There's more to a mattress

The bedding industry is getting together on Wednesday 14th June in Melbourne to learn about the Soft Landing Mattress product Stewardship Scheme. Industry is building a national scheme, with a social enterprise, to get mattresses out of landfill and off our streets.

We are delighted to have Stan Krpan, CEO of Sustainability Victoria, open the breakfast briefing, providing an overview of Victoria's key priorities and activities for resource recovery. Stan will be joined by Scheme Chair, Kathy jack from Joyce Foam Products, Scheme Manager Janelle Wallace, manufacturer and Board member, Vernon Fair, Sealy Australia, and Farshid Pahlevani, PhD Senior Research Associate, SMART @ UNSW, who will present new products that can be made from recovered mattress materials.

See our Press release here.

Our plastic use circles the earth 4 times each year

Our plastic bag storage cupboard (bags reused for garbage) is so jam packed the door almost doesn't close. Given there is only one person who brings home shopping in plastic I was looking for a powerful message to go with my suggestion of keeping reusable bags in the car and actually using them. Searching for graphic images of the gyres garbage dump I came across 22 compelling facts about our obsession with plastic. Read them here. I am sure you will find some that suit for those you want to change their plastic behaviour.

From GhG plastics to wearable grass.

The circular economy is the current in-phrase in sustainability. A linear economy extracts, processes, uses and disposes. It's also been referred to as cradle to grave. A circular economy, on the other hand, keeps a resource in use for as long as possible, i.e. from cradel to cradle, hopefully to cradle again and again.

A Dutch company with a very catchy name is partnering with Government and a nation in need in a fine example of the possbilities of a circular economy. Read more here.

Turning Greenhouse Gas into plastic

A company in California is turning greenhouse gass from methane and carbon dioxide into usable plastics, rather than using petroleum. I wonder how much GhG we could capture and convert into plastics. I don't' know what other resources are used, and therefore the total footprint of the product, but it seems to be an exciting discovery. More information on AirCarbonTM can be found here

The kickstarter for this invention by two then 20 something Americans came from reading a newspaper article on heat-trapping methane emissions from diary farms (see USA Today article here).

Bring on the innovative college graduates!

What does it take to power the cloud?

One of our clients forwarded a study (with a comprehensive reference lsit) into the energy use of the information economy. It makes bold statements such as:

  • "the ICT ecosystem now approaches 10% of world electricity generation" [sic - should be uses?] "and about  50% more energy than global aviation".
  • Tablets, phones and TVs are much hungrier for energy than data centres (see page 4, link below).
  • The amount of data being consumed is now measured in Zettabytes (get your head around that). And all of this is mostly powered by coal.

Any guesses as to which Tech company is most dependant on electricity from Coal? Then check out the graph on page 6. This is a hefty tome but a must read for anyone concerned about the energy efficiency of IT. You can find it here .

Fair Trade or locally grown?

Some of our Sustainability Advantage Tertiary Cluster members are working towards a Fair Trade Community recognition. There are agreements available through The Fair Trade Association for schools, universities, faiths, workplaces and even towns. This is a good way to bring to your stakeholders' attention your commitment to supporting fairer trade conditions for developing communities.

Some organisations and individuals endeavour to support locally grown produce, though the definitions of locally grown can be a little vague, and the availability of produce may be limited or patchy in some areas. We're not aware of any certification of a commitment to buying local in Australia, though there is a Local Sustainable Food Certification in Canada. There are of course other food product certifications such as organic or biodynamic. In the USA and Australia there is "Certified Humane" , Certified Sustainable Seafood. There's even a "trustea" code that is designed to evaluate the social, economic, agronomic and environmental performance of Indian tea estates, smallholders and Bought Leaf Factories (BLFs).

All of these programs are of value to certain customers or stakeholders, but could be quite confusing, time consuming and costly to achieve, and difficult to maintain compliance with. 

We'd love you to post your thoughts on what is important to your organisation or you as a customer, how you demonstrate your commitment simply and effectively, and how you are seeing your more sustainable purchasing decisions impacting your business/community/stakeholders.


Effectively engaging staff through distributed networks

In this article a co-operative retail food store network outlines 5 steps that saw them achieve broadscale staff engagement in energy efficiency and 40% reduction in operational greenhouse gas emissions. These were:

  1. Know your audience - and give them only what they need/want to know
  2. Engage at a community level - with the people  the community is comfortable with
  3. Keep it simple - a simple rating scale to show where each group is at, and what they need to do to move to the next level
  4. Make your champions responsible - provide feedback loops and listen to them
  5. Be adaptable - reassess and tweak or restructure as required.

To bring 5,000 locations along is a challenge, and one that took consistent commitemnt and focus. How might your organisation apply these steps?


Collaborating with the devil to save resources

OR: Demonstrating leadership in your supply chain or industry sector

Buying groups have been around for a long time, helping companies obtain better prices from combined purchasing power. Could you leverage this concept by bringing your suppliers or sector partners, many of whom may not have your scale and resources, together to bring resource efficiency projects to reality? In the case of one such pilot in the UK, up to 80% of lighting costs are expected to be saved across four suppliers by collaborating to procure cost effective and energy efficient lighting. While the scale of participants discussed in this article is large, surely this could also be effective for smaller companies. The group discussed was facilitated by a third party so that participants could remain anonymous if they chose to. This may be a way to approach collaboration with competitors, who are not always keen to share information, even about energy costs

Larry Landfill and Rosie Recycling - a novel approach to public space recycling

Confusion and apathy are two of the biggest barriers to office and public space recycling. People who recycle at home often don't even recycle at work. The University of Adelaide, with the help of Ecocreative implemented a novel approach to engaging students and staff in recycling. UoA reports a doubling of recycling rates during the campaign period. Creative infrastructure and signage captures attention

Care must be taken to keep messages simple, but getting attention is also important. What other creative ideas might be used to capture - and hold - attention?

Why CSR is an impediment to good sustainability practice

Steven Johnson, in his article Business as usual: you’re fired! suggests that the biggest barrier to progress on sustainability is one of the very things we consider as part of good sustainability practice: CSR. He discusses 10 reasons the current situation is different, and the same 10 reasons business must change in an unprecedented way.

One of Johnson's claims is that market forces will favour brands that demonstrate restraint, take action on income equality and innovate products and services that make an economic hardship easier to bear. The recent reminders of the impacts cheap, throw-away clothing have on the lives of mostly women in sweatshops in Bangladesh and other countries (not to mention resource use) may be a test for his argument. How will the Australian companies identified in this week’s 4 Corners, and perhaps other companies that were not identified but buy cheap clothing from the same sweatshops, respond? Will they undertake a serious review of their purchasing – and sales – behaviour or will it just be a damage control response. We must bear in mind of course that there are two sides to every story….may the other side be told soon.

Hand dryers massacre paper towels in recent match

We are often asked if hand dryers are more environmentally beneficial than hand towels. And the answer is - yes - depends. What are the specifications of the hand dryer? How many paper towels does the average hand washer use? If they use any at all? How many times do they restart the hand dryer?

For a clear explanation of a life cycle analysis (LCA) on this topic - based on Australian conditions, read this article. 

We're not always comparing apples with apples, which further complicates LCA. There are yet more considerations if you take into account where the hand dryer was manufactured, how old it is, what the paper towels are made from and the list goes on.

And lets not get into talking about using washable towels because I can already hear you saying....."but what about all that electricity, water and detergent for washing? And who is going to do it? And is it hygenic?  

So what can we draw from this? Unless you commission it specifically for your product or service compared with another, LCA is a guide, not a guarantee. This might be considered another good reason to opt first to avoid consumption of a product altogether - like letting your hands air dry.  Unless it is snowing outside, which it rarely is in our lucky country.


How to leverage your CSR reporting with one new element

Mallen Baker, a consummate writer on corporate social responsibility, talks about transforming your online CSR reporting by including one new element – Immersive Reporting. This is a three-part video series. This first part discusses the what and how of immersive reporting. Two things of note are his distinction between two different stakeholder groups, and turning typical case studies on their heads. The video is 12 minutes and even for those not involved in CSR reporting, contains a couple of gems. We invite you to share your take-out from this video by posting on this blog.

Confused about energy efficient lighting options for your business?

Quite often our Sustainability Advantage members ask for a resource to help them wade through the many lighting options to find what is most suited to their situation. Energy efficiency and energy savings are often the key drivers for looking to upgrade, but ambience and safety are also considerations.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has released a comprehensive report on lighting efficiency options, with explanations of terminology and technology. Click here to take a look. We welcome comments on this page on the usefulness of this report to share with other businesses.