Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

Actually, that’s not quite true. Colour is the new black, but I believe it’s a symptom of optimism…or simply defiance.

Colour me happy

At the height of the global financial crisis (GFC), sales of black cars soared even as car sales overall had stalled. Now we’re seeing sales of white cars (white being a symbol of hope) go through the roof.

In Australia, at least, you’d need to be blind not to have noticed all the bright colours around; in fashion, in home décor, in decorations generally. I’ve noticed, too, that the dominant colour is red. It appears that the collective mood has swung from pessimistic to defiantly optimistic.

What do the colours mean?

Most of us know that the colours we use can affect our mood, just as our mood predicates the colours we wear and use. For the last few seasons (in Australia, Europe and the US), the dominant colour was yellow. In the context of the GFC, yellow signified ‘cautious optimism’.

Red is much more intense and signifies increased enthusiasm, energy, action…but it’s also a bit of a security blanket against fears and anxiety. Red is a sign of danger but it’s also known as the colour of love…and perhaps we’re ready to give more. Witness the current craze for posting online compliments on Facebook.

Red also means ‘Stop’.

Anecdotally, everyone is ready for the end of the working year. My clients, usually paragons of excellence, are sending me (relative) rubbish. We’re tired, mentally, and we need red to help us make it to the finish line.

We’re ready for some FUN and an intermission from the constant gloomy outlook. Let Europe sort out its own problems; and America’s ‘fiscal cliff’ is now mooted to be more of a measured slide or a non-event, according to Alan Kohler. We can only be frugal for so long before we need to break out.

Australia’s doing just fine

Despite the scaremongering, the IMF has given the Australian economy a big tick. To be clear, it’s a qualified tick, and, yes, we may have lower growth for a few years, but isn’t that going to be more sustainable? We live in a country blessed with (reasonably) good government, a high standard of living and, best of all, we possess a pretty good attitude to life.

Have you noticed the profusion of colour? Do you think it means we’re more optimistic or simply defiant? Do you see the predominance of red as a warning signal or a sign of better times? I welcome your thoughts.

I wish you all a happy and safe Christmas and I look forward to our collective happiness and enthusiasm in 2013.

Multi-coloured banner

Multi-coloured banner from City of Sydney 2012


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Over the years I’ve learned that if you’re too far ahead of the curve, you’re just flatlining. Sometimes, one just needs to wait for everyone else to catch up.

Case 1: Back in the dim dark days of 1990, I thought it would be great if the small advertising agency for which I worked at the time could recycle our paper.

At the time, I subscribed to a magazine called Simply Living and the predictions for the ozone hole and general climate change were alarming even back then.

With the co-operation of the agency CFO (thanks, Peter Cameron), I organised a waste paper collection and then tried my best to educate my colleagues about separating their waste paper from other rubbish.

Big FAIL. Not only was I the only one in the office of 30 to keep my paper separate, but also, the ‘bin’ was just a big hessian sack in the general car park. At the end of each month, just before pick-up day, I’d be scrabbling around removing polystyrene cups and lunch wrappers to decontaminate the load. After three months of this, I abandoned the project.

I’m sure all those former colleagues now sort their garbage diligently and have strong opinions on climate change and sustainability. The point is that they were just not ready in 1990. Not enough other people were making an effort so it was easy for my agency colleagues to ignore the message and dismiss me as a crank.

Case 2: In 2009, I saw a great invention showcased on New Inventors: Drainwave. Water from your sink went into a holding tank and, when it was full at 9.5 litres, it emptied into the sewerage pipe automatically. It wasn’t the most glamorous product but had good reasoning behind the idea. The problem was that it wasn’t a very sexy product. It won People’s Choice that episode but then – oblivion. Then we had hikes in bills and more community awareness about water. Now you can buy a ‘5-star toilet’ from Caroma. I’m sure this type of product will be mainstream within a few years (once the cost comes down a bit) but the New Inventors product went nowhere fast – too far ahead of the curve.

If you ever wonder why we don’t see innovative advertising, websites or products, it’s because marketers and advertisers won’t alienate an audience that isn’t quite ready for change.

Those products are out there but, for the moment, they’re too far ahead of the curve.

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If you work from home (as I do as a copywriter, editor and proofreader in Sydney), it’s hard sometimes to connect with the outside world. Isolation can lead to a fit of the blues. You feel your life is so small and you’re an insignificant player. However, I’ve discovered that if I follow my ‘rules’, I’m much happier and more optimistic.

  1. Do a good deed every day.
    This doesn’t have to be a big thing. It’s about looking for the difference you can make in someone’s life that day – something that only you could have done. It’s about being aware of the opportunity to help – so you need to look out, not in. When you notice that opportunity, don’t miss it; it may be the only chance you have all day.
  1. Love everyone.
    You don’t have to like everyone all the time but love them for who they are, even if they annoy you. Never wish anyone ill.
  1. Be creative.
    Arrange flowers, paint, build the best swimming pool in your neighbourhood, help your child with a project, take up pottery or knitting or sewing or singing.
  1. Look for one ‘magic moment’ every day.
    Notice the sunrise or the sunset, notice the clouds, notice the musician busking at the station. See how beautiful the world is and appreciate that you’re in it.
  1. Have a goal.
    We all need something to aim for – a degree, a home, to complete an artwork, to improve our relationships. Work towards something, then you always know where you’re headed and feel a sense of purpose.
  1. Love your job.
    Someone wiser than I said: “If you do something you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Do your work with joy.

Try them out and let me know how you go!

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Many companies avow that they value their employees. Two US companies, Walmart and Hewlett-Packard, bet the house on their employees and were rewarded for doing do. Read more about their people strategy here.

In Palm Springs, California, a new retirement community is blurring the lines between the virtual and the physical. Read more about Boom!

What makes a smarter city? Check out this story about the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge.

The problem to date with wind turbines is that they need to be high and need a decent breeze to keep them turning. Now there’s a possible solution to this that may also convert those who hate the sight of wind turbines. Read more about Power Flowers. The real trick with these is that they’re ‘mini’, which is a growing trend in energy supply. Think container-sized, scalable nuclear, solar cells on homes, electric cars that store energy and can feed it back to the grid in a matter of seconds. See Smart-grid_stockbrokers from the 5 March issue of New Scientist.  Small is beautiful again.

A Tokyo skyscraper launches a digital campaign before it’s even built. Will it work? Only time will tell.

Finally, peer-to-peer parking and app. It’s like the ‘hotelling’ of parking. Watch for news of Park Circa.

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Just found a brilliant idea that could work for the overheated London Underground…and a couple of Sydney stations as well. Jernhusen, a Swedish real estate company, has come up with a way to harness the heat generated by the thousands of commuters who pass through Central Station in Stockholm every day. The problem of overheating in stations is well documented; in fact, there’s even a blog for London Underground. Here’s an idea we hope our own local government or real estate companies could adopt.

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According to a Baobab blog in The Economist, “ By 2020 there will be thirty or forty or more African cities larger than Rome or Berlin. Many of them will be highly unstable.” It’s time to focus on cities, not countries, when trying to make sense of the economy of countries. China is planning to create a mega city that will have a population of 42 million. Joel Kotkin, writing for Foreign Policy and quoted in Utne Reader, suggests that “cities may be the true enemy” of sustainability, with a greater disparity in incomes, plus a “heat island” effect.
While some cities are growing and thriving, others are stagnating or declining due to overconcentration of populations in some cities to the detriment of others. Nagasaki in Japan is one such city in decline. Vancouver is suffering after the Olympics, with the redevelopment of the Olympic village now in financial trouble. Predicted to be “ one of the greenest, most attractive residential neighbourhoods in North America”, Millennium Water is now in trouble after the developer, who had paid too much for the site, got hit by the credit crunch. The cost of real estate in our “successful” cities may well be what brings them down.

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A U.S. company, Best Buy, is offering  buyback program for electronics consumers. Customers buying a laptop, netbook, tablets and so on can purchase the Buy Back program and know that Best Buy guarantees to buy back, for example, the laptop, within two years for up to 50% of the purchase price as long as the device is working. The old equipment is either resold, refurbished or recycled…not sent to landfill. An almost guilt-free route to upgrading your equipment?

China controls 95% of all the world’s rare earth supply. Electronic equipment can’t run without rare earths. The fewer new devices we need, the less reliant we’ll be on the limited free supplies of rare minerals.

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