Wednesday, September 26, 2007

But what shade?

You have to admire any outfit that plugs its green cred on the back of a PR piece highlighting the perils of greenwashing.

But I have taken the bait, if mainly because I actually missed the point, or rather misread the intro, which was in fact about landscaping, and actually seemed/s to rather confusingly advocate/s greenwashing as a good thing.

According to the release, 'Wikipedia identifies Greenwash as the actions of an organisation which advertises positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way.' Actually I wouldn't have gone quite that far, as most I think do not actively redirect, though one could argue that vast funds on hot air and no substance could be deemed that way by denying better options..

And I also learned that 'This currently fashionable form of ‘environmental window dressing’ has become so popular that CorpWatch now even gives out bimonthly Greenwash awards to companies that put more money, time and energy into slick PR campaigns aimed at promoting their eco-friendly images, than they do to actually protecting the environment'. Must sign up if I can find the URL... it looks a hoot.

They go on to share Greenpeace mocking on its website that Greenwash has become so sophisticated that its upgrade has just been launched:Climatewash - Greenwash 2.0. Simple, cheap and no real change needed - great for big business!” Tinkers.

So I'm probably being dense in not quite getting what they're on about, when I get there, for detail on their product/service that has much to do with the joys of greenwashing. Especially when, after all the fun stuff above I got rather lost in the press release's rather boring facts and figures on the actual service.

Anyway, as they did give me some new stuff, I'll share that they are called Marshalls and have a carbon calculator that has been specially developed using product life cycle information that has been independently verified, which apparently means that all of the CO2 emitted during production of raw materials, manufacture and transportation of the product has been carefully measured and minimised.

At the very least I learned some stuff I didn't know before.

Can we fix it? Yes, we should!

Hard to see a downside to this: BOB THE BUILDER LAUNCHES ‘PROJECT RENOVATE’*

The iconic kids' character has been teamed up with and Travis Perkins, to launch Project Renovate, a National Eco-Award Programme offering nurseries and pre-schools in the UK a chance renovate their building.

Twelve renovations worth up to £5,000 (with t&cs, so check first) are on offer. And each winner will receive a visit from Bob himself!

There's a Resource Pack with entry guidelines and information for practitioners and children about the programme. It includes activities linked to the early year’s foundation stage curriculum to help young children understand some of the key environmental concepts such as how to save water, electricity and heat. Fun activity sheets will also be available, including Bob rhymes, photographs and a renovation check list and poster to show the nursery’s support and involvement in Bob’s Award Programme.

Apparently Bob's motto is ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!’, but I seem to recall 'Can we fix it? Yes we can!' being high on the rallying cry list around the site, and as repair is very much a plank of the ethos along with reuse, we're up for that too.

As prizes go, I'm equally impressed that insulation features in this regard, having banged on so long about how this aspect seems a real priority to get across, and into our nation's lofts and cavity walls.

Eligible nurseries are required to submit their entries by 31st January 2008.
*Site goes live w/c Oct 8.

Money in the air

Well, hydrogen powered varieties anyway!

This burns to water gas has cropped up a few times of late, and mostly the discussion has been where it comes from first. And mighty impressive have been the brains applied.

So, in case you have a spare few moments and a Zeppelin's worth of inspiration, this looks worth having a go at: hydrogencontest

From Woodstock to Wall Street in 3 years

Those of you who have watched the growing development (and debate) of bio-diesel may remember 'Bish' from the film "Everything's Cool". He will probably be remembered as almost singlehandedly starting the now rapidly growing bio-diesel market.

This from CNNNews reports on the rapid growth of bio-diesel, to the point where there may be the first two IPOs later this year. Total bio-diesel production in the USA grew from 25 million gallons in 2004 to 250 million last year. The market has more than doubled every year since 2004 and will hit $1 billion this year.

"Biodiesel is the rock star of fuels," says Will Thurmond, author of Biodiesel 2020: A Global Market Survey. "It has moved from Woodstock to Wall Street."

Also it is interesting to note that some of the Big Oil boys are really beginning to get in on the act now - Chevron, ConocoPhillips etc. Hmmmm, that's got my eyebrows twitching; where there are megabucks to be made, the big sharks suddenly appear.

Back scratching

A very nice Junkketeer we know has asked me to help with promoting an environmental charity survey. Happy to oblige, though I did warn her of what I might say.

Seems it's being run on behalf of Global Action Plan, which apparently is the UK's biggest business focused environmental charity. The aim of the survey is see how far IT professionals (that's me out, then) understand environmental issues and what steps they are taking to make their processes more environmentally sustainable. Worth checking back a few posts to our comments on the government's latest wheeze!

I'm cutting and pasting here to report Global Action Plan is keen to determine the baseline on green IT. It has also launched an end user Environmental IT Leadership Team with representatives from chiefs from Ford, the British Medical Association (BMA), Sony UK, John Lewis, E.ON UK, the University of Cumbria and Lloyds TSB to establish a green group that will tackle climate change. I do wonder if this will be hooking up with all the other green groups that seem to sprout around, but there we go. Better than nothing, so long as the enviROI is optimal.

This group, sponsored by solutions provider Logicalis (not sure who is footing whose bill, so I will share the PR love with all names duly dropped), will work on publishing best practices for sustainable IT. I just hope it's not just another manual or PDF on switching off the CPU at night or printing double-sided.

And finally, here is the best bit (if you fancy a trip to the HoP - did I mention we were there last week to collect our Award? - and need an audit, that is): Participants in the survey will be in with a chance to win a free green audit for their company, worth £2,000 and be entered into a draw to win 1 of 10 places at the House of Commons launch of the Green IT report on Monday, 3rd December, 2007.

I just had a go and, well, it's a survey Took about 5 mins, and lots of boxes got ticked. Some did not apply to me or us as we don't actually have an IT Dept, so maybe it was not aimed at us, but it seems a pity that those in the IT world can't seem to separate those who use IT to live and those who live to use IT.

That old devil called trust again

So here we have it: In global warming we trust

Seems clear enough. But hold on. Global warming? Not climate change? And what about man made climate change? Or, there again, what about (Possibly/probably) man-worsened climate change?

Nope, at least for the majority of those who graze hereabouts it seems you have to be either a denier OR a believer in just one of two extremes.

Green cannot be viewed simply in terms of black or white. Try it and not only you will get tied up in knots, there'll be plenty willing to wrap themselves around it to a point not even Alexander could cut through the layers of pointless debate that will ensue. Just look above. QED.

There is still one heck of a lot in between the absolutes, and I reckon the best vote is with those who are getting on with DOING and leaving the hot air brigade to knock further spots off each other in their pointless, downward semantic spirals.

Seems the climate is changing. And for the worse. Maybe it's natural, maybe it's not. Maybe personkind is having an influence, maybe not. It sure seems unlikely, as 'we' expand and pollute as we do so, that it's helping much.

Mitigation at the very least seems a decent urgent option now. Reduction quite soon behind. With a few big issues tackled first by the grownups rather than a ton of divisive irrelevancies that let the extremities get excited and gnaw on each other to the distraction of all.

At least, that's my belief. Let's see what 'ist/zi/inger/ier' I get called by the pack this time.

Heading for catastrophe?

This from The Guardian is well worth a read.

As usual it has brought the diametrically opposed views out of the cupboard; there are some quite astonishing posts in the comments already.

"Our biggest problem is not global warming but over-population. Our ranks need thinning out a little, and judging by some of the posts here on this supposedly 'intellectual' forum, that may not be such a bad thing."

I particularly like the walking blindfolded towards the edge of a cliff analogy from one poster.

"We, the entire planet, need to start emitting less carbon. Whether global warming is happening now, whether it's happening because of our CO2 is debateable. But the fact remains that AT SOME POINT, the carbon emitted will become a problem. We know the absolute top limit points of that -- it's in tens thousands of ppm, but it is there. And that's the point at which human breathing will become a problem (because your lungs won't be able to diffuse CO2 out of your blood). Long before then we **WILL** cause climate change. The only contention here is whether we're already starting to or not. It's like standing blindfolded before a cliff and arguing about how many more paces we can take forwards; some people think we're right on the edge, some people think we can walk for a bit. But there IS a cliff there."

What has Belgium ever done for us?

Well, set a good example, for one: From mountain to molehill

I'm going over there for a few days in November to try and flog the RE:tie at an exhibition called 'Caps & Closures', which seems as good a place to do it in one shot as I can imagine.

I'm only sorry that I'll doubtless be stuck in a hanger and not get to check out Flanders' range of initiatives.

They seem effective, perhaps because Flanders has "decoupled" waste from economic growth, though with the guys in charge we have here I can't see what any delegation is going to gain from going over there, other than a taste for nifty beer. So while Britain may be particularly interested, the question is in what? We seem great on creating consultants (how many; paid what? by whom?); not so good on actually doing anything.

They key features we know, but simply don't have the will to implement effectively on a national level. All the ways to help people help prevent waste are there... but here?

I reckon we'll see one area where the lessons do get learned: getting people to pay for what they waste. Incineration is also a big cultural hurdle here, and no bonding with a Burgher will get around the fact that over there the people will go for it, and over here they won't. At least not without a fight. And we have different laws on how that gets conducted.

I also note the authorities have communicated the recycling scheme well - not just what they collect, and when, but in leaflets that explain why. I'd be keen to see what they say vs. the tripe we get here... at massive comms cost.

I also like to see such as the scheme flourishing via the Kringwinkel chain of "reuse" stores, in which goods are dismantled and repaired.

Only 7?

I'm jealous. In Pressure vessel Stop Climate Chaos* is advised to have only seven staff members. Six more than here!

And unless they're all voluntary and working from home, that's gotta be a decent wadge of support coming in £ wise to pay the London weighting and rent alone.

Certainly a lot is being done. So I hope to attract a half dozen or more here one day to see what we can DO with such numbers.

And, if necessary, if it gets things done, I'll do it with anyone so long as they are sincere. Creating barriers seems to me to be bringing in unhelful additional agendas.

I'll be interested in what they feel about Mr. Brown's major commitments to climate this week whilst also not attending the UN conference, as Mr. Bush failed to do so either.

*(is that the same as We can Stop...? If so my indexing is messed up)

Big stick - minuscule carrot

According to AutoExpressNews the chancellor is intending to impose a big levy on those who would purchase 'gas-guzzlers', a term which I don't particularly like as it unfortunately hits a large number of people who have little option but to use off-road vehicles, such as farmers.

The source is a supposed leaked Treasury document which outlines a suggested £2000 purchase tax levy, OR, a Vehicle Excise Duty first year increase of £1300, on all vehicles that emit more than 254g/km of CO2 .

"All cars in this category – including the entire Range Rover line-up, all Porsche 911s and most versions of the Mercedes S-Class – would be hit by the proposed £2,000 levy."

Now that's a pretty big stick; but I have to question how much it is intended to ameliorate CO2 emissions as opposed to how much revenue it might generate for the Treasury's coffers? The other point that needs to be made is that anyone who can afford a brand new Range Rover, Porsche 911 or Merc S Class can afford to pay that sort of sum without blinking anyway.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot, the carrot. For those purchasers who buy vehicles that emit less than 100g/km of CO2 there will be a 'rebate' of £2000 (off what? .... the purchase cost, or in ongoing VED reductions?).

OK, that sounds like a nice bit of encouragement to purchase a low emitting vehicle. Unfortunately it leaves you with a choice of either an entirely electric car, such as the G-Wiz, or the one and only current combustion engined vehicle that meets that target, the VW
Polo 1.4 TDI BlueMotion.

Sorry, but this is tantamount to a large scale tax grab whilst holding out a minuscule and almost worthless carrot to purchase low CO2 emitting vehicles. What's the betting that as sales of the Bluemotion take off, the Treasury suddenly decides to reduce the 100g/km to something like 80g/km?

ADDENDUM (from Junkk Male) -

Sorry, it's easier for me to add a link here: CAR INDUSTRY THREATENS AD EXODUS OVER CO2 WARNINGS

I have to agree with you, Dave. At best this seems a silly little (and not very original) piece of political point scoring with no real downside (I doubt most owners to be affected are Labour voters. Not just on money terms, either. Here in the boonies the 4x4foraliving guys are not exactly Brownian in their voting motions!).

And, as you say, who trusts (that word) the carrot?. I still hover on an LPG conversion which is already not good on ROI, but if the tax on the fuel gets nudged up because it proves too popular I'm stuffed!

As to the ad piece above that doesn't make sense, unless they are accepting that such things don't help sales. A silly knee jerk in my view, not that I think popping Co2 labels on will make a blind bit of difference.

Barrages and other obstacles

For a long time I've been following in the local papers a discussion about a proposed Severn Barrage. Now it has hit the big time: Inventive compromise may be the answer to dilemma

Coincidentally the man vs. nature has already sparked a small piece already in another blog, this time from waaaay over in California.

There are a few potent causes fighting here. I am afraid that if 'we' are not prepared to do much/anything about our expanding population's (global and national, no inference on certain points made about on this topic recently ) calls on land and resources, the area will be toast (or a shopping centre) one day anyway. And this does not seem to be a trade-off deal. This is (very broadly) free energy as a substitute for carbon-emitting ones. I don't see the birdies winning.

BBC - New study for Severn energy plan - I have to say the Civ. Eng in me thinks this is waaaay cool. And I can see the enviROI shaping up well. But as to the birds... better this than Prescott's heirs sticking a condo on it?

Indy - Some worthwhile views

Indy - 'Strong case' for Severn barrage

Guardian - Barrage of turbines across the Severn could provide 5% of UK's electricity - Could? How can they not know? All the figures must be available.

Guardian Letters (ta, Dave) - very useful input!