Friday, July 31, 2009

QUOTE OF THE DAY - Weasels 'R Them

In my new guise as an 'entrepreneur' (not quite right: that's a guy with an idea that has made money), I keep slamming into new and ever more painful business realities.

One is that the words 'fixed price' don't actually need to mean what you are told is how what you are expected to pay works out.

Especially with some lawyers (though I have met a few goods ones, if not enough to balance out the blood-sucking, firstborn-taking, ethical black holes that are most).

Which is why I turn to Dilbert. Not for restitution, for even he knows this is not possible, but simply for empathy.

Ch 7. Negotiating Like a Weasel

When you are planning to buy anything expensive, you probably call around to compare prices. Companies have wised up to that strategy and counter it with the weasel tactic known as the accidental misquote...

He goes on:

Why are there no accidental misquotes in the too high direction?

Green tech I can get behind

Thermal images make a home's heat loss easy to plug

Like it.

As opposed to blowing bazillions on 'campaigns' or 'officers' to raise 'awareness' on intangibles.

Use the dosh on stuff like this and promoting it sensibly.

I can't think of a home-owner who couldn't see the merits, the benefits and engage.

You might even find few boxes actually get ticked and targets get met that may mean something.

Facts are sacred. Use them with care.

I have highlighted a few polls, etc, today.

And not in a good way.

But here's some stuff that looks well worth treating wiv' respect.

Interesting uses of the Data Store

Data, Gosh-darned data, and 'it's how you ask' data

I share it, but would have no clue how to answer the question, if asked:

Which countries believe in climate change?

To be fair, drilling down the questions are more specific. Then we get to methodology.

Good hacks from hacks

Hack the environment

Well, I found it interesting.

What's (possibly) wrong with this picture?

From a train travel article in the Guardian.

Answers on a postcard.

QUOTE OF THE DAY 2 - Silly season

Does divorce cause global warming?

Of course, I then read on.

QUOTE OF THE DAY - Smart for whom?

Smart meters in every home will cost each household more than £300

"We don't see how the Government can justify asking consumers to pay for something that will save energy companies hundreds of millions a year, while the average household will make only minimal savings."

I don't think this mob 'do' justifying to the public.

And I can think of a few things I could direct that dosh to that might help the planet more.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

China sin dumb?

What can China do about climate change?

I must say I am wondering when China does get to qualify as a first world country, with all the joys we have to offer, and share in.

Maybe we could send back our GOATs (Guv of all talents) in a couple of containers to help work the same magic on their economy that has been conjured here?


Guardian - NEW - India gets serious on climate change

This struck a chord

I just like the idea of making things.

How To Make A Rain Barrel (DIY Video)

Especially when they go on to save others.

Some useful links, too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

IDEA - Composter

I have not been 'down the shed' for a while. Pity. That's where I do my best... er... better work.

But I thought this was an idea en route to the shed worth sharing.

Well, Barnes Wallis may have liked it.

POOH CORNER - Flushed with inspiration

Over at My Zero Waste: How to reuse your toilet

So, there are reuses for the hardware as well as the ...ahem.. software.

Funnily enough, in her post Rae mentions washing machine drums, and I have a new idea coming up on these soon. Watch this (well,'s) space.


I must take this opportunity to blog on the trails and tribulations of making changes to a system that seems more finely tuned and jittery than an Arab stallion on speed driving a 60's Ferrari.

For a start, when we uploaded the new upgrades, it all also got moved to a new server, and that's just where the 'fun' started, and looks like it continues.

Because for a magic period the system seems to have posted to an ancient test page which, ironically, uploaded in a heartbeat. And then buried itself in the cache of some who logged on while it was up.

However, in sorting that out, it looks like we are currently bouncing off Mars via Uranus, and if the site loads at all , it is coming by man with cleft stick being towed by a three-legged tortoise.

Not. A. Good. Day!

Playing Chicken Little

Today there was a classic example of how rushing out notions in support of your beliefs can end up doing more harm than good.

It cannot have escaped most folks' notice that of late, the weather has been less than clement. As I write a cold drizzle decorates my window. I can only imagine how those in the campsite opposite are feeling.

And this has been picked up by the 'news'. So we have the odd spectacle of the BBC reporting crew exchanging barbed commentary with the weather guys. 'How did you get it so wrong', was about the most polite interrogation.

To which, reasonably, the reply was that such things were almost impossible to predict.

Trouble is, a lot of folk seem to make a lot of noise based on predictions. And this summer was going to be long, hot, and non-stop BBQ. It may yet get there, and I am hoping for something nicer for our camping trip in a few weeks' time. It's hard to keep kids entertained under wet canvas for long.

But for now, there is quite a lot of egg on faces, and I rather fear more sober cautions on climate will get rather swamped by overly enthusiastic folk - using what they think will 'prove' their case - getting a bit of a hammering from those equally keen to 'prove' the exact opposite.

Frankly, from floods to heatwaves to hurricanes to even melting Greenland glaciers (some have used a piece on this to enquire as to how this country acquired its name, pre-Humvee), I think those advocating caution, moderation and even reduction might be better tasked looking at ways to motivate other than 'the sky is falling'. Especially when they put quantitative data on it all which proves unsound.

Telegraph - NEW - Start with the Met Office, Dave - It seems others have noticed, and views

BBC - NEW - Met Office cools summer forecast - Ten ways to beat the heat

Indy - NEW - The Big Question: Why did the Met Office get it so wrong?

Guardian - NEW - Rain puts dampers on 'barbecue summer' - the inevitable exchanges have rather made my point

QUOTE OF THE DAY - Keep taking the blue pills

Worth sharing: Human activity is driving Earth's 'sixth great extinction event'

If only for this quote post which at the time I thought was curiously sympathetic to the 'baddies' in the Matrix:

"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure".

Agent Smith

(worth also checking out Titan AE to feel the Drej might have had a point):

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New bins for old

In November, my area swaps recycling systems.

Out goes the RE:box, a two-container system that I helped name, design and market, and in comes the now ubiquitous green wheelie.

I have mixed feelings on this. So, following an invitation in the local paper, I trooped off t'other day 'to get all my questions answered'.

Well, I got a leaflet (Polish and Portuguese also available) and a free pencil, so it was not a complete waste, but sadly the questions I had (about recyclcate quality at the MRF (materials Reclamation Facility), etc) were not on the list. Nor what these 'new products' might be.

Still, I did learn a few things.

By virtue of having a house on the street, I may not be issued with one. I think I will manage by virtue of having off road space, but the issue is me getting it out for collection without blocking the footpath. Even a few minutes if I get up and get it out early might be a hazard.

So that's pretty much our whole road out, then. Strikes me as already a step backwards as the alternative is to lob out black binliners.

I am also 'required' to rinse and clean everything... apparently. No bin liners in the wheelie means that in the two hot weeks of summer between collections... 'I would want to anyway'. Hmnnn. Oddly, we get to retain our bin liners for 'other waste'.

There's also a leaflet on what they will take and what they won't. I could not get much feedback on what steps would be taken in the event of incorrect placement, either by self or 3d parties. Hmnnn 2.

What is good is they will now take plastics, but again we are in label territory. The lady said 'if it's a bottle we'll take it'. Not sure she, or consumers, will be getting their heads round this one any time soon. They also don't want biodegradables. Good luck with that.

We'll see. But even after what I am sure will be an inevitably troubled settling in period, I remain to be convinced that this has been thought through.

And as one who helped deliver them, I wonder what will become of 20,000 heavy duty blue plastic RE:tie containers after just a few years. Landfill?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Descendants of King Tut?

Or should that be 'tat'?

I am naturally drawn to any piece that mentions 'junk', even if in less than glowing terms.

Like the Pharaohs, we’re getting buried by our own possessions

However, in my case, several years' worth of old packaging secreted around house, garden and shed might stretch to qualify as 'possessions'.

My name is URL... and Mud

You know that bowl of petunias in the HitchHiker's Guide?

'Oh, no; not again'

Last week the upgrades to the site went live. Tested every which way and looking well spiffy.

However, behind the scenes, there were 'consequences' brewing.

Because along with the change there was a change of server and, it turns out, that meant links elsewhere got lost.

So I noticed that was no longer getting emails.

However, in solving that, it then seems that the site was linking to an ancient incarnation held in the cache.

And now, in solving that in turn, I now no longer have access to the back end admin. There is something about a scrolling page headed 'Error Code...' that can really spoil a day.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Just needs sharing

Building a windmill in Africa from scrap

No reason why one can't do it here too.

Well, there's planning, of course.

Then there's 'elfinsaftee...

But Afrigadget is a find:)


Don't recall signing up, but I thought this that just came in was interesting:


What I liked was the relatively measured way it was argued.

Having shared it, I'll still keep quiet on the bits I agreed with, and, possibly, do not.

CATEGORY - Packaging

For more 'informational' packaging-related sources:


Gaurdian - Supermarkets failing to reduce packaging

LetsRecycle - Councils call for urgent action over packaging

Indy - From tomatoes to yoghurts, soap powder to beer, the packaging that infuriates you
...and for the rest, there's There are some.. too many examples of egregious excess packaging.

But it is worth asking... why do it? And challenge the answers. It may be the additional costs, and bad PR of having such things may have a valid, eco-supportive reason. If not... are they bonkers? This stuff costs them, and hence us... extra money. Odd sales model.

And while reduction is tops (where possible/enviROI-sensible), before we get to recycling may I insert a small flag for reuse and repair... and a funny little notion to help them along on

Sometimes it is possible, to work with what we've got, change what were getting, and in so doing help pocket and planet... whilst having some fun.

INFORMATION - Not exactly 'pro', but a worthy source of what is out there, especially to excess.

WRAP - What packaging does - Silly billies. They have forgotten to mention us... again. Tempting as it is to return the compliment, we will mention them.

packagingnews - Environment Report 2009 - oddly, little industry comment at all, as yet. Let's see what I can do:)

Introduction - Reuse gets a mention:) does not:( I have tried to rectify that:

"reusable packaging is a great idea that hasn’t really hit the mainstream"
Indeed. But its time is coming.
'Is now the time to bring back reusable packaging'
Yes, along with packaging with second use designed-in, in complement. As has Gillette, evidently. I'd love to see it.
'the packaging is designed to be kept then more time and resources can be dedicated to it.'
Worth it, I'd say. As you mention ecover, they do too. Even without designed-in, for now. They have uploaded all their packs to, with reuse ideas attached.
"The packaging still represents the brand when it is being reused'
A key point. Imagine the value of valued, branded, packaging, retained.
'To encourage customers to keep and reuse their empty packaging... requires changes in customer behaviour.'
For sure, but worth it, IMHO.
'It requires retailers to give up shelf space'
Or... not at all.

Review of the year
Fears of recycling meltdown, bin taxes, carrier bags - all the environment stories that have hit the headlines over the past 12 months

Where waste really goes
Forget the sensationalist headlines and recycling naysayers; we visit a London borough to discover the truth about our kerbside collections

Drinks industry calls time on CO2
Beer producers are working hard to manage the sector's environmental impact. But what is the best material for the job?

A burning question
Energy from waste continues to be a contentious issue, but with the size of the population only going one way, now could be the time to invest

The space race

As online shopping increases the need for products to keep purchases safe in transit, many new eco-conscious void fillers are coming to market

How green is the material world?
As lighter packs and cutting carbon footprints remain at the top of the industry's green agenda, how do the major packaging materials stack up?

Of course, another acorn in reducing the impact of plastic materials is designed-in reuse, possibly with such as RE:tie?

The benefits of bioplastics
Myles Barker of cereals body the HGCA argues that using the controversial plastics could help the industry, and the country, tackle emissions

Worthy of linking to the Plastics, Composting and Plastic Bags links below.

The age of the green machine

Is a lack of clear information and dearth of support from the big players stifling the development of ‘eco' machines?

See the light and cut energy costs
As firms search for new ways to tighten their belts, energy-efficient lighting could bring vital savings

Packaging's environmental impact

Eco-design consultancy Giraffe Innovation's Rob Holdway examines the benefits of managing the carbon footprint of packaging

Refills get on-shelf road test
Reusable packaging has fallen out of favour due to issues with convenience and conformity, but that could be set to change

Just, don't walk inbetween the two?

Wireless power system shown off

I'm quite easily impressed, so this appealed. And it seems a nifty evolution from my electric toothbrush being charged soaking wet by sticking on a plastic spike.

So I can see applications that may be worthy one day, for instance sorting out the vandalism problems I foresee with electric car charging posts and their tempting cables (remember late night BT phone boxes and their forlorn handset on the floor?)

Not sure about the heated dog bowl, mind.

Forbes - Look Ma, No Wires

I love to say 'I told you so', so...

Drivers 'don't trust' road taxes

...I (ok, and a few others) told them so!

And this from a 'pay to pollute' (within limits) advocate! Mind you, I was about the only young flat dweller in London who didn't see the big problem with Poll Tax. Which, by my recollection, would have saved me money, too.

So... '...taxes have been handled so badly that [people] no longer trust what ministers say the charges pay for..'. Well, D'uh. And '...tarnished the image of environmental taxes'. Well, double D'uh'.

I don't claim it's easy to resolve ('Taxing drivers according to how much they use their cars remained the fairest method' - Uh... not so fast. What about rural vs. urban, where taxes have been used to provide public transport system that favours one - that would be the Metro types who have a tube at every corner to whisk them to their next interview, whilst claiming for taxis - over the other. Plus a host of other issues) , but boy, have they made it 10x more difficult for any green initiative in the future.

And as for this: '...drivers were given "no clear explanation" of what they got in return for around £45bn paid in taxes each year'. Farcical.

Bugging Nature

Insects to be brought in to control Japanese Knotweed

A knotty problem: Could a tiny insect help rid us of knotweed?

As one who used to have a natural but nice garden, now a tad over-run, I have to state an interest.

But let's not forget it was bringing in a foreign organism that caused the problem in the first place.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's this button do?

Scientists 'kept at arm's length'

Explains a lot.

Solutions are rare

Hence I will make a rare exception and cite a poll (for all they are worth) on them.

Make your vote count in the battle against global warming

Won't tell you how I voted.

Interestingly, until this I had never heard of the current Number 1: Thorium nuke.

Which might reflect the methodology.

Guardian - TEDGlobal: The genius of the natural world

OK, it's political

But I clicked on it because of the picture.

They'll need a mass grave to bury this bad news

Now I share it because of what is crammed into 3 short(ish) paras.

Very little opinion. A lot of depressing fact.



Observer - Why aren't we warming to solar? - Good question, and start to kick off with.
Observer - Solar so good for our house - It doesn't look like Nevada, so what's good enough for him...? Note the caveat, mind.
Guardian - Keep on the sunny side - Concentrating Solar Power
Junkk (et all) - o-solar-mi-o-mi
Got this in a forum: Is $339,000 For This Green Solar-Roof Home In Chicago Affordable? - Kind of depends what one means by 'affordable', I guess.The maths is pretty well laid out in the piece, though there are of course imponderables on future costs/values that make them best guesses. There's also whether you are 'affording' it to save and/or make money on operational costs & added value at resale over the duration of habitation, or 'affording' it to reduce one's emissions (after construction contribution) on an enviROI+ measure, without being so worried about money.
Greenbang - Carrot wins, Aussies go solar - It's worth repeating...'Carrot wins'
Indy - Solar panels 'not cost effective' - Hmnn. Do, should they mean yet? enviROI?
In reply - Letters
Greenbang - 208 years to pay back cost of solar panels? - Of course, making money need not be an issue at all to some, but this does seem to suggest the numbers on any count are hard to come by to make an informed decision.
Telegraph - What's the point of solar panels? - Solar cells, flat-panel screens are source of potent greenhouse gas - certainly a potential back-of-mind aspect in enviROI calculations
Indy - Solar panels 'take 100 years to pay back installation costs' - making a good choice is certainly not easy. Maybe procrastination pays.
Times - Greenhouse effects: Smarter Energy PV panels - Useful!
Times - Solar panels in the Sahara 'could power the whole of Europe' - I'd love to go along, but there's that word again. Promising, but I had read about this before, and there was some debate about the scouring effect of sand on the mirrors and the drop of inefficiency over distance the 'leccy gets sent. Any mention of that?
Guardian - Starving UK plc's green energy shoots - Normally I wouldn't link to such as this, as I share some thread posters' disquiet about the medium handing over an admittedly commentary-oriented piece to an author with a clearly subjective view, at least with no mention of what it might be. However, there are some interesting points, and numbers, especially in the thread.
Guardian - Concentrated solar power could generate 'quarter of world's energy' - Note my favourite word in that headline.
Telegraph - NEW - Why Whitehall hates solar panels - Perversely, part of me would wish they were actually smart enough to be that venal in support of their own petty interests. The piece, and some comments, does make me keen to see how solar has progressed to be viable on these shores which, let's face it, are not that sunny.



Smart Planet - NEW - How does a solar cell work? - I miss Tomorrow's World.. and Look & Learn.

Trendhunter - Top 100 Solar Inventions - Part I: Gadgets & Fashion (SUPER GALLERY) - heck of a start, I'd say!

Part II - Though how what gets in does and what doesn't hasn't I have no clue. I'll keep looking for more 'down to earth' examples as they come by.


trianco - -

See labels below, especially under 'Alt. Energy' for previous notes. If you have anything to add to the headings above... share 'em! Direct to info[at] or via the comments on the blog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Bear in mind... you are reading this on a blog.

Blogs are big business…just not here

Not sure if I am in the wrong business... or country.

Double Take

I misread this at first:

Microsoft Chooses ‘Doing Good’ Over ‘Looking Good’

Silly me, I thought they were using the greenwash funds to reduce emissions.

I feel... done.

Nudge, nudge, and, er... another nudge

Hey, if the opportunity presents:

Unilever launches sustainability drive

The Cleaner Planet Plan sounds interesting and to be applauded*. I shall look forward to hearing more about its scope, and especially if it covers such as recycling and/or reuse (my personal favourite) beyond the commitment to reduction.

Reuse especially offers great opportunity to affect the habits of consumers on top of any feel good factor with tangible rewards to pocket as well as planet. A rare 'win-win' for all in the mix, from marketer to consumer. Even some often at the sharp end, such as LGAs, who too often are lumbered with wielding threat, guilt, nanny or scare: none of which are over-motivating.

*With a big eyebrow ready to crank.

And, while we're at it:

Tesco and Asda slip down WPP Green survey

I'm trying to get a scope and will report if anything interesting evolves.

Nudge, nudge...

Well, she asked:

Can sandals ever be fun?

And it seemed/s a good opportunity for a plug:)

I'd have hoped... thought that it is entirely possible to introduce a variety of functions into anything, if you use a bit of imagination.

Heavens, how many times to we hear the old chestnut that kids prefer to play with the box than the present?

Hence anything that adds value, and especially second use, to any packaging design should be desired, attempted... and applauded.

I have to say my two have rather outgrown the brief distraction of some packside imagery, but are still not above reusing all manner of boxes, tubes, etc in all sorts of creative ways.

ps: Speaking of sandals and fun, if you have a decent idea to add to the free online plastics reuse competition currently on, the runner-up prizes are... recycled plastic sandals!

Squeezing the most

I like low waste solutions.

Especially when they mean using less materials too:

Treehugger - Clever Toothbrush Stops Paste Waste with Haste

Leek investigations

Biology came third in my sciences, but this looks interesting.

Leeks to the rescue

SIR – Earlier in the year, Professor Steven Chu, America’s Energy Secretary, suggested that the roofs of houses should be painted white to combat global warming (report, May 28).
A more effective way would be to introduce the houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum) to suburban roofs. These plants, of the Crassulaceae family, capture carbon dioxide at night and use it during the day – a method of photosynthesis known as crassulacean acid metabolism.

Now, how one configures roofs to sustain the load, maintain ('acid' being a word that sets up some red flags) and manage the crop is a whole new ball of enviROI, but if the claim is true it seems at first blush a better plan than some.

Joining up thinking?

Conservative think tank urges recycling reform

I fear I find almost anything from any political party (or the odd new breed of separation stages, be it think tanks or quangos) suspect, but this report smacks of common sense. At least, as summarised here. I'll get around to reading it (57pp) one day.

As, with renewables, there is much good, honest engineering thinking - 'Our waste system has developed piecemeal over the past 150 years without ever being reformed properly" - to assess the enviROI from instigation to operation that will be into many administrations hence, I just hope the number crunchers are up to the task and are allowed to do a proper job without 'influences' based on short-termism or lobbying from subsidy junkies.

I really hope it can be reformed, as the current piecemeal efforts are serving neither planet nor public understanding of what can be one to help it at all. But let's hope there is a political will to be honest about consequences without trying to please all, and right away, with fudges.

It will take an upfront hit to see benefits later on. But... have we the money now? There will always be...consequences.


Telegraph Letters - Fine way to collect rubbish
SIR – At last saner voices seem to be prevailing in the debate over the best way to collect and recycle rubbish from the nation’s doorsteps (“Household waste bills warning”, report, July 20).
Policy Exchange is correct in suggesting that fortnightly collections encourage recycling as long as they are accompanied by a weekly collection for food waste. That is the system run in our part of north London, and we are now the second-best recycler in the capital, with an overall recycling rate of 44 per cent.
It is also right to highlight the punitive role of government fines for the extra rubbish we send to landfill. This is why councils put three wheelie bins on your doorstep. It is not because council managers like to torment residents with a baffling variety of bins, but because recycling at the earliest stage possible (on the doorstep) helps us to fend off government fines further down the line.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Selectivity in action

I found this interesting, if sort of funny, in a tragic way...

Minister says he will boycott Nobu over sale of bluefin tuna

Just read the comments (I refrained) to see the way that this is going, and how the very actions PR'd has again been mired in accusations of 'selectivity' at best from another messenger who is in the spotlight for the message they seek to share.

I also predict an 'interesting' if not edifying spectacle of those who are high-profile on the advocacy front being targeted and hence rather restricted in their lifestyle choices. Hard to imagine this working out well in any way in the long term.

As it happens, as it seems a 'delicacy' only for those who can afford to go to flash restaurants I can't see this as a bad bit of publicity as those luvvies who wallow in this area might respond, but as a lover of 'normal' tuna in his weekly lunch sarny I am hoping this is not an issue that will really affect me, but fear it will eventually.

BBC - NEW - Tuna: Fin words, suspicious tail

Let's never forget how wonderful nature is

Why raindrops come in many sizes

Of course, if the number dropping here continues, and the Wye River rises further, I may have to revise that!

Numbers Games

World's elderly to overtake number of infants


Postcodes that don't zip?

Top 1,000 most polluting postcodes

I guess if you're not on the list that is a chance to be Much Smugness-in-the-Mire, but without knowing the scope of the parameters it's hard to see much value to this either.

And it does rather tar the 'good' with the 'bad'. Which makes me nervous when box-tickers see money to be made without worrying to much about detail.

And no Kelly McGillis in sight

I fear my knowledge of the Amish is based mainly on 'Witness'

The modern world intrudes on the Amish

And the closest in this piece to a young woman was a teen in some Nike trainers who was in fact a Born-Again Christian.

Ethical Man and his travels is on my review list, so when he posts I read, and often feel the need to comment:

It was an interesting travel/social piece, but I am unsure if there is much one can take by way of dealing with future world/climate related issues. Even these fine folk seem unable to resist the shiny cameras and boom mikes (where did the crew sleep?) that squirt electrons around; shame they will never get to see this piece about them.

True, these guys are living a relatively self-sustaining agrarian-based lifestyle, but with six brothers it seems little wonder the moppet and her siblings are finding things are constraining. That is kind of what happens as populations expand. Then you end up with millions in cities with high-intensity farming to feed 'em.

And it is hard to resist the human urge to roam (and all its consequences), which is why these fine folk were first to be found in a train. I'd be intrigued to learn (though I'm sure 'No, you're wrong. Period. So stop having opinions' will explain, and within 2mins of posting - is it on shifts?) how the motive power of this vehicle differs from that of a car to render it more acceptable. Is diesel OK but petrol not? Do the Amish carry out a per head Co2 analysis before trips? On the basis of the explanation I think I heard, a chauffeured Hummer seems to be the next option from a pony and trap.

Or cradle to grave on systems or products? Does that plastic bucket in the barn actually impose fewer emissions being made, used and eventually recycled than one made from wood and turned, or from clay and fired?

So I think this piece has served to highlight the dilemmas faced, though in many ways a more interesting aspect is how the 'resistance' to 'temptation' is being eroded by succumbing to desire rather than necessity. The interpretations on the acceptability of transport options seemed 'flexible' at best, much like a person in an eco-town deciding a car is OK because they work in another place (maybe a factory that makes foot-treadle sewing machines for folk who like labour-saving devices without thinking too hard on how they happen to exist) or, as Justin noted, battery packs but not the electricity that is required to charge them.

ps: When you muck out a stable, is it best to do it in a suit that will need dry cleaning, or on clothes that can be simply washed and hung out to dry? I think the Amish may have some things yet to share.

Hence I am still unsure as to what this series is trying to do. Is it a travel series (that is trying to hint that travel is bad?). An anti-technology advocacy (that uses technology and depends on others watching it?). Or an 'entertainment' , where green practices get dropped for the sake of a prop to help ratings? What?

Even with the Amish, I had to feel the varied actions of the messengers seemed to raise more questions about their messages than any solutions offered. I felt this was less the modern world intruding and more the Amish reaching out. And that, is human nature.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Waste miles?

In every way.

UK 'will take back toxic waste found in Brazil'

Makes you proud. Can't help but feel that it might be 'better' in terms of enviROI (if not symbolism) to locate a Brazilian HaZMAT company and force the guilty parties to pay them to deal with it there.

Home Comforts

Is it greener to shop online?

Well, now you can um... online

Living in the heart of a market town we have no need of the food aspect. However, my missus pretty much gets all her gear via the web. Working from home I accept the parcels in, dispatch the rejects back, and appreciate the results retained.

Hard to say whether the planet is better served, but for sure she is not driving off at the weekend hither and thither, and better yet me and the boys are not in tow.

However, this all seems a) rather complex to get one's head around and b) possibly not something worth obsessing about too much. Until we're knocked back to the stone age and are born, live work and die within ten miles of a self-sustaining community it seems rather fanciful tinkering.

If money were no object, I would buy that joint of lamb from our local butchers, who sources just down the road. But I'd do it for flavour mainly. We now have a news Sainsbury's and I got a truly lovely bit of meat for one third the price... all the way from New Zealand. Eco-shame? Well, maybe not, if the various conflicting food mile arguments fly (sorry).

In fact, this debate could shape up like any climate change one, keeping lot of extreme views negatively preoccupied and the majority of us in the middle in the dark and simply confused and slighly uneasy.

Still, as a data junkie the tip about shoeboxx as a way of moving away from and/or filing receipts was worth it. I wonder way the graphic has $ in it?

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Chapters?

I am hoping today will mark a significant watershed.

After a pretty dire few months, my Mum seems to settling into her new nursing home, and today I go over to her cottage to put the finishing touches to it in anticipation of our first tenant in residence to help us pay for her care.

And, hopefully, one major distraction ticked off a list that has been preoccupying a male mind that does not handle multi-tasking well.

So I can get back, if not refreshed, but more refocused, on and RE:tie.

For the former there is more good news.

As I have been dotting in and out on more personal matters, I have been liaising with David of sound-i, who took over the site from the original designers a few years ago, and have been looking after and/or evolving it ever since.

This has not always been easy. What was, once, state of the art, is now more of being in a bit of a state, with creeping glitches (often as a consequence of new, or updated features clashing - it's a zoo back there) and features that are/were frankly pretty dated.

Well, tempting providence on the glitches, we have upgraded some key ones, mainly in the Ideas section, that I hope will solve a few issues and add welcome new functionality to the site experience.

These are:

Ideas - URL checker in description box with warning message - People have been trying to add URLs in the ideas box, and why not? Nothing like showing a reference. Trouble is, it has been crashing the system. Now there is a warning.... AND... better than that...:

Ideas - 3 x new url fields for adding links (and added to idea display) - so if you do wish to cite URLS you can add up to three of them here.

Ideas Preview amended to show new fields - Once you have uploaded, this new data will be shown too

Ideas Image upload now fixed and solid (no more errors), includes progress bar for large images - Uploading images was causing all sorts of issues, and large files were timing out. This was causing a crash. Not only does this now show status, but...

Ideas Images are now automatically resized on upload so you can upload a 2mb 1500x1500 pixel if you want and it auto resizes to max of 200x200, also maintains aspect ratio and optimises it for speed - OK, it's old school to most, but for us it is a huge step forward and hopefully a real help to posters.

'Delete Stuff' in the 'Edit My Stuff' edit of My Junkk now resurrected - this was crashing a lot. With luck, now fixed. So you can remove what is taken/dated/now embarrassing:)

They will, all things working out, kick in early next week after a bit of weekend testing and downtime to swap sites and servers.

I am also hoping that I can coincide this with the (mid-late) July newsletter and an invitation to tackle the competition, as there is extra stuff to help post ideas.

We're also working on new features all the time, so do let us know if anything will help and we'll see what we can do.

Go Figure

I don't usually 'do' politics here, but I must say this caught my eye.

Only a few hours ago I was watching BBC lunch news with much gush on the 400k jobs in 'green' industries, and then I read this....

Miliband promises more green jobs but Vestas wind turbine plant is closing

Now there may be all sorts of nuances behind the optimism of one and the facts of the other, but something is really struggling to add up here.

And another nail in the coffin of Ministerial 'R&R' rhetoric vs. reality? And another reason to wonder just what some of our media actually does these days bar churning out press releases from Whitehall.

I was going to say we deserve more honesty from our pols, but really that is a boat that has sailed, been holed, sunk and is now at the bottom of the Marinas Trench.

Daily Politics - Green shoots and wind turbines -

Telegraph - NEW - Miliband's brilliant plan to combat climate change: 'We'll export unicorns to China' - using the pejoratives, I'd say the 'denier'/'warmist' ratio here is about 20:1 (on the Guardian it is reversed - go figure. I'd say Mr. Delingpole and Monbiot could be hired to remake the 'When Two Tribes Go To War' FrankieGTH video), so there is no point joining in. And again, verifiable facts are thin on the ground, so we are in the realms of conviction and hyperbole. But I was interested in the claimed job loss stat in Spain. Just as matter cannot be created or destroyed, it is often the case that a job in one area results with a loss in another. And this government seems very poor at thinking in... well, just thinking.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Climate change: Green dreams

Editorial: Everything must change and yet nothing must change, Ed Miliband insisted yesterday

Yes, I can see how that will work. At least as articulated in the subhead.

I do think we are on dangerous ground these days if consequences are not appreciated, but such facile spinning seems to be the order of the day, and such mismanaging expectations of is a very dangerous, downward path that if followed makes it ever more difficult to reverse within democratic processes.

What's the Climate like up there?

I tend to avoid the whole 'climate debate'.

At best it seems to be mostly a bunch of folk arguing about the number of angels who dance on the head of a pin; at worst a bunch of entrenched interest groups from two dogmatic extremes lobbing pretty much the same justifications for their views at each other over and over.

I am not saying it is not important, just that I feel it more productive to get on with what I think can help all sides and let others hopefully deal with an area I can see no value in get involved with, bar seeking to ensure the enviROI is always positive.

However, it is a pretty key aspect of many debates, and one thing that always comes up is the difference between 'climate' and 'weather'.

And I would hope these guys would know better than most what it is:

What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

POOH CORNER - Gentlemen, fill your engines...

OK, I'm half right (think number 1's)

Pee Power Potential Fuel: Convenient and Greener

And to think I'm plotting LPG stations round France for our camping trip.

Range on the home

I'm still smarting having been blanked by Mr. McC (or his people) on another issue, but this seems worth sharing:

Make existing homes greener, says McCloud

Of course it ties in with my reuse/pair notions anyway, but also sets up the obsession some have with making new things to solve PMWNCC. Which usually translates as making money or giving it away with a dodgy enviROI sticker on it.

And let's be sensible. I live in a 400/300/200/100/50/5 year old property. Only that last 5 is in any way shape or form designed and built to high green standards.

Hence I, and I suspect others, need all the help we can get to do our best to make the most of what we have got. Not snappy new initiatives all the time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

3,000 words and a few more on Greenwashing

I was an engineer once.

Scott Adams was an engineer.

The ever excellent Dilbert is an engineer.

At the moment this one hit the mark, as I have found that some attempts at asking questions to establish enviROIs are getting met more and more by stupid 'you're just a Daily Mail reader' style comebacks from a way too powerful minority greeleet lobby empowered by media ownership and dogma over science. Just because a PR says it ticks a green box does not mean it is.

As it happens, I would like to know the answer to this one. Dilbert usually has a basis in fact, so is it possible Styrofoam may be 'better' than paper? All my instincts say not.

However, the overall message is, still on the money.

Monday, July 13, 2009

COMPETITION - the engineer awards

WHEN: Deadline July 17 (this Friday:(
WHAT: The Engineer Technology & Innovation Awards
WHAT... MORE?: From blurb: There is no more important piece of the innovation jigsaw than the collaborative links between the UK’s businesses and universities.
The Engineer Technology & Innovation Awards 2009 will recognise and reward outstanding examples of that co-operation. With awards in eight categories spanning the key sectors of engineering and technology. Companies and universities are equally eligible to nominate their collaborative projects. An expert panel of judges will assess the entries against the key criteria that will be used to draw up the short-list in each category. These will include: the degree of technical innovation involved in the entry; the value added to the entry through the collaboration between academic and commercial partners; the actual or potential impact of the entry on its market or end-users.
COMMENTS: Ah well; nothing ventured... the RE:tie and our work with BCU JIIC on prototyping should count.


I see merits, and hence opportunities, in bulk buying.

I even have a few ideas of my own.

Hence I think a category is in order.


WRAP - Retail Trials Could Signal a 'Reusables Revolution'

It even has my favourite RE:word in it!


I only know a little about 'green', but I know what I prefer

I have nothing against 'awareness', so long as it has a decent enviROI+.

And hence much that is 'art' can and does qualify.

However, there is still a lot that can get the eyebrow cranking a tad...

Can an artist's wheatfield in Hackney switch the mood on climate change?

COMPETITION - The Manchester Report

WHEN: Deadline May 29
WHAT: The Manchester Report
WHAT... MORE?: Manchester International Festival and the Guardian invite submissions for innovative schemes to help tackle climate change. All types of schemes will be considered: technological, scientific and behaviour-changing.
COMMENTS: Getting a little jaded with the disconnect between what these efforts often claim to be seeking, and what they end up awarding, but might be worth a few hours as it's free.


And the winners are... well, not us, sadly. Actually, looking at it, it may not be winners but a shortlist. I think. It's not awfully well laid out...or clear.

Hair shirts and thinking caps - Not exactly easy to find either

Addendum 2:

Found 'em!

The age old dilemma bites

Watching the BBC paper headlines today.

And there was much play on the fuel poverty aspects of a suggested £200 excess to meet green energy obligations.

Now, the piece in question was rather undermined by the featured family seemingly telling their kids there was no food on the table 'cos of 'leccy costs, yet apparently much of this juice was there to power the Nintendo Wii they were sadly playing with. Interesting priorities.

But there's no getting round the fact that this is quite a hike, and again pits economy vs. environment against each other big time, and at an individual level.

Beyond all the other arguments, as one who does read perhaps more than many, my issue is where the heck this money is actually going to. If it is to decent enviROI+ projects that help in the future then fine, but if it is more pork barrel box-ticking, target-meeting impositions that mainly goes into pols pet projects and subsidised EU projects' green holes, then no, I am not happy either.

It's a shame we can't harness the power of blame

Councils blame supermarkets for £1.8bn cost of excess packaging

I hold no candle for the supermarkets (lord knows, they have not made my, or's life very easy with their arrogant, money-grubbing ways), but 'they' seem to have become a very convenient whipping entity for failings across the whole system, from the time a product's raw materials are dug up from to when they are returned to the ground.

At the end of the day, as it is with 99.99999% of life, it is about money. Spend the least you get get away with, and make the most. From the individual to the corporation to the establishment.

All complicated by 'systems' that have evolved over decades if not centuries, and which only now are being required to make radical adjustments. And as most will appreciate, with complex systems a tweak here can have 'consequences' there.

It's interesting to ponder what a supermarket publishing the amount of packaging they produce will do to help me with my decisions. Or what goes in my bin. The stuff is either necessary, or it is not. And seemingly ignores the brands whose products sit upon those shelves too. Not all in my basket is own label.

It seems quite simple, and that is an attempt to push costs from one place to another. But at the end of the day if it goes from my rate demand to my shopping bill the same person ends up paying.

Now, if there is a way for me to influence what I pay downwards via decisions based on packaging impositions then I can see a glimmer of an end-benefit and hence value. But until there is a properly coordinated cradle to grave packaging materials creation/disposal system this mostly smacks of box-ticking and target-meeting to help public servants in LAs and quangos drive bonuses their way.

For something that costs the consuming public nothing, and then goes on to save both pocket and planet in a small way, may I commend to those who would like to do something proactive as others bicker.

It even offers rewards with a competition for neat reuse ideas on plastic at the moment!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

PR COVERAGE - every little bit helps sign ups

An old friend gained some nice coverage recently.

And, in so doing, kindly mentioned

What is amazing is the sheer number of sign-ups we got as a consequence, with a few kindly taking the trouble to write in with some nice words.

Interesting to note that our benefactress' company, Greenhaus, has also the same name as my missus' band. Small world.

You gotta larf

Green becomes the new black for luxury firms

Green luxury... an oxymoron of our time.

An Englishman's Home... Can Be Greener?

Cheap ‘green mortgages’ to foster energy-saving homes

This sounds good.

However, grants, subsidies and other means of helping folk go greener do have an odd way of vanishing as fast as the PR of their announcement has faded.

We'll see.

And a side order of polystyrene..

I remain concerned what plastics biodegrade to, but...

Irish scientist invents a way to recycle plastic

Hence I am unclear as to how this counts as recycling.

You may as well just burn it.

However, as I understand the piece there is one reuse, which I guess is a plus.

But I am also old enough to remember an episode of 'Doomwatch' where all the world's plastic dissolved.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Light not so fantastic? - but then there's 'Bulb Barter'

Caption: The JunkkMale household 'stash' - mostly for bayonet fittings, which we have few of.

A lightbulb went off in my head when I read this:

Low energy lightbulbs mailed to British families that cannot use them

Initially of course, I was simply appalled at how something so potentially worthy could be so mismanaged and/or abused, but then I read this: '..they have often had screw fittings that cannot be used in the bayonet sockets found in most British homes.'

It doesn't get around the 'ugly' issue (not major in this household as the bulbs are usually within a shade), but it occurs to me that it might be worth trying to set up localised (and who better than, with its postcode localisation system to enable people nearby to connect) system I'd tentatively call the 'Bulb Barter'.

Simply put, a place where you drop buy to exchange a bulb you can't use for one you can.

And I think I know juts the folks here in Ross to help me kick it off.

Watch this space. If it works, maybe a better, more proactive national programme than the latest Planet Ban-it?

CATEGORY - Eco Funerals


Times - Making environmentally-friendly coffins from Jute


BBC Green -

More links below.


Coffins - NEW


They are different, but related.


Junkk - Issues pertaining to the Severn Barrage

Guardian - Second generation tidal turbines promise cheaper power

Guardian - Harnessing wave power - Lots of moving parts to maintain in a hostile environment, but still better than some; hope it works.

Telegraph Letters - NEW - Tidal turbines would see none of the local opposition that wind power provokes - Some interesting points

INFORMATION - covers a broad church

YouTube - Green DIY Riding radical wave power - Note the related vids - PR, E&EO, as just in from the editor:

I know you’re interested Wave Energy and have requested info from Wave Energy Today. I wanted to let you know that Tidal Today, a sister of Wave Energy Today, has just launched our brand new website & newsletter.

This site is dedicated to the latest news, opinions, press releases and blogs relating to everything tidal.

We created the new social website with dedicated tidal news including R&D updates, funding breakthroughs, legislative developments, and environmental concerns that affect everyone who wants to play a part in delivering future Tidal Energy.

And the best part is that you can contribute too! Be a part of the online tidal community and have your voice heard. Sign up for your own Tidal Today account and start blogging.

waveenergytoday -

Friday, July 10, 2009


They are concern, important and are cropping up. Hence this category.

Articles (note BEES link to further ones on this blog in 'Labels' below)

Guardian - Why bees are the most invaluable species


PR from DEFRA (E&EO):


The number of beekeepers has grown over the last year, according to the National Bee Unit, which runs BeeBase, the national beekeepers’ database.

More than 1,500 new beekeepers have registered on BeeBase this year and much of this has been attributed to the increased publicity on bee health, leading to more people donning bee suits and picking up smokers for the first time.

Bee health Minister Lord Davies [no, really - Ed] said:

“This is great news – more beekeepers are registering on BeeBase. This entitles them to the free inspection service offered by the National Bee Unit and ensures that they are able to keep up to date on disease developments.

“It is encouraging that more people appear to be taking up beekeeping and taking up bee health training opportunities. By working with all beekeepers we can collaborate to improve bee health.”

The BeeBase database was constructed in 1991 and made live in 1992. It holds data on all the inspections made by staff of the NBU as well as laboratory samples submitted by beekeepers. BeeBase allows beekeepers to access their own apiary, diagnostic histories and details over the web. It also provides information on the functional activities of the NBU, legislation, pests and diseases including their recognition and control, interactive maps, current research areas, publications, advisory leaflets and key contacts. The database also allows beekeepers to request a free apiary visit from a local inspector who will provide help and advice.

More information on the National Been Unit is available at,
(won't work - try this: and the Government’s Healthy Bees plan can be found here.

A little less e-spam might help

I'm forwarding a forward.

It looks kosher. And considering the current 'fun & games' with accessing our mobiles, maybe a good idea:

You may already have heard about this but early next week all UK mobiles will be on a directory which will mean that anyone will be able to access your numbers. It’s easy to unsubscribe but it must be done before the beginning of next week to make sure that you are ex-directory. You may want to suggest it to all your friends and family who have UK mobiles or they could be swamped by unsolicited messages and calls. Removal is recommended by the BBC

To remove your number click on the link below, you need your mobile phone with you to do this as they text you a code


2, Click on ‘Ex Directory’ at top right hand side of page, from there it’s straight forward.

ps: Just tried it and it's 'down'. Sort of typical, really. Probably all of us trying to go ex-Directory. Maybe an extension is in order?

CATEGORY - Carbon Offsetting (Trading)

I know I discussed this recently elsewhere, but while I search for that to add the topic deserves its own category.

And I know they are different, but as they are most surely related, I lump offsetting and trading here (for now, until they need splitting)

Telegraph - Offsetting your carbon is 'confusing' - at the very least
Reuters - Carbon offset schemes "confusing" - seeing a trend?
Indy - The great carbon con: Can offsetting really help to save the planet? - I recall Sting copping it even then, but he was really a celeb ahead of his time.
Indy Letters - replies to above
Indy letters - more - Reply from Rainforest Alliance
Greenbang - Carbon trading ‘paid for by small business, car users’ - 'So, how do you feel about that Mr. Public? Or may I call you Joe?"
Guardian - Europe's vital step to make carbon markets work - The commenter who made the point about the small war next door might be nearer the mark for now.
Guardian - Can carbon offsetting ever be truly green?
Guardian - A permit to print money - Quite spoils my Friday
Guardian - Carbon trading may be the new sub-prime, says energy boss - Another Friday, and guess what? The phrase 'sub-prime' does not inspire optimism.
Guardian - An environmental market
Which? - Has this online link, but the July '09 magazine has a special feature: 'Which way to reduce your carbon footprint' - where they investigate current schemes... and their claims.
Guardian - NEW - Should we care about the UK's place in plastic bag league tables?
I am with George on this one though, having raised some concerns initially (which I still have, especially on the enviROI of alternatives, more on the consequences of biodegradation than reuse options - too big to go into here) as it stands I am erring on the publicity being basically helpful in shaping public actions.

That said, in matters green I usually view targets and tables a short route to all sorts of pointless and unhelpful consequences, and if box-tickers get involved lord help the planet.

Now I notice an Oz town has now become, Modbury-like, 'the first' to ban bottled water. So, who next will get to be a ban-twin town with Boondoggle or whatever it is, and blow any benefits sending the mayor out Business Class to shake hands with half of Fleet Street and the BBC's Ethical man along for the flight?

Not sure the two are quite equivalent, so how this one might radiate will be interesting. Having lived in Asia, if it works its way to here organically country by country then I rather fear it may have unwelcome consequences as those at the top impose a ban-wagon on those less able to afford it in many countries between here and there.

Honestly, I am not in favour of bans or fines, and am happy that my half dozen hemp efforts seem to get noticed and appreciated at the check-out and might even score me some points at a reward-motivating outlet.

I also appreciate the odd plastic for meats and frozens, which I then find good reuses for around the home.

RE:VIEW - Green Cone - Talking Rot

A wee while ago I had a press release on this item, leading to my taking an interest.

Well, I am glad to say it has now arrived to test, and this will form the start of an ongoing review.

Weather permitting (I am total woos when it comes to digging in the garden in anything bar sunshine) this weekend it will get installed.


Speaking of sunshine, having read the instructions this presents a slight complication, in that the unit needs to be in a location that gets as much sun as possible. Fair enough technically (I'll share the way it works later), but the way the sun arcs over my garden this limits options. And as I pop out now to have a gander and a ponder, I am going to have to weigh a few issues.

Despite assurances on the safety of the results on the decomposition going into the ground, outside protection in from animals and inside out from flies, it would really be preferred by all in the family further away from the main home (the composters are all at the end of the garden under/behind some trees... not an option here now. Which is a pity as that would make the 'top-up' runs more convenient).

There's also the not small matter of the image it presents, especially as the sunny bits tend to be in view of where we look more often. It's not small (you can get a sense of size as it sits next to its box from the small boy peeking out - at least my sons proved the adage about packaging... and found a second use!), but not ugly.

The trick will be to find that combination of distance, exposure, suitable ground (that's a fair hole to dig, and it needs good drainage below) and screening.

Let me pop the next heading here and I'll report soon. With more pictures!


Not a great start. Having scouted the optimal sunlight location, it is pretty much going to be at the SW corner of the house. OK, maybe we can live with that. So I start excavating away. Now this baby needs to sit in a fairly deep hole to do its job and not let in the nasties, so the spade is flying. Crunch! I have now discovered the drainage pipe from the downpipes on the South wall, which joins the sewer line I know runs across from a manhole to another manhole at right angles across the back of the house. Unfortunately I have broken the pipe with my spade. to the rescue! A patch will be made and affixed. So.. a learning tip: before digging a hole try and know what's down there (not that I could). Trouble is, I don't think this location will now do. Problem is... where else? I fear the next option will be good for about 3 hrs sunlight tops... on a good day.

Addendum - 05/04/08

Learn more about the related issues to do with composting here. I should point to the cautions on fungal spores that have been raised. In checking with Green Cone, the rather curt reply was that it 'should not be a problem'.

Addendum - 10/07/09

Just had an interesting conversation with the Green Cone Co's new PR lady, and this has reminded me to update this re:view.

In the end I decided to stay with the location I'd found, as it is really the only point with a fair chance of sunlight, which seems pretty key to the decomposition process.

Speaking of which, we got chatting on this aspect. If there is a chicken carcase in there, that is really no different to burying a corpse surely? And it's not 6' down. Perhaps not an issue in a country garden (albeit near the house... too near for the missus) with some acres to 'absorb' the soup (too much CSI), but I do wonder if there is a minimum volume required to handle the resulting waste via the basket.

I say volume because on top of area there is depth, and from this we got on to a smaller version, and if it could be used on a rooftop planter in a city flat, for instance. I know there are hibachis (or is that a BBQ grill?) that seem OK, so maybe.

She has promised to come back with a few answers, including my ongoing concern on fungal spores, and I'll update as and when.