Electricity-Generating Gym

I found this a while ago, but haven’t shared it yet- it is an amazing campaign (student designed) that won a Gold Cleo Award in the Student Integrated Branding Campaign category.

I have generally found our local electricity company (one that has been plagued with issues and complaints for a few years now) to be rather lack-lustre and dull in its attempt to communicate with the public.  They offer many innovative and effective solutions to our intermittent electricity crisis, yet often fail to communicate this in an efficient and engaging way.

The solution proposed within this video could certainly be adapted to our local context, and could genuinely facilitate better brand-consumer relationships. Given how saturated the market is in terms of gyms and exercise facilities, I believe that there would be opportunity for co-branding or sponsorship in order to make the idea more applicable.

In addition the whole system could be adapted by gyms in order to make them more sustainable and energy efficient. Many of the machines and mechanisms within a gym are electricity dependent- this hefty usage could be counteracted through implementation of a system as proposed in the video.

Essentially there is an entirely underutilised and undercapitalised source of energy within our reach. I feel that there is definite opportunity to re-contextualise the featured project for application in South Africa.

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Praise for My Hometown…

This post is long over due, and I have to admit that I have been a little slack on keeping this blog updated. With the end of January in sight, I have made a resolution to update this page more regularly- first and foremost because I believe whole heartedly in the cause, and secondly because I feel like there is value to be added (in-keeping with the healthy brand philosophy of course).

I was listening to the radio on my way to work the other morning, surrounded by fellow commuters and looking out over the City from the new Warwick Triangle flyover. On the radio, Durban was being applauded for the efficient use of waste as a means to produce energy.

Being a Durbanite, one is often accustomed to harsh accusations of ‘backwardness’ and ‘slowness’ – the news that we are, reportedly, the only city in Africa actively and effectively pursuing this energy-harnessing option strongly contests those notions.

We are a stage in the world ‘lifecycle’ where we can no longer ignore the realities of human life on the planet- we can no longer pretend that our presence and activity on earth has no environmental or ecological effect. In turn, the sooner we are able to capitalise on our human capability of innovation and invention, the sooner we will begin to alleviate the stresses and strains that we put on the planet.

I remember watching a TV show a few years ago; they were discussing the evolution of power sources and the realities of global warming and green house gases. One of the guests on the show shared a sentiment (and I paraphrase here) that the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stone.

We should be progressing to new sources of energy and power. Oil and electricity are becoming passé and we should all be actively pursuing new ideas and approaches.  I acknowledge that this is becoming increasingly the focus of various industries and individuals, however I feel that this can also become the role of the ‘everyday’ person- you or I- in our ‘everyday’ capacity. Imagine concocting new ways of going about everyday activities- such as going to the gym, or for a walk- that could begin to address energy concerns.

Durban’s approach to methane gases and the use of landfills in addressing energy source is a huge step forward, and I feel that it is well worth taking a look at.  In turn, I think that opportunity for extension exists- especially in South Africa where we have had well-publicized issues with electricity supply and availability.

Landfills are problematic pockets of waste that ‘litter’ our countryside; they are regarded as extremely hazardous, not only to human health, but to environmental surrounds. The harnessing and utilization of the poisonous gases created by the interlaid decaying matter is a positive step in a movement toward managing the waste of our every growing population. Rather than allowing the gases to escape into surrounding soil, air and in certain cases, water systems, the process of waste to energy allows for the generation of new energy.

See what Durban Solid Waste is doing by watching the video below: Watts in The Rubbish Heap? Durban, South Africa.

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Woolworths: Living Wall


A friend of mine forwarded this link onto me this morning on Facebook; I was immediately intrigued, so I decided to share it.

16 October 2010 was World Food Day- the theme for this year was “United Against Hunger.” (Woolworths Trust, 2010) Woolworths’ answer to this theme was to create a virtual ‘living wall.’ In short, this is a wall that has been constructed in such a way that it is able to support the growth of plants/vegetation. Woolworths’ aim is and was; to get people to enter their name and e-mail, select a plant type (basil/spinach/straweberries/tomatoes) and plant a seedling on the virtual wall. Woolworths would translate this into a donation of the real plant to a South Africa school with a “permaculture food garden.” (Woolworths Trust, 2010)

“Permaculture is a world-renowned system of sustainable gardening and farming that’s design-driven, mirroring the healthy patterns of nature’s ecosystems. Permaculture combines plants, buildings, water, landscapes and people in ways that ensure that the particular environment generates more energy than is used.” (Woolworths Living Wall, 2010)

Woolworths, in partnership with several other brands and organisations, assists in something called the EduPlant programme. This teaches local schools how to grow and nuture plants using “resource-efficient permaculture methods.” (Woolworths Living Wall, 2010)

I think this is a very interesting project, and I can appreciate the thinking behind it. To-date over 6800 names and plants have been added to the virtual wall, which should translate into a sizeable donation to the South African school.

I must mention that I hope to receive continued updates on the project, and feel that it is important for Woolworths to show the actual delivery of the plants.  I think that the impact of the project may be reduced if there is not some sort of continuation. In order for projects to be sustainable there needs to be follow up. Driving people to the website, attaining their e-mail addresses and getting them to pick a plant is the easy part. It shall be interesting to follow the developments.

In the meantime, why not lend your name to the cause by donating to the virtual living wall?


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The Compliance Mindset

I have often wondered: with all the information, tools and thinking at our disposal, why do so many organisations/brands remain in the relative ‘dark ages’ when it comes to ‘sustainability’ and ‘accountability?’

Much of the thinking around the issues relates to codes, standards and guidelines, set quotas and globally defined ‘norms.’ If no one ever pushes beyond these standards or norms, I think there is little to be said for the possibility of progress. A compliance mindset negates a deeper understanding of why said standards and norms exist, and tends to prevent growth and true action on certain issues.

My lecturer once used the example of driving on the freeway to explain compliance for compliance sake: there is a difference between driving at 100km/hour because that is the rule of the road and you run the risk of a fine, and driving a 100km/hour because of a sincere concern for the safety of the passengers in the vehicle and other people on the road.

Brands and organisations are particularly guilty of the compliance mindset as there are set reporting requirements and set standards that need to be met. Simply fulfilling the criteria is not enough to sustain human activity on the planet and to maintain our ability to grow- there needs to be a push toward reengineering thinking toward understanding-driven solutions.

The quote below speaks specifically to this sentiment:

“Conformity for conformity’s sake is unconstructive, costly and a waste of management’s time, because it fosters a compliance mindset, rather than the notion of sustainable business. Codes or standards should ideally provide a framework for appropriate actions that are specific to a company’s operations and long-term aims.” (Worthington-Smith, R (ed.) 2009:59)

I feel that the idea of the standards, codes or accepted ‘norms’ acting as a framework is a far more sustainable approach to business. It encompasses an understanding that (like humans) organisations and brands are unique in their construction, characteristics and identities. Moving away from compliance would allow for such considerations to be made and would offer more fulfilling and relevant opportunities to the organisations/brands.

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The Story of Bottle Water with Annie Leonard

For those who enjoyed the Story of Stuff video, also check out http://storyofstuff.org and http://storyofstuff.org/blog/

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Going Green…

The above video clip acts as a commentary on the practice of greenwashing. It begins to interact with the idea that consumers are being led down a certain path when it comes to their thinking around the environment and being ecologically responsible. Greenwashing is the term “used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service” (Greenpeace, n.d).

It is often found that the terms ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ are often seen as synonymous, and that ‘being green’ is the answer to being sustainable. While one cannot argue that environmental impact, and concern, isn’t of high importance when it comes to the issue of sustainability; one also has to understand that the environmental issue is not the only (societal) impact needing to be addressed.

Greenwashing is a practice or tool that severely impacts a movement toward real environmental sustainability. As discussed by Annie Leonard in The Story of Stuff video (which can be viewed in an earlier post) the mass-consumption of ‘things’ at a societal level is driving the world into crisis mode. As a population, we are significantly impacting the planet’s ability to sustain life, and for as long as we buy into corporate and media greenwashing, true environmental sustainability is unattainable.

Visit the Sins of Greenwashing website for an insight into the so-called ‘Seven Sins of Green Washing’ (http://sinsofgreenwashing.org). According to the website the seven sins read:

1. The “sin of hidden trade off”

This is the claim that conveys the product as an environmentally friendly product “based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues,”

2. The “sin of no proof”

This involves claims of environmental friendliness (or ‘green-ness’) that cannot be substantiated adequately.

3. The “sin of vagueness”

This refers to a “poorly defined or broad” claim that can lead to consumer confusion or a misunderstanding.

4. The “sin of worshipping false labels”

This refers to the use of  “fake labels” as a way to “give the impression of third-party endorsement,” when in reality there is no such third party or the endorsement does not exist.

5. The “sin of irrelevance”

This is a ‘green’ “claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable product.” The website makes use of the example of products that claim ‘CFC-Free’ even though “CFCs are banned by law.”

6. The “sin of the lesser of two evils”

This sin distracts “the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the [product] category as a whole.”

7. The “sin of fibbing”

In other words, telling lies; particularly around ‘green-ness’ and ‘green’ attributes. (The Seven Sins, n.d)

Read more by clicking on the link (http://sinsofgreenwashing.org). You can also download their greenwashing report which provides interesting statistics relating to greenwashing.

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When the consumer talks…

Earlier this year BP came under-fire for the mismanagement of the environmental disaster caused by a BP Oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico. A campaign, UnF__k the Gulf was established as a way for consumers to display their disapproval at the actions of the transnational corporation. Watch the video below:

Please note that the clip below contains language some may deem inappropriate.

This video supports the argument that the consumer-mind is shifting toward a higher level of consciousness. Within a South African context we have a more apathetic consumer base, one that is not as preoccupied with the mechanics of value creation (a concern more readily associated with mature consumer markets,) however, the fact that there is a movement and a shift happening, should be reason enough to begin to take consumer perspective, as well as accountability for impact, into consideration.

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