Friday, May 25, 2007

Building Bridges

As I am more in the habit of burning my bridges before I get to them, it is nice for a change to see some valuable construction work bear fruit.

Yesterday I was strolling back through town when I chanced upon an expo (well, a few stalls) in the Market Square, one of which was festooned with 'recycle now' banners.

Now, as may be recalled, I am a little chary of some from this sector, having felt to have been at best poorly served, and at worst rather dubiously treated by a couple of dodgy dealers of theoretically green-promoting largess in the past.

Anyway, fresh from swallowing my pride at Total Packaging, and with luck forging new and useful bonds with a WRAP big-wig, and having found a new soulmate at Eden Project (whose previous PR director treated me and our lovely Head of Prose and Comms Anita so shabbily a few years back) the other day in London, I decided to see if the magic may apply on a more local basis.

Well, fingers crossed, it looks like it may. I had a very nice chat with Jeremy, the officer of the day, and as a consequence ended up talking with the head bod for Hereford and Worcestershire's enviro efforts. And, thanks to this, we should see a whole new level of synergistic bonding taking place. For a start, they were happy to have our stuff on the stand, so I dashed home to get a standee and flyers to them asap. And these will now be touring around, much as the demo kit is currently doing in Cumbria. They help me; I help them. How sweet is that?

And to kick off from our side, I am happy to share what they were doing there, which was promoting a kitchen waste sink macerator device, with added grant. And very nice both look too, both environmentally and financially.

I initially had my doubts, and expressed them rather starkly by asking 'How the heck does flushing pureed waste down my sink help the planet?'.

Well, the answer was simply and convincing, if disappointing to learn that (as is too often the case) it is not applicable in very many other places.

Because it seems that our local water guys have in place a system to collect biogas from the sewage system, and better yet then recover the resulting dry matter for use as fertiliser. And that makes for a 'win win' in my book. So I will be applying and installing asap, as it is also not beyond the ken of a fair DIYer... apparently.

I'll still be using the compost bins for most organics as I think I can find uses for this at home, but as this machine will chew up the rest and squirt it to enviROI+ nirvana, it gets my full endorsement and with-feet vote.

Nice one council, water board and others! Let's hope such an initiative catches on everywhere.

For those in the relevant areas, once they give me the PR and details I'll upload it.

Scott and Peter and Ted and Malice

The ongoing, spooky (at least as it seems to mirror my life) genius that is Dilbert.

Forces of IT evil - 0, Peter - 2

Well if that isn't asking for it, I don't know what is.

Two small victories for me over my LCD (lowest common denominator) screen status. Well, 1 and three quarters.

First, up, having blown 3 times the price of a Windows compatible, I at least have a Skype phone, on my Mac, that seems to work. That is, I made a call and received one. Whether I will do it without the help of a tech expert next time is another matter. But I am now online and freely available... literally, if sometimes not actually able to come to the phone.

The other is our first test of the upgraded site. Very exciting, except for the fact that a lot didn't work, which is why we have it on a test server. Can't wait to let it loose. New homepage with auto-updates of latest ideas and blogs. New functionalities such as a much more useful edit/delete function on JunkkYard. And some major glitches sorted. Sweet.

Well, when they work.

Oh, what a waste of...?

I was an odd youngster. Where others were wearing their hair long and their politics left, I was usually considered a touch on the Tory side. Which annoyed me a lot, and actually such labels still do bug me for their all-encompassing nature, as it seldom adequately described where I was coming from, which was trying to assemble personal best from the policies that all sides were espousing.

But one thing was sure, when it came out, I really didn't see the problem with Poll Tax. While a few others most certainly did. Riotously so. Maggie outingly so. I can't recall exactly when it was now, but it may have had something to do with me owning my first flat and sharing it with a mate, and our paying on where it was and not what we used had something to do with it.

Hence I find myself with odd, and conflicted feelings about all that surrounds the newly-announced Waste Strategy and all the media surrounding it, a small sample of which (noting how the leanings of some are evidenced by the spin they put on the same facts) can be surveyed here:

Telegraph - England's rubbish crisis -
Telegraph - Cash carrot to curb the family's rubbish -
Telegraph - Miliband offers recycling carrot -
Telegraph - Households to face £30 recycling fines -
Times - Waste Not, Want Not -
Times - Pay-as-you-throw scheme for waste ‘penalises householders’ - 'Recycling volumes will rise most quickly if the Government smooths the path of those who make a living from reuse and reclamation. There is no place yet for fining or taxing those individuals yet to appreciate the benefits of an afterlife for their rubbish.'
Times - Councils ‘need money to meet costly targets’ -
Mail - Now you'll have to pay to take your rubbish to the tip - But if they try to avoid these charges by driving their domestic refuse to the tip, they will have to pay anyway.
Express - DUSTBINS: NOW WE FACE FINES AND TAXES - Lower-income households receiving council tax benefit - often families with young children - could also be exempt, despite generating relatively large quantities of waste with nappies and other trash - er, excuse me...?
Indy - Cash rewards to reduce rubbish disposal - Every household in the country could have at least five bins in the future to allow separate collections for glass, paper, cans, plastics and food waste, though not garden refuse - tell that to Elsie in her flat opposite!
Indy - Legislation to tackle excess packaging - I still await how 'excess' is defined any better than 'necessary' without also clamping down on every other aspect of consumer culture, from advertising to fashion.
BBC - Bin charges 'to boost recycling'

By any measure, I should be up there waving from the rooftops. It seems to be exactly what the young me was in favour of, and how the old me lives. But...

There is an odd unease in the land of Martin at the logic behind it, the competence of those who would put it into effect, and the actual enviROI that is going to be derived vs. the social divisions, public rejection and possible 'targets rather than tangibles' measures to be imposed.

I choose to be optimistic, as there is a lot of talk of reward and incentive, but this has to be complemented by the mechanisms to do the right thing easily and conveniently. People are starting to wake up to the fact that much of what is out there is a big fine waiting if you do not work for free for councils who you pay, and who pay contractors big money already. I don't mind doing my bit, but certainly want it appreciated and acknowledged. I do not like being forced to act in support of overpaid and inefficient systems, especially under threat. On a personal level, but also as a matter of logic, if segregated recyclable materials are a resource, why would I be penalised for bringing them to a collection centre? Should I quickly throw out all I have collected over the last few years into one massive, mixed black plastic bin liner and simply drop it outside. How on earth does that serve the environment????!

There is also the not so small matter of what is actually being done, and what is seen to be done. A few too many of the proposed initiatives smack of populist window dressing, tackling high-profile but irrelevant targets at the expense of real ones. There still seems a typical, massive, and hugely wasteful focus on trying to deal with the end point problem by using those who have little control over it all as scapegoats, when so much more could, and should be done (and a heck of lot more transparently in a financial sense) as things go into the consumer system before they become disposable.

For my kids' futures, I expect substance, and not window dressing, and if they can't find a way to sell it to the public with their existing methods, maybe they need to change. Or be changed.

Here it is: DEFRA

The Big Apple Bore

New York may be a greener place but it's also become boring. Whatever happened to Sin City?

I am very much of the view that anything is better than nothing, and anyone is better than no one when it comes to making the planet a better place for future generations. So if it's boring it may be preferable to being interesting for all the wrong reasons.

And hence I have to say most on the list of initiatives seems pretty tame, logical and, with luck, likely to have a welcome effect.

Where I do get concerned, from billionaires upwards, is when the actual agenda is not too driven by altruism.

While the positives may still outweigh the negatives, there is a very broad and complex series of factors at play here, from difficult to quantify ones like 'awareness' and 'public motivation', to simple, tangible carbon reduction.

While not always easy, I try and judge all I am served by its enviROI, the actual benefit to what goes up in smoke at the end of the day, as this seems to be our most pressing area to address.

Sadly, and all too often, I find too many fail by being more minded to meet a target, score a rating, a political point or push a project through. And that does not help my kids' futures.