Saving our planet; one bag at a time

August 22, 2006

Reusable bags make much more sense than all that hooha about recycling

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 5:14 pm

Reusable bags of fabric are the only answer

Are you really going to use that plastic bag again? Let’s be honest, you probably wont. And even if you are a very concerned human being, you cannot reuse them more than once or twice at the most. Plastic bags were designed to be thrown away. Everything you hear to the contrary is misleading.

The folks at the Davis Food Coop recognize this and have a very revealing article by Lisa Lucio Gough on their website. where they encourage and offer incentives for their customers to make the right bag choices.

Do take a few moments to click on the link and read this article.

August 10, 2006

The colour green now adds brand value

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 6:42 pm

The colour green now adds brand value

Britain’s biggest supermarket group Tesco will encourage shoppers to re-use bags by offering one point for the Clubcard loyalty scheme (worth 1p) for every carrier bag they do not use.

It is the latest in a series of recent moves by the big grocery chains as each tries to show it is greener than the other.

The number of carrier bags handed out to British shoppers is fast becoming an emotive issue. Only one in every 200 bags is recycled and an estimated 100,000 tonnes of plastic bags, which is the same weight as 70,000 cars, are thrown away in Britain each year.

Tesco’s initiative comes two months after Ikea began charging 5p a bag. The Swedish furniture group says plastic bag usage at British stores has since dropped by 95 per cent — far more than it had expected. In September the charge will rise to 10p when Ikea introduces a biodegradable bag.

Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy said: “Our research tells us customers feel a bit guilty about the number of bags they use.”

A recent Mori poll showed that 63 per cent of the British public would support a 10p bag tax.

And at a recent meeting of Bolton Council, Lib Dem councillor Richard Silvester put forward a motion urging the Government to follow Ireland’s lead by putting the tax on carrier bags.

He said: “The Irish Government put a tax on carrier bags in 2002 which has reduced the issuing of carrier bags by over 90 per cent.”

August 8, 2006

Recycling is just a nice sounding word. It’s not achieving much.

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 5:59 pm

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I just saw a wonderful site called ourplanet.com. They have an environmental atlas that keeps track of what is actually happening around the world. Here’s what they have to say on what recycling is really achieving.

Poor communities recover every valuable item from waste. Asian recyclers use rubber from scrap tyres to make shoes, make their own recycled paper and flatten cans to make metal sheets for roofing.

Annually 200 million tons of waste cross OECD borders en route to reprocessing facilities, a business worth over US$20 billion.

Waste paper travels from North America to the Far East; Europe’s surplus glass is sent to South America; some of the West’s waste plastics are shipped to China.

A shortage of reprocessing capacity limits recycling, and industries established to process consistently clean virgin materials cannot readily adapt to the vagaries of secondary materials.

Cost is another issue: collecting small quantities of materials from many locations is logistically and economically more difficult than obtaining large quantities from a single source.

Indeed recycling may not always be resource-efficient when collection and reprocessing involve long-haul transport. Recycling is not keeping pace with waste increases in most countries.

Time to acknowledge that it’s just not happening, folks. Time to realise that reduction and reuse makes a lot more sense than recycling.

August 7, 2006

Learnings from Harvard and Google

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 5:19 pm

Harvard and Google can't be wrong

Harvard Business School has a wonderful resource for all businesses, large and small.

Access is absolutely free. I strongly recommend reading it regularly. Lots of useful stuff there.

Read one article and it will make you think and grope in your mind for answers. But the next article may just answer those questions.

Professor Gerald Zaltman has written a book called “How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market”. That, as we all agree, is the holy grail. That’s where purchase decisions are made.

The trick, says Professor Zaltman, is to look for relevant, basic emotions that have been overlooked by other brands in the category.

Hmmm, you might think, as I did, what would be the relevant emotions my business could look for, stuff that my competition is overlooking?

An article by Professor Mukti Khaire answers our question. She believes growth comes from by developing intangible social resources such as legitimacy, status, and reputation.

Kind of answers the question, doesn’t it? Now what can you do that would confer these attributes to your business?

I’ve always felt that Google answered this question best. Do stuff that benefits everybody; all your stakeholders which includes the community you do business in, be perceived as really good guys and keep it simple!

Plastic bags are doing untold harm to our planet and your stakeholders are fast becoming more aware of this. Making available reusable fabric bags in any manner – whether you give them away as premiums, distribute them at trade shows and events or even sell them at cost –will get you the positive image attributes Prof Khaire talks about.

Can a simple bag achieve this kind of impact? Ask yourself what YOU think of businesses that do a lot of common good even while promoting themselves. That will answer your question.

August 5, 2006

Kaizen & Branding

Filed under: Branding — Kaajal @ 6:48 pm

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There are two extremes operating in brand manager’s minds.

The really pathetic one is where they believe that advertising is what makes their brand happen. Their entire focus shifts to communication and they often forget that it’s the product or service that people spend money for.

Then there are those who take a more holistic view of branding but get carried away with how important their product or service is in people’s lives. Very often it isn’t. You can have a fantastic restaurant, or a really great soft drink, or a great whatever, but let’s face it, your customer can do without it.

And, let’s also face the fact that every competitor of yours is doing the same thing, trying their best to make their product or service better all the time.

So, apart from being great and fantastic, it also helps to work on your special relevance to their lives.

Your product or service can’t do it on its own. Conventional definitions of quality will take you thus far but will probably never take you all the way you need to go.

But if you put in enough effort to study the way your product or service is used, the circumstances under which it matters most, which aspect of it matters most and when, and get your customers to help you define how you could become more relevant to their lives, it is possible to discover how, through small steps, you can become a little more relevant to their lives than your competitor is.

Don’t stop at looking for that fantastic breakthrough idea. Those can’t happen every day. Look for small things you can do every day. Those slowly but surely add up into very meaningful differentiators.

And remember. If your move is a good one, the other guys are also going to do it. To stay ahead, work at it every day. One step at a time; one move at a time.

There’s a process called Kaizen that makes a science of this. Here’s a link to an interview with Masaaki Imai, the founder of the Kaizen concept.

As part of our effort to constantly make ourselves more relevant we’ve asked a very good friend (who is an expert on Kaizen) to fly in tomorrow and help us understand and implement it.

August 3, 2006

Reusable Bags and Branding

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 6:01 pm

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B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore discussed the power of transforming ordinary transactions into experiential events in their book, “The Experience Economy.” “It’s not about entertaining customers, it’s about engaging them,” they wrote.

Kevin Roberts, CEO at Saatchi & Saatchi, recently built on Pine and Gilmore’s theory of customer engagement in “Lovemarks, The Future Beyond Brands,” his new book.

Successful direct marketers are in the experience business; they court their customers in intriguing ways, fueling their passion for meaningful experiences. It’s more than a win-win. It’s a way of life for these companies and their customers.

In an earlier story on this blog, I wrote about how Patagonia and Body Shop are two mega brands that have internalized people’s ecological concerns into their strategy and have won a huge and loyal following. These two brands can comfortably call themselves Lovemarks.

Their customers feel good about selecting their products over others, trusting these brands to have followed the most ethical and ecological route to making the products they proudly use and associate themselves with.

Giving away a reusable cotton shopping tote with your logo on it shows people that you are aware of the problems being caused by plastic bags and are doing something positive about it. When they re-use these bags, they do so proudly, displaying your brand’s and their own concerns. What a testimonial, and at such a small price!

The best part is that they are surprisingly economical and last and last. So, they continue working for you for months and even years.

August 1, 2006

Plastic bags can poison kids

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 5:14 pm

At a recent gathering of kindergarten mothers in Seattle, Shawn Lilley told the women that plastic bags and other containers can leach chemicals into food. Since then, a few more kindergartners have shown up with sandwiches in other containers.

This baby says no plastic, thank you.

“Shawn researches these kinds of things, and it’s not that much more expensive, so we switched,” said Linda Walker, who packs lunch daily for her three children.

Because of their lower body weight and proximity to the ground, where residue may linger, children feel the effects of chemicals more than adults.

The main suspects are a group of chemicals called phthalates which are used in making plastic bags. These have been found to be harmful in animal studies, said Dr. Wade Welshons of the University of Missouri in Columbia. And the Centers for Disease Control has detected them in the urine of a majority of the thousands of people it has tested in the United States.

Among other damage, these have also been branded gender benders as they inhibit the full genital and sexual development of male children.

Parents’ buying patterns can lead to industry changes. While phthalates can be used in some children’s toys in the United States, parental pressure led the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1998 to ask manufacturers to take them out of teething rings and pacifiers.

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