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11 December 2017

A little local recycling, all for a good cause!

Yesterday, my family held its third annual charity yard sale, in aid of WaterAid. The genesis of this tradition came from the boys announcing four years ago that they wanted to do something for "poor people in Africa." Fortunately, they got a healthy dose of 'just do it' genes from their mother and after seeing yard sales during a trip to Portland Oregon, it has become an annual event.

My partner and I use it as a good excuse to clear out old toys, disliked books and infrequently worn clothes to see whether our neighbours fancy anything. Rather than taking the unsold stuff back in the house, it all goes straight into the back of a car and will either go to the school sale or, like this year where we got the timing wrong, a charity shop.

But what surprises me is how us Brits don't do yard/garage sales. In Portland, every lamppost was slathered in flyers for sales and we would see at least one in progress on our travels every day. Despite putting up a big sign, and living on a popular route for a Sunday stroll, we only get a tiny amount of 'passing trade' each year and those unfortunate few usually have to be bullied into turning an intrigued peer over the hedge into a browse.

But we had a great time and raised £112 for a good cause. Recycling, charity and community spirit - what's not to like?


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1 September 2010

What Makes Me Mad...

... OK, lots of things make me mad, like the Daily Express, wheel bender cycle stands and and people putting 'off' milk back in the fridge, but what really gets me exasperated in the sustainability field is useless advice, mindlessly pumped out to the masses. Here's a classic I saw on Twitter the other day:

If you reduce the amount of bottled water you consume by 2 litres a day, you’ll save around 10kg of CO2 each year.

Right, let's take a closer look at this:

1. How many people consume more than two litres of bottled water a day? A quick Google shows that the average Brit consumes 34 litres of bottled water a year - less than 0.1 litres per day. The Italians seem to top the list with 200 litres per person per year, just over half a litre a day.

2. 10kg of carbon a year. Back on Google, I get a variety of estimates of the average UK citizen's carbon footprint and if I average those, it seems to come in around 10 tonnes per annum. Now I reckon it is much higher, because few of these footprint measures include overseas emissions 'embedded' in the products we import and consume, but let's go with 10 tonnes. I don't even have to get the calculator out to see that this saving is 0.1% of our annual carbon footprint.

3. If you combine the two factors together - if the average person in the UK cut out all their bottled water consumption, they would save 0.005% of their carbon footprint. Hardly worth typing the tip, was it?

So the advice is effectively "stop doing something you're not doing, and you'll make a negligible difference". Great.

Coincidentally, 0.1% is about the proportion of our carbon footprint taken up with that other eco-pantomime villain, the disposable plastic bag. These two things are drummed into us - bottled water bad, plastic bag bad - that one daren't be seen with either, even though they are relatively insignificant from a carbon point of view. I'm not immune to these memes myself - I recently found myself at a Green Festival choosing a bottle of flavoured water rather than plain water as I didn't want to be seen with the latter, even though the former is almost certainly more carbon intensive.

So why the big rant? Because we get limited chances to communicate the green message and it kills me when that bandwidth is filled with such utter rot. If you want to green your lifestyle, you need to insulate your house, adjust your diet and change your travel patterns. Fairly straightforward, but usually avoided in favour of pointless tips.

And similarly with business, you must deal with the big ticket issues. Measure your footprint - no matter how crudely - and identify the hotspots. For many products, these hotspots occur in materials extraction and production and energy required in the use phase. So get on with tackling these rather than worrying too much whether your paper invoices should be electronic or vice versa.

There. Said it. Feel better now.

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24 September 2008

10 Questions For Any Business

1. How much does your waste cost?

2. No, how much does it really cost?

3. How much have your waste costs risen in the last year?

4. How much have your energy bills risen in the last year?

5. How much have your water costs risen in the last year?

6. How much does compliance with legislation cost you?

7. How much product do you have to sell just to cover your waste, energy, water and compliance costs?

8. Would you prefer to turn those costs into profit?

9. Do you have a plan to make this transformation?

10. Are your staff on board?

And a bonus one,

11. Have you heard of Lean, Mean & Green?

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10 September 2008

10 Reasons Why You MUST Improve the Environmental Performance of Your Business

(even in a recession especially in a recession)

As promised, the second of our white papers is on line for free download. 10 Reasons Why You MUST Improve the Environmental Performance of Your Business does what it says on the tin - it explains why there is no better time to take action on waste, energy and water in your company.

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