Sunday, May 28, 2006

On Thursday I attended the launch of the local version of the Sustainable Business Network's Get Sustainable Challenge. The challenge is pitched as "a path to business success" - and speakers from Formway Furniture, Studio Pacific Architects, and Meridian Energy spoke of how they anticipated business success to emerge from sustainability decisions they had made.

Entries for the 2006 Get Sustainable Challenge close 30 June. The sooner that businesses find the path, the quicker the benefits will become apparent.

The SBN goal of course is to encourage as many local businesses as possible to embark on the path to sustainability. That too is a goal for ShoppingFix. In addition to the promise of cost savings through business efficiencies, the Challenge provides business with an incentive in the form of an awards evening. ShoppingFix aims to galvanise consumer support for sustainable business - providing businesses with a direct economic incentive.

Although the SBN initiative is available to all businesses, ShoppingFix has the plus of being available to all Wellington city consumers everyday. So if the Get Sustainable Challenge can get businesses on the path to sustainability, and ShoppingFix can get consumers thinking about sustainable shopping, then the path just might become the road most travelled.

Don't forget, you can help us make ShoppingFix a reality by attending our June 7th fundraiser.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Well, not exactly. So we're embarking on a series of fundraisers. The wonderful peeps at the Paramount Theatre are hosting our first fundraiser on June 7th. A screening of the acclaimed environmental activist documentary Grizzly Man (which actually opens this week, so just hold off seeing it a little while).

You can get tickets by leaving your details in comments (below) or by emailing shoppingfix-at-email-dot-com. There's a flyer posted here. Grizzly Man has received near perfect reviews (ie. if not explicitly 5 stars or 10/10 etc, then comments which suggest the same) from The New Yorker, Variety, Washington Post, The New York Times, Empire, and Sunday Star Times. Not bad huh?

So come and join us. You'll be helping us out of course, but you'll also see a great flic and be able to put faces to the ShoppingFix name.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"Let my people go surfing" is the 2005 book written by Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard. I'm about 3/4 through - having purchased recently through alonovo. The book is an amazing documentary of how Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and equipment company, has evolved into an environmentally conscious business.

In presenting ShoppingFix info to some of the businesses we're working with I included a seminal quote from Chouinard: "every time I've done the right thing for the environment I've made a profit". This quote is given substance in his book. You may recall that I'm typically not one for shameless product endorsement unless there's some benefit for my cause, but this book should be everywhere. It's an absolute "must read" for anyone involved in business.

In short Chouinard is an advocate of an ecological world view. Business practice should reflect the environment in which its suppliers, staff and clients (customers) exist - and for an outdoor clothing and equipment company this is vitally important. The book shows how it is possible - and essential - "to blend work, play and social duty and be all the more successful as a result". Highly inspirational - and even more so if you're into the outdoors.

Find a copy if you can, and read it. Hey, even email me if you like, maybe I'll lend you my copy...

***You'll note that I've upped the font size. What do you think? Good for the peepers? Too clunky? Regardless, keep your feedback coming.***

Friday, May 12, 2006

The post below is economic observation. What I wanted to talk about was a cool Philadelphia, USA initiative I found. Instead I prattled on about general demand for resource responsible business.

The Philadelphia initiative I found is RecycleBank (hat tip Plenty Magazine). RecycleBank provides incentives for sustainable behaviour and shares many similarities with ShoppingFix. With RecycleBank the benefit of recycling is kept within the community. Recyclers get "paid", the business of recycling is a more viable, raw materials are readily available, and the local environment is healthier. Its much easier to see the closed loop in this "community" scale initiative.

At the more abstract end of the sustainability continuum is alonovo. I purchased a few books through their sustainable shopping concept a few weeks back (I'll be posting about at least one of those books soon). Ethiscore (run by the UK Ethical Consumer magazine) and BuyBlue are more examples which arm consumers with the right information. These programs concentrate on the front end of sustainability while RecycleBank arguably concentrates on the rear. Alonovo relies on others to ensure that the arse end is catered for, RecycleBank relies on people buying recyclable material (individuals and manufacturers).

With all of these international initiatives that have similarities to ours, I know we're on the right track with ShoppingFix. So keep an ear out and support us as soon as you can.

Consumption... we buy, use, discard, buy, use, discard. If we recycle we clearly lessen the impact of discarding. If we buy recycled, organic, or fair trade products we lessen the impact of producing the stuff we use. If we think of our consumption as a resource loop - a nose to tail exercise - we hold a greater chance of reaching the sustainability nirvana.

It is not rocket science. Nor is not new thinking. Phrases like "close the loop" inspired the archetypical recycling emblem. Before ShoppingFix we actually considered calling our initiative "Loopy"... The problem is that without one key action the other is fruitless. If you don't have a shopping preference for recycled products then the act of recycling is futile - and vice-versa.

ShoppingFix is a concept that puts that "loopy" consumer processes to the fore. By supporting businesses that use resources responsibly we are "reducing demand" for polluting practices. Or more accurately we are "increasing demand" for good business practices. The good business practices must include both the use and recovery of resources - both ends of the loop.

We are also attempting to promote another loop. Most of us recycle at home. Some of us compost our organic waste. But most of us shop indiscriminately. So long as the coffee tastes good we'll buy it. If the shirt fits, we wear it. The "at home to in town" loop is just as important as the old-school loop. Because we care at home, we should expect the same from the shops and restaurants we frequent. Just as the owners and employees of
the places we frequent care at home, they should care at work...

So ShoppingFix is something of a big group hug - which is what I'll need if I don't stop now. Not that I don't appreciate group hugs... Stop.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Wellington is of course known for its vibrant creative community. Although I have about as much creativity as a goldfish I get to enjoy our city's creative output almost as often as I like. A prime example was my Saturday; taking in Transmission, the Radio NZ recording gig at Bodega, then up to San Fran-Indigo Bar House to lap up Phoenix Foundation. What a night...!

Whenever a "big" music weekend drags everyone out of the woodwork I am always struck by the power that creativity has in the community. Like going to a recent Bats gig or the Straightjacket Fits tour last year - all sorts of folk head out. I am of course showing my age here, but it great to be at a venue where 18yr olds are lovin music that has its roots back in the day when us 30-somethings were 18. Music, or creativity generally, has the power to galvanise communities.

This "force" is exactly why NZ On Air and other forms of funding for the creative community are essential. Those that sit way down there at the right hand end of the political spectrum would argue that ALL artists should stand
commercially on their own feet ALL of the time. Of course the answer lies somewhere along a quality-impact scale where "value" to the community must be demonstrated.

I had a conversation some months ago with a local muso about creative funding. He was adamant that in choosing to be an artist, all Kiwi artists must recognise that they need to feed/house/cloth themselves, so in order to be able to work full time as an artist they must have some saleable/commercial quality to their work. Because they should not expect to be funded through life they must show relevance to the community. If not quantitavely (sales potential) at least qualitatively (galvanising benefits and the like). Touche...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Is it too hard to buy with the earth in mind? An article that appeared on the BBC website on Wednesday has hit the nail on the head. The UK Sustainable Consumption Roundtable has released a study that urges the UK Govt. to take a lead and promote lifestyles that impose a lower climate impact.

"Government and businesses must focus fairly and squarely on mainstrem consumers, rather than expecting the heroic minority of green shoppers to shop society's way out of unsustainability."
I'm gonna call this the SHOPPING ICEBERG ANOMALY: rather than addressing the dangerous majority of consumers that sit below the water line, governments have been content to let the visibly active minority act as beacons of hope. Governments need to FLIP THE BERG!

"Mainstream" status quo consumer lifestyles have been a comfortable guarantee of economic growth. Much like the easy-chair that the flipped berg (left) resembles. But like the image, mainstream consumption has been happening in the (ecological) dark. Lets get mainstream consumption out in the open!

UK consultation showed that consumers generally want to be more sustainable but a pervasive belief exists that individual action is futile. Kiwis (well, Wellingtonians at least) will soon have a tool to make a difference, to "flip the berg". That tool is of course
ShoppingFix. A tool to pool collective sustainable consumption for real impact.

This is a good point to announce that the NZ govt has chosen not to fund
ShoppingFix this year. We had our SMF application turned down so we're gonna have to get clever and beg steal and borrow in order to get a robust sustainable shopping initiative up and running. The good news is that NZ$3.84m in funding was allocated. Although the fund was oversubscribed by 110% there are still lots of initiatives lined up in the coming year. Its just that the NZ Govt. wont flip the berg with us just yet.

Rather than flip the bird and fade into the distance, we'll be relying more on your help to get all things ShoppingFix moving. Watch this space...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

You probably picked up the news from a couple of days ago that a new Kiwi "climate skeptic" coalition of scientists and lay-persons has been established. The news was greeted by the Greens with cautious "debate is good" optimism, but the reaction from Greenpeace was quite bizarre: "the scientific community is united, the debate is over."

The Greenpeace staffer effectively got on her high horse and scorned the new group for daring to oppose the majority. Not a good look for an organisation that espouses values of free speech, tolerance, and understanding. I linked to the original press release from a blog run by the Libertarians. As you'll see in the comments section I incited a little discussion. Its always good to see the entrenched blindly adhering to their cause...

Back to climate change. You'll remember my thread from a few weeks back where I called attention to an old North & South letter to the editor. And what do you know, Augie Auer has popped up again. He's a member of the new climate skeptic coalition, and was interviewed by the NZ Herald about his views. His position. He's not budging, nor is he going beyond his back of envelope figures as criticism of "back of envelope science".

Mr Auer refutes climate change projections as being based on bad science. I am yet to see his climate projections or any foundation for him saying "its all OK". To him there is no link between human activity and climate change. Today Dr David Wratt (NIWA/IPCC) has replied to two days cat-fighting with a good summary of the IPCC process and his thoughts on Auer math.

Its good to see Mr Auer has got in with some help. Maybe the new coalition (gets my nomination for ugliest website of 2006 so far) can come up with something to talk about.