Monday, 30 May 2011

For the people, by the people

Kim Crane, green24’s environmental champion, recently worked a shift at The People’s Supermarket, a sustainable food cooperative in London.

So, what exactly is The People’s Supermarket all about? Their vision is to create a commercially sustainable, social enterprise that is community focused, and managed by their members. The shop is located in central London and, although it is smaller than the huge chain stores, it offers a range of the usual suspects - fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, canned foods and some freshly baked goods too.

What’s so special about The People’s Supermarket? Well, for starters, it offers membership for £25 a year, giving members a 10% discount in the shop and a say in how it’s run. Now how many supermarkets can say that? You don’t need to be a member to shop there though, of course!

So, what do they stock? To be commercially viable, they have no choice but to offer mainstream brands together with their more sustainable food alternatives (Heinz ketchup along with organic options, for example). They appreciate that the organic products can carry a premium price tag that may be beyond their customers’ reach and are constantly trying out new, small-scale suppliers and products, to see what proves popular.

Needless to say, the shop seems to be popular with locals, but they are always looking for more members/volunteers to help out, whether that means donating, time, money, services or stuff. They are a really friendly bunch of people, so if you live in London then stop by, and if you don’t, why not see if there is a sustainable food cooperative near you?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Paying for quality

Often when speaking to prospective clients one of the first questions we are asked is, "why should I pay for something I can get for free?". I thought I'd post one of my replies to give you some insight into how, we at green24, view the matter.  

I understand the concern of 'why pay for something you can get free?'. I believe motivated, educated individuals can find a lot of this information online - we are not selling ourselves as the only gateway to green advice. Our value add is the credibility we offer users and the ease-of-usehand-holding and time-saving aspect.  

There is a plethora of green content out there, but in order to get all of your questions and concerns answered, you need a lot of time to scan through many poorly developed sites, you need to be able to discern what is credible and what isn't and you also need to trust that the general rule (what light bulbs to use, for example) works in your specific case. We believe that there are many individuals and owners of small businesses who'd like to be greener but don't have all of the above. This is where green24 can help - individuals and business owners can access good, accurate content quickly and easily and can contact specialists directly if they are still concerned. 

There is an increasing pressure for businesses to become green (some sources state that over 70% of consumers expect businesses to be green now). So, businesses are faced with this great pressure and then (if they don't have budgets to bring in fancy sustainability consultants) they are expected to find the time and energy to start trawling the net to gather all the relevant information - this can often be a task so daunting that they give up along the way.

We are offering a credible, easy-to-use one stop shop to help individuals and small businesses cut out time, hassle and potential inaccurate information in their attempts to become a greener company.

Julie Frey, Product Development Manager at green24

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Green rewards

A friend of mine, who runs an 'outdoor centre' in an isolated, fairly inhospitable and windswept moorland, encourages everyone who visits to plant a tree to offset their journey. It's a popular move - and he is growing a very useful wind break.

In our village, we are not short of trees. The poet William Wordsworth, who lived in the area until 1850, planted many exotic species, such as monkey puzzle trees. Apparently, he walked around, spreading seeds to build a cover of thorny juniper on the hillsides to compete with the sheep grazing. I am gazing across them as I write.

Tonight we have a meeting to discuss what more we can do to 'be green'. We're looking at growing more local vegetables, starting a market for local producers and underground heat generation. Each area has its own priorities and can work in ways that bring wider benefits. For us, there are also economic benefits to be gained - tourists can buy local produce and energy bills can be brought lower. We'll see what happens next!

David Jackman

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Volunteering with Greenpop - Digging, greening and fun with kids

Nicholas Wiid, green24's junior writer and researcher, recently embarked on a day of tree-planting and fun with Cape Town’s Greenpop crew. Here is a brief rundown of his eco-friendly escapades.

Greenpop is a Cape Town based organisation that aims to green under-greened areas. They do this mainly by planting trees in schools and local community gardens. Since they began in 2010, they have planted over 3000 indigenous trees and seasonal fruit trees at various locations around the Western Cape. They also provide team building days for groups and companies.

Planting the greens with little beans
The plant day began with a venture out to the Sibongumusa ECD Centre, a crèche for local children, located in the Kayamandi farming community, among the winelands of Stellenbosch. Our mission: to plant 20 trees. But, before we could start planting, we had to fill the pre-dug, oversized holes, and brief the kids and community in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans about why trees are so important.

With this out of the way it was time to get dirty and the kids got involved by collecting rocks to place around each tree. The holes were lined with compost, organic fertiliser and soil and our trees’ roots were loosened and buried in the rocky earth. After a stake was sunk and a small tie was added to keep each tree upright, a sprinkling of mulch and some water sealed the leafy deal. The beds of the trees we had prepped for awakening were made, and so was my week.

Lessons learnt
Planting trees with Greenpop was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in ages, and probably the most fun I have ever had with a spade. Teaching those energetic kids the importance of trees for food, shade and fresh air, and inspiring the community members to take ownership of their newly greened school was a wonderful opportunity that I would certainly repeat more than once.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

What does going green really mean?

‘Green’ is a state of mind. It is an outlook, a perspective on many things, not just the environment. It is about connection; our rootedness in place and community and a looking outward globally and into the future - always with a consideration of our own legacy, the footprints we are leaving to those who follow us.
The Sufi tradition, for example, speaks of our connectedness and responsibility to each other and our world with a wonderful picture of a caravan of camels; each placing its feet in the footprint of those who have gone before.

‘Green’ has come to mean something rather simplistic. There are green products, green shops, and green awards everywhere. If you recycle your plastic bottles and refrain from printing out emails (or blogs) then you are somehow ‘green’. This is obviously superficial, and on its own, not a real commitment to anything. On the other extreme there are a few who elevate being environmentally responsible to an almost religious fervour. This is rather off-putting to most and can do more harm than good.

Obviously there is a middle of the road, where you can start small, taking a few useful steps and then finding out more and adding extras to your business or lifestyle. The key is having easy access to sound information to help inform your decisions - and this is what the green24 service aims to do. As you find things that work and also add to your business or home, you become more committed. You don’t need to join an organisation or become a ‘green bore’; you just have to see what you do from a broader perspective.

The broader title might be sustainable development, which includes social and economic impacts, as well as environmental risks. The seriousness with which business takes this area is amply illustrated by the new FTSE4Good index, which revised its criteria last week. It now requires much more from firms in its prestigious rankings, in terms of measuring social impact as well as environmental management.

For both firms, families and individuals, ‘going green’ is more of a path or a journey that can take many routes. It is a case of taking ownership of the decisions you take, large and small, and making room for wider concerns and principles. For me, this is ‘going green’, with the emphasis definitely on the ‘going’.

David Jackman