5pm for a nice little bonfire.
But these days I find myself also questioning the questioners, looking for a ratings-based agenda that may outweigh the news value. Though at a massive 4 posts on the forum attached to the site above, I don't think they'll be too excited by the response. I'll probably add this to spice it up!
This was another, near mirror copy, of the BBC expose that rocked the recycling world a few months back, and on which I blogged quite extensively at the time. I think then that what excised me most was that I doubted that much would happen subsequently, from any quarter, media or authority.
Well, one out of two ain't bad. The media have had another crack, and if anything this one was more grotesque.
Quite simply, a major Northern Irish recycler was investigated by a covert, secret-camera-toting reporter, and they were pretty much not recycling, rather just saying they were and sticking it in the landfill. Worse, they were importing stuff from over the border and doing the same, all at massive profit.
And yet again we had a few authority talking heads going 'oh gosh, we'll look into it'. My only eyebrow twitch was that, considering the programme title, this was only one incidence. Hardly 'Britain', and I don't mean to offend our fellow Brits in Northern Ireland by saying that. I just think to justify itself it could have benefitted from a bit more scope, perhaps referring to the previous Beeb effort and a few more, if they exist.
Where the programme did score was the area it dealt with more extensively, which was fly-tipping. With the reason, if not excuse, that it's getting worse due to some serious costs for legitimate disposal, this really was a fright. Really nasty guys doing nasty things to us all. And all because, it seems, they can.
This is where I think a good point was being made. There have been many regulations put in place, and mostly good ones, but it seems little in the way of trying to police them effectively. So we have the full force of the law being thrown at a guy who puts the wrong litter in the bin, and no one wants to deal with the thug who is committing vast offences to property and person.
And that, while more and more typical, is where Britain, my Britain of fair play and justice, IS now rubbish.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

3C, or not 3C, that is the question

It's all a matter of degree.

With no allusions as to left/right balance, we have this from the BBC and this from the Telegraph 'Too late' to stop 3C rise in temperature


I just hope that with all the inevitable hot air flying about that will continue, doubtless in more heated form following this, there may be a few that still see the value in avoiding unnecessary waste by doing our best to reduce, reuse, repair & recycle.

And, with luck, there will be some money to spare from the vast amounts that are getting thrown around thinking about it all, to actually educate and motivate the average person in a way they can, and would want to get to grips with.

But why do I suspect 'they' will still be dicking about arguing whether it's 2 or 3 degrees even when the cows have come home... with melanomas, only to drown in the barns built on floodplains. Serves 'em right for all the methane they produced, I suppose. 

We all have our ratings to bear

OK, that didn't take long: back to normal (though the brevity thing seems attractive as the sun peaks through this Saturday morn).

I was taken by the following: Crucify me? Sorry, I've changed my mind, which is about a 'Scottish DJ, presenter and tabloid columnist, who had travelled with a television crew in tow to the Philippines village of San Pedro Cutud to take part in the bloody annual re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion.'

You'll have to trust me that I have not edited out anything that makes much difference, but let me simply include the following, in sequence from the rest of the piece in question:

 "He is just after publicity," proclaimed Conrado Diamse, a local villager who has been crucified before.

Diamond said before setting off on his quest: "I'm in my mid-30s, I've got three kids and it's about time I did something that didn't involve cheap gags."

After his experience, however, he was less forthcoming. "He is doing it as a spiritual journey," said a Channel Five spokesman. "He doesn't want to talk to the press until closer to the transmission date."

I think that last one pretty much nails it for what it is, if you forgive the pun.

MAD* if you don't

It must be all this Easter talk of fluffy bunnies, chicks, lambs and chocolate, but here I am a) writing yet another upbeat blog, b) in succession and c) of short duration.

After the nightmare that was the Ideal Home, I am happy to say that things are shaping up much more promisingly for our coming participation at the MAD* show, at Earls Court, in June.

They seem much more 'our style', including the way they do things, on top of what they're trying to do. With a name like 'Make A Difference' and a quick zoom round their site, we are reassured that their theme will actually match the claims being made.

Here's the exhibitor listing.

One man's trash...

As a light-hearted piece for the holidays I rather liked this one:

Seems a Japanese couple narrowly avoided a domestic after the wife threw out £24k in notes hidden in a refuse bag. 

In the UK, that may have just about covered the fine for not recycling.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Egging us on at Easter

With us currently struggling to cope after a few setbacks (or rather some 'investments' that did not pan out as well as planned), I am glad to report one very nice thing that we learned late last night, that puts a slight spring in our step for the Easter break.

The lovely Janey Lee Grace, of Radio 2 fame, has written to advise that we are mentioned in her personal newsletter, which obviously goes to a highly worthwhile audience.

Thanks to her book, Imperfectly Natural Woman, which we were pleased to review having met her here in Ross at a book signing visit a while ago (and which subsequently went to the top of the Amazon best-seller list, which shows we know a hit when we see one!), she is fast becoming an influential force in the world of the (and I hope she will be happy with this description, which I take, and mean, to be a real accolade) 'light greens'. 

These are folk who are just trying to do their best whilst juggling a lot of commitments and family pressures, and who can often be alienated by the rather 'intense' pressure that can be brought to bear by those of a more target-driven or passionate bent. As our review noted, she very much embraces our 'style', which is more based on sharing practical, affordable ideas for inspirational 'doing'.

Here's hoping that we may soon welcome some new friends as a consequence of her endorsement.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It can often seem we're trying to save different planets

We subscribe to Materials Recycling Week, and having submitted it as an article, were pleasantly surprised to find my recent blog republished by them just now:

By Peter from

Latest: What. Where.

Peter,, 12/04/2006: I carry a powerful memory (scroll down at bit for full text)... 

What was not so great was to see a related earlier blog by one of their journalists, dated March 9, where she found herself '... pleasantly surprised by just how much emphasis has been put on recycling and sustainability in the home', in obvious awe of the celebrities she met, and whose stands (which, unlike ours, we rather suspect may not have been charged for, despite being very commercial, and well-promoted, high-end enterprises) she was obviously introduced to (two, ironically, just a corridor away from our own). 

Reason being that we are taking the organisers well and truly to task over the avowed theme, and this really is not going to be helpful. But it also highlights the disconnect that can obviously occur between what some organisations say and what they share (in PR, press packs, guided tours, etc) and what gets written, perhaps with the best of intentions, by journalists on tight deadlines. 

We know the lady in question, and she is passionate about the environment. Sadly, we do not recognise the show emphasis she described. I know it can be tricky to repay an invitation to a press launch with some constructive criticism (check out my review of the Dead Ringers story to see how I tried to balance my views whilst still saying what I genuinely felt, which was that it was an awful lot of money on something that didn’t really get to grips with all the issues it should have, doubtless making grumpy the show PR and all associated Gov, Local Gov and NGO types who get to play with the huge amounts involved).

There is a heady cocktail at work here, involving a lot of folk, and delicately balanced relationships between those who need, and those they’d like to be needed by. I'd include in this, big time, WRAP (who sponsored the Recycle Now alley, and whose cited participation in the marketing by the show sales guys was highly instrumental in our taking part). 

But perhaps most important is what the general public who visited thought of it all. 

I was there every day, and from those who came to the show and visited our stand (it is... interesting... that we were not one an environmental journalist was told about, came to (at least announced), or felt worth mentioning, despite being only one of a half-dozen scattered about in several hundred) it split into two distinct groups: those who had no clue the show was anything to do with environmental issues, and those who came because they had heard, found our little oasis, and shared our views that it was nothing like it had been billed, for exhibitor or interested visitor.

As a courtesy to the MRW editor (with whom we truly value our good relationship) I have called to tell him of our views and my intention to write this, and we have in a most civilised fashion agreed that it is all about freedom of speech. So here's hoping I can still articulate my views beyond these pages.

As part of our follow-up we will be continue to seek those of others who took part and visited, and it will be interesting to see the picture that emerges.