Monday, February 27, 2006

I just had to link to this brilliant comment on the impact of large format retail:,,1704859,00.html#article_continue

By supporting local business we're more assured that in spending our hard earned cash we're benefiting the local economy. The more I read, the more it is clear that ShoppingFix is the answer...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

This post is short and sweet. Crazy busy at the moment finalising funding applications due this week. Eek! But while in town last week I had a chance to catch the Yann Arthus-Bertrand photo exhibition in the fabulous new Waitangi Park - as part of the NZ International Arts Festival. Wow! Stunning photos that look at sustainable development from a human impact perspective. If you're in Wellington, take a look, if you're not see

On a lighter note, I went to the Paramount last night and caught Heavenly Burlesque at the Fringe Festival ( In the catalogue they have the show pigeon holed as "mixed bag theatre". And its no wonder why - pigeon holing this gem is futile. You name it and its in there - including a quite brilliant animated-short-come-music-video paying homage to Johnny Cash. Believe me, Heavenly Burlesque won't dissapoint.

In terms of sustainable consumption, a dollar spent at the Fringe has a whole lot more local benefit than at the movies. So go on, have yourself a laugh, a cry, a freak-out - catch a Fringe event while you can!

Toodle pip.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

On Friday morning I presented the ShoppingFix ( concept to the Wellington Region Environment Agency - a group of Council, Govt, and industry people who work with environmental issues on a day to day basis. What a great bunch of people! Genuinely grafting (and I really mean grafting - especially with some issues) for a better region for all of us. I think they liked ShoppingFix. No, I know they did. Although a few of them had experienced the joy of me prattling on to them before, so maybe those few just nodded and smiled in hope that I'd be placated and sit down.

So, at "public" level I can confirm that "doing nothing" is simply not happening. You probably knew that. After the meeting I took the afternoon off. The meeting was in Carterton. Near the Tararuas. As I'd driven over there by myself (tut tut) I took the opportunity to go bush for the weekend (not only to justify taking the car over...).

While walking part way between Mt Holdsworth and Jumbo I took a breather. I sat there not able to see much more than 100m (the only cloud present all weekend in this part of the country it seems), so rather than "alta-vista", issues closer to hand came to mind. "Why is your tooth the only thing a peanut 'skin' is capable of sticking to?" "This track in the middle of the Tararuas is probably more trodden than some neighborhood streets", "I'm above the bushline. If the planet warms, will the bushline rise, will this part of the track be traversing bush in 200 years? Will it even be here?"

Hmmm. A bit of a worry really. Not the teeth. That was remedied when my smiley "hello" to a passing tramper was greeted with violent recoil - dangerous places, ridgelines... I digress. As ShoppingFix is about positive action and good news, the best angle to take on the warming/bushline question is to make a change. The "rampant energy use", "latest and bestest", "convenience", "throw-away" culture that we now enjoy is helping cause global warming (for a good process overview see Who knows what that means for the Tararuas, but if we grasp opportunities like that soon to be offered by ShoppingFix (, we can use our collective strength as consumers to help force a fundamental change in the way business is done.

I want my grandkids to be able to go tramping! There we go. Make a change! As simple as that!

Ciao for now...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Its a little over two weeks until two key funding application deadlines. The good people at the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and Wellington City Council (WCC) have both given us an opportunity to seek their financial help (see the earlier entry in order to get ShoppingFix running. By the way,
I still haven't solved that banking issue.

Both MfE and WCC follow pretty rigorous processes so I'm busy chasing down costing info to get the web side of things cranking - including trying to get my head around SMS database management. We're currently investigating forming a partnership with the Sustainability Trust (also of Wellington) to further research undertaken by them into restaurant/bar/cafe sustainability practices.

On the operational side of things we are now in dialogue with 11 local businesses. These relationships are all in their infancy but all parties have been very helpful with their feedback and encouragement. We're currently all about identifying businesses who see sustainability as an important issue - and have used the help of the good people at Radio Active ( with some success.

If you know of retailers, food and entertainment outlets who you'd like to see as business members of ShoppingFix, get in touch with us at Even if you're only interested as a customer let us know your thoughts.

Be well merry people. I look forward to seeing out there in wonderful Wellie, this is truly a great time of year to be entertained en masse...! Go the Fringe festival (!


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I'm sure you've read The Lorax by Dr Seuss. Where a clever little chap chops down all the truffula trees in order to make thneeds. Wonderfully bright truffula trees that help support a whole range of other plants and animals - milled to provide city folk with thneeds: "Its a shirt. Its a sock. Its a glove. Its a hat. But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that..."

Its the classic case of where an entrepreneur sees a gap in the market and makes a pile of money by filling it. And as we all know, thats how our capitalist western economy works. And its a very good thing. When - and ONLY when - all cost are reflected in the price of goods
. In The Lorax, production of the thneed caused damage to the local environment. But nobody local wore a thneed - those who used the thneed were not directly impacted by the production process of their thneed.

All impact has either a benefit or a cost. Take industrial pollution of waterways: it has an indirect cost in the loss of biodiversity (eg. less fish impacts the livelihood of downstream fishing-people, and the area is no longer suitable for recreation), it will also have a direct cost (eg. the waterway supplies a town with drinking water and the cost of treating the water is borne by the local authority). Today we are generally more aware of theses processes, but still, all impacts are rarely priced into the products we buy. If impacts are priced in, the product may become expensive in relation to its competition.

To illustrate, lets modify the thneed example: assume there are no laws against putting dirty water into the river. One producer producing in accordance with The Lorax story is competing with another producer located on the other side of the same river, each using the same technology, BUT one plant is modified in order to clean the water used during production before feeding it back into the river. While the "dirty water producer" boxes along as usual, t
he "clean water producer" has spent money on technology and equipment to clean the water. Due to higher cost of production for a "clean water thneed" its price on the store shelf will be greater than the "dirty water thneed". The products are the same. So you buy the cheaper one.

Unfair? Hell yes! Cue ShoppingFix ( ShoppingFix recognises that the "clean water thneed" is "better". ShoppingFix ensures that the public can make an informed decision on which thneed is "better". The seller of the "clean water thneed", as a ShoppingFix retailer, is recognised as a supporter of "better" production. Because ShoppingFix has agreed a set of sustainability standards with the retailer, ShoppingFix members - shoppers like you and me - have the means to make a "fair" shopping decision without having to spend hours doing research.

ShoppingFix is all about building a community of concerned shoppers and businesses. ShoppingFix shoppers - using their collective purchasing power - can help the seller of the
"clean water thneed". How? Firstly, more sales of "clean water thneeds" may warrant a lower price, and secondly, falling market share for the "dirty water producer" will result in the need to "follow the lead of the clean water thneed". Its a classic case where THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT and the dirty business is forced - by THE POWER OF THE MARKET - to alter the way they do business.

And that my friends, is the logic of ShoppingFix ( We are all smart enough to make the right decisions as individual consumers, but as a group we can make a more effective difference. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Friday was interesting. For me anyhow. I've just established a charitable trust with two friends, and under the trust we're running ShoppingFix - a sustainable shopping rewards program. Because we know that its such a constructive idea, we know that funders will be throwing dosh at us left right and centre. So I went visiting banks to see who wanted to help us manage the riches.

"We dont look after social clubs." "We dont have the cash handling facilities." "We dont..." You get the picture. On Friday I was only interested in considering "local" financial institutions so that when our dosh is not being used by us, it is at least providing some local benefit. But it appears that "local" means personal banking.

I was faced with the choice of going to a "business banker" or installing a security system under my matress (in times past there has been evidence suggesting some kind of force field around my matress - but thats another story...).

So lets name some names. ASB. 100% owned by Commonwealth Bank of Oz. Totally un-kiwi, and a little blurb on their website about "commitment to the community" countered by a little blurb about being "bigger and better". But I'm not sure that big is better. I'll reserve judgement on ASB, but for the meantime I feel more comfortable referring to it as "Big'ol'Oz'Savings Bank".

BNZ. Bank of where? Oh, Nu Zulund. BNZ: 100% owned by National Oz Bank Group. But these guys are active in our communtiy. Been to Downstage Theatre lately? Well BNZ flick them some dosh every now and then. Which is a good thing - as is Downstage. Oh, and the Kiwi Recovery program, another good thing. I'm feeling a little better about BNZ, but I'll again reserve judgement and to be smart refer to them as "Bank of Satellite OZ".

Westpac. 100% owned by Westpac Banking Corporation - registered in Oz. It seems that big brother is OWNING us. Much like when you were 12 and you got your 9 year old sibling to practice their tackling on you (or vica versa). But these guys do have a zero waste policy. We're getting warm! You'll also see at the top of the following list ( that they are in a global (read "very very big") sense quite good in corporate social responsibility terms. They also keep the odd important chopper in the air and are bankers to us as taxpayers (ie. the Govt.) which, for the moment, I'll take as a good thing. Again judgement reserved for who I'll refer to as "WestOz".

Another biggie is National Bank - as is ANZ. They are one in the same thing. Both 100% owned by ANZ Banking Group Ltd (of Oz). I like cricket and National Bank is cricket (currently). Also, they are a part of Daffodil Day (Cancer Society) which is another very noble cause. ANZ staff do some community work and seem to be nice folk (on their ads at least, and we all believe ads dont we?). So this lot seem OK. Maybe no less OK than those above, but probably no more. Lets call these guys "NZ is superfluous Banking Group".

That leaves us big Jims Kiwi Bank. 100% Kiwi. But I dont like Jim (again, thats another story) allthough its been some time since the birth of Kiwi Bank, so maybe I can forget Jim. Kiwi Bank state "no transaction fees" if you're a non-profit body. Hey! Thats us! But what do we get? Does no fees mean no frills or service? As Kiwi Bank is part of NZ Post (legally and physically) I'm inclined to believe that their environmental (and social) footprint is a little softer than the Oz banks. Another good thing. But Kiwi Bank does seem rather work-in-progress-ish.

For the record Superbank have a strong Oz component and are for personal banking only. For TSB (here in Wellington at least) and PSIS you're either a personal banker or your treated (sympathetically) as an Australian.

So we've got a choice of "Big'ol'Oz'Savings Bank", "Bank of Satellite OZ", "WestOz", "NZ is superfluous Banking Group", and the "look what I'm doing in the back shed" Kiwi Bank.

I'm inclined towards Kiwi Bank but could be swayed by "WestOz" as the lesser of a bunch of evils. Please, somebody, abuse me for talking about w/banking for so long, and while you're at it suggest a solution. We need someone to handle our cash, and we'd prefer the benefits of its use to stay in NZ.

I'm really bored now. Anyone for naked twister...?