Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Careful what you go 'a wanting..

A very interesting piece on packaging: Shoppers want less packaging

While much is in there (or the links), especially the inherent contradictions and cultural differences, I felt it worth asking for more to be spelled out.

As it pertains to an ongoing investigation I am conducting, and acknowledging the explanations in the piece above, what might make the packaging you feature in the picture overprotective?

In the face of the massive, negative-PR anti-packaging onslaughts, I am having trouble reconciling why the producers (in this case) or brands and/or retailers would still be going to the trouble and expense without good reason(s).

I am keen to find out what they might be.

The sub 100 club

Well, the sub 110 club really, as only the Bluemotion is actually less than 100g/km in terms of CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, it's quite a useful summary of the lowest emission vehicles that are available, from MotorTorque.

And all are VED and Con Charge exempt!

NEWS/Commercial PR - one good turn deserves a mention!

There's so little not to like about this I just had to rush it out as soon as I heard: The Pedalite.

It appeals on just so many levels.

As an engineer I can't help but admire the innovative concept for its simplicity and efficiency. Remember those old generator jobs that had a wheel being rubbed against the tyre? Any hill and you may have had light, but you were soon running out of puff! This really gets the rotational energy to light superbly.

It's also a critical safety aid. I have some issues about the claims being made for getting kids on bikes. This won't address all of them, but at least it helps my fight with mine trying to get them in high-vis torso and arm bands as they are not 'cool'.

A big thumbs up from here. I look forward to doing a full on-site re:view soon.

PR as supplied, with edits and tweaks:

Add side lighting to bikes to eliminate cycling accidents urges Tony Doyle former World Champion Cyclist

Cycling safety campaigner and former World Champion cyclist, Tony Doyle, MBE, urges cyclists to add side lighting to their bikes, following a report this week by Transport for London stating that more than one London rider is involved in a serious cycling accident every day, with three out of four of these accidents taking place at road junctions, where cyclists cannot be seen from the side (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).

Statistics also revealed that:
· 156 cyclists had been killed in London in the past 10 years
· More than 34,000 people were involved in bicycle accidents reported to the Met between 1996 and 2006
· The numbers involved in serious accidents fell from 566 in 1997 to 373 in 2006
· The number of slight accidents fell from 3,852 to 2,566 in 2006

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has just announced a £500m investment in a new network of quick, simple, and safe routes for cyclists, which will provide 900km of safer routes through the capital. A new central London bike hire scheme will also be launched, with 6,000 bikes available every 300 metres [not quite sure about this stat!? - Ed].

Tony Doyle comments, “The TFL’s investment in cycling is brilliant news for cyclists, however, we all need to be aware of the safety issues for cyclists. The increased popularity of cyclists in recent years has also seen a 30% rise in deaths of cyclists on the road since 2002 and with 75% of accidents happening at road junctions, side lighting should be seen to be as important as wearing a helmet in terms of keeping cyclists safe.”

With more cars on the roads than ever before, 48% of cyclists feel unsafe on the roads, according to research of 450 cyclists conducted at the National Cycle show in October 2007 by Pedalite International Ltd. 68% of cyclists believe that motorists came too close to them and over half were worried that they would not be seen in the evenings by motorists (51%). One in five people felt that there was a lack of cycle lanes to ensure their safety, despite the fact that many more cycle lanes have been created over the past few years in major UK cities.

Tony’s top tips for cycling safety are:

* Cyclists need to be as visible as possible on the road and should wear reflective clothing at all times

* Never cycle without a helmet, even on the shortest of distances

* Give your bike a regular bike service to ensure its on road safety

* Pump up your tyres and carry additional batteries for your front and rear lights

* Add reliable side lighting such as battery-free 360 visibility Pedalites* which provide always-on lighting to ensure they can be seen clearly by motorists

*Pedalite International Ltd offers unique 360 degree visibility battery-free pedal lights that improve cycling safety. Pedalites are powered by cycling energy which is harvested and stored enabling the lights to stay on for up to five minutes after the pedalling stops, such as when the cyclist is freewheeling or waiting at a junction. Motorists can see bikes fitted with Pedalites from up to 1km away and from any angle, including the side.

The lights cost £34.99 from Evans, Leisure Lake Bikes and they can be purchased online from the makers

To read more about Pedalite International’s SHE campaign please go here.

I'm sorry, but...

... this from our national broadcaster: Space planes 'to meet big demand'

Only without a peep about the stuff that pops out the back end of these rich-tourist efforts? Meanwhile, main news, our supermarket heads are all getting hybrids. That'll sort it.


In case I have missed something, I have been moved to ask:

Dear Mr. Amos,

I know there's a boldy-going, boundary-pushing aspect to man's evolution that needs to be acknowledged in all things innovative, and commerce often funds science. But in light of our being told we need to deal with emissions pronto to stabilise the only world we currently have to live on, just what are the consequences of these things, not just in terms of what they punt out, but the messages they send (ie: rich OK in space 5-up on a rocket... poor mustn't go to Majorca 200-up on EasyJet). What next, a promo for a Prius by Al Gore and Leonardo from space, with a BBC crew to broadcast? It does seem that some 'pioneers' of commercial space profit-making are getting, if you will excuse the pun, a rather easy, unchallenged, easy ride. Yes these things exist, are legally permitted to, if not encouraged. And are waaaay cool. But would not some questions be appropriate to put things in some context in light of the messages we the public are be served up daily on thrift and reduction in emissions? Any facts to clarify?

The author has already kindly, and promptly, replied, in a fair manner:

There are several issues here; and they are very reasonable questions which should be asked (However, I set out to write a technical article, not a socio-political one). Robert Laine addresses some of them in his lecture which you can view online if you click the webcast link in the right-hand navigation. For what it is worth, the rocket industry calls LOX-CH4 a "green propellant". But by green they are speaking relative to their usual propellants. It requires a lot of energy to first make hydrogen and then keep it chilled to the liquid state. Methane by comparison is much easier to handle. There are some special purpose fuels, too, which are pretty unpleasant. These are the so-called hypergolic fuels such as hydrazine which you will have heard about concerning the recent US spy satellite that was shot down. Nasty stuff.

However I do still have concerns, and especially do not feel that it is any longer adequate that media, especially one as major as the BBC, divorce one area of reporting from another. It is hard to imagine a piece on plastic that addresses only the facts without some tilt towards it's impact on the environment. Hence I have written back:

Thank you for taking the time to reply. Plus the info and link.

I appreciate your 'patch', but we are sadly moving into a new era where what one does in one area can (and maybe should) have a bearing what is going down elsewhere, especially as it is related. Take it from me! I am a creator of 'things' (engineer, designer and writer). But where once I simply worked on the basis of '
can this be done?' and embark on making it so, my environmental involvements now bring a terrible curse to the inventive soul; so I now find myself often constrained by having to ask: 'should it be done?'. And it's hard, when you have a good, new idea, to find that it may actually impose an environmental burden in its manufacture and use that goes beyond ego or paying the rent. But if (and as one who subscribes currently to 'Probably man-worsened climate change, so just in case maybe we should do what we can now') there is a global issue being faced that needs addressing by all, and quick, some of the old rules and boundaries might need to be re-assessed.

And there are a lot in the mix here, from governments to corporations to the media to the individual. And more than a few are complicit in bearing messages that, depending on the messenger, can be mixed at best. So, as a consumer I do find an eyebrow gets cranked when I see a piece in, say, the Guardian, moaning about air travel or 4x4s, yet right next door is an ad for a Range Rover or weekend break in the Maldives. The BBC is lucky in that it does not have such commercial pressures to weigh, but I do confess to getting cranky when I see the Breakfast News crew trotting out something on plastic bags as if it were the return of Satan, and then cutting to some guy on an Arctic ice flow saying it's all to save global warming that he and the guys flew up there.

So, on the one side I, like any red-blooded male (or like-minded laydee) love to hear of the latest gizmo, not just because I might want one but just to appreciate all that it took to think it up and make it. And what's not to like about space travel? If we are screwed down here, maybe we do need to keep on looking to the stars as the next venue we can reach out to... and then pollute with our messy footprints.

I guess I just find that such as Sir. B et al get a lot of promo for what is a) pretty elitist and b) pretty hard to justify (unless the 'tourists' swap their Kodak moment for a bit of weightless experimenting while up there (and I don't mean the 60 mile high club), especially when the main motivation seems to be money. The bio 7'one out of 4'7 was another, but that PR kinda backfired I feel, especially when folk started trying to assess how many acres of nuts it would take to get across the Atlantic. That's when these things do not help, as they weaken the cases for more moderate advocacies by bringing opposing extremes to the fore.

No problem with innovation, especially of the 'green' variety, but the enviROI has to be brought front and centre. All I now care about is that what we put in place for the future makes my kids' chances of a livable planet better than currently advised... mainly by such as the BBC. Can't have it all ways anymore. Or at least, not if we are facing 'the biggest threat.. yadayada...' The Corporation does have a duty more than most news media, but why do I feel that even if proof positive of man-made adverse climate change was released, if Macca did an OJ the entire building would clear the airwaves scrambling to bring live footage from the nearest helicopter to bring us his progress, if maybe tsk-tsk'in that he was in an SUV?

Interesting point on the energy costs of getting H2 into a tank. All we tend to hear are paeans to the glass of water that falls from Arnie's Hummer or Sir Stuart Rose's BMW 7-series. I love the notion behind it all, but again remain interested more in whether it is credible as a resource to actually reduce emissions, or is more a rich person's toy dressed up as green.

Anyway, I appreciate the feedback. But maybe you can see some merit in my point about the role national broadcaster can and should play in keeping messages consistent and audience sensitive in the face of such a major issue as this.

Addendum -

BBC - Robots fly into Antarctic skies - A a step in the right direction? But what's the betting a bunch of film crews will be flying up there to report on it?

PROF's POSER - Free into who will go?

It's inspired today by this - Battery-powered car on the cards for BMW in bid to cut emissions - which is by no means the first or only such PR outing for an alternative motor fuel/solution.

As all know, my primary concern is the enviROI to such things.

So while I concede that such as electric and hydrogen are most likely to result in fewer emissions from the car where it happens to be, I concern myself more with the total released to the atmosphere, for instance at the point the 'fuel' is created.

I'm just wondering if there is (and there surely must be) any sources that show the relative efficiencies of the various options.

I'm not here (but will be later) so concerned with the overall enviROI of the car (construction, operation/maintenance and disposal all have carbon consequences over lifetime), but simply how the fuel sources stack up in terms of, well... what measure to choose is another key factor.

I'd say the best might be the energy delivered and made available to the tank. As I say, what gets to the wheel is another matter for another time. Though efficiencies in getting miles from a litre of liquid gas or unit of stored electricity are also key.

So... let me kick off with Grams of CO2 per Kilojoule?

Greenbang - Hydrogen highway: won’t somebody think of the water? - May throw up an answer

Funny, I was pondering this only today.

Well, not the water bit as it seemed we have enough of that (but having watched 'V' in the 70's, you should never take such things for granted) and figured it was just going to come back in a cyclical manner, serving merely as part of the energy transfer process.

Plus a quick question to Arnie: why does it have to be a 6/7 litre Hummer? No H2 Civics around, I guess.

IDEA - Hair today, who knows what tomorrow?

Inspired by this : Dog lovers immortalise pets by turning them into wooly jumpers

As shared by the sniffy blonde (she thought it 'p-EU') and more chilled bouffant on BBC Breakfast News.

A quick Google under 'Dog hair knitting' revealed this is quite prevalent, which just shows how what has been under our noses can end up 'new' when some media say it is.

For copyright reasons I doubt I can show a picture from these publications, but have a gander at our little collection. Bear in mind we throw nothing out... 'just in case'.

That's 4 years of the boys and grandma, who get trimmed at home. Mine we rejected becuase it's just too pepper and salt and looks nasty. The missus doesn't trust us with the clippers, so her tresses are on a barber's floor - waht a waste!

No idea what we'll do with it, if indeed there is anything. But we're looking.

ps: The Other bowl is fluff I collected from our drier. But since we ditched that it has stayed... 'manageable'. Might make good insulation? All you have to do is collect enough. Just saying...

Ahead of our time?

Long, long ago, in fact so long ago it predates our Blogger archive search, I created (and featured) some redesigned ads that I sent to various FMCG retailers and brands to suggest how they could serve the environment better AND maybe even work in the cause of positive marketing for all concerned.

Hence I turned a not very ethical stance on light bulb sales by Tesco into a suggestion for creating a loss leader to get folk into the store. This was about 3 years ago. Nothing much happened (that I noticed)... until now: 1p Energy Saving Bulbs

Oh, well, better late than never!

ps: reading the posts is... illuminating... especially the reasons that may be behind it all, and a debate on the distinction's between low energy, long life and the combo of those that we have banged on about here for some while.


Talking Retail - Tesco to sell “green” lightbulbs for a penny - Note the others doing similar deasl, too. Gald I got all mine at Morrisons at £1+!