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October 2008 - Terra Infirma


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31 October 2008

New Product Carbon Footprinting Standard

The BSi, along with the Carbon Trust and DEFRA, have just released the PAS2050 carbon footprinting standard for goods and services along with a guide to its use. You can download it for free from the BSi website.

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29 October 2008

A Game of Two Halves for Environmental Consultants

The ENDS Report has found that the Environmental Consultancy business is realigning itself to match the changing economic situation. Contaminated Land, traditionally the largest market in the sector, has tanked due to the slow down in the construction industry, but the cost cutting sector (energy, waste etc) is booming as industry tries to cut costs and the public sector continues with the sustainability agenda.

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28 October 2008

Weekly Tip #31: Work with your suppliers

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

Work with your suppliers to match specification to your needs - this can reduce waste and energy consumption at both ends. I have given the example before of Walkers' Crisps who found that their potato suppliers were keeping their product hydrated (requiring energy) which was not only unnecessary but required even more energy to fry than if they had simply done nothing.

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23 October 2008

Low Carbon in Harrogate

I spent yesterday at the Harrogate Low Carbon Innovation Exchange. I do like these events as there is a minimum of Powerpoint and a maximum amount of networking and information exchange. 

I got drafted into a panel Q&A; session as one big business bod didn't turn up. A bit like Have I Got News For You, you do get to see the questions beforehand, but in my case 'beforehand' meant 'while the chair was reading out the biographies' rather than overnight. But it was fun and I even let the other panelists get a word in edgeways... occasionally.
I also chaired a roundtable discussion on empowering employees with delegates as disparate as steel stockholding, higher education and fashion retail. We developed a list of possibilities for raising awareness and influence behaviour, but I was a bit disappointed I couldn't coax the others into more of a discussion about true empowerment. In addition, to a person, none of them had a budget - they had to go cap in hand to their boss for every project. Looks as if there's a long way to go.
I do recommend these events - if you are interested check them out here.

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17 October 2008

Never work with children or animals...

Yesterday I was doing some pro bono work to persuade 120 twelve-year-olds of the joys of engineering and, in my case, that engineering and a passion for the environment could go together. The event was organised by the North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) and sponsored by the Institute of Engineering and Technology. I am a member of both.

With each batch of 20 youngsters I talked them through major environmental issues before focussing on climate change, its causes and the role of engineers in the causes (eg designing vehicles and power systems). We then switched to solutions and how engineers have a critical role (renewables, efficient vehicles etc). For the second half I split them into 4 teams and got them to redesign something. We got everything from a manure-powered car to solar powered hair straighteners. The best insight was from one lad who realised you could design the shape of a building to funnel wind through a turbine, but my favourite moment came from a young lad who had simply put some solar panels and a wind turbine on a building.
"What happens if the sun doesn't shine and the wind isn't blowing?" I asked.
He fixed me with a steely look and said:
"Then you're really knackered."
Quite.

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15 October 2008

Low Carbon Business Strategies White Paper

You can now download our new Low Carbon Business Strategies white paper for free from the resources page. This tells you what to do once you have calculated that carbon footprint and are unsure of how to tackle it. Strategies range from simple carbon management through to developing low carbon business opportunities.

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13 October 2008

Low Carbon Agenda snags

Update 14/10/08 6pm: Normal Service resumed

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Weekly Tip #30: Tackle fear of the dark

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

Windowless rooms (eg stores, washrooms and kitchens) are often left lit when unused - I've never worked out whether it's due to laziness or fear of the dark. This can be tackled either by providing some natural light where possible (eg by putting in some glass bricks, a skylight or a light tube), and/or installing automatic controls to switch the lights off when the room is unoccupied.

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10 October 2008

Update: Low Carbon Products & Services Seminar - 22 October 2008

There are still places left on my Low Carbon Products & Services Seminar, Harrogate UK, 22 October 2008. Click on the link to see the fantastic deal we are offering in conjunction with the Low Carbon Innovation Network.

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8 October 2008

Book Review: The Necessary Revolution - Peter Senge et al

The lead author of "The Necessary Revolution" is Peter Senge - the author of "The Fifth Discipline", a famous book about creating learning organisations. Along with two change management colleagues, Bryan Smith and Nina Kruschwitz, and two sustainability bods, Joe Laur and Sara Schley, Senge brings his thinking to bear on the biggest of all challenges, creating a sustainable world.

First impressions were great - a brilliant start setting out the problem and some fantastic case studies demonstrating how some people have managed to find solutions, and in particular "never doubt what one person & a small group of conspirators can do" about how small seeds can grow into powerful networks for change. Examples included the creation of the LEED green building protocol in the US and the setting up of Green Zones in Sweden, based around green fuels.

However I felt that the promised 'how to' and 'toolbox' parts of the book are a bit vague and sparse. The best lesson I drew from these sections was the power of inquiry over advocacy (if your boss thinks sustainability isn't a priority, don't tell him he's wrong, but ask him what if he's wrong), but I didn't feel I was being armed with a tool box of techniques to make change happen. There's also a tendency to illustrate an intellectual argument with a very lengthy anecdote which never quite nails the point down. And, then after all the 'bottom up' arguments (inquiry, small groups, building networks etc), we're suddenly told on p337 "Start from the top down". I didn't get the relevance of most of the points in the last part "The Future" either - the anecdote of Amory Lovins designing a monkey house with the help of the residents (inmates?) was amusing, but left me baffled as to what I was meant to draw from this.

Having started so well - as good as Lovins' superlative Natural Capitalism in places - I was left feeling more than a little shortchanged on the toolbox front - particularly as the authors' intellectual firepower is biased towards change management. A flawed gem - get it for the case studies, anecdotes and inspiration - but don't expect too much in the way of new technique.

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6 October 2008

Weekly Tip #29: Bund care

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

Bunds* are an essential part of pollution incident prevention - here are two bunding tips:

  • Check bunds are water tight; people have a nasty habit of knocking a hole in the side to let rainwater out;
  • Check that nozzles and pipes do not reach over the sides of bunds at ground level – a passing vehicle could knock them off.

* enclosed areas which contain spillages and leaks, usually found under tanks of oil or other hazardous materials

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1 October 2008

FreeIndex Business Advice Centre

FreeIndex.co.uk launch their Business Advice Centre today - you can ask any question on running a business and get advice from a panel of experts.

Along with fellow environmental consultant Anthony Day, I've been appointed as the expert for green office queries.

Other topics include marketing, sales, web advice etc etc - there's a wealth of expertise waiting to answer your burning questions, so why not check it out?

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