Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How companies pretend to be greener

A lot of greenhouse emissions come from companies. Often they state their emissions in the annual report. But sometimes they're a bit tricky about it.

What's the trick?

It's a little thing called emissions intensity. Intensity is a company's carbon footprint divided by how much business it does.

Why is it used?

It's a handy way to compare different-sized companies in a similar industry. A larger company may pollute more but (for its size) be cleaner than its competitors in terms of pollution per customer, or per item made.

How can it be mis-used?

A company with a range of products may report emissions per dollar of revenue.

For example, a T-shirt that causes 20kg of emissions and costs $20 has an emissions intensity of 1 kg/$.


If the price goes to $25, the emissions intensity becomes 0.8 kg/$ - an apparent 20% reduction even though nothing has changed except the price.

It's very tempting for companies to use this figure in annual reports.

24% or just 4%

Telstra this year reported a 24% decrease in carbon intensity - measured per petabyte of data transmitted (a petabyte is a million gigabytes).

I wasn't fooled. It sounded good, but I wanted more info. Their total emissions are down - but by just 3.9%. Not bad. But nowhere near 24%.

So while the total greenhouse emissions are only slightly decreasing (the green bars in the graph) the carbon intensity (the numbers in the circles) give a far rosier picture.


Does this seem like a scam to you?

In this graph alone, data (green line) almost tripled. "Intensity" can trick shareholders and customers us into thinking we're making huge progress - while we continue to pollute as much as before (sometimes even increasing our pollution).

Personally I think yearly emissions should be reported as tonnes of carbon pollution. Intensity should only be used to compare with other companies in the industry.

Are you a shareholder?

If you're going to an AGM, why not ask a question about your company's emissions?

I raised the question at a recent Telstra shareholder meeting - asking about actual emissions rather that intensity. the representative couldn't even tell me whether emissions had gone up or down in the past year. We need to get this on their radar.

PS. I also asked another question. Subscribe to be notified when I write about that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Free reusable coffee cups

Today is the start of the "eco coffee cups" deal at Toowong Village.


So what's the deal?

Spend $10 at the shopping centre to get a free re-usable coffee cup - and a bonus free coffee. There's a limit of one 1 per person per day, so if you want a cup for every person in your office, that will take a while.

Is there a catch?

Not really - except for the choice of designs (but you may like them). Collection times are 9am-6pm while stocks last. Just take your receipt (on the same day) to the info desk on the basement level for your free cup.

Is it really free if I have to make a $10 purchase?

Good point. Making a needless purchase in the name of being "eco" would be odd. However the deal covers all stores including groceries (albeit Coles), the fruit shop and a bakery. So if you'd buy those kind of products anyway, why not get a free reusable cup?

How bad are disposable cups?

Toowong Village say that the coffee cups used by Australians in a year could stretch around the globe 2.5 times.

For further info see the centre's announcement. It's good to see the centre doing something - even if some of its coffee shops haven't yet joined Responsible Cafes. Perhaps we should ask each store if they have (or will) join and offer a discount for customer with a reusable cup.

Related post: What's going on at the local shops?

PS. This deal is now over as all the coffee cups have been claimed. Let me know if you hear of other centres taking an eco-friendly initiative.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Coffee cups - a university solution

Recently I let you know how Simply Cups can help you get coffee cup recycling happening at your workplace.

Normally a workplace might get a single collection tube. Larger places, like the Queensland University of Technology, have a dedicated coffee cup recycle bin.

Simply Cups coffee cup collection and recycling bin at QUT

The central tube is designed for any excess drink left in the cup. Then the cup itself (no lid) goes in any of the six outside tubes, automatically stacking inside the previous cup.

Simply Cups coffe cup recycling collectino bin - how it works

The whole bin is about 70-80cm tall, so I reckon it could hold a few hundred coffee cups when they are stacked.

Since I took this photo, QUT moved the cup bin next to another recycle bin, to make it easier for people to recycle the plastic lids in the normal recycling. That helps make sure this bin has purely cups and also helps fit it as many cups as possible.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

They're literally made of money

You may have heard of Dresden. It's an Aussie optometrist/glasses company that makes frames from recycled plastic waste.

Their new range of frames are literally made of money. Offcuts and misprints from Australia's plastic banknotes make been chopped up and melted down to make this limited edition collection of frames.


It's so amazing what can be recycled when we put our mind to it.

For Brisbane readers

I'm told there will be a store in West End by November. Of course you can also buy online before then.

On a personal note

I'm quite excited by Dresden coming to Brisbane:

1. Sometimes I feel that my impact is small. When a company does something great - like using recycled materials - that is huge. With our support, they can grow and increase their positive impact.

2. I'm starting to need glasses for reading. Though I like the idea of buying online, as a first-timer I'm keen to buy in-store to see what suits and fits me.

Subscribe for updates

I'll be posting when Dresden open their store - and I get my first glasses. Subscribe below to get new blog posts by email.

PS. Yes I was wearing some basic magnifiers (borrowed) in my previous post. They're keeping me going until Dresden opens here.

UPDATE: The official opening of the Brisbane store is Tuesday 6 November at 4/173 Boundary St, West End.

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