Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Marjorie was the all knowing trash heap in Fraggle Rock.

Wellington City Council's landfill manager took National Radio's Our Changing World on a tour last week. The city's trash heap made for fascinating radio (13 min audio).

The great home recycling habit of Wellingtonians is discussed in contrast to what we get up to at work. "Places of work constitute 80% of [the] waste" supply. Most is recyclable.

I recommend making the most of open days when they're on. I had a tour a year or so back and I'll return to see how projects like methane capture, bush regeneration, and Kai-to-compost are progressing.

Update: Part 2 of the National Radio piece is even more fascinating. Landfill manager Mike Mendonca explains how troublesome the concept of offshoring recycling processes is. It's reminiscent of an earlier post that talks about plastic recycling.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


It was my birthday last week. My folks always send me a card with a thoughtful message of optimism for the coming year.

This year the message also alerted me to one on the back...

My card was tree-free paper derived from the kenaf plant. It "grows 15 feet in just five months, uses no harmful chemicals in processing and is fully recyclable."

Tree Free Greetings of Canada made my card. Yep, my kenaf's a Canuck - and North America is where a fair bit of kanaf fibre comes from.

It just so happens that in the year of my birth a chap called Withers published findings from a kenaf trial in Palmy. But other than that of old Mr Withers, I can't find evidence of kenaf grown for fibre in New Zealand.

It's a pity. In the US it has an annual yield 4-5 times better than "forest". I'm assuming there would be similar comparison of NZ yield to pine.

They grow kenaf in Australia too - which begs the question: "where the kenaf are ya?"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Last week the green light was given to start production on the $100 Laptop. It's a fascinating non profit project with the aim of enabling learning in developing countries.

It's been a contentious path. The concept came out of MIT's Media Lab and was quickly rubbished by Gates et.al.

The laptop was actively opposed by Intel who came up with their own version. It threatened to get nasty until they kissed and made up earlier this month.

Based on mesh networking and operable on a single internet connection (or none at all), the laptop has been

"[e]xtensively field-tested and validated among some of the poorest and most remote populations on earth... [The] computer uniquely fosters "learning learning" by allowing children to “think about thinking”, in ways that are otherwise impossible. Using the XO as both their window on the world, as well as a highly programmable tool for exploring it, children in emerging nations will be opened to both illimitable knowledge and to their own creative and problem-solving potential."

Bold visions indeed. But how can you run a laptop in the middle of newhere without power?

Apparently the cheap rechargable battery has "four-times the amount of time as a normal laptop battery". Hand crank and solar panel options are available. Nice.

It's a natural "must" for Blackle homepaging. And as this fella explains for the BBC, it uses about 10% of the juice of a standard laptop.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Vanuatu to Iceland
A year ago this week I mentioned that Vanuatu was the happiest place on earth. This year the New Economics Foundation have released a European Happy Planet Index. Iceland are on top (c/o The Guardian). "[H]appiness doesn't have to cost the earth."

Consumer Mush
I've been banging on about the growing ethical consumer market for a while now (1,2,3). It's been mostly Kiwi and UK research. Findings out of the US aren't so clear (c/o Gristmill). "The vast majority of people don't have very well-articulated views of the environment". That's not surprising given that "82% of Americans have neither read nor seen" Invonvenient Truth. I Wonder what the viewer numbers are here...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Eats, shits, and leaves them at the landfill. And that's a good thing according to Kimberley-Clark.

If it means that your company sells more disposable nappies then of course it's a good thing.

The strange press release claims research has "found that the impact of burying disposable nappies in landfill sites was matched by the energy consumed and greenhouse gases generated by washing reusables or transporting them to laundries."

Apparently the study was conducted by the UK Environment Agency, but all I can find about nappies on their site is a cute baby pic asking whether you've thought about washables.

K-C logic has it that stuffing nappy after disposable nappy in a hole in the ground is better for the planet than reusable nappies. Clearly they've not heard of clean energy, efficient water use, or the energy network implicit in making, distributing, selling, and trashing disposable goods.

When I find the report I'll let you know. Flick me a note if you come across it in the mean time.

Update: Thurs 12th - still no further indicator of what's in the study, but Stuff are towing the corporate line. They also refer to North Canterbury disposable nappy composters who accept this spoon fed research.

Update: Fri 13th - as it turns out, the study is two years old and has been widely discredited. Adjusting for flawed research assumptions washable nappies are 31% better than disposable in terms of climate change impact.

Update: Fri 27th - Nandor has had a crack at Michael Laws for throwing the proverbial at the fan. Laws of course accepted the Kimberley Clark "analysis" and according to Nandor, Laws thinks "it is "ridiculous" for parents to be environmentally aware". Mind you, Laws must be onto something. He got rid of kerbside recycling in Wanganui.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


In April I posted about New Zealand's "first wave" of liberation from the plastic bag. Since then you'll have heard that a bunch of supermarkets are ditching the bag.

A problem remains though - what happens your mountain of non-recyclable shopping bags. Step up makezine.com who ripped an oldish idea from this great little blog. Make your own messenger bag!

Plans and instruction here (1,600kb pdf). All this stuff is out there on a Creative Commons license so use it well!

Hat tip: The Piton

Update: Click for the big picture. My ironed plastic.

The "degradable" plastic bags you get at many supermarkets might be a waste of time. I had a crack bottom right on pic. Patchy at best. Top right is a tortilla bag - full heat but no bonding and about as effective as the flour tortilla the bag used to contain.

The bread bag centre was folded 6-thick and ironed full heat. Not brilliant, but a followup 8-thick on mid heat looks good. It's a little small though. Unless you're into sewing, using bread bags for the final product will be tedious.

Big black bag is a standard record/clothes/shoe shopping bag folded 6-thick. Top end was full heat and a pretty good result - if anything a little too hot. Bottom end is half heat giving no bond.

Mid bottom is an 8-thick perforated supermarket fruit bag. Its crap and wont be used.

I'll be raiding friends cupboards over the next few weeks to get me some stock. This re-usable grocery bag lark has our cupboard a little thin...