About joshuavial

Entrepreneur with a passion for business, technology and social change

Plastic Bags are on the way out in New Zealand, maybe

new_world_bagIt’s exciting times for the no plastic bags campaign, in the last few weeks there has been some great progress made from the business, community and government sectors.

Business: The Warehouse announced they would charge 10c per plastic bag and give the profits to community groups.

Community: Wanaka Wastebusters made a splash with the launch of their Get Real campaign.

Government: Mayor Bob Harvey of Waitakere is showing what can be done when a Council leads the way.

That’s the good news, the bad news is that without your help things will stop here – Progressives and Foodstuffs will continue with more token gestures and the Government will decide the problem isn’t worth worrying about. Luckily, there’s more good news, if we each put in just a little bit of time over the next few months we will be able to fix this problem once and for all.

Ever heard the line “Make a difference with just 5 minutes, fill in this form and email your friends to…” – I sure have, I may even have used it myself a few times. Here’s a secret, it’s sort of true but not really.

Sometimes it’s true, but often the petitions die a lonely death of obscurity – not because people don’t support them but because people don’t know they are there. Maybe the issue isn’t sexy enough (I’ve tried drawing pictures on plastic bags but it just looked weird), maybe powerful people oppose it or maybe something else happens that day and it is bumped from the news coverage.

So I’m not going to ask you for minutes, I’m going to ask you for hours. Not many, just a couple here and there, but full hours where all your skill, passion and intensity is focused on drastically reducing the number of plastic bags in New Zealand.

It’s completely up to you what part of the campaign you work on, after all, no one knows your skills and interests better than you do but if you’re looking for ideas here are a few.

Individual invitations work the best but emailing a group or giving a presentation is great too (feel free to use or modify these slides if you like http://www.slideshare.net/joshuavial/no-plastic-bags).

Comms and Buzz
Press releases, blog posts, facebook and twitter – our story needs to be told loud and often.

Regional Coordinators
We are planning a National Day of Action and we need people around the country to help pull together teams who can participate on the day.

Digital hosts and matchmakers
We will have lots of people joining the campaign and asking how they can help – we need people to welcome them and help match skills with tasks.

So come visit our campaign centre and introduce yourself, it would be wonderful to have you on board.

Recycling in Wellington

Wellington City Council: We’re reviewing our recycling policy and ditching the the stupid green recycling buckets.

Citizens: Yay, maybe now we can be like Christchurch and have three wheely bins

WCC: Ah, not quite. We think that using plastic bags is a better option.

Citizens: !?

WCC: Yes, that way each household only pays for what they actually recycle. You see we’re currently short about 1.1 million for our recycling program

Citizens: You want us to buy plastic bags for our recycling?

WCC: They’re biodegradable…

Facebook protest group
Petition to council
Bang the table

It’s pretty easy to respond with a knee jerk reaction when the council proposes to make it more inconvenient and expensive to recycle – especially when you have to buy plastic bags to help do your bit for the planet. But is convenient and ‘free’ recycling the best solution?

Is it better for the planet to ship recyclable material to China or bury it in landfill? What if you had no idea of how it was processed when it left the country? Would it make a difference if you had to pay 2 million dollars to get the waste onto the boat?

Is it enough if an individual ‘does their bit’ by sorting the rubbish and doesn’t think about further ways to reduce their waste? Could recycling be a false solution which makes people feel better about their lifestyles while costing a lot of money and actually having an extremely small impact on the environment?

It seems to me that we are taking an approach that works well in heavily populated and industrialized countries like Germany and adopting it wholesale without adapting it to our local conditions. The reality is that we are sparsely populated and the majority of recycling technology requires expensive centralized processing facilities which we don’t have. That’s why we end up shipping the stuff to China.

Now I’m not advocating that we scrap our recycling programs, not by any means. But we need to be smart about what we are doing and innovate to find solutions that work for our situation. Picking up the low hanging fruit would be an obvious start.

Right now it is cheaper to mine virgin resources, process them, move them, use them and bury them than it is to recycle. This is because our technology and culture are immature and our economy is false. As a civilization we have a lot of learning to do about how to manage resources and whether we view this as a challenge or an opportunity is a matter of perspective.

Maybe it’s time for some Kiwi ingenuity to be applied to the area of waste management – who knows there might even be a multi-billion dollar export business waiting to be born.

The changes demanded by Nature are not incremental, they are radical. Slowly getting a little bit better is too little, too late. One reason that recycling is popular is because it is a convenient way of ‘doing your bit’. Far more convenient than living a lifestyle that drastically reduces the amount of waste you create. Much easier than cooperating with other people to convince companies to provide us with better waste-free alternatives for our purchases.

Shifting to a user pays plastic bag recycling system is a poor solution to the problems the council faces, but at least it might get people talking about the issue so we can try and find some *real* solutions.

cross post from http://www.joshuavial.com

Time is running out to save the Nevis River from damnation

Nevis River Fish and Game have put in an application to prevent the Nevis River from being dammed and they need your help to save this last untouched river of consequence in central Otago.

Naturally the local power company opposes the application and conservation groups support it.

MFE have identified the Nevis as a probable hydro site and estimate it could power a 45 MW generator or around 197 GW hours / year. Wow, that’s nearly half a percent of New Zealand’s power usage. For this we would destroy an outstanding fishery, flood an irreplaceable historic site and put another nail in the coffin of our international brand.

Given the 30 MW Matakitaki will cost about 100 million It’s likely the Nevis will be somewhere in that region. How much electricity do you think we could save with 100 million dollars? I bet it’s more than one 200th of our national usage. The only reason this application is being opposed is because Pioneer Generation make their money from generating power and not saving it.

So now you have two choices – turn away and leave it for someone else to deal with. Or you can submit your unqualified support for the application at
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/water/freshwater/water-conservation/kawarau/kawarau-order-nevis-river.html. Submissions close on October 3.

No matter what the outcome on this application you can be sure that the plans to damn our pristine rivers will continue no matter how little sense it makes. The only thing that can save them is organised action, so keep informed.
Keep NZ Rivers Free Flowing
Wild Rivers Action Project

Photo courtesy of coincidink | Crosspost from www.joshuavial.com