On the daily

6 months in…

2019 is halfway gone in a flash. Unbelievable!

It’s been a mix of travel to the US and Europe for the biz, the unexpected invitation and subsequent thrill of a TEDx Talk for Kim and exciting plans for the business in the back half of the year.

I have embarked on research via UTS into the Generation Y parent (25-40 yo) and their predisposition to make the more sustainable choice. It is truly fascinating – I can feel my brain grow the more I dig into it. It is based off insights from the business and the goal is to really understand the factors that drive this generation’s consumer preferences. Given they are the largest cohort of them all and they are entering their maximum consumption period, understanding what drives their tendency to make the more sustainable choice is vital.

More posts soon, I promise. I’ve said that many times before but I have been reviewing my passive digital consumption vs active content creation and see its time to do more of the latter and less of the former.

On the daily

2018: a year of the unexpected.

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2018 has turned out to be a year of great progress for gCycle. We spent much of it working on our UK Case Study with a childcare centre and families in Southampton. That is now underway with great collaborators including ZapWaste.

In Hobart, Australia another great Case Study emerged. A childcare centre using the product reduced their landfill-bound waste by 50%. The 30,000 nappies they use each year were composted along with food waste and green waste, generating AS4454 certified mulch that was sold for $75/m3. A remarkable example of the Circular Economy in action.

The most unexpected and exciting development has emerged just north of us in Indonesia. Five years ago, UK customers Jess & James approached gDiapers with an idea. They were following their dream to sail the high seas and circumnavigate the globe. They had learned how to sail, bought a boat and left Southampton for Mexico. In Mexico, their first baby was born and the issue of nappies emerged. They called gDiapers and we came up with a neat quid pro quo arrangement. We offer up our earth-friendly nappies that they can use while sailing and dispose of responsibly when they hit land (commercially composted). In return, the fabulous Jess will write the odd article about sailing & sustainable nappies.

On they sailed, across the Pacific to New Zealand where their second little one was born. They flew over to Sydney and Kim and I finally got to meet Jess & James in person. And then a year ago, they sent a note letting us know that they had sailed to the magnificent Raja Ampat, Indonesia where they had left their boat to fly home to London to have their third child.

Raja Ampat sits in an area where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet. It features the greatest marine biodiversity in the world. It is a breading ground for massive Manta Rays and 1000kg Leatherback Turtles. It is a diver’s paradise. And tragically they are drowning in marine plastic waste. Indonesia is the second biggest marine waste producer in the world. A full 20% of their marine waste is nappies. Turtles eat jelly fish. They also eat engorged used nappies as they look nearly identical. “Could we help?” asked Jess & James. “You betcha” we said. It is the perfect place to launch our gCycle service.

This year we spent nearly 2 months in the UK working on our Ellen MacArthur Foundation Co:Project. During that time, Kim stayed with Jess & James while they renovated their house and prepared for the arrival of Baby #3. Kim was there for the home birth and in fact put the very first nappy on their beautiful newborn. That’s one committed nappy executive!

Meanwhile in Raja Ampat thanks to Jess & James’ contacts, we have made lightning-speed progress. Local partners who operate a network of Waste Banks where families deliver their recyclable waste in return for cash have joined our gCycle effort as have other conservation non-profits. We have changed summer plans and are now heading to Sorong City with our two teenage sons to further develop the plans and have the boys do some service.

We are excited by what 2019 will bring.


On the daily

The Two Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Plastic & Fast Food.

Seemingly unrelated yet alarming reports last week share common origins and causes.

Early last week, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)’s Nutrition Across the Life Stages revealed that a third of Australia’s energy intake comes from junk food. For teenagers the consumption of these “discretionary foods” makes up 41% of their energy intake. This along with a lack of exercise is contributing to Australia’s obesity epidemic. Almost 25% of children and 65% of adults are overweight or obese according to the AIHW’s A Picture of Overweight and Obesity.

The launch of McDonalds in 1955 heralded the beginning of junk food as we know it today. At that time, McDonalds was expensive and inconvenient. Automobiles were still catching on so who would want to drive away from one’s home to go and eat? It was positioned as a rare treat to relieve mothers of their cooking duties. As cars grew popular, demand increased as did the speed of production and costs plummeted. McDonalds became the very cheapest option. Today a “Cheesy BBQ” burger is just $2.00. On November 1, McDonalds will launch its most aggressive “meal deal” ever. The “Classic Meal” includes four items for just $6.00. With the advent of the Drive Thru in 1975 and today with Uber Eats, McDonalds is now also incredibly convenient. Consumers today live for cheap and convenient.

Later last week the European Parliament vote 571 to 53 in support of a ban on the 10 most commonly found single-use plastics in the ocean by 2021. Items include straws, plates, cutlery and cotton swab sticks.

Like junk food, plastic as a material first appeared en masse in the 1950’s. The introduction of plastics in aerospace and medical devices was transformational. Over time however just as junk food became a daily source of nutrition, plastic too has inappropriately found its way into everyday products. Just like McDonalds, the demand for plastic as a raw material soared, costs plummeted and it has become the cheapest of raw materials. And because of its disposability, it is also the most convenient. Plastic is in essence the junk food of the material world: cheap and convenient.

70 years on and we are now paying the price for our desire for cheap and convenient junk food and cheap and convenient plastic. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, due to soaring childhood obesity rates our children may be the first generation in 200 years to not outlive their parents. Richard Attenborough tells us that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than sea life. Most disturbingly a small study by the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria also announced this week showed for the first time the presence of micro-plastics in human stool samples. A most unfortunate case of worlds colliding.


On the daily

From one solo round-the-world sailor to another, Kiernan’s environmental legacy will live on.

Ian Kiernan’s passing this week marked the end of the beginning of an important period in the environmental movement. While the current Government continues to support non-renewable energy policies and last week’s barely mentioned IPCC report described a fast-approaching environmental catastrophe it is easy to lose hope. There is however a new approach to sustainability and it was Kiernan’s movement 30 years ago that started it.

As a yachtsman competing in the 1986/1987 BOC Challenge solo round-the-world yacht race, Kiernan was one of the very first people to observe the sheer amount of plastic in our oceans. On his return to terra firma, he leapt into action organizing the inaugural “Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day” on January 8, 1989. 40,000 volunteers collected 5,000 tons of rubbish that day. That event graduated into the first “Clean Up Australia Day” on January 21,1990. Since then, more than 7 million Australians have volunteered to do their bit. The movement went global with the first “Clean Up the World Day” in 1993. Last year it was estimated that a 120 nations participated with approximately 35 million volunteers globally.

We shall deeply miss Kiernan’s drive and vision. We should however be comforted to know that another solo round-the-world sailor, Ellen MacArthur is ready to pick up the baton and continue on.

Just like Kiernan, British-born MacArthur competed in a solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2005. She in fact broke the world record for the fastest lap around the world. As Kiernan did before her, she observed the extraordinary amount of plastic in the ocean and like Kiernan, decided to do something about it. In 2010, MacArthur quit sailing and established the Ellen MacArthur Foundation focusing on the transition to a regenerative, “Circular Economy”.

The Circular Economy is a distinct move away from the current and doomed “Take – Make – Waste” linear model. In the Linear Economy, raw materials are extracted from the earth, used to make products that are then consumed and ultimately put into landfill for hundreds of years. Unlike any other living creature, human beings are the only species to create “waste”. And we have “managed” that waste mostly by putting it in holes in the ground.

As Kiernan and MacArthur discovered, some waste never makes it to landfill. Richard Attenborough’s 2017 documentary Blue Planet 2 declared that every year 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in oceans. Furthermore by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than sea life.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation describes the Circular Economy as follows:

“Looking beyond the current take-make-dispose extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles:

·       Design out waste and pollution

·       Keep products and materials in use

·       Regenerate natural systems

Companies small and large from around the globe have joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation along with the European Union and Universities to collaboratively lead the transition to a Circular Economy.

While we may not all be able to do a solo circumnavigation of the globe to really see the scale of the problem, 30 years ago thanks to Kiernan we saw the beginning of the issue and a community-lead solution. With MacArthur today a broader group of actors from across the globe are taking the next step in making the world a better place.

On the daily

The burgeoning “Circular Economy” already in danger?

Greenwashing is the death of the sustainability movement. We should know having toiled away for the past 15 years in the US offering parents a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic diapers.

Along the way there have been some epic claims from brands hoping to capture the hearts and minds of green-leaning consumers.

The FTC (America’s ACCC / EA) has tried with their green marketing guidelines but nothing much has changed. According to the guidelines, general environmental claims are verboten but on every shelf of every super market the meaningless term “eco-friendly” abounds. Green logos and marks are also a no-no and yet there are entire brands built around a green leaf mark. Guidelines are useless without policing.

We had our own fun with the FTC back when they announced their new guidelines. Nothing better than debating the science of biodegradation with FTC lawyers.

As someone said to me after the fact, you haven’t really been in business in the US until a Federal Agency has come after you. The only outcome from that experience was funding our lawyers next ski vacation.

Which brings me to this piece of news. A competition to find a technology that can recycle tailings from mines.

And they label it the “Circular Economy”.


So the answer to the mess that is mining is to find a way to recycle the byproduct?

What a delightful bandaid.

It’s right up there with “Clean Coal“.

Movements die when they get misappropriated by bad actors. And this is one such example.

We need to be ever vigilant.

On the daily

Change: it’s a love / hate thing

It often feels like change takes forever. And yet we live in constant change. And at a DNA level we seem to hate change.

Nature appears to move ever so slowly. Plant the seed, water, wait and over time there is change – growth.

Then again a storm like the one I saw hurtling toward our place a few months back (above) sure did move fast.

In business we demand speed. Companies that grow the fastest win. Win awards, win investor support, win by being acquired. Business principles tell us that Fast growth – a type of change – is rewarded.

And yet the only thing that grows in the natural world with the kind of speed we want to see in companies are phenomena like Cancer or a weed in the backyard. They are misunderstood, undetectable to the naked eye oftentimes and thrive in otherwise healthy environments. And they end life.

And then there’s change we (think we) can control. I was reminded of this after stumbling on Fast Company magazine from 2005 (below) yesterday. Faced with a choice to change our habits or face imminent death, only 1 in 10 of us change our habits. That’s pretty remarkable for us as a species and our chances for longer term survival.

We need to somehow change our view of change.