Thursday, July 27, 2006

Top 10.


Found this Top 10 list for reducing our impact upon the environment. Some of it is repetitive;

1. Carpool
2. Recycle
3. Turn off lights
4. Regulate thermostat
5. Conserve energy
6. Plant trees
7. Stop burning fossil fuels
8. Conserve water
9. Go solar
10. Zero population growth

Are there adjustments to this Top 10 list that we could make? Please do suggest any point you would like added but remember, you must also suggest which point from the list must subtracted or adjusted. Expect some good input from the flood of OU students visiting us!

Of course you may think that such a Top 10 list is futile and you maybe right however, educating the masses often involves a very focused message and then one builds from there. The Top 10 came from here; http://www.cafepress.com/buy/water+conservation . It appears to be a 'publish your ideas/photos on products (e.g. T-shirts and mugs) type of site. People then have the opportunity to purchase if they wish. Maybe we could aim to do the same thing as this could be a more 'populist' (effective?) way of spreading good environmental practice!

Changes so far

1. Walk, cycle, use public transport & lastly, carpool
2. Reduce, reuse, recycle
3. Reduce useage of lights, heating & gadgets
4. Buy Fairtrade & Organic
5. Buy energy efficient products
6. Protect woodlands & green spaces
7. Reduce useage of fossil fuels
8. Conserve water
9. Use more renewables
10. Buy local, reducing product miles

22 Comments:

At 9:33 am, Blogger Pete Smith said...

Point 2 "Recycle" should be the last resort after "Reduce" and "Reuse". Reducing our consumption of everything should be our goal, Point 1 "Carpool" is just a special case of that, reducing our oil consumption to a limited extent.
Again, carpooling would not be top of my list, I would place it below walking/cycling and public transport.

 
At 9:50 am, Blogger Matt Burge said...

Shall we replace 'Recycle' with 'Reduce, reuse, recycle'?

How about 'Carpool' replaced with 'Walk, cycle, use public transport, carpool' (thinking of the 'new world' here who cover large distances for a quart? of milk and have little public transport options available to them because of low population densities).

 
At 11:18 am, Blogger Stephan Smith said...

How about a campaign to help consumers make informed choices when purchasing goods and services. I propose that all items (goods and services) should come with a mandatory eco-rating so consumers can compare 'like-with-like' (such as locally produced strawberries vs. imported, wind turbine electricity over nuclear or coal, water from a reservoir over desalination, or a call centre in London over one in Mumbai). If people understand the 'true cost' of their purchases they might change their choices and we could save the planet without really having to try too hard.

 
At 3:58 pm, Blogger Daniel said...

Replace 10 (ZPG) with, if you don't like the above: Go to Mars :)
(joking of course)

 
At 5:45 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

Yeah, NASA will probably be happy to take them there. :-)

 
At 9:39 pm, Blogger Keith Scott said...

No. 10 doesn't really fit with the others. All the other 9 can be carried out by individuals or households but No. 10 suddenly leaps to being a national or world aim in which case we should bring in education, wealth redistribution &c So I suggest we should replace 10 with Cutting product miles - buy local.

 
At 9:41 am, Blogger Robert Metcalfe said...

I’m glad zero pop growth was removed before I read this article!!!

I don’t think points 6 and 7 are very useful at all.

Planting trees will not necessarily reduce our impact on the earth. Planting trees is just not a viable option for many people, especially people in developing countries. All this carbon neutral crap is not going help the environment. All it does it tells today’s consumer to carry on consuming since your emissions are being off-setted, but there are a whole host of reasons why planting trees is not good. I would replace this by “invest/save in ethical companies” who have a good corporate responsibility record.

Stop burning fossil fuels – well I look forward to reading your replies on your solar/wind powered computer! Should be “reduce” fossil fuel usage. But this is inextricably linked with point 5.

You are missing an organic-fairtade point. This is crucially important, since helping producers in a developing country will benefit our environment. Maybe instead of the buying local stuff. Now there’s a debate for you.

 
At 3:23 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

Thank you all for your input! I've added my ideas to nos. 3,6,& 9. Not bad for a TOP 10 list although, I'd guess on some points a good percentage of any population would be unable to afford the changes (egs. renewables; organic & Fairtrade).

Now just got to think of an eye catching picture/sketch and/or wording for the front of the T-shirt. ;-)

 
At 3:24 pm, Blogger Pete Smith said...

<<< but there are a whole host of reasons why planting trees is not good.>>>
And there is another host of reasons why planting trees is very good indeed.

<<< I would replace this by “invest/save in ethical companies” who have a good corporate responsibility record.>>>
I love the sound of a can of worms being opened in the morning! Beware of assuming that just because an investment is labelled "ethical" it must be in tune with your preferences. Environmental considerations are just one in a range of other ethical criteria, e.g. human rights/oppressive regimes, weapons, tobacco/alcohol. Very important to read the small print. It's all too easy to find oneself investing in a fund that only qualifies as "ethical" because it complies with some obscure criterion of corporate governance that is established purely at the whim of the fund manager.

<<< Stop burning fossil fuels – well I look forward to reading your replies on your solar/wind powered computer! >>>
Watch this space! The $100 solar/wind-up laptop is under development, see http://laptop.org/.

 
At 4:15 pm, Blogger Pete Smith said...

Not quite as short and snappy as the original is it?
Echoes of Python's "What have the Romans done for us" 8-)

 
At 4:23 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

Agree! But it is more comprehensive. Suggestions on 'short & snappy' wording, without compromising meaning of the various points, gratefully accepted.

 
At 6:49 pm, Blogger Pete Smith said...

Big conflict between items 4 & 10. I still scan the shelves for locally-produced organic Fairtrade products without success.

 
At 8:07 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

Comparative advantage means there will always be trade but, it should not be distorted by tariffs and subsidies. This encourages waste and product dumping, putting producers who aren't operating under subsidy at a disadvantage. The EU and the US do this to the disadvantage of many developing countries, particularly with agricultural produce (note recent WTO talks collapse). Sugarbeet is a classic example of heavy subsidy in Europe but, it is way inferior to sugarcane.

Subsidy of course is important for supporting new local industries if there is a reasonable chance that this industry will eventually support itself as production levels grow. Renewables are a case in point and possibly organic food. Fairtrade covers many products that can't be grown in this country (chocolate, tea, coffee) which aren't essential foodstuffs but, try and tell that to the general populace!

Hope that answers your conflict for you Pete.

 
At 9:29 pm, Blogger Pete Smith said...

<<< Hope that answers your conflict for you Pete >>>
Not really. The consumer is presented with opinions and with choices reflecting those opinions. How does the man/woman in the street choose between organic food grown in Poland and non-organic (but perfectly wholesome and much cheaper) food grown just down the road. What about a set of place mats marketed under the Fairtrade banner from Bangladesh and a virtually identical set of place mats made by a co-operative of recovering mental patients in Wolverhampton? If the environmental economists have their way, the only rational choice is on grounds of price.

 
At 12:10 am, Blogger Matt Burge said...

< organic food grown in Poland >

...or local organic food; UK mushrooms & carrots from your supermarket; UK produce from Borough Market in Southwark (a bit pricey!).

< What about a set of place mats marketed under the Fairtrade banner from Bangladesh and a virtually identical set of place mats made by a co-operative of recovering mental patients in Wolverhampton? >

Both find their market. Both give jobs. The former maybe via Oxfam shops and who knows maybe Homebase. The latter possibly through a Christian Aid catalogue.

Fairtrade as far as I know doesn't deal with local products in the UK because, I assume, our internal markets work relatively well (Tesco's issues aside) compared to developing countries trying to compete on the international level.

But yes, local is good. It just can't be the only dictate.

 
At 1:28 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

P.S.

I buy organic carrots grown in England. Niiice.

 
At 10:01 am, Blogger Robert Metcalfe said...

“It's all too easy to find oneself investing in a fund that only qualifies as "ethical" because it complies with some obscure criterion of corporate governance that is established purely at the whim of the fund manager”

I don’t understand whether you are arguing against ethical corporate governance altogether, or whether you think environmental consideration should be top priority within corporate governance.

“And there is another host of reasons why planting trees is very good indeed”

Obviously trees are essential for the planet, but it is not some magic policy which is going to ‘save the planet’. If you are inclined to believe that, you should advocate that the UK should be full of trees so as to minimise its so called footprint.

“If the environmental economists have their way, the only rational choice is on grounds of price.”

Price is the currency that everyone understands surely, whether it be in yen, pounds whatever. So if prices truly reflect environmental considerations (i.e. the environmental externality), prices would be the optimal way to make decisions about consumption goods. Otherwise, what else are you going to use?

I don’t think that by naming individual items helps the debate really. Trade is truly beneficial for the whole world, in that the benefits of international trade outweighs the environmental costs. Subsidies and an unregulated aviation industry do not help the situation, but environmentalists should be arguing for total free trade and environmental costs to be considered into goods, and not trade restrictions.

 
At 1:22 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

>....environmentalists should be arguing for total free trade and environmental costs to be considered into goods, and not trade restrictions.

Stephan has mentioned elsewhere the idea of a 'environment impact rating' for all goods and services so consumers can choose, if they wish, that product or service that has the lesser impact. Another way to deal with externalities is to tax the polluter/excessive packaging etc. and ring fence the money raised for environment related spending. Petrol in the UK is currently taxed at 48 pence litre as a pure tax raising measure but, biofuels are taxed at 20 pence. This differential sends out a message to consumers a switch could benefit them and the environment, as long as the government keeps a tax/price differential in place. This is just one example of what I believe should become more widespread so that goods and services with a lesser environmental impact are obvious to the market.

 
At 6:24 pm, Blogger Pete Smith said...

Robert Metcalfe said...
"I don’t understand whether you are arguing against ethical corporate governance altogether, or whether you think environmental consideration should be top priority within corporate governance."

Just pointing out that there are many flavours of ethical, and investors should read the small print carefully to ensure that their own preferences are served by their chosen fund's ethical criteria. My personal preference is to put environmental factors at the top of the list every time, but that's just me.

Obviously trees are essential for the planet,
Good, we've moved on a bit from "there are a whole host of reasons why planting trees is not good"

but it is not some magic policy which is going to ‘save the planet’.
I don't think I said that, and I agree with you. I just like trees.

If you are inclined to believe that, you should advocate that the UK should be full of trees so as to minimise its so called footprint.
I would very much like to see the British Isles reforested, which is why I'm a keen supporter of the Woodland Trust who are doing great work in conserving our ancient woods (our 'rainforest') and in creating new woodland.

 
At 6:38 pm, Blogger Pete Smith said...

Robert Metcalfe said...
Price is the currency that everyone understands surely, whether it be in yen, pounds whatever.

You make it sound like an absolute. I'm not an economist (surely you noticed!) but doesn't the significance of a commodity's price vary with income? The wealthy may not consider the price at all, and use other criteria (see below). The poor may not have a choice, as their low income requires that they buy the cheapest. And isn't the globalised mess that we're in the result of price inequalities around the world? To say that everyone understands price when prices vary so much, seems very simplistic.

So if prices truly reflect environmental considerations (i.e. the environmental externality),
I won't hold my breath for that one 8-)
prices would be the optimal way to make decisions about consumption goods. Otherwise, what else are you going to use?
What else? This is a consumer decision, so (continuing the carrot example that you seem to dislike) how about colour, size, shape? Flavour? Variety? Whether it's in season or has been in store? And we've already talked about organic, ethical factors, food miles. All of these ideas have to be balanced against each other as well as against price.

 
At 5:17 pm, Anonymous e said...

Those are all good things, but I would add a "0" to the list:

0. Improve environmental legislation

It's great to do things personally, but we're just individuals. It's important that we each do our bit, but we can have a much larger impact by changing legislation. In doing so we can alter the behaviour of corporations and other individuals.

And I'm not talking about the "save the wild lark" kind of legislation. I'm more interested in legislation that forces the consumer to pay the true cost of an item, say; or prevents energy from being sold at less than cost; or puts a tariff on goods produced in factories that have poor human rights records.

 
At 7:26 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

Hi 'e',

Yes, I agree that legislation is critical to bringing in externalities but, our list is for the 'person in the street' to take on (as you noted) individually. Doesn't stop people campaigning for change in legislation but, as we all know, this normally involves only a few very motivated and particularly informed individuals. Perhaps a TOP 10 'Strategies for Campaigning' is needed!

 

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