Tag: sustainability

Brick, gold or green?

Joan, Chinese woman wearing yellow, is sitting on a table in front of an audience. Visible on the table are two white men, one wearing blue chequered shirt, the other in a dark suit.
I moderated a panel at Arup’s Shaping our City event in February 2015.

At a presentation in London, I heard someone from Futerra describe three types of environmentalists: the bricks, golds and greens.

These three types are environmental versions (extensions) of Dade’s three value modes: settler, prospector and pioneer. I made a booklet version of these ideas for an event I hosted at work. You can download it here (1.6 MB PDF):

The front page of a booklet entitled 'What drives your worldview?'. It includes two silhouetted heads talking to each other with colourful speech bubbles.
I wrote a short summary of Dade’s value modes to help people understand the different values that drive environmental behaviours.

Here is a screenshot of part of the short booklet.

Three columns headed by pictures of a brick, gold bar and a grassy patch. The image includes information on how the proportion of people in each category for the US, Australia and UK. For the text, download the booklet PDF in the link above.
This is an image from the booklet and describes the values behind the environmental behaviours of bricks, golds and greens.

The introduction of the booklet says:

The following three ‘value modes’ are one handy way of understanding a people’s worldviews. They are based on surveys of thousands of people around the world on what values drive their behaviours and opinions. I often ask people to sort themselves into these groups as workshop icebreaker…

These value modes help us pitch messages that resonate with the different audiences in our organisations and communities, which is vital when we are looking for behaviour change.

Even more importantly, we recognise that people might make the same sustainable decisions for entirely different – and legitimate – reasons. Personally, I find it inspiring that there are lots of different ways of thinking about sustainability.

I wish that the booklet included a link and credit to the original authors but this information got lost between my draft and the graphic design publication. For far more detail, you can dive in at Culture Dynamics. Hat tip again to Futerra.

Climate rally

On September 21, Damjan and I joined 30,000 people (supposedly) at the climate rally in front of the State Library of Victoria. The rally was part of a series around the world in the lead up to an important climate change conference in New York.

Ben and Jerry's: If it's melted, it's ruined
Ben & Jerry’s was the only corporation that I saw at the rally. I like their sign, ‘If it’s melted, it’s ruined.’ True for ice cream, true for Antarctica.
Next major extinction? Pollies
There’s that photo showing the Coalition ministers-to-be. They look like they wanted to be taken seriously, don’t they.
Homemade sign
Handwritten homemade signs are still being made.
Climate action is on my agenda
And here’s me. Climate action is on my agenda. When we left the rally, Damjan walked around the city holding this sign. We got a lot of people smiling at us and saying, ‘Good on you!’ Not surprising for the one electorate in Australia that voted in a Greens MP. Oh, there was one guy who said, ‘Tony Abbott is great!’ We thought he might not have read our sign properly.

Car share schemes in Melbourne

Damjan and I have lived the inner city car-free lifestyle for a while now. We wondered if would be possible to continue without a car once Mia arrived.

It’s been five months now and I think the answer is yes. Public transport and walking still gets us almost everywhere we need to in a normal week. Beyond that, car share gets us to the beach, friends in regional towns, Ikea and Bunnings.

We had been thinking about joining a car share scheme for a while and Mia’s impending birth finally brought it to the top of our ‘to do’ list. Being the analytical people that we are, it would not surprise you that we put together a spreadsheet of all the car share options in Melbourne (11 plans from three companies). The spreadsheet allowed us to work out the most cost effective plan for our lifestyle.

The three companies in Melbourne (Flexicar, GreenShareCar and GoGet) have different fee structures (e.g. hourly charges, distance charges, toll administration, insurance). It’s quite tricky to line them up side-by-side unless you have a spreadsheet… which you now can do, my readers, because here is a link to our handiwork.

Australian car share cost comparison

Australian car share cost comparison
Our spreadsheet lets you put in scenarios for car use so that you can see which of Melbourne’s 11 car share plans is best for you.

We worked out that we might spend around $1,000 per year. Which is bloody good, considering how much the insurance and registration would be just to own a car for occasional use. Even better, instead of an underused car sitting in our car space, we’re renting the space out and the rent covers all our public transport.

Head over to Damjan’s site for his write up of the spreadsheet.

Okara: waste into food

We bought a soy milk machine some months ago.

Joyoung soy milk maker
Joyoung soy milk maker

In 22 minutes, it pulverises and heats a small cup of soy beans into a litre of soy milk.

Fresh soy milk from the soy milk machine
Fresh soy milk from the soy milk machine

I then add 2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup to sweeten it. It doesn’t taste like the soy milk you buy from supermarkets, as it doesn’t have malt. It’s more like Asian soy milk but I don’t make it as sweet as that.

Add honey to soy milk
Add honey to soy milk

For a long time, Damjan and I wondered what to do with the leftover soy bean solids. It felt like we were throwing out a lot of it. After some focused Googling, we discovered that soy pulp is called okara. It is in fact highly nutritious with protein and fibre.

The first time we reused it, we made an lemon cake of almond meal and okara.

Lemon, almond and okara cake
Lemon, almond and okara cake

We’ve now added to our okara repertoire vegetarian burger patties, knedle soup (vegetable soup with dumplings made of flour and okara) and bread with okara filling.

Sometimes, though, we can’t keep up with all the okara that I generate with the soy milk machine. So a few weeks ago, we bought a bokashi bin, which is a little composting bin that we can keep in our apartment.

Home composting using the Bokashi system
Home composting using the Bokashi system

We started it off on banana peels, but now it takes three quarters of our waste — egg shells, tissues, fruit and vegetable peels, corn cobs and okara.

The start of our Bokashi bin
The start of our Bokashi bin

We’re halfway through our first binful and, as promised, there are no smells from the bin. We’ve barely had to empty our normal kitchen bin in the past two weeks.

Bokashi bin, halfway full
Bokashi bin, halfway full

If you have a garden and would like some nourishing compost, drop me a line.


Damjan and I are going ‘pescatarian’ for a month. Pescatarians are vegetarians that eat fish. My reason for trialling a new diet is to reduce the environmental impact of my food.

It’s been hard to take this step — not because I love eating meat (I quite like it) or that it is a staple of my diet (I don’t eat much), but because I worry about inconveniencing people with dietary preferences.

However, my friends and family are supportive and interested in this trial. ‘Tell me if you find some easy tasty vegetarian recipes,’ my mum said.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about: I don’t have any logical reason for allowing fish in my trial diet. I’m consistent with a lot of people, who do seem to draw a line between meat and fish.

I suppose fish seem a bit alien, possibly stupid and unfeeling. However, I understand that fish do feel pain. There are also lots of environmental issues like overfishing and bycatch.

I have no answers, really.

To give you an idea of how things are going:

  • Day 1 — Chips during the early morning Olympics ceremony, home made Eggs Atlantic, fabulous vegetarian dinner courtesy of friends Xing and Chris
  • Day 2 — Knedle soup (made with okara from our soy milk maker), omelette with fresh bread
  • Day 3 — Black bean and pumpkin stew, Thai butternut squash curry

Tomorrow is our first restaurant visit as pescatarians. Ordering should be straightforward with cut down menu options. We’re lucky in Melbourne that almost every restaurant has vegetarian and fish options.

Electric car

I had just enjoyed a dinner at Monash University in the middle suburbs of Melbourne and expected to take a late night bus, then train, back into the city. I was very pleased when one of the guests offered to drive me home.

‘Actually, you can drive yourself home,’ David said. ‘You see, I have an electric car, which is part of the government’s pilot programme. As part of the deal, I’ve promised to get as many people as I can to have a go driving it.’

What luck! This would be my first time in an electric car.

Mitsuibishi i-MiEV, electric car
Mitsuibishi i-MiEV, electric car
An electric car has its own quirks. I drove the Mitsubishi i-Miev, which doesn’t have a key. Instead, you use a button to start the engine. The gears are similar to an automatic car, with the addition of a ‘brake regeneration’ gear. I used it in the Burnley Tunnel to slow down. Instead of braking with the pedal, I put in the brake gear and the car slows itself down quickly and captures the energy for the electric battery.

On the CityLink tollway, I felt a large freight truck pushing up towards me at 100 kilometres per hour.

‘You’re in the left lane.’ David said. ‘Why is it so close?’

‘He probably wants a closer look at the electric car,’ I said.

Cancun COP16, so what happened?

I’ve been reading some analysis of COP16 and the best one (hard headed and fair) I found is here — http://www.climateactiontracker.org/briefing_paper_cancun.pdf

Take home messages below.

UN process has been saved

Everyone just seems thoroughly relieved that there have been a set of agreements (the Cancun Agreements) coming out of this summit. If this hadn’t happened, the the credibility of the UN process would have been destroyed for good. So even though the outcomes aren’t fantastic, there is still a framework for working through the issues.

The only country that didn’t sign up to the Cancun Agreements was Bolivia. In fact, they’re pretty upset that the Cancun Agreements still allow runaway change in climate.

The 12-16 billion tonne gap — 3.2°C warming

One of the great things about the agreement is that everyone agreed that we need to limit warming to 2 degrees C, and that the pledges added up to (optimistically) 3.2°C warming. That is, we need to find a way to cut greenhouse gases by another 12+ billion tonnes.

At least now we all agree on the scale of the problem.

The pledges are interesting

Countries have come up with their own pledges so it’s not surprising that they are all from different baselines (e.g. 1990 or 2005) or business as usual trajectories (i.e. what would have happened if we didn’t put reduction strategies in place) and in different units (CO2e or CO2e per GDP). This makes it quite difficult to add up all the pledges to see how it’s all going to go.

One big barrier removed…

At Copenhagen, China and the US were at loggerheads because China was resisting a reporting and verification (auditing) process. Both China and India have now gracefully conceded and the US is delighted.

It also a breakthrough that everyone agrees that all nations (developed and developing) will need to sign up to targets.

And another barrier still here — US Congress

So even if a miracle occurs and a new treaty is put up at South Africa, it not quite conceivable that the US Congress (Republican controlled) will let the US sign the treaty. Once again, we might have to go without the US.


There are bits and pieces of other interesting questions — Why are they letting countries use greenhouse gas allowances that should expire in 2012? Will countries like Russia be allowed to increase greenhouse gas emissions because the economic downturn means they are already under target? Will this agreement force the Australian government to implement their conditional 25% reduction target instead of the current unconditional 5% target?

To conclude, a summary of the main agreements.

From http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/archives/19060

  • For the first time an anchoring under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of the pledges made by developed and developing countries in the Copenhagen Accord. This is important because it provides an agreed pathway to achieve major emissions cuts. This is the first time that all major emitters have agreed to report to the world community their commitments and efforts to reduce carbon pollution in their own economies
  • The establishment of a new Green Climate Fund to help developing countries deal with climate change
  • A mechanism that will deliver economic opportunities for developing countries to reduce emissions that result from deforestation – one of the largest sources of global emissions
  • New rules to ensure that all countries will be able to see what each other is doing to tackle climate change
  • Agreement to provide strong and practical support for vulnerable developing countries to manage unavoidable climate impacts
  • Establishment of a mechanism that will help promulgate clean energy technology around the world

Behaviour change: Karma Cup

I saw this interesting Starbucks behaviour change initiative via the Futerra blog: Karma Cup.

As I understand it, every Starbucks customer that arrives with a reusable cup marks off a cross on a black chalkboard. The 10th person to arrive with a reusable cup gets his or her coffee for free.

This initiative is the result of a competition started in April. Apparently, ‘Starbucks was sponsoring the contest as part of its aim to serve 100 percent of its hand-crafted beverages in reusable or recyclable cups by 2015.’

Here is a link to a summary poster of the scheme.

Starbucks Karma Cup - how it works
Starbucks Karma Cup - how it works

Sounds fun. The winning initiative was only announced yesterday so I hope someone reports seeing this in action soon!

The up bit before the down bit

A year ago, my team at work was 25 people. In a month, we will have fallen to 13 people. This halving has been due to redundancies,  life changes, round-the-world trips, and people moving on to other jobs.

We are all really busy right now. A number of times, potential clients have called us and said, ‘We want you to do this thing that you’re really good at and we’ve written the cheque for you. All you need to do is say yes.’

And, insanely, we’ve had to say no.

No one likes to turn away work. Because 120% of our time is tied up, we have asked for help from the wider environment and planning group in London. They’re all busy too.

So we call our colleagues in ‘the regions’.

‘Really sorry,’ they’ve said, ‘But we’re flat out too.’ (Actually, the correct corporate speak here is ‘We can’t resource it.’)

So we call our mates overseas. No joy there, either. So the client has to take the work elsewhere.

The recession is still on, though. Although we’re busy now, I’m told it could all still go belly up. This could be an up bit before a down bit.

It all makes ‘the leadership’ nervous, which is why we can’t hire those sharp and keen new grads,  or the bargain basement experienced sustainability consultants who really deserve to be snapped up.

We can’t scold the leadership for their paralysis. Although we’re doing the work, over the past year more and more clients aren’t paying. Some have gone bust, and our only option is to join the queue to see if we get our money back.

The last six months have shown a significant and sustained upturn in business. I wonder what will happen in the wake of the UK election?

In the mean time, the things I’m thinking about are:

  • How can we make an airport in Italy more sustainable?
  • What makes sports, tourism, culture and creative organisations more financially resilient to climate change?
  • What is the carbon footprint of a family of hundreds of hotels around the world?
  • How can we work with the UK construction industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2012?
  • What are the social impacts of highways on communities that live near them?
  • How do we set up a portfolio of environmental services for small-to-medium enterprises?
  • What does sustainable event management mean for a multi-day festival in London?
  • How do we present regular energy monitoring data to the tenants of prestige office buildings?
  • Can our masterplan of a new industrial park demonstrate that it is more climate friendly than a standard development?