Saving our planet; one bag at a time

July 31, 2006

Plastic bags cause more harm than nuclear power plants

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 5:07 pm

As the world discusses India’s ability to safely harness nuclear power, here’s an interesting story by K. S. Parthasarathy, who was former secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board of India.

Plastic bags cause more harm than the nuclear power plant was doing

Tarapur, on the West coast of India, has a nuclear power plant.

In May 1995, in Tarapur, routine sampling of a storm-water drain at this facility detected a small amount of caesium-137, which was traced to steam condensate from the plant. The leak contaminated an area of about 40 square metres, well within the premises.

The radioactivity was so dilute that a person would have had to drink 50 litres of storm water every day for an entire year to exceed the maximum safe dose. And the plant personnel disposed of the affected soil safely. The leak posed no health risk.

But the story “grew legs”. Dozens of reporters descended on the site. Some attributed the leak to a nuclear power station nearby. In some versions, the leak had killed local cattle. The Times of India, one of the most widely circulated newspapers in the country, published photographs of the skeletons of animals said to have been killed by the leak.

Angry villagers dragged the carcass of a calf to the site. I was at Tarapur to investigate the leak. During the autopsy, which I requested, the vet pulled out several kilograms of polythene bags from the dead calf’s stomach. The body did not contain an abnormally high amount of radioactivity.

Stomach clogging by thin plastic bags causes 90 per cent of cattle deaths in parts of India. In one state capital, the authorities keep an ambulance with rescue personnel ready to rush to the spot to do emergency surgery on cattle in distress. They get many calls every day.

July 19, 2006

Who are we? What do we stand for?

Filed under: Branding — Kaajal @ 6:56 pm

Who are we and what do we stand for?

It’s one thing to have great intentions but does everyone in your organisation feel the same way? One has to consciously create a set of shared values to operate by.

That’s what lets most large, fast growing organisations down. No one has the time to create an operating philosophy.

It’s really worth making time for this.

Then it empowers you to promise, and to deliver, knowing that the whole organisation agrees on what must be done. And agrees on how it must be done.

It’s now become a shared goal. So when customers tell us they’re pleased with us, we make it a point to celebrate.

July 13, 2006

Doing business with India

Filed under: Branding — Kaajal @ 4:40 pm

The cheapest price isn't an answer you'll want to live with

The Times, London and FedEx have produced a feature where a British firm talks about doing business with India. The article makes most Indian businesses appear to be simple minded dolts.

Here’s a particularly telling quote: “Maybe it is just a clash of cultures but the biggest problem is that some of our Indian suppliers often tell us what they think we want to hear rather than what is actually true”.

There’s a reason for this. Most people approach India with only one selection criterion – price. Now, if they sat back and thought about it, in their own countries, who quotes the lowest price? Usually the weakest, most desperate suppliers, who’ll happily say yes to anything just to get an order.

I imagine crooks and incompetents abound in all countries. Not surprising we have our share of those also.

Moral of the story: Don’t just evaluate suppliers on a lowest-quote basis. Take the time to find out a little about who they are and what they stand for, and you’ll get much better results.

July 11, 2006

Holistic Branding

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 5:44 pm

Holistic Branding means action speaks louder than words

I just read a story about Cronig’s stores out in Martha’s Vineyard. Instead of just giving away plastic or paper bags they’re now offering reusable polypropylene bags as an option with many incentives for customers to make the switch.

I went to their website and found that they’re doing many things that are environmentally sensible. I suspect, in the process of doing this, they are also earning the goodwill and respect of their customers and their community.

In marketing parlance they are strengthening and reinforcing their brand value but it isn’t fluff.

“We’re hoping that eventually we’ll be using less of the paper bags,” Cronig’s general manager Sarah McKay said. “That will be cost saving for us, but also refuse saving for the Island - less will be ending up at the recycling center or the dump.”

They’re building a formidable brand not by blowing up lots of money on advertising, but through action that people admire. That’s what I call holistic branding. Hugely more impactful and much longer lasting than making tall claims.

Great going, Cronigs! I hope many other American stores follow your lead.

July 7, 2006

US city governments seem underinformed

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 5:07 pm

US city goverments are underinformed

The online edition of the Detroit News makes disturbing reading.

“Recycling isn’t cheap, doesn’t pay for itself and preserves little landfill space, said Tom Horton, president of Waste Management of Michigan, which operates several landfills and recycling programs “you’re not going to save landfill space by recycling. You’re not going to even break even. There’s no dollars-and-cents argument. The reason to recycle is because you believe this is a method of waste disposal that matches your ideology.”

“We all want to do the right thing for the environment, but the economy is so bad,” said Daniel Paletko, mayor of Dearborn Heights “you have people trying to survive just day to day, then you weigh the cost-benefit analysis and you wonder.”

A handful of legislative efforts to increase recycling have stalled.

One proposal would expand the 10-cent bottle bill to juice, tea and sport-drink containers. Another would raise dumping taxes to $7.50 a ton and use the proceeds, $170 million a year, for recycling. The partnership, which wrote the study, wants to fund programs with a 1-cent fee on retail purchases.

These guys are clearly unaware of what’s happening elsewhere, how Ireland has used a tax on plastic bags to cut usage by 90% and how profitable that was for their exchequer, how cutting edge companies like OzmoTech are generating diesel from discarded plastic containers, and how we in our modest way are converting discarded plastic bags into reusable ones.

July 1, 2006

Plastic bags. Whose problem is it?

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 12:28 pm

Reusable bags are better

When millions of plastic bags get dumped, it’s the government that has to clean up the mess and deal with all the environmental consequences.

Most governments pretend it’s not their problem and stop at just rhetorical exhortations to stop using so much plastic. Achieves sweet nothing.

But not the Australian government. They have a website where they assist retailers find viable alternatives and put them into practice.

See Do your bit. Write to your representative and suggest that this is the way to go.

Another piece of information that appears to come as a surprise to retailers everywhere. Everyone knows it is more economical to import reusable cloth bags from India. But they assume you can only do so if you need very large quantities.

That isn’t really true. Give them a link to our website where they will be pleasantly surprised how affordable even small quantities can be.

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