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June 2008 - Terra Infirma


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30 June 2008

Weekly Tip #20: with waste, start at the end

This is the latest of a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

When carrying out a waste minimisation exercise, focus your attention on the end of the process. This is where your product has most added value - I've seen finished high-value products ranging from furniture through lubricants to pharmaceuticals destroyed after a lot of time and money has been invested in making them, and before they can be sold to customers to realise that value. Packing machines and fork lift drivers are the main culprits...

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27 June 2008

Big Business & Carbon Offsets

Interesting views on Carbon Offsetting from some big corporate players at yesterday's Low Carbon Innovation Exchange. At a panel discussion with the UK CSR/environmental managers of HBOS, Harper Collins, McDonalds and IBM, the first two found carbon offsetting a useful tool as it added a stronger economic driver to cut carbon (opponents of offsetting accuse the concept of allowing organisations to 'buy forgiveness' for their 'carbon sins').

On the other hand, McDonalds thought that people would deride them for offsetting as a gimmick and IBM decided the money would be better invested in internal low carbon projects.

Quote of the day was from Ashley Lodge of Harper Collins. One of his colleagues advised him to make the low carbon agenda "more stilettos than sandals." Damn right.

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25 June 2008

Cultural conservation vs energy conservation

I've recently been working on the eco-renovation of two buildings in a conservation area, one of them listed. This has been a real challenge - historical buildings like these two are designed to allow the free flow of air (and with it heat energy) through the building fabric. Alter this and at best you will get condensation problems and at worst the building fabric will rot. The only way to do it effectively is external insulation and vapour protection, but this will change the appearance of the building and you can't do that in a conservation area.

This gets even worse with the listed building. All windows have to be preserved where possible, and if replaced, then replaced like for like. You can now get double glazing with the same bead size as old single glazed windows, but this is still verboten due to the different depth of each unit which you will notice if you look carefully. Secondary glazing can be put in, but you can't draught proof the outer pane or you will probably trap moisture between the two with fatal results.

Having struggled with these constraints for the last couple of months, I am now of the opinion we really need to think again. There must be a better balance between preserving our heritage and making buildings suitable for the 21st century.

If you think this is a minor issue, then just think - 5% of existing buildings are listed or have some form of conservation protection. As these are the least likely to be demolished due to that protection, they're also the most likely to survive into the next century.

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23 June 2008

FREEBIES!

I've got two free tickets for my Low Carbon Business Seminar on Thursday this week in Olympia, London. First come, first served. Please e-mail me rather than registering for the event or you will be charged full whack. If you do take one, I insist that you show up and take part!

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Weekly Tip #19: Buy holes, not drills

This is the latest of a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

Slightly obscure title, but it refers to the fact that when you buy a drill, what you are actually after is the holes it will produce, not the drill itself.

So, for example, instead of buying solvent, you can buy solvent services: provision, monitoring and disposal/recycling. The environmental difference is that the provider and you have the same interest: more service, less material, less waste, compared to the straight 'buy a product' scenario where the more you waste, the more profit they get. You can do this with anything from transport to carpets.

The technical term for this is a 'product service system'.

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18 June 2008

Brent Crude Prices


Last night I was preparing slides for the Low Carbon Innovation seminar next week. On the 'business case' session, I got data from the FT website for the price increase of a barrel of brent crude oil over the last 12 months. The resulting graph was so shocking I thought I'd share it here.

Never mind legislation as a driver - our current economy is built on cheap energy but the new economy will need to survive on expensive energy. How will you make the leap?

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16 June 2008

Weekly Tip #18: Waste Not, Hand Out Nowt

This is the latest of a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

Use overhead projectors and powerpoint at meetings to present data rather than handouts. Make the presentations available on-line instead using an intranet or similar.

Another tip next Monday.

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13 June 2008

Still room at the seminar...

We still have space left at the "Profiting in the Low Carbon Economy" seminar in London on 26 June. Click here for more details and to register.

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Sometimes its the boring stuff that counts...

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has been suggesting we lose the fascination with green gadgets in buildings and concentrate on the much less glamorous topic of insulation.

I couldn't agree more. It is relatively easy to talk to a developer about fancy microrenewables, but they start switching off when you explain that they've got to get the fabric of the building right first. Just because it's out of sight, doesn't mean it's important. With Energy Performance Certificates being introduced in the UK, I don't think this situation will last long - insulation will, like Cinderella, finally get a chance to be the belle of the ball.

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12 June 2008

The Dichotomy of the Green Consumer

I was at a climate change conference last week, where one of the few diamonds in the dross was a presentation by IPSOS MORI on their research into consumer attitudes on climate change and low carbon lifestyles. One pair of questions really summed up the dichotomy that we have to face in the green economy. The research hasn't been published yet and I didn't scribble the statistics down fast enough on the day, but here's the gist of it:

Q. "Would you buy a solar panel for your house, no matter what they cost?"
A. Yeah, sure!

Q. "Would you pay £5000 to get a solar panel put on your house?"
A. HOW MUCH???!!! (much swearing under breath)

I think this demonstrates that while green markets are expanding fast, for most is from a very small base. While the mainstream may think they are green, they're not going to queue outside the bank to get a loan to invest in the lifestyle. Only in markets where there is a clear benefit (or perceived benefit) to the consumer do green products out perform the traditional, eg A/A+ rated white goods (money saving and kudos - who wants a C rated anything?) and organic baby food (we don't like the thought of feeding crap to our kids).

So if you're working on a green product or service don't forget that quality and price will be just as important as green credentials.

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9 June 2008

Happy Birthday to The Terra Infirma Blog!

The first substantive post on this blog (on Apple and its environmental performance) was posted 9 June 07, which means we are one year old today!

Thank you to all our many readers over that time, and in particular to those who have posted comments. I hope you have gained value from the tips, news and articles. If there any topics that you find particularly perplexing, let me know and I'll try my best to post something erudite and thought provoking.

To the next year!

Gareth

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Weekly Tip #17: Working from Home

This is one of a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

Many businesses are too scared to let their staff work out of sight, but working from home is eco-friendly. The Department for Transport estimates that teleworkers working at home reduce their mileage between 48-77% on teleworking days and 11 to 19% overall. Flexible working allows you to cut office space, which cuts heating, cooling and lighting costs and associated emissions.

I wrote a longer article on this for Management Issues.

Another tip next Monday!

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5 June 2008

New Environmental Award Launched

My friends at the Environmental Academy have just launched their new "Enviro Excellence" award to provide businesses with a framework for improving their environmental management.

Participants must provide evidence that they have complied with a set of compulsory and optional criteria to progress through the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards - a bit like the Duke of Edinburgh award if you did that at school. A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) version is in the pipeline.

I write this with a small amount of pride as Terra Infirma Ltd acted as a 'critical friend' in the development of the award to look at it from an outsider's point of view and help fine tune the criteria.

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3 June 2008

Co-op, Body Shop and M&S Top Ethical Poll

In yet another survey of green/ethical brands, this time of 3000 UK adults by GfK NOP, the Co-op, Body Shop and M&S; held onto the top three spots, but Sainsbury's lost out to Tesco at the foot of the table.

Rank 2008 Rank 2007

1 Co-op 1 Co-op

2 Body Shop 2 Body Shop

3 M&S; 3 M&S;

4 Green & Blacks 4 Traidcraft

5 Ecover 5 Cafédirect

6 Traidcraft 6 Ecover

7 Cafédirect 7= Green & Blacks & Tesco

8 Innocent

9 Divine 9 Oxfam

10 Tesco 10 Sainsbury’s

The surprises for me are:

1. The Body Shop's brand has survived the loss of founder Anita Roddick, who, even though she had sold the organisation to l'Oreal, was still associated with it in the press.

2. The position of Tesco on the table given the recent controversies over landbanking, competition and treatment of suppliers by the Big Four supermarkets. I wonder how much their position relates to their huge market share of the retail sector - does anyone want to admit they shop at an unethical store?

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2 June 2008

Weekly Tip #16: My favourite slogan

This is the sixteenth in a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

Treat the word ‘waste’ as a verb, never a noun!

Material, water and energy is wasted, not 'waste'.

But be careful as, to the Environment Agency and the judiciary, waste is waste is waste.

Another tip next Monday!

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