Friday, February 29, 2008

Now I am worried

Gordon Brown gives supermarkets one year to start charging for plastic bags ... or else

I wondered how long it would take for our Dear Leader to decide he was on safe enough ground to emerge from his bunker and take charge of this truly critical issue.

Not too sure if any of the other stuff, including a few other matters of pressing environmental concern, might register with his spinometer for a while now.

Thanks Daily Mail, for showing leadership to our leadership, and getting our priorities truly in the right order.

Gaurdian - How the Daily Mail seized the moment to go into battle - yes, but which one?

Right result? Right reasons?

Yesterday, at the height of the Daily Mail/M&S 5p bag frenzy, I popped into a LIDL, a store proudly pointing out it was tackling the scourge of the bag by charging for them.

And, in a telling example of personal shopping choice I made a purchase: this cutter set.

Now how much was my decision based on the fact that I could see all the blades I would use? Hence the box in which they were contained was splayed open, and then popped in a blister pack.

Totally, and I don't fling this word about lightly, unnecessary. But certainly it, and my actions in being seduced (would a poster or image on the lid have worked to attract me as well?), are pretty much key to the whole issue.

While some small 'victories' may be scored in trying to cut down on waste and our addiction to buying more and more 'stuff', this little war on plastic bags rather conceals the fact that the last thing these noble manufacturers and retailers, and the media industry who serves them, want us to do is buy any less.

Hence we get bought off (ironically by paying more) with a bag levy, and perhaps get distracted from pondering any more about what we are buying in the first place.

Here's the latest press release that has popped into my in-box, which I re-print verbatim:

IKEA SAVES 100 MILLION PLASTIC BAGS SINCE 2006 In support of the Daily Mail's campaign to ban the use of all single-use disposable plastic bags, IKEA UK today announced that a total of 100 million plastic bags have been saved since first launching a 10p charge in June 2006 and then a complete phasing out of plastic bags in July 2007. In 2005 IKEA UK gave away 32 million bags. Laid out, they would stretch 19,200 kilometres, or the equivalent of a return journey from London to Tokyo. After a successful two year trial in its Edinburgh store, on World Environment Day in June 2006, IKEA UK announced it was to stop offering free plastic carrier bags to customers introducing a 10p charge for them.� All money raised by the charge of plastic bags was to be donated to the organisation �Community Forests�.� It was part of a three step initiative that included changing the material of standard plastic bags to a biodegradable material and encouraging customers to use reusable bags by reducing the cost of the iconic �big blue bag�. It was estimated that this would reduce plastic bag consumption in IKEA UK stores by 20 million to 12 million bags a year. However, pricing plastic bags at 10p saw a 95% reduction in use to just 1.6 million a year � much higher than ever expected. As a result IKEA UK took the decision that plastic bags were no longer needed and completely removed plastic bags from all stores throughout the UK in July 2007. Charlie Brown, IKEA UK Environment Manager, said: �'It�s fantastic to see other retailers taking such positive steps to minimise plastic bag usage. Our role as retailers is to help customers make small changes that will reduce their environmental impact. Together we have a huge opportunity to make a real difference.'� The phase out of single-use plastic bags follows far-reaching steps already taken by IKEA to reduce energy consumption, cut emissions and to source products from sustainable suppliers.

I must say I stumbled over 'today announcing' something they have been doing for a while, which just shows what the impact of the weight of the Daily Mail readership and M&S PR machine is; all sorts of guys are tripping overthemselves to be first to be second to tell people they were first. Hardly edifying.

And I still don't see how a 10p bag doesn't choke a turtle any more than a 5p one.

The only bit of sensible insight is buried away at the end (highlighted), and at least shows the potential value of this campaign, even though I think it has been orchestrated by the wrong folk in the wrong way for mostly all the wrong reasons. But maybe the end (still unsure on the impact of the alternatives being scattered about) result could yet be worth it. Maybe a few eggs need to be broken for this omelette.

But let's now see who they turn their sights on next, and in what way the mob is directed. Just so long as the enviROI ends up positive, and it's all not just for show and ratings and a short term feel-good for the chattering classes, at the expense of those less able to cope with impositions and costs.... or even the planet.

I just wonder how long the likes of the Daily Mail or M& S will stay true to the overall cause, though both look like riding a hell of a decent wave for now.

But I rather suspect that even if Al Gore invented a $100 wind turbine, if GM offered a free Humvee to every reader or BA a free flight to Hawaii, the paper's front page would look a tad different. And even if editorial did move on to the 'necessity' of cut flowers and New Zealand lamb (ignoring the debate that the carbon consequence of their rearing cancels out the food miles in the shipping vs. buying local), the ad department may have a few words to offer via their client feedback.

Interesting times. What we really need is more positives that serve the consumer process AND the environment. Now, where on earth might we find such a concept? Oh... say... a nice little website that advocates reuse, both from existing packs and, in future, designed-in?

Sadly, I could only open that pack above by destroying it. So no reuse ideas there. I will walk it round the plastics skip, but have litte faith that it will be recycled effectively. Which, at about the equivalent of 50 plastic bags in one shot, is the real concern I have.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Careful what you wish for

I do believe the whole plastic bag thing is now a done deal. Just like any attempt at discussing climate change. At least for reasoned debate. You are either for the ban, or you are an enemy of Gaia. No matter whether it, other in the most simplistic, absolutist terms, might or might not be effective on a few key environmental levels, at least without some other more pressing and vital areas (such as sorting out our woeful waste collection and disposal systems) being addressed first.

Some noisy people have spoken, the media mob has seen a soft target, decided, and it's all over bar the P45s... and possible worse planetary enviROI from the as yet not very clearly explained alternatives (Paper? Much worse for carbon. Biodegradables/compostables? Not really ready to be dealt with properly as yet. Bags for life? Well, yes, but these do seem to be getting rushed out a bit).

No issue that these things are not optimal on about any level, but I'd love such as the Daily Mail to please explain how 'M&S banishing the FREE bag' (today's headline) stops 5p plastic bags getting into the waste stream and choking a turtle. Or at least becoming part of a toxic soup solution. It's mankind's consumerism, and the fact there are an awful lot of us (and growing) consuming ever more, that is pumping ever more crud into the air, land and sea, mostly thoughtlessly or carelessly, that is doing for these precious icons of nature.

And it is driven by a much broader set of entities all complicit in this, including those placing the ads such as those on p24 of the Mail, for M&S, suggesting we dash out and buy Mum a nice bunch of posies (from where?) and chocolates (wrapped in what?). Ditto Tesco on P30. Plus booze. Pampers at Sainsbury’s p18, if you fancy the next cause, guys. I personally support Green Nappies, but not sure what their ad budget is.

But I guess fewer bags might help... maybe along with those in papers that hold the inserts and FREE CDs, etc. And I do notice that on top of the efforts of the Indy and Guardian, the Telegraph today has a FREE 'eco-friendly bag' for each reader... which you need to send off for. Oh, just noticed; the Daily Mail too. What are they giving away next week to persuade us to buy their papers that gets posted back? The container ships (shipping is an issue, too, I imagine, for anything in the sea) from the East must be bulging! Bless.

And in the spirit of jumping bandwagons, as I was listening to the Jeremy Vine show today, there was the delicious irony of one caller in favour of an immediate Planet Ban-it (all anti's selected by being rabid 'who cares about nature' nutters), who had just 'flown in' from her dive business on the Red Sea... and these things were spoiling her UK clients' weekend getaways. Bless. Hope they cycle there and don't use sunscreen (apparently it kills coral).

Yes, things that are harmful to the environment do need to be identified and phased out where alternatives can be found (and maybe even if they cannot). But when the barely informed (I'm still on a steep learning curve ) mob rules, careful what you wish for. Who knows what... or who... may be next in line?

Mail - Marks & Spencer joins The Mail's campaign to Banish the Bags by charging for them

Taking from Peter to fine, well, Peter again

Two interesting examples of modern governance on BBC News this morning, especially with regards to the inevitable fiscal complements.

First up we learn that there is an 'issue' with Doctor's pay. Fewer hours; oodles more dosh. Like... 60% pay rises.

I have no real comment save to chuckle at that made by a BMA rep: 'It's merely the consequence of a contract signed off by the then Chancellor.' Maybe not so prudent then?

But what has inspired this was the news that a railway company is being fined a record amount for failing to deliver a proper service. Fair enough. Hit 'em where it hurts, right? At least the bonusses might take a hit and, who knows, a few numpties may get promoted sideways.


It seems that the money to pay the fine will actually come from the taxpayers, as we are funding the useless load of sods already. And I also wonder where this money actually goes? Better services? Or to pay for ever more parastic entities staffed to the gunnels and tasked to simply look for more ways to keep public money in the system by any means.

And the perfect environment for this trend? You guessed it...

Reuters - Network Rail fined over engineering delays

Rose-tinted reporting

I am awaiting the BBC Breakfast News to wheel out Sir Michael Rose of M&S to share with us the exclusive news that his dealing with the plastic bags issue.

Now, one could wonder why him, again, when many others are already doing so. But hey.

There are a few other matters I wrote to ask in hope we get get reporting rather than propagandising, especially as a few questions were posed by earlier consumers:

Re: Why not biodegradable plastic bags? Why not paper?

Good questions all. Maybe as a retail expert Sir. Stuart Rose can answer?

Or explain how charging 5p prevents a bag getting into the ecosphere and choking a turtle?

I don't know, which is why I'd like answers.

Are you going to feature other industry experts to cover the whole issue?

*ps: I'm trying to find out.

My information so far is biodegradables/compostables require levels of waste system complement that may not make them as effective as they can be.

Paper may actually be worse for the environment, but not for wildlife.

It probably isn't as simple as made out.


Just watched the man himself on the sofa. Interesting. I thought the plastic bag (well, no one quite seems to know what they are banning or bringing in by way of substitute) must be a dead duck by now, at least with the current level of (mostly pretty mis-informed) negative PR.

But, despite being there to plug Plan A, Sir Stuart fought a pretty good corner. Mind you, he was hijacked at the end by the reporters trying to get him to make the simplistic pledge to 'ban' them outright.

His main focus of defence was the customer is king (the issue of packaging waste vs. food waste as a consequence of cuctomer rejection came up), which is well focussed as a sales spiel, but one wonders how it went down with the PR dept. or Sustainability Manager.

What did impress is that he addressed those two questions above. In detail.

He dragged the authorities back into the recycling issue, which I am sure they are trying to duck in this big time. Also he.... at last.... raised the enviROI aspects. Sadly, of course, this is one where the environment may be split between ECO(logical) and Environmental, at least if one still accepts there are ECO(nomic) drivers that are inevitable.

And he also clarified the actual limitations of many bio/compost options, though it's a shame he had no time to explain the difference betwen a landfill, an in-vessel composter and your back yard effort in dealing with them. Pretty key.

As to turtles, I'm guessing biodegradables may well be better as they must fall apart pretty quick, but as to the effect of what they break down into solution on the ecosphere (plastic soup, anyone?) I am not so sure.

All I know is that clear, balanced information on this is noticeable by its absence. You can expect, and dismiss it from the Daily Mail (though I think they have pretty much nailed the coffin of this aspect of the plastics industry with their reach and influence). I expect better from the BBC.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NEWS/Commercial PR - Drinks Co. in charity tree planting partnership!

Another commercial/NGO (well, charity) combo today!

We're not always that keen on the 'whack a fir in the firmament' notion, mainly as most press releases allude to some offsetting... off somewhere.

This one is a bit closer to home... and our hearts.

PR mainly as received, with edits. Check websites for details:

Tree Cheers – Feel Good Drinks in UK charity tree planting partnership!

Feel Good Drinks has teamed up with independent charity, Trees for Cities, for a national year long tree planting partnership. This initiative will see Feel Good Drinks and the charity holding ‘Feel Good Carnival Planting Days’, throughout the year.

Trees for Cities is an independent charity that works to transform urban wasteland into green spaces, by getting the local community involved in the tree planting and educating them on how to sustain the transformed green areas.

As well as tree planting, each carnival planting day will include face painting, live music, football games and loads of arts and crafts, including bird box making! On top of planting 1000 trees, Feel Good Drinks will be supporting the partnership with sampling, digital and PR activity.

The first of the five ‘Feel Good Carnival Planting Days’ kicks off on Saturday 1st March at Braithwaite Park in East London.

More on re-labelling

Recycling concerns beat health on shoppers' agenda

Good on shoppers. But...

Do they have a clue that what they are being told works, or is even accurate...?

'Recyclable' on its own, and without a bunch of other stuff in the loop, is essentially meaningless.

Also while WRAP and some industry brands may be in discussion, there are a ton of others doing their own funky thing and that may be tricky to undo.
So as Mr. Bird says, like the traffic lights/roundel/charts for health, it all becomes a bit of a mess really. But boxes will be ticked!

NEWS/Commercial & NGO PR - CSV Action Earth environmental volunteering campaign

Here's one that has 'thrown' the system!

It's both Commercial and from the Social Enterprise sector, so I have listed it under both.

Another that looks worth rushing out, so it's PR 'as supplied' with only some editing, so all due caveats as always. Though it's pretty clear what is being advocated and you can check through the various weblinks yourselves.

Let's just say will be applying... IF we qualify! Worth a go to us all!!!

CSV Action Earth environmental volunteering campaign

From March 1 2008 - July 31 2008

Supermarket giant Morrisons is giving away cash grants to help the local environment as part of the CSV Action Earth volunteering campaign. Morrisons have agreed to provide £50 grants to 900 voluntary groups across the country to help kick start community environmental projects.

Gillian Hall, Customer Services Director at Morrisons says: "We are pleased that the sponsorship we have given CSV is going to help kick-start many excellent community environmental projects.

Mike Williams, Director of CSV Environment says: "Helping the environment can seem like a monumental task, but volunteering in your local community, whether collecting dumped plastic for recycling, planting trees or clearing up a grotty area is something we can all do. We believe that local people themselves are best placed to decide what needs doing in their area and thanks to Morrisons' grants they can now do something about it."

To register a project and apply for a grant or get more information on CSV Action Earth, call CSV on Tel: 0121 328 7455 or visit

Note: To receive a £50 grant, which covers expenses including materials, projects must:

* improve the local environment,
* involve volunteers,
*or meet a local community need.

Examples of projects completed by volunteers last year include: Planting up a wildlife area in a local school, erecting bird/bat/hedgehog boxes in a nearby wood, cleaning up a local beach and clearing and signing local footpaths.

Reading between the lines

Follwing quickly on from the previous note on targets vs. actual results: Charities criticise npower’s ability to effect green tariff

I must say I stumbled a bit on the headline use of the word, but read on to see what is meant is 'environmental charities', who these days seem mainly around to 'slam' things.

What was of more note is that 'Npower says that it has the facility to supply just 2% of customers with renewable energy.' Hmn.

Which does rather make oen wonder why 'the company is planning to launch a major TV campaign to push its green tariff, Juice'. Is that the one which works/ed with Greenpeace?

But, at least, 'Npower will be spending £100m this year on the Government’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT)'.


There's also whether they add up

It was about, I believe, drug programmes, but as easily can apply to every aspect of current government policy.

In a rather matter of fact BBC news piece there was the choice insight that 'all that matters is the numbers who sign up, rather than whether anything effective gets done [with them].'

This target-based, box-ticking culture is spiralling us ever downwards.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2nd Use in Action!

Just had in the latest consumer-inspiring creative from those jolly recycling chaps.

Fortunately, it has arrived just as I am preparing my speech for the forthcoming ECOPACK conference on the topic of, well, amongst other things: 'Giving your plastic bottles the chance of becoming something else.

Only... perhaps with a bit more end-benefit and a little RE:tie twist to top it off.

Nice to see the big bucks comm budgets cranking out those award-winners.

RE:VIEW - BOOK - 21st Century Stallholder

OK, I am buying time here.

This is not a review... yet.

The good news is that I intend to do one.

The bad news is that there is a bit of a backlog on the reading and writing front. My bad.

This is a stopgap that hopefully serves to say (mainly to those nice enough to send it) I have it, it looks neat and I look forward to one day soon getting the time to go through it.

At which point this gets revisited and upgraded to an actual review and goes on the site, in the newsletter, etc.

Best I can do!

Better than nothing?

Just watching Sir Richard Branson on Breakfast TV.

Not so keen on reporting what will be said (a new, and rather pointless trend) but one key point we will learn come the press conference later is how his Virgin Atlantic fleet will run a biofuel that will not affect the food chain. This was a major concern of mine.

The FoE has already labelled it a 'gimmick' (mot du jour in politics at the moment, too), but Sir. Richard may have had a pop at them talking on flying to international conferences all the time in 'conventional' planes.

It's a dilemma. On the one hand there is the undoubted contributed of air travel to PMWCC, but then there are the practicalities and realities of commercial air travel.

It will be interesting to see just how real this initiative might be as a mitigation.

I remain unclear as to the contribution made by Virgin Galactic, though.

First posted 24/02 - Addenda:

Telegraph - Algae are fuelling Branson's maiden flight - seems they know something the BBC doesn't.

Also just saw a twofer on the morning show again. The FoE guy did not impress; very dogmatic. There was a travel journalist who did; objective and thoughtful. I see this as an interesting one. All agreed it will make no difference to passnger decision, which is based on price. Plus such as this is a drop in the fuel tank compared with flights only one third full vs. full, 1st & Biz vs. cattle for fuel per passenger mile.

Telegraph - Branson: City to suffer without third runway

BBC - Airline in first biofuel flight

Indy - First biofuel flight dismissed as Virgin stunt - Possibly a new PR agency in the offing? But then, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Guardian - Branson's coconut airways - but jet is on a flight to nowhere, say critics

Gaurdian - Forests cleared for takeoff? - I might have to change the title above. And nice to see Virgin Galactic getting a mention.

Why do you ask? Wanna make something of it???!

I was moved to write to the author by the following: Why are we obsessed with taking offence?

I either made it up, or paraphrase another poorly, but it seems to me that 'if you go looking to be offended, spare you energies; it will soon oblige by coming to find you'.

Sadly, and as a member of the media you must surely acknowledge this, there is now an actual value beyond the emotional 'rewards' that make the search actively promoted as much by the reporting of it.

Seems fair

US to set 'binding' climate goals

Having just slammed what seemed a pretty dubious headline, I thought it only fair that I give praise where due.

And not just to the writer. Without going through the details (yet), the first para indicates the US might have a good point,too.

The US is ready to accept "binding international obligations" on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, officials say, if other nations do the same.

Now, of course, we await the cry of: 'Unleash the weasels!'

Free directory enquiries

0800 100100

Gets my vote.

I like the business model too; it reminds me of another free to user experience near here:)

The headlines don't work*

Which is more accurate in conveying the notion that a bit of research may have a contrary (though possibly worthwhile) view from a team (no matter how 'offical') on the value (or not) of depression medication?:

Effectiveness of antidepressant drugs questioned

Antidepressant drugs don't work – official study

Anti-depressants 'of little use'

Prozac, used by 40m people, does not work say scientists

New anti-depressants 'little effect'

What is wrong with our news media? I have 'contributed' to the BBC, who at least allow the possibility:

'IF' what I read is borne out, this is indeed of serious concern, but is the headline and how this news has been portrayed fair and accurate in conveying the notion that 'a' bit of research may have 'a' contrary (though possibly worthwhile) view from 'a' team (no matter how 'offical') on the value (or not) of depression medication?

Are the entire prescribing medical profession fools or charlatans then? If so, I want my £100kpa back.

So whatever you do read, on anything substantive remember: read long, read broad and don't read anything into anything until you think you might have gained all the relevant facts, and as good a cross-section of opinion as you can to arrive at a well-informed one of your own.

Live by the headlines, links and summaries served up to 'help' us in this time-poor infromation age we live in, and you may get what you deserve.

*With apologies to The Verve

Here to help

I don't mean to single out Morrsions in this, but it just so happens they are where we mostly shop, and they have a (doubtless well-intentioned) pack-recycling labelling policy.

It's just that I, as a consumer, all too often either don't have a clue what they are talking about, find what they are talking about to be daft, or... can DO precious little about what they TALK about. The latter is part of a bigger picture, but then we all need to see this for what it is to address it properly.

These two packs were from last night's meal. The plastic wrappers from a frozen veg and a fresh veg.

One, quite clearly, IS recyclable, though 'facilities may be limited'. In the bin or in the the... er... what again? They carrier bag slot? The binliner hanging off the plastics skip? I don't know.

The other is 'partly' recyclable with all due caveats as above. Being that this initially appeared to be a printed clear plastic bag this was odd. Other than the contents and the bag, what else was there?

Well, irony of ironies, on closer looking there was an extra clear sticker in the mix. A bonded-on effort (why? The rest is custom to contents) whose principle function was to tell me it country of origin. Holland, since you ask.

ps: I went to the site to find out what to do and where. Maybe it was just me, but when it came to sorting out these babies... nothing leapt out. In the bin liner then.

Public - one for trying.
Business - zero for being anything other than a useless gesture.
Authorities - minus points for wasting so much money on ineffective systems and pointless comms efforts.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Talk about an incentive!

Which, as you know, floats my eco-boat! Try this: Cycling assessed at 20p a mile by IR.

And it's a tad better on the running costs, too. Like £1.08 a litre better, last time I looked.

NEWS/MEDIA PR - The Woman Who Stops Traffic

A new category for when I get a potentially worthy bit of PR about a media event (eg: TV programme) that may be worth a gander.

All the usual caveats as to possible green bandwagon vs. enviROI value apply, I for now simply cut & paste editted highlights as provided.

The Woman Who Stops Traffic

Get On Your Bike to Pledge Regional C02 Emissions Cuts

To coincide with the start of a compelling new three part series – The Woman Who Stops Traffic – Channel is launching an interactive map of the UK to track which region can come out on top for CO2 emission savings.

The online interactive UK map highlights the amount of CO2 emissions people can prevent in their region if they walked, cycled or used public transport to do any daily journey. Users can pledge how many times they will do a journey without the use of the car (based on the output of an average family car) and their CO2 prevention will be added to the map for their region.

The site will go live on the 26 February.

The heroine is one Kris Murrin, who says: “I’m not anti-car. I’ve got three kids. I’m a family of five. I’m not exactly going to be able to do a huge weekly shop on my bike. But the thing that bugs me is that a lot of people get into their car without even thinking ‘Is there another way I could do this journey?’”

May be worth a gander.


New category. Stands for 'Green Elites', and isn't meant in a good way.

Don't mind anyone with money, power, privilege or media connections caring about the planet.

Do mind, awfully, when it comes across as just more than a little insincere, disconnected from reality, exclusive, up-a-pedestal, self-indulgent, etc...

And more about filling some column inches with one's life to impress one's mates, than any real effort at making a difference. Ok, yah?

Times - A green battle at home

Just wondering... does one know any eco-hapless couples who live in a Midlands flat, but whose weekend options might not have included hunting the lesser-spotted Bruni on the estate?

Nothing like a bit of balance...

...but you can just end up coming down on neither side: Tories ditch green taxes

See, this blog is balanced; we think they are all useless. However, it would be nice to see one of the sorry crew in Westminster (Greens excepted) take a principled stand and stick to it, whilst finding ways to balance the two 'E's (see labels).

Killing two birds with one turtle?

I think I a mixing a saying with the death of a famous Greek, but hey.

Our national broadcaster's commitment to news.. and global warming: Slow news day

Slow.... Tell me about it!

I tuned into BBC Breakfast about 10 times this morning over 90 minutes, and every single time all I ended up with was some BBC brunette airflown in to flounce around the post-Oscar bashes.

It was obviously getting desperate as they they couldn't find any frocks on anyone remotely relevant to talk about, so they decided on talking about hers.... again... and again.

Licence fee issues, what licence fee issues? Climate change? What climate change?

I'm surprised they didn't do the turtle thing (missing irony is pretty common with the BBC when it comes to 'global warming'), but given their commitment to serious journalism I am sure they could have got one on a skateboard eventually.

More talk, and more targets

An interesting article from The Indy, highlighting the fact that the new housing minister, Caroline Flint, will announce later this week that ALL new 'non-domestic' buildings must be zero carbon by 2020. On top of the existing commitment to ensure that all new domestic properties are zero carbon by 2016 (strange, I was convinced that they said 2012 when that was first announced), that's an extremely ambitious target.

Let's see. Targets set by pols tend not to be overtly fixed and have a common habit of changing over time. And I find it rather odd that this sort of announcement comes when the grants system for renewables seems to have been deliberately halted.

By the way, this article suggests that we were wrong about how many new builds had qualified for Ol' Golden's much lauded stamp duty exemption, they reckon it is only three!
n.b. I will be exhibiting SolarVenti in the Green Shoots Pavilion at the EcoBuild show for most of this week. Peter, I am sure, will continue to dig up interesting items for your perusal whilst I am away.

CATEGORY - Fairtrade

It's seems a tad fraught, at best.

I frankly don't know.

But it seems worth having a new a category to see what's out there and try and get to a view.

Ch4 - Fairtrade: always a better deal?

Telegraph - Is Fairtrade fair?

Telegraph - Fairtrade fails to tackle poverty, report says

Indy - NEW - Fairtrade sales double to £500m as supermarkets join trend

AD - Energy Trust & Direct Gov

As some may know, I spent much of my life as an ad man.

So I know what it takes to get an ad in front of the right audience in the right way.

Beyond the vast amount of (expensive) person hours involved in creation and execution, there is also the huge media spend. Colour pages in Sunday papers do not come cheap.

So in the great enviROI scheme of things, I was just wondering what these two beauties were intended to do, and whether they even came close to doing whatever it was that was actually intended. And whether they were worth the money for a single inseration now decorating the bottom of a parrot cage, when that money could have been better invested, well, anywhere.

I defy anyone to tell me what the Energy Savings Trust one is about and what you are meant to do. The Direct Gov's message is clearer, but I remain unconvinced that this really will have motivated many to, well, do whatever they are on about.

This kind of advertising, at least in this form, is vanity stuff, pure and simple. At best it is serving to add a bit of profile to the various departments in some kind of comms budget p*ssing contest.

But with such executions there are no winners, and by diverting funds from where they could do much more good, there are a load of losers. Us.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Games people play

Just for fun, I popped a comment, somewhat tongue in cheek, into the Andrew Marr show comments section, after a rather, how to say, 'less than challenging' interview with Ken Livingstone. Just to see if they could tell when someone is being utterly ironic, and highlight the value (at least here), of such moderated comments when all you need to attribute is a name and location.

Don't know why they bother with any pretence, when they could pretty much write 'em themselves.

Anyway, it's good to know the London Mayoral leadership will be guided by the likes of the BBC, based not on celebrity or gesture politics or personality attacks, but with the actual records, words and deeds of the candidates and those they have surrounding them investigated thoroughly.

Or, as I neglected to add in my initial post, should I perhaps influence the moderators on its inclusion... not.


'Awesome show today. Andrew really took to task and nailed Mr. Livingstone on all his claims, whilst teasing out the substantive issues that truly matter in helping voters make informed political decisions.
Peter, UK'

Mind you, you can never have enough 'support': What's at stake An interesting insight into the value of agenda-driven media (both right and left)

PROF'S POSER - Pixel reviver

I have been told of this rather clever notion which, if it works, seems a worthy mention in's more fromal REPAIR advisories: killdeadpixel

Bascially a means to restimulate dead pixels on a screen.

Before I give it a full blown big-up (which it may deserve), I was wondering if any IT whizzes had a view on possible pros and cons and value.

It's not like this life is working out so well

As my wife is an addict of online community 'Second Life' so this caught my interest: Searching for a new virtual life

I watched the programme, and what really piqued my interest was the notion that some are using such communities for virtual conferences. We're talking teh capacity for hundreds to 'attend', and then break out into groups.

This I find very exciting, especially bearing in mind my oft-cited lack of faith in the plethora of big-ticket mega-conferences, especially enviro-related, that seem to actively promote exclusivity and positively encouarges carbon excess.

I am now pondering this big-time with my notion of a genuine 'People's Gathering' where those that may really have worthy contributions can attend, be heard and contribute.

Cure or kill?

We are very lucky on this blog that, so far, there have been no extremes of posting requiring even a reaction, much less intervention.

As moderator, I am well aware of the responsibility. But also the various threast that exist.

Hence I was interested in this:

Why online communities attract trolls

I have allowed 'Anons' to comment before, mainly because they almost all have had a reasonable contribution. So I am erring on reserving the right to delete (whilst posting I have) without much compunction if someone uses 'anon' to hide behind a more extreme response.

But it seems idealistic to ignore that an adequate definition of what is trolling is hard to arrive at, and 'ignoring' them may be easier to advocate than do.

As I have written:

I must say I am intrigued that there seems to be general consensus that there is a mechanism by which a 'troll' can be identified... and dealt with on either an individual poster and/or moderator basis.

I fear I seem unable to do so, and hence often have to trawl though a load of dross, and counter-dross, to try and arrive at an objective view on what is being discussed.

I envy those who can short-cut the process.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Just had a few nice folk sign up on (despite our money-strapped, UK-centric registration) as a result of a nice post in a nice blog/site.

What better excuse to start a new category by listing it, (and, in time, all others I come across/get told about). Least I can do:

craftser - US-based. Broad spread of craft-based ideas. Nice search facility.
make - NEW

More depressing predictions ........

..... this time from a report allegedly leaked from the Pentagon and obtained by The Observer.

"A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world."

"'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life'."

The odd thing is that the Pentagon officials appear to be trying very hard to move Dubbya from his head in the sand (or should that be head up the *****'s of big oil?) standpoint on climate change and its potential influences on the population of our little lump of planetary rock.

"You've got a President who says global warming is a hoax, and across the Potomac river you've got a Pentagon preparing for climate wars"

I find many of these predictive reports a little scary, although I guess most of them really do attempt to forecast the worst possible scenario. But if this report genuinely originates from the Pentagon, then I find this one very worrying.

The other odd thing is the the report predicts that Britain will be gripped in a rising sea level problem whilst being gripped in a 'Siberian' climate. That suggests that scientists at the Pentagon are predicting that the Gulf Stream will cease.

While the planet warms, we will fall into ever warmer and drier summers, but with bitterly cold, freezing winters. It doesn't sound too good does it?

QUOTE OF THE DAY - Friggin' in the riggin'

Another from today's Newswatch...

Some snitty editor trying to weasel out of an enquiry as to why the nation's broadcaster managed to fail to cover the Chancellor's press conference at The Treasury (you'd have thunk they might have thought getting the BBC there might have been a plan. They certainly seem good at getting them on site with much less pressing issues of public concern, such as PM pontifications on football managers) on Northern Rock:

"It's hard to rig a press conference".

Oh, I don't know. They seem to do pretty well most of the time.

An insight into how we get our news

Just watched the BBC's high-profile (Not) mea-culpa progamme, Newswatch.

Moderated by 'Uncle Ray' Snoddy, there was a lady viewer/scientist on with one of the customary cabal of defensive News editors.

Boy, was she focussed. And boy, was he inadequate.

The issue was the reporting of a Govt. report on dealing with the health consequences of a warmer climate (different to 'global warming'). Bascially the BBC had managed to get this as two completely differing takes, depending on when and where one looked.

Ignoring the actual ramifications of basic premise this lady had, that it would be nice to hear some good news as we all know the bad stuff, I was frankly appalled at this editor's explanations and excuses.

For a start he seemed pretty clear that the BBC will mess with facts in any way it feels necessary, and somehow it's all OK as the viewer needs to flit between headlines and subsequent text, but also what's on broadcast screen and online, to try and arrive at what the actual situation is/might be.

Frinakly I am getting to the point that news has about as much value as fiction, let alone reasonable debate. As a public service they are totally compromised.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Has fish had its chips?

Well, it looks increasingly likely over the coming decades, according to this from Reuters.

Whilst we mentioned both the increasing numbers of dead zones and the proportion of the oceans affected by man on this blog only recently, this report suggests that "Climate change has compounded previous problems such as over-fishing, as rising temperatures kill coral reefs, threaten tuna spawning grounds, and shift ocean currents and with them the plankton and small fish which underpin ocean food chains."

"A deadly combination of climate change, over-fishing and pollution could cause the collapse of commercial fish stocks worldwide within decades"

Given that some 2.6 Billion of our planet's population pretty much depend on fish protein, things don't look too promising, do they?

I suppose they could always eat corn and wheat etc instead. Oh, I forgot, where such crops do continue to grow, they'll be using all spare output to make stuff to run cars on. I think I feel a bit of a dilemma coming on somewhere down the road.

Everything is relative

Just ask the Ancient Pharoahs where it got 'em!

Not quite how to categorise this: Porsche launches second attack on congestion charge rise

Having a dirty great 4x4 Cayenne Turbo in Islington is not perhaps the most eco-laundable thing in the world. So no great sympathy there.

Nor is thrashing around looking for another mode of transport to drag into the mire with you, as airlines are trying on with shipping now. But oh, the irony... 'The German car marque claims the amount of emissions saved in a year as a result of the charge will be equal to the emissions produced at Heathrow Airport in less than four hours.'

However, my greater concern is priorities. And that stat, if proven, speaks volumes about where our leaders' brains are at in seriously dealing with things rather than dicking around with showboat Planet Ban-Its.

LONDON - First business kerbside collection service for WEEE and batteries

This is a new category to tie-in with's postcode localisation facilities.

It's a pretty much posted 'as is/maybe a bit edited' press release, but as it's so what I want to see and share I can see no reason to get it up and out asap:

First business kerbside collection service in the UK for WEEE and batteries

The Enhance business support programme has helped instigate First Mile’s unique successful business kerbside waste collection service for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and batteries.

First Mile is recruiting about ten new clients a day, since it launched the service in December 2007. It now has about 200 businesses using its new service.

Bruce Bratley, managing director, First Mile, said: “We want to get every SME in London recycling by 2010. That may sound a tall order, but it’s easy with First Mile’s services. ”

First Mile’s popular collection service provides London businesses with a package of storage sacks: a box of five WEEE sacks – £25 each – and one for dry cell batteries – £20 each. The sacks have been specially designed for heavy, rigid materials and can hold up to 25kg. Bulky WEEE is also collected; businesses simply slap a sticker (£25 each) on the item and call First Mile to collect the items outside their premises.

First Mile provides customers with consignment notes for hazardous waste and duty of care for all waste collected. Staff at First Mile are also undergoing training to separate the collected WEEE into equipment that can be reused or recycled.

EC Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) aims to minimise the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment, by increasing re-use and recycling and reducing the amount of WEEE going to landfill. It seeks to achieve this by making producers responsible for financing the collection, treatment, and recovery of waste electrical equipment, and by obliging distributors to allow consumers to return their waste equipment free of charge.
The WEEE Directive entered into force in the UK on 2 January 2007 with full producer responsibility from 1 July 2007.

The Batteries Directive

The Batteries Directive was published in the Official Journal on 26 September 2006. The UK and all other Member States now have a deadline of 26 September 2008 to transpose the provisions into national law.
The Directive seeks to improve the environmental performance of batteries and accumulators and of the activities of all economic operators involved in the life cycle of batteries and accumulators, eg producers, distributors and end users and, in particular, those operators directly involved in the treatment and recycling of waste batteries and accumulators.
When the Directive is transposed in the UK, the Directive will reduce the quantity of hazardous and non hazardous waste batteries going to landfill and increase the recovery of the materials they contain.


First Mile
First Mile provides easy recycling sacks for mixed waste, IT & electronics, batteries and confidential destruction. It also provides low cost, no hassle rubbish collections.
All prices include sacks, delivery, collection, disposal, recycling and compliance.

Enhance is the support service for green enterprises in London. It helps develop businesses and social enterprises that reduce London’s waste, reuse resources or work with recycled materials.

London Development Agency (LDA)

The London Development Agency (LDA) works to improve the quality of life for all Londoners and drive sustainable economic growth.

London Remade
London Remade is in the business of recycling, creating environmental solutions for a sustainable capital.

London Community Recycling Network (LCRN)
LCRN is dedicated to supporting and promoting community-based sustainable waste management activities, and make them the preferred solution – financially, socially and environmentally .

A Cautionary IT tale

Spam is a pain. A royal nuisance.

And there's a lot that can be done to deal with it.

Some useful. Some... less so.

Despite the vast amount I get, my personal preference is still to deal with it myself. Select a sender or topic column at the end of the day, highlight and hit delete. Usually catches a good 90% in one big net. And the few one-offs you can scope and zap in a blink.

Trouble is, some get their knickers in a twist at just one errant email. And because they scream like neutered cats, a load of folk, from government dow... up, a ton of folk like to meddle on our behalf.

Which means beyond my personal setting on my PC, there are additional intercepts prior to anything arriving at Junkk Towers, at the ISP.

Now it seems there are levels of severity that incoming emails can be challenged upon, with all sorts of clever gizmos to spot a Viagra sale or organ extension a mile, or at least 9" away.

Thing is, these keep getting 'upped', I presume because the spammers are getting cleverer at dodging 'em.

And becuase of this, you might find that something you wouldn't have minded seeing, or even expected, gets whacked before arrival... and you won't know it. Serious if it is a person to person email, but eqaully a pain - all round - if it is a newsletter you have signed up for (like the forthcoming effort..... don't ask).

I only became aware of this because I realised I was no longer getting the BBC daily... after several weeks!!! No comment on its value, becuase it is of great value... at least to stimulate a line of enquiry.

So I checked, and yes, it was now dormant becuase it was bouncing. So I asked my ISP and no, I couldn't see what was being bounced (and had been without me being asked or even told), but I could request a white list exemption. BBC now back in the fold.

Not very satisfactory, and a bit of a worry. And now I am trying to figure out what else I might not be getting (it's a bit like proving a negative) to get them approved, too.

So.. bear it in mind. And any who have signed up for the newsletter... when it comes... soon... please ensure every mechanism to deafult stop it has been forwarned not to!

If this wasn't so funny.....

....... it would actually be rather sad. And I know it's not really enviro, but this just has to be seen to be believed.

I am talking about this from the Labour Party, extolling what they believe are their top 50 achievements since coming to power in 1997.

But, not a single mention of the removal of horrendous regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor any mention of the fantastic humanitarian relief efforts undertaken in places like Kossovo, Sierra Leone, plus many locations affected by the tsunami etc. And peace in N. Ireland? Relegated to a comment about devolved power (No. 26). Successfully bidding for the olympics? Not mentioned!

If you want to blow your own trumpet, then feel free to do so, but please include things that are genuinely worthy and please tell the truth. E.g. No 25, 'on course to exceed our kyoto target'!! Get real!!

Nos 1,2,5,6,7 for a start - surely you are taking the proverbial with these?

And absolutely no mention of Northern Wreck, Sleaze, Back-handers, Peerages for donations, dodgy donations, record levels of taxation, record amounts of red tape and numbers of bureaucrats etc. etc., anywhere to be seen! And stealthily getting the UK into the new EU constitution without a referendum? Now that really has been an achievement!

Sorry, but this list appears to me not to be a list of successful achievements at all, it's a list of successful box ticking and bean counting exercises where theoretical 'targets' have been 'met'.

I despair!

1. Longest period of sustained low inflation since the 60s.
Ha Ha Ha! Only by taking mortgage and fuel costs out of the calculation!
2. Low mortgage rates.
Ha Ha Ha!
3. Introduced the National Minimum Wage and raised it to £5.52.

4. Over 14,000 more police in England and Wales.
So where are they all then?
5. Cut overall crime by 32 per cent.
Ha Ha Ha!
6. Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.
Ha Ha Ha!
7. Young people achieving some of the best ever results at 14, 16, and 18.
Ha Ha Ha!
8. Funding for every pupil in England has doubled.

9. Employment is at its highest level ever.
By massaging the figures!
10. Written off up to 100 per cent of debt owed by poorest countries.

11. 85,000 more nurses.
So, just why is there still a shortage of nurses? Where have they all gone?
12. 32,000 more doctors.

13. Brought back matrons to hospital wards.
Anybody spotted one yet?
14. Devolved power to the Scottish Parliament.

15. Devolved power to the Welsh Assembly.

16. Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time.

17. NHS Direct offering free convenient patient advice.

18. Gift aid was worth £828 million to charities last year.

19. Restored city-wide government to London.

20. Record number of students in higher education.
And a record number leaving in the first year! Not to mention thousands leaving with huge debts that will take them decades to pay off because of the 'successful' student loan scheme!
21. Child benefit up 26 per cent since 1997.

22. Delivered 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres.

23. Introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

24. £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners & up to £300 for over-80s.

25. On course to exceed our Kyoto target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Now you are really taking the pi**!!
26. Restored devolved government to Northern Ireland.
What about achieving peace over there? That really is worth shouting about!
27. Over 36,000 more teachers in England and 274,000 more support staff and teaching assistants.

28. All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday.

29. A million pensioners lifted out of poverty.
30. 600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty.
31. Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents.
Which is so complex, most people don't even claim it!
32. Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.

33. Brought over 1 million social homes up to standard.
Errrr, where exactly?
34. Inpatient waiting lists down by over half a million since 1997.
35. Banned fox hunting.
Which continues anyway.
36. Cleanest rivers, beaches, drinking water and air since before the industrial revolution.
With labour contributing what over the last 10 years?
37. Free TV licences for over-75s.

38. Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals.

39. Free breast cancer screening for all women aged between 50-70.

40. Free off peak local bus travel for over-60s.

41. New Deal - helped over 1.8 million people into work.

42. Over 3 million child trust funds have been started.

43. Free eye test for over 60s.
Errr, hasn't this always has been so?
44. More than doubled the number of apprenticeships.

45. Free entry to national museums and galleries.

46. Overseas aid budget more than doubled.

47. Heart disease deaths down by 150,000 and cancer deaths down by 50,000.

48. Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.

49. Free nursery places for every three and four-year-olds.

50. Free fruit for most four to six-year-olds at school.


Telegraph - They forgot about the smoking ban! - Are these Labour's top achievements? (see 50 Comments) - Well, it wan't going to be in the Gaurdian I guess.

EVENT - Ask Hilary Benn MP the questions you've always wanted answered

First, I had one of my own. And yes, it is... to you... £5-700 a pop.

Usually I'd put this in our format. But as they have kindly laid it out in the PR, here you go:

Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change

Practical steps for implementing and mainstreaming your carbon reduction strategy
Tuesday 13th May 2008, Central London

Keynote Speaker – Hilary Benn MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

“Councils have the democratic legitimacy to bring together local public bodies, businesses and communities in partnerships. They also offer to influence how citizens behave. Councils must become exemplars of sustainability to be able to influence the behaviour of others.”
James McGregor, NLGN, October 2007

Local Government Chronicle and New Local Government Network recognise the fundamental importance that local authorities play in fighting climate change and its effects. Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change goes beyond the rhetoric and brings you concrete, practical solutions for planning, preventing and adjusting to climate change.

Expert contributors include:
Hillary Benn MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Ray Morgan, Chief Executive, Woking Borough Council
Tim German, Director, Cornwall Sustainable Energy Partnership
Deborah Fox, Director – Public Sector Programme, Forum for the Future
Philip Mind, Senior Policy Consultant, Local Government Association
Attend this conference to hear guidance and learn more about:
Establishing strong leadership and full commitment to climate change issues within your organisation
Involving your partners to implement an active climate change strategy
How the new climate change performance indicators will affect your ratings
Developing sustainable procurement to tackle climate change in your organisation
With specific sessions focussing on waste management, planning and energy all services you provide that potentially affect climate change are covered. Attend this event and gain a comprehensive view of the current challenges, enabling you to formulate your own effective climate change strategy.

Sadly, I won't be going. Talk is not as cheap as I thought.

Maybe not was intended?

Aluminium's rubbish recycling rate

Each week our kerbside guys pick up the blue RE-Box which, apparently, on average, 98% of us are correctly filling

So this must apply more to when things are less... 'convenient'.

Now, the consumer, being also the public at large, is often a busy, stressed, lazy, selfish, slovenly beast, so to get them/me/us to cooperate a few techniques can be applied.

While I can see some possible need, if not merit in the most common (fear, guilt, fine, threat, nanny) options, my way out front fave is... incentive.

Now, education is good too. But as with all the recycling ads (however much they cost), I kinda know and am hence rather uninspired by the target box-ticking wet dream that a can can become a can and wasting is bad and all the consequences, but... what else is there to light my 'end-benefit' fire a bit more?

Well, after several paras... it seems, there is, actually, this:

'If that isn't incentive enough .... there are even centres across the UK offering cash for cans to recycle.'

Ker-ching. Ta very much.

However, might this not rather cut across the bows of the various 'you do the work, we get the money' schemes out there already, and/or coming?

Just wondering.

There's what we get told by government...

There's what we get told by media*.
There's what we get told in blogs*.
And then... there's what we chance upon in follow -up letters pages....

Biofuel production is not justified

Now, maybe they are right. Maybe they are wrong.

But it all rather makes my case that whatever we do get 'told' to 'help' 'us' make decsions, it may not be all we need to know to arrive at the right... or at least best-informed ones.

*I blogged on this t'other day.

The people have spoken

Or... sometimes... have been drummed up into agreeing with others who claim to speak for them?

Have Your Say: Power To The People

I have come to this via a link on an associated piece elsewhere in the publication making a more general comment about consumer power - An exciting example of what consumers can achieve

Hence my comment to this is more general, and applies mostly to: '...we want the good guys to make good profits and the bad guys to lose out.'

It all rather falls down to how good gets defined, and by whom, especially before it gets served up to the consumer to decide.

Hence you can see some quite worthy issues build up a head of steam with justified indignation and actions provoked by consumer feedback.

Sadly, you can also get a lot of short-term, narrow issue, Planet-BanIt stuff where the issues get lost in the hyperbole.

Sadly, one's trust in the more traditional organs of objective information, from government through quangos to the media, are now sadly lacking in the trust factor for this consumer to rely on anything without a lot of digging and cross-referencing.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Too good to be true?

Households correctly sort 98% of recyclates, reveals LGA

Bearing in mind my amusement at stats that seem very precise with no real basis in fact, enhanced by tricks from my ad copywriter days, this could be 'Almost all households in the UK...'

Thing is, much as I'd like it to be true and give pats on backs all round (especially we punters), unless I am missing something key in what is measured and/or how, I simply find it hard to credit.

Then again, I guess it takes a serious level of numptietude to fail to put the glass in the glass box, the cans in the...

So... maybe.

Addendum - CRR calls into question LGA's low reject figures - Or, then again, maybe not. We are not alone.

Fool me once

Like many, I don't usually pay too much attention to till receipts.

However, in the last few days I have had occasion to discover that this is very unwise.

Yesterday, at Somerfield I bought two bottles of wine on a deal. Despite adding booze to the basket, on getting home the total bill seemed a tad high.

On checking, I discovered there were indeed the two bottles at full price, and at the end the discount... plus another bottle at full price!

So I decided to look at Sunday's big shop at Morrisons. And, yet again, another extra entry.

Just how many donations have I made to these guys by my not having the time or necessary motivation to make sure that these scanners and their operators are accurate and/or not making duplicate passes?

Now... what are my rights for negotiating a refund? It's my word vs. theirs, especially tricky after the event. But who has time or the mental agility to track what the stores need a laser to handle and a computer to calculate.

Irony, with a dash of dilemma

I've been up and watching the BBC news for about 45 minutes now as I deal with the overnight emails.

So far a potentially interesting story about the methods and motivations behind trying to effect better public behaviour in domestic recycling. And it seems that, surprise, surprise, the predominantly threat-based mechanisms touted are not quite working out, or into the systems as extensively or smoothly as they might.

Good. Well... good... ish. Something still needs to be done, and my experience that hasty, ill-conceived compromises are it. Or, as the MP select commitee has called it, 'a messy compromise'. (Where have I heard that applied to almost all in our current level of governance lately?).

Addendum 1: Just got the latest from LA on the Oscars. Seems half the BBC is now flying in to, um, 'help'. Bless.

Addendum 2: At least they are trying to offset it all, I presume, by acting as a commercial station. At least BBC Midlands. Seems someone is flogging their business, a newsagents, on eBay. Hope we licence payers get a cut of the ad revenue that has been devoted to this sale. I wonder if Aunty will help me shift my motor?

Which brings me to persuasion, preferably via inspiration and reward, which I favour.

And, by association, example.

And in this, accepting we live in a highly celebrity-influenced culture, we are surely very dependent on what our media serve us up with this as the majority of their fare, from who they talk about, how they talk about them... and, even, who we have talking at us about them.

So to help me get in the right frame of mind to cut back a tad, I have just endured a 5 minute gush about the Oscar party excesses. The dresses, the booze, the outrageous demands and incredible requirements for a one-off that will all get disposed of the next day.

I just threw that in, in-passing, as this blog was actually initiated by something else earlier.

And that was an exchange between the main presenter and the weather girl about their drives to work this morning.

Now at this time of the morning it's doubtful they have much choice and even they did, to use Tony Blair's words, 'it would be highly impractical [for them]' (though I doubt in the BBC's terms the same applies to some poor shift worker waiting for a night bus), but I just wondered where the cut off might be for such as the BBC (and others) before individual behaviour that is deemed climatically unfavourable becomes a matter for media approbrium with no sense of double standards, 'doing what we say, and not...' and all round wanting it all ways?

I can see it is tricky, but as one who sees the need for a change in behaviour yet makes big compromises on various lifestyle, cost, convenience bases almost daily, at least I don't preach what I am unable or unwilling to practice.

The medium as the messenger. But sadly, when it comes to example, too often rare in consistency and seldom well done.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ocean 'dead zones' increasing

That's what scientists studying the so called 'dead zones' have concluded according to this article from the San Fransisco Chronicle.

"the seafloor revealed a boneyard of crab skeletons, dead fish and other marine life smothered under a white mat of bacteria." It doesn't sound too good, does it?

The dead zones are created by local conditions of low oxygen, and are doubling in number around the planet every decade. Whilst there are several causes for the development of the dead zones. the scientists are now firmly pointing the finger of blame at global warming as a key exacerbating factor.

Meanwhile, some palaeontologists are suggesting that the planet is already well into a sixth mass species extinction. They suggest that as many as 70% of species (similar to that which marked the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago) will disappear from our biosphere if we do nothing to halt climate change. The report in the Anchorage Daily News makes for very depressing reading.

Time for less talk and more doing?

Is Ol' Golden losing it?

That's the question posed by The Spectator in an article that suggests that our PM is incapable of undertaking the task he has been handed.

"His behaviour is erratic and bizarre; he phones colleagues at all hours with imperious demands while dithering over every decision he has to take."

"He tries to big-foot every minister and meddle in every department for all the world as if he has an uncontrollable tic; he is the Touretter of public administration. Yet the more he meddles, the more everything falls to pieces underneath him."


Some of the comments posted are quite amusing ..... this from Jan Maciag had me smiling.

"the country’s leadership now consists of people whose sole skill is the ability to talk. They have had absolutely no experience of running anything as complex as a whelk store before they are catapulted from some dubious think tank into ‘running’ huge government ministries"

Now who can argue with that?

From water mills to free standing turbines

Water power has been used for centuries in form of the old humble water mill, but free standing turbines may well turn out to be one of the developing technologies that we will hear a lot about over the coming years, as this from The Economist explains.

The image is an example of a Gorlov Helical Turbine, being developed by Lucid Energy Technologies, one of a number of free standing turbines that are currently in development and undergoing trials.

The great thing about this method of power generation is that it doesn't necessitate the construction of huge dams or tidal barrages as the need for a large head of water is obviated. And the three major problems of poor efficiency, costly maintenance and protecting the key electricity generating components appear to be on the verge of being fully overcome.

Definitely a technology to keep an eye on. Perhaps the Severn tidal barrage may not be necessary in its proposed form after all?

The start of a major slanging match?

That would appear to be what this article from TravelMole is indicating.

It is probably the first major salvo fired by the aviation industry at the shipping industry, which is now recognised as being a major CO2 emitter in its own right.

The thing is, all finger pointing and cross industry sniping will achieve, at the most, is nothing. But I'm sure that this is not the last time it will happen.

You can't push cream.

It rises to the top.

I was reminded of this as I processed a series of disconnected segments of BBC Breakfast news this morning.

And I also harked back to when I was an agency head in Singapore and the government there decided something needed to be done to 'create' more 'creativity' in a country noted for lots of right brain graft and diliegnt application, but perhaps not so much left brain inspiration.

So they convened a bunch of types like me from perceived 'creative' professions to outline their vision. This seemed to revolve around establishing a centre of creative excellence in Jurong, which is in the industrial heartland of the city state, filling it full of nifty stuff and state glee clubbers, and...voila!

Most round the table smiled and said 'great!'. Why not? It wasn't going to cost us anything. Then a hand popped up. Mine. I simply offered the view that, in my experience, around the world most original, innovative creativity mostly evolved from a less structured environment. Not a hothouse, especially one on a flatted factory in an estate. SoHo, Covent Garden. Left Bank.

I was not invited back.

Now I see that £800M has been 'invested', to little effect, to keep kids in University as 25% are dropping out. Seems the new education systems may be getting a lot more eligible to enter, but not so much to cope. The aim seems more to support the aims of targets than any actual educational benefits, to state or student. A bunch of kids into a system they may not be suited for and out without much they can apply. Worryingly, the new plan is erring more in throwing more money to adjust things some more so they still go in no matter what, to maximsie the 'benefits' their tuition fee debts confer.

I counterpoint this with a story about a South London state school that is cranking out some of greater new art talents. The difference? The principal is quoted as being interested in only developing their skills to fulfill the pontetial they wish to pursue. Not, X-factor-like, to shape a predetermined plan of what a minority think should be.

And it seems to work. With the public. QED.

What's this got to do with the environment? Well, apply it all, just to this industry. The waste. The misguided faith in meddling. The money blown on a system vs. letting what works evolve with support, but a more benign, results rather process-oriented aim.

I thought it was funny

Brown becomes an unlikely pin-up for Fijian tourism

He is, one presumes, not holding a bottle of local mineral water.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dubbya on global warming

Well, OK, it's not actually dubbya, but it is a brilliantly funny spoof video - see ArchNews.

Take this as a no

Watching over the offsetters - Will a voluntary code of conduct make us any more confident when choosing a carbon offset scheme?

Good original post, and some very worthwhile subsequent ones in reply. Hard to add much more of value.

Speaking personally, in answer to your question at the top, even with a voluntary code the answer will still be a resounding 'no'. And such is my faith in officialdom, frankly a mandatory, gov... er... quango (they'll farm it out to create a whole new set of beholden gravy-boaters, plus extra layer of deniability) - endorsed effort wouldn't exactly reassure me much better.

I can't see how they work or even IF they work. There are too many (I'm talking Coffsetters here, not quangos, but similar duplication, cost/benefit concerns apply) and I have no the time to weigh them up. Plus I have no reason to trust most of them, often with good reason, sadly tarring the possible worthy ones with the negative brush.

But as night follows day, I await the next half dozen to soon be announced by either a compliant media, rudderless government or 'buy-off-a-blip' business to help us 'deal' with the consequences of a growing number of us doing stuff and then wanting to do even more.

That is, IF we can afford it.

DEFRA - Benn announces Government offsetting code

Addenda (as promised to reply posters):

These are a couple of press releases that have come in to from the industry by way of response to the above. Hence read them in that light. They are merely what has been supplied and only from those who seem to have us on their mailing lists. As mentioned on the comments section, I don't know enough to offer much beyond how I feel as a consumer:

Carbon Clear response to DEFRA’s draft carbon offset code:

Carbon Clear has always championed transparency & measurable standards within the carbon offset industry. However, even after 12 months of consultation and deliberation we believe the Draft Code of Best Practice for Carbon Offset Providers issued by DEFRA raises as many questions as it answers.

One area of concern is the lack of definition over what a consumer is; the original draft code (Jan 2007) aimed to protect individuals and remove confusion in a fledgling industry, a move which we applaud. The code has now been extended to businesses in a way that we feel is completely inappropriate. We use an array of emissions factors to calculate and reduce a company’s carbon footprint prior to offsetting unavoidable emissions. Under the draft code we would have to pay an additional £2,000 every time we need to use a new emission factor not included in DEFRA’s current list. This cost could discourage many smaller businesses from participating in the carbon market and taking responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, our experience is that bigger businesses and corporates want a mix of compliance-market CERs and beyond-compliance VERs and prefer to perform their own quality checks to find projects that meet their requirements. CER schemes can be slow, bureaucratic, expensive to administer and limited in variety. Existing quality standards like the highly respected Voluntary Gold Standard and Voluntary Carbon Standard address the need for verified reductions and allow more of the money to go towards projects that help poor communities around the world make the transition to a low carbon future. Thus, while we welcome the Government’s embrace of the quality principles we have long supported, we feel there is still a lot of work to be done before this draft code is fit for purpose.

Carbon Clear is the first full-service carbon management firm with ISO 14001 certification to be listed in the United Kingdom Register of Quality Assessed Companies, which includes entries for over 100,000 organisations. The ISO 14001 is a global environmental management standard. The Register includes companies both within and outside the UK.

Carbon Clear is a carbon management company that works with businesses and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition to advising on emission reductions Carbon Clear also invests in projects to cancel out the pollution that is generated by everyday activities such as driving, home and business energy usage, flying and even nappy use. Corporate customers include Eurostar, Innocent Drinks, and 3M.

All of the projects Carbon Clear invests in are selected based on both carbon reduction and a wider social benefit for the communities implementing them. A great deal of care is taken to ensure money is directed to activities that genuinely improve the environment and the lives of real people and all projects must meet the following criteria:
Our projects must make verifiable pollution reductions over and above their normal level. We follow the guidelines developed by the Clean Development Mechanism and Voluntary Carbon Standard.
Projects must provide additional, long-term benefits to the communities that undertake them; these range from better health and improved incomes to job creation and the protection of endangered plants and animals.
Projects must be efficient; funds should support the projects, and not be diverted to unnecessary bureaucratic overheads, waste or middlemen.
Carbon Clear is supporting a wide variety of emissions reduction projects that produce clear development benefits. These range from improved cookstoves in Sudan, to wind farms in India and energy efficient brick kilns in Nicaragua.

Carbon Capital Markets Welcomes Defra's Offset Code of Conduct

Commenting on today's launch of Defra's Code of Conduct for Carbon Offsetting, Lionel Fretz, CEO of Carbon Capital Markets®, a leading trader and fund manager in carbon and clean energy markets, said:

"We welcome this strict code from Defra for the carbon offset markets. We have always taken the position that offsetting should only use credits from the regulated market as it is only these that have been through such a strict process of auditing and verification to guarantee their worth.

I would urge anyone purchasing offsets to make sure they are buying regulated credits only, using an FSA authorised and regulated supplier to ensure that both the offset supplier and the offsets they provide, are subject to the highest standards of regulation."

Carbon Capital Markets is involved in all aspects of the regulated, Kyoto-compliant carbon markets. It was recently cited by Point Carbon, a leading provider of news and analysis, as an industry leader for its management of the Carbon Assets Fund, which invests in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Projects.

DEFRA Government Offsetting Code to remain open to quality VERs (Verified Emission Reductions).

Eight leading international carbon offset companies, together supplying both CERs and VERs to the beyond-compliance market, have today welcomed the UK Government’s Offsetting Code and its recognition of the important role played by Verified Emissions Reductions (VERs).

When Defra in the UK published its draft version of the Code (Jan 2007) ‘Kyoto-compliant’ carbon credits only were included. However, following a twelve month consultation that saw support for VERs from experts as varied as NGOs and academics through to Parliament’s own Environmental Audit Committee, Hilary Benn stated yesterday that “we recognise that credits from the unregulated market may be innovative and of a very high standard”.

As a group of eight leading carbon offsetting companies, representing most of the leading suppliers by volume in the beyond-compliance carbon (voluntary) market, we welcome the government’s adoption of the key principles already used by the market for selection of VER and CER emission reduction programmes – from additionality and leakage through to permanence and verification. It’s appropriate and welcome that Defra has listened to the market and is taking a lead from it.

The beyond-compliance carbon market, which kick-started carbon trading in the mid-nineties, is global, cross-sectoral and growing extremely fast. The industry has professionalised over the last 5 years, and has seen in the launch of new quality standards for VERs including the Gold Standard (GS VER) and the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS), with registries for the VCS and GS in development along with a planned project database linking the two. (see Notes below)

We firmly believe that there is increased interest from people and business in acting beyond compliance, i.e. reducing emissions because they want to not because they have to. This is the carbon market coming of age, and we look forward to working with the UK Government to keep them informed participants in the global development of this innovative and fast-paced emergent market – one that is already generating important investments and innovative solutions towards tackling climate change.

Jonathan Shopley, Executive Director,The CarbonNeutral Company

Jamal Gore, Managing Director, Carbon Clear

Edward Hanrahan, Chief Operating Officer, ClimateCare

Steve Green, Carbon Strategy and Partnerships Manager, Climate Friendly

Mike Rigby, Director,co2balance

Tom Stoddard, Vice President, NativeEnergy

Kerryn Schrank, Programme Director, targetneutral

Adam Stern, Vice President of Policy and Strategy, Terrapass