Monday, April 30, 2007


Fair Trade fortnight kicked off on Saturday. It literally kicks off this coming Saturday avo with Fair Trade football at Wellington's Waitangi Park.

Before then it literally flies. On Thursday night you can head up to the St John's church hall (Dixon/Willis) and buzz about the room with the aid of the worlds most popular performance enhancing substance.

Yep, from 630-8 it's as close to an open bar you'll get at a church hall. Coffee coffee coffee, Latin music, and the wisdom of a Costa Rican fair trade co-op farmer. $4 on the door.

We fine ShoppingFix'ers will be stripped for football at Waitangi Park on Saturday afternoon. And look out. We have a (not so) secret weapon. Two in fact. If they show. The lively and lovely footballing design twins were "discovered" at Havana on Saturday night. They talked it up which is good enough for us so we signed them.

Check the Fair Trade fortnight events. There's a little banter over at the Wellingtonista - including someone pointing out that a friends of mine's fair trade products are available at NW Karori. Nice.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


You'll find regular pieces Consumerism Run Amok and Saturday Sensitivity here at ShoppingFix. Amok covers amusingly reviewed crap music. Sensitivity is a vid series where people express themselves and/or issues.

I was watching Scratch again the other day. DJ Shadow explaining digging made it clear to me that the hip hop DJ relies on "discarded" albums. The "quest for beats" is indeed dependant on time hunting through mountains of shit and not-so-shit records. Rare and obscure is best. No better evidence than with DJ Shadow himself.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I've echoed global and Kiwi business calls for a price on carbon before. Pricing carbon is a key means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As businesses strive for cost efficiency, there is direct incentive for them to address carbon efficiency and thereby lower emissions.

In New Zealand a big reason for pricing carbon is to provide investment certainty. The situation has been clouded ever since farmers marched on Parliament in 2003 to quash the "fart tax" proposal.

The two options for pricing carbon are invariably a cap and trade system or taxation. Last week a report sought by Business NZ and some of the largest GHG emitters in New Zealand was released. It strongly advocates cap and trade over tax.

Businesses able to pass the cost of carbon to their customers should buy emission permits. Those "at risk from international competitors with no similar obligations" would be "given" permits so long as their operations met international best practice.

Elsewhere, in March the Greens came out with their "framework policy for climate change". Its cornerstone is a carbon tax levied where carbon enters the Kiwi economy. So unlike GST, and unlike the Governments back peddled 2005 carbon tax, there's no explicit extra to pay at the till.

Both the Greens tax idea, and the latest big biz idea will heavily favour clean energy generators like Meridian.

Brian Fallow - biz writer at NZ Herald - has summarised current sentiment particularly well. He points out that our tiny emissions profile dictates that big countries like US and China should move first. He also notes that we shouldn't impose cost on biz before our major trading partners do.

This is the particularly self interested perspective of business - but not particularly surprising. Crucially, it has a sense of prolonging the inevitable. Even a sense of "head in the sand".

Some perspective can be found in an interview on National Radio's Our Changing World a few weeks back. VUW's Dr. Sean Weaver explains (audio, 8 or so mins in) that global carbon trading activity is presently akin to pre season training for when Kyoto kicks in next year. That's when Kyoto nations become liable.

Notably, Dr. Weaver points out that voluntary carbon markets (in Oz and US in particular) are equally active in allowing businesses to benefit from being more carbon efficient. Trading activity effectively provides businesses with "environmental responsibility certificates".

By imposing a carbon tax, the NZ Government may well deem carbon trading redundant for our businesses. But a key advantage of tax over trade is that there's less leakage. Potential for leakage demands that the tax is imposed where carbon enters the economy (like the Greens proposal) where carbon measurement is easier and more cost efficient.

With trading, each individual company that wishes to engage must measure their own emissions in order to obtain a quantity to trade. There's not only room for error, there's room for creative carbon accounting that can skew outcomes.

Pricing carbon (with either tax or trade) gives our businesses direction. It will give a potential market incentive to mitigation technologies like those being advanced at Landcare Research. It will also give our export markets the increasingly called for assurance that Kiwi producers are addressing emissions.

I for one support a carbon tax. The NZ Government will come up with its solution "soon". Which way will they go?

Carbon trading 101: Dr Sean Weaver on National Radio (audio).
Gristmill: kickin it with cap-and-trade
Alternet: the problems with cap-and-trade
Gristmill: tax-and-trade - why not both
Carbon Tax Center: blogging the benefits of carbon tax
Pigou Club: more on the benefits of carbon tax

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Over the last few weeks a mass of mainstream magazines have offered their take on all things green.

We talked about the Fortune Magazine feature a few posts ago. It contains a series of inspirational articles that should get anyone involved in any kind of business salivating.

The flagstaffs of style at Vanity Fair have flown a different colour with a green issue too (h'tip frogblog). For the inquisitive individual there's "50 ways..." advice piece. They remind us to unplug our mobile charger. And apparently using a "lawn mower for an hour causes the same amount of pollution as driving a car 93 miles". They advocate electric - I say push.

Time Magazine have gone one better in their appallingly titled "global warming survival guide". Their 51 things to do include advocating summer tie-less days in the office - allowing the aircon to be relaxed a little. It worked in Japan apparently.

Even Elle has "green feature" emblazoned across it's cover. Pity the single green article is dwarfed by six pages of dribble about "somebodies girlfriend" who drives a "shiny black Prius".

Maybe Elle readers abound in Arkansas.
Treehugger highlights Arkansas news editors (hopefully) having a laugh and printing a letter that lamented "the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight [savings time] would have on our climate."

Thursday, April 12, 2007


"Vast forests... sold for a few bags of sugar." Ring a bell?

The new rumble in the jungle sees swathes of Congolese forest exchanged for a pittance. In one 2005 deal a logging company promised to build community buildings and "said it would give the chief 20 sacks of sugar, 200 bags of salt, some machetes and a few hoes."

The revelation will be formally announced today (audio) following a two year investigation. The Greenpeace report will criticise "the World Bank for encouraging logging in Congo in the knowledge that corruption was rife."

Given that European companies were involved in the Congo deals you would have thought the lessons of history may have had relevance. Not so when massive profits are in the offing.

To lend some scale to this rort the following is useful:

1. Late last year Graeme Hart sold a large chunk of monocultured forest land in the North Island. 290,000 hectares was sold for about NZ$1.5bn.

2. The 1884 Port Nicholson sale to Wakefield included payment of a large amount of goods and 300 pounds. There may have been as much as 30,000 hectares of Wellington included, and inflation adjusted the 300 quid might be worth NZ$100,000 today.

3. One 2005 Congo deal saw "hundreds of hectares" exchanged for no more than gifts to the tune of approx NZ$28,000.

All the more reason to check the origin of timber in your furniture when you're buying. And that's not even touching on the carbon impact of logging virgin forest.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Yesterday busways, and then today there's this, 40km's of extra bus lanes in Wellington.

If you live on a bus route in Kilbirnie, Hataitai, Island Bay, Brooklyn, or Karori you may just get the perfect excuse to arrive late and leave early from work.

Then again, your next best late excuse may about to dry up. Literally. The Bodge is for sale (h'tip Wellingtonista). Bodega is one of the more worthy Wellie institutions - lets just hope that someone of muso slash ale persuasion steps up to the plate.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I'm not going to wade into an argument that I know relatively little about, but...

The above image is from an Economist article that hails the success of Jakarta's busway. A dedicated transit route for busses. Like the one they're building on the North Shore.

I'm intrigued by how bad the graph shows taxis are in terms of emissions per kilometer. I'm guessing that they tend to sit around idling a lot. There's no emissions comparison for train, light rail, or trolley bus but if they're running on non fossil fuel generated electricity it'll of course be zero.

I'm also sure that a massive developing country city like Indonesia is better suited to a busway than Wellington is. They have the "ability" to appropriate land and generally not so challenging terrain.

Over at Wellingtonista there's been significant bus/rail debate (1,2,3,4,5) so head on over if you want some Wellington/NZ context on this. One post in particular has some great links and comment.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


The 2007 Get Sustainable Challenge is underway.

Know of a business who wants recognition for their sustainability work, or one that would like to start making changes? Email them this link (icon in the post footer).

It's a national program but run initially in regional mini challenges. It's a great way to galvanise business sustainability thinking.


David Lynch of Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Dr, etc fame makes great movies. He doesn't like corporate hook-ups (hat tip The Piton):

The way I see it product placement is inevitable. But David Lynch is right. It bites. It not only has potential to subvert viewers soft opinions (eg. product preference), but also has the potential to subvert the film makers message.

On the other hand where there's no message to subvert - most Hollywood films are pulp after all - the viewer is simply a consumer.

Coke placed on US TV most frequently last year - 3,346 times (2nd to bottom). An old BBC article squares up to a few product placement issues, and this blog post covers a few specifics.

There is huge potential for new-industry products (super efficient/sustainable goods) to benefit in the same way so we shouldn't cry wolf.

Monday, April 02, 2007


A bunch of Kiwi retailers have announced that for them plastic shopping bags will become a thing of the past.

Bunnings gave away 3.5 million of them last year. By the end of this year there will be none in store. The Retailers Association have got on board - but their effort is limited to endorsing actions of retailers adhering to reductions "suggested" by the rather toothless Packaging Accord.

For a plastic bag recycling backgrounder read this recent British article. Many of the 17 billion British bags go to China for processing where agents can pay up to US$100 per tonne. Under EU rules it's OK to export recyclable material, but not waste.

A few Chinese villages eek out a living through reprocessing, but its "dirty, smelly, labour-intensive and poorly paid" work. What would we do if it weren't for the Chinese huh?

Oh, and for the record, plastic bags are generally better for the environment than paper.

Update: San Francisco city have banned the plastic shopping bag (yes, the whole city). FYI, its also "illegal to use someone's pre-worn underwear to clean windscreens" in San Fran.

Update: Thu 2 May: For Bunnings plastic bags are not a thing of the past afterall - yesterday they started selling them. Admirably, proceeds go to Keep NZ Beautiful.