Archive for February, 2010

‘See’ the shocking waste statistics – Fast Company

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Portraits of consumption – visualizing the statistics of waste in America (click here)

“Chris Jordan’s body of photographic artwork focuses on the startling statistics of American consumption. Numbers are translated into visual representations–what would all the pollution in the ocean look like? How much space would five seconds of waste take up?
Some of these depictions take up whole walls of gallery space. Here are some of the images from Jordan’s latest book, Running the Numbers.”

from Fast Company, Feb 1, 2010

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Retailers must do more!

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Living sustainably in Hong Kong presents unique challenges. The challenges are a result of a combination of conditions that make Hong Kong what it is today. Hong Kong is affluent, crowded, overdeveloped and has poor waste management infrastructure; also its economy is primarily consumer and services based.  This means that we spend a lot of time shopping and consuming here and therefore generating greatly more than our fair share of waste.
Retailers enable our consumption and I believe that they can be an integral part of the solution towards enabling sustainable city living.

What is sustainable city living?  I addressed it here.  The main goals are:

a- understand the amount and type of waste they (people in Hong Kong) generate
b- have the means to easily sort and recycle the waste
c- pay proportionately for the disposal of their waste generated
i- pay some form of carbon tax for their carbon footprint generated, from the electricity and transport used
ii- are offered alternative, low / no carbon modes of transport, like cycling
i- understand ingredients of the products they use and the environmental impact in the extracting, making and transporting the products
ii- and, ideally, the price of that product reflects the TRUE cost of making and disposing of it, which means accounting for the environmental costs associated with extracting, processing and transporting the ingredients and the final product.

Why the retailers? Because the retailers can immediately help with ‘b’ and ‘e’, for several reasons:
a- Generally, retail is where consumers spend time understanding and ‘meeting’ the products, and then purchasing them; the supply chain is mostly invisible to the consumers, especially here, where most of our stuff is imported. Branding and packaging play an important role in our purchasing decisions, not the environmental impact or the sustainable business practices of the manufacturer, which are mostly unknown. So the retailers can help to educate us by demanding information transparency from their suppliers, about their ecological footprint from their manufacturing processes and the type and origin of all their ingredients used to make their products.
b- they can demand that their suppliers have the means to take back and reuse and/or recycle their packaging materials
c- and because Hong Kong’s retail environment is all-pervasive, i.e., every nook and cranny of our city is filled with all kinds of stores and shops; this holds true of any major city in the world, so, the retailers’ retail footprint can act as a conduit to enable recyling and reusing; they can allow their clients to return packaging easily and they can insist that their suppliers take back the packaging from them.

Forward thinking companies like Walmart, Starbucks and Apple are actively pursuing sustainable practices. Click on their names to learn more about their efforts and understand what you must do.

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