Organic vegetables: Why LOCAL is lekker

The only rip-off that is bigger than “Our favourite Top-end Retailer’s” fresh produce is their pre-made sandwiches. Yet despite this, it’s the quality and convenient packaging that keeps you going back for more. (Or is it the laziness when it comes to packing your own lunch?)

Guilty as charged.

Yet consider this: Woolworths proudly tells you where many of their fresh produce is sourced from: Veggie type A from Kenya, Veggie Mix B from Zimbabwe, etc.

But nice and wholesome as these products may be – and whether they are organically produced or not – they cross borders from one country to the next before finally ending up on the shelves of your local store.

Fresh products don’t tend to stay fresh for long, hence you need to move them quickly from A t B if you want to sell them at a premium. This suggests air transport to South Africa, which in carbon terms is roughly on a par with what genuine mink coats are to animal rights.

From the airport, fresh products are generally delivered to retail outlets by refrigerated truck – all nicely packaged in plastic, cling-wrap, cardboard and cellophane. 

Between the cargo plane and the distribution network, that’s a LOT of carbon being emitted to bring you a bunch of fresh carrots you could’ve bought from a local grower.

Why you should support local organic producers

I am no carrot expert, but I am willing to bet my lunch for a week that an organic carrot grown in the Western Cape will taste as good, if not better, than a Zimbabwean one. And it will probably be more nutritious is as well.

In addition, local produce tends not to be so over-packaged, which means that you buying organic vegetables has double the effect in reducing your carbon footprint.

Brilliant – you CAN make a difference.

Although there may be exceptions to the rule, there’s a lot to be said for buying local grown fresh produce. Choosing to buy locally will help combat the climate crisis, and it’s hip to shop organic!

If you’re looking for a place to buy organic products,  be sure to visit Urban Sprout’s Ubergreen Organic Eco Directory for more information on organic products and the companies who grow them. Also check out The Vegan Diet for some cool veggie recipes and inspiration…

Carbon Accountable vs. Carbon SMART

Herewith your daily opportunity to learn from the stupidity of others, rather than have to pay the school fees yourself:

In keeping with my resolution to switch my geyser off when I go on holiday, I flip the switch on the mains and kick it to the Transkei on 20 January, 2008, for seven full days. Great, what a carbon saint I am. Helping Eskom out. Saving energy. Halting my second-biggest fossil fuel consuming activity for a full week.

Except.

 I also apparently hit a pathetic little switch next to it that, in hindsight, is labelled “plugs”.

In the third week of January, in the Year of our Lord 2008, as per the global warming hypothesis, the temperatures in Cape Town soar like Zimbabwean inflation.

I get back to a flat that smells like a burglar got in, slipped, fell and staked himself on my pre-rigged Congo macheti. Twice.

 No, not even. It smells like the freaking Salt River Morgue after a week of rolling Eskom black-outs. In fact, given the amount of dead meat sprouting fur and gleefully whispering as I transfer it into a doubled-over black refuse back, it may as well have been the next X Files science project gone wrong.

 The moral of the story?

If you’re carbon conscious, you’ll do the right thing and switch off your geyser when you go on holiday. But if you’re carbon smart, you won’t do it the way I do it.

Hamma Hamma – How green is Cell C?

As a former advertising copywriter I choose not to comment on the creative fiasco that is Cell C’s recently launched “Hamma Hamma” campaign. But as a green blogger I’ve had a couple of thoughts and questions:

How green is Net#work BBDO? 

Strategically, the blunder went beyond the way in which the campaign was communicated; the very decision to give away 6 Hummer H3s points to a worrying lack of forethought and environmental awareness:

The use of non-armor-plated Humvees in Iraq earned GM’s flagship urban 4×4 brand some of the nastiest publicity available on the planet, while their fuel consumption and emissions performance leaves a lot to be desired from an ecological perspective.

Add to this the misogynist undertones of the gangster culture, where a pimp ride is a Hummer, and you have the one product you frankly should not co-brand with.

The Halo Effect with Horns 

To those who can afford it, these ecological-disasters-on-wheels now probably appear far more appealing than before they were punted as the ultimate form of transport in this ad campaign – and compared with most other passenger vehicles on the road, their carbon fooprint is immense.

Driving your spoilt brat brood to school in a 3.7-litre monstrosity not only contributes to the climate crisis, but probably also causes your kids becoming insufferable pricks by the time they hit puberty.


For General Motors, this ought to translate into more sales, which in turn will result in more greenhouse gasses being emitted, with more and more rabid Hummer fans busting themselves to make enough money to afford these lifestyle icons. And they’ll get there, and they’ll fill them up and ride them empty each and every week; even if we hit R10 per litre for petrol.

Why couldn’t Cell C have given away Toyota Priuses or a number of Cell C scholarships?  

Personally, I find Cell C and ad agency Net#work BBDO decision to use the brand’s marketing machine to fuel poor Joe Soap’s lust for bigger and better things crass and thoroughly offensive – almost as offensive, in fact, as Cell C’s service levels, which prompted me to terminate my contract and move to Vodacom after two years of frustration and anger.

I hate Mo the Meerkat even more than I hate “hamma hamma”, but at least their call centre tends to be available far more often. Feel free to comment if you share in this sense of outrage.

Oh, and welcome to 2008, y’all.
 

Corporate SA and supply chain accountability

The Nineties saw a worldwide increase in consumer awareness about corporate accountability in terms of labour practices and human rights in the workplace.

Non-governmental lobby groups and society itself increasingly started holding corporations accountable for how they created profits, and brands that were caught out for sweat-shopping and trade-zone related labour shortcuts suffered serious reputation damage.

As South Africa prepares for a massive influx of tourists and potential foreign investors in 2010, companies will do well to start planning early for the next regulatory and reputational hurdle: Supply Chain Carbon Accountability.

Brand image vs. labour reality
Household brands, even those as progressive as The Body Shop, have suffered bad publicity on account of dubious chemical usage and animal testing in the past. The brand’s negative exposure was compounded by the fact that
the company had engineered an exceedingly socially accountable brand image from day one.

This child labour scandal compelled the chain and its founder, the late Anita Roddick, to make some serious changes in order to fight loss in market and share value. Their efforts are credited to have helped eradicate child labour, and earned the brand a lasting reputation as an ethical cosmetics retailer and a “force of good” in the world. 

 Similarly, American favourite Kathie Lee Gifford got caught red-handed for sweat-shopping and the use of child labour, and had to clean up her act – virtually overnight.

Outsourcing the problem
In an effort to subvert this Nineties consumer-driven outcry, many companies pointed out that they didn’t employ full-time production workers, in an attempt to shirk responsibility for sub-minimum wages and shocking workplace conditions.

What the consumer says goes
But consumers weren’t having any of it; buying power is as powerful a tool as political voting, and “brand scandals” such as these dramatically curbed exploitative labour practises.  

 NGOs took to using “name and shame” tactics, and companies soon started learning from their competitors’ mistakes.

Further bolstered by more rigorous legal and regulatory restrictions, supply chain accountability became a key consideration in the allocation of tenders and production accounts – both nationally and in foreign jurisdictions.

By the same token, it will only be a matter of time before carbon-neutral production and full supply chain accountability becomes a regulatory requirement, and hence an even greater reputational risk factor for organisations.

Can your organisation afford to be known as a carbon criminal?
Would you really like to find out how your share value will hold up if a respected NGO’s investigation showed that your company – or your supply chain – is the biggest producer of carbon dioxide in your sector or city?

Wouldn’t you rather play it safe and commit to carbon offsetting before your competitors do?

Putting your money where your mouth is pays
In recent years, European countries and corporations have spearheaded a drive towards greater environmental accountability. Big names such as Marks & Spencer, for example are setting the benchmark with a £500 million, 5-year plan to become a 100% carbon-neutral retailer by 2012.

The positive publicity the brand received for addressing the climate crisis has been stupendous.

Your organisation only stands to gain by enforcing carbon accountability in-house and all the way down its supply chain.

Why not become an “early adopter” and build a progressive reputation for your company?

Keep reading SA Climate Crisis for more information on creating an organisational framework for carbon accountability, and be sure to sign up for our carbon-neutral RSS feed.

Consumer study shows broadband can save the planet

  A recent publication by the American Consumer Institute shows that Broadband Internet can reduce carbon emissions worldwide by up to 1 billion tons over the next 10 years.

But widespread adoption of the technology is key.

 The paper discusses the economic and environmental benefits of broadband Internet delivery against the backdrop of global warming and radical climate change. Current carbon dioxide emissions in the United states is currently at nearly 8 billion tons, and growing fast.  

Broadband is seriously good news 

The study finds that widespread adoption of broadband applications alone can reduce these carbon emissions by 1 billion tons over 10 years! To give you an idea of how freakin’ huge this is:

1 billion tons of carbon dioxide equates to roughly 11% of the United States’ annual oil imports, making broadband a lot of carbon bang for your broadband buck.

Everyone prefers it fast

E-mails, newsletters and mobile content have steadily been gaining ground against traditional newspapers and paper-based media, both in terms of convenience and production costs, making it a win-win for consumers AND producers.

It also has the benefit of reducing the demand for paper, saving trees conserving energy and polluting less water during the production process!  

e-Commerce rocks!

Broadband has had a pronounced and very positive effect on the way people shop – both in terms of the need to commute, and that less floor space is required to trade. E-commerce operators such as Kalahari.net and Loot.co.za, for example, don’t have to offset as big a carbon footprint as the traditional bricks-and-mortar retailer does.

Similarly, telecommunications, video conferencing, web-ex type screen-sharing and other broadband applications are reducing the need for business travel, effectively making the modern workplace particularly “carbon sui”. 

Some quick stats from ACI report…

 In the next 10 years:

  • B-2-B and B-2-C e-commerce is predicted to reduce carbon emissions by more than 200 tons in the US

  • Telecommuting could cut driving – and hence emissions – by nearly 250 million tons

  • Teleconferencing could reduce greenhouse emissions by nearly 200 million tons, if 10% of airline travel could be replaced by using this technology

And here’s the feel-good for all you online content publishers:

Over the next 10 years, shifting newspaper subscriptions from paper to online alone will curb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by more than million tons!

Long live the web! 

The key, however, is “widespread broadband adoption”. As commercial demand for broadband rises, the technology could be leveraged even more effectively.  

What SA Climate Crisis wants YOU to do

The climate crisis is everybody’s baby. To hit the 1 billion ton reduction in carbon emissions mark, widespread buy-in will be needed. You’re in the right line of business to make a difference! Here’s how:  

If your company is not already an avid broadband consumer, I want you to walk up to management and inform them that a serious broadband line – perhaps even two – is critical for the sustainability of the planet and, by implication, for their business. Tell them that a 1-to-1 contention ratio is not a luxury – it’s a necessity.

Get up and go demand broadband from The Man; it is your carbon duty!

GO DO IT NOW – VIVA BROADBAND VIVA!! 

Hard Rain @ Kirstenbosch – pics just posted!

A teaser for those of you who haven’t gotten round to checking out the Hard Rain photo exhibition at Kirstenbosch yet: It features numerous climate change photographs, but addresses a much broader spectrum of themes relating to the environment and human rights.

Click on images to enlarge:

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I found this image most disturbing:

A Russian couple getting married, wearing  gas masks, to protest the toxic air pollution in their town.

There are things happening in this world that will make your blood run cold.

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ive-stepped-in-the-middle.jpg

Before, and after. And it wasn’t exactly a century later either:

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Photos published courtesy of Mark Edwards and The Hard Rain Project.

 Visit www.hardrainproject.com for more information.

The images from this exhibition feature in a coffee table book that can be purchased at Kirstenbosch – I reckon it’d be a good call as a Christmas pressie for the thinking and politically engaged.

Suggestions for a low-carbon festive season

As major contributors to global warming, air travel and driving are obvious carbon culprits – yet if you’re reading this blog post, chances are that driving (if nothing else) is virtually a given during the coming holidays.

 Here are some pointers for keeping your carbon footprint as small as possible during the silly season:

Take fewer vehicles on holiday
Splitting petrol between 4 people, rather than 2, costs (wait for it) 50% less, and also brings the group’s fossil fuel consumption down by half! It’s also more sociable, but be sure to pick your company wisely.

Go on a cycling holiday
Companies such as Wylde Ride (wylderide.co.za) can hook you up with a full-on local cycling holiday – so pick a trip that suits your fitness levels, pack the sun tan lotion and get ready for some time in the saddle – it makes for a superb break from the rat race, but you need to book fairly early.

Don’t cruise, RIDE.
Instead of just zipping around the coast or country in your rented Tazz/TT, why not do some of your explorations on a bicycle? You’ll see a lot more, and you’ll certainly emit less carbon dioxide. If nothing else, you’ll be working off the festive kilojoules and look like a Virgin Active GangStar.

Cycle to work (loser!)
If you are one of those poor sods (yours truly included) who’ll be working the skeleton shifts over the festive season, why not cash in on the deserted roads to cycle to work? Think about it: if you klank when you get there, no one will be around to notice, and it’s good green karma. It’ll also be the highlight of an otherwise lethally boring day.

Switch off your geyser, GEEZER
One of the biggest fossil fuel burners this holiday will undoubtedly be all those geysers holidaymakers have not switched off. If every household that goes on holiday switches their geysers off, Eskom is halfway off the hook. No seriously, do switch it off – but switch it back on the second you walk in the door. There’s nothing more neg than ending a good holiday with a forced icy cold shower.

If you have any potent tips for carbon-neutral holiday-making, feel free to share them in the comments!