On the daily

Perspective is everything

One of the happy unexpected outcomes from starting our company 15 years ago was gaining an interest in long distance running.

Being based in Portland, Oregon – America’s running capital, it was inevitable. With Nike and Adidas both headquartered in this relatively small town, the place was swarming with runners.

Going for a gallop also allows for some healthy separation from my co-founder who is also my wife.

So for all the years living in the US and now back in Oz, running marathons is a big part of my life.

From a horrendous first effort at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games test marathon event to last year running the Melbourne Marathon I am up to about 15 of them. The US offers multiple races each week so I managed to see much of the country. There were marathons in New York, Phoenix, Tucson, Portland, Las Vegas and Eugene.

This year I am running the Sydney Marathon for the first time in 18 years. It’s special as it starts by running over the Sydney Harbor Bridge at sunrise. I am 5 weeks out and the training miles are getting longer.

Today I ran in Centennial Park as I often do but for the first time ever I did it counter-clockwise. Thousands of miles of running and today I went around it back to front. I did that because it’s part of the Sydney Marathon course and I wanted to see what it felt like.

I wasn’t expecting it but every single part of the park looked foreign to me even though I run it three times a week and even though all I changed was the direction. The rugby fields looked different. The horse riding area looked different. The bike rental place looked different. I couldn’t immediately see the cafe that is so familiar when coming at it from the usual direction.

It reminded me that perspective is everything. In business, relationships, sport…changing perspectives changes everything. Being aware that perspective is key and knowing how to change perspective is such valuable skill. It’s one of the few ways you can change an outcome.

On the daily

Unknown unknowns

It’s been a busy few weeks since landing back in Oz from the UK. While Kim has remained in London I have been solo-parenting and working from Sydney.

The kids may have rickets given their exclusively Coco Pops derived diet under my household leadership.

Kim headed to NY last weekend to speak at the UN’s Youth Assembly addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. She was also a judge for an impact start-up competition and met some amazing young entrepreneurs from all over the world. There were in fact 1,000 delegates from 100 countries.

Kim made an interesting and somewhat uncomfortable observation after learning about these fantastic young entrepreneurs.

In these rapidly changing times, we have the tendency to mistake what we believe is much-valued wisdom with a limited Fixed Mindset that forecloses on possibility.

When we started gDiapers in 2005, we came into it with “beginner mind” as we had no experience in Consumer Goods, fundraising, team building, moving to America-ing and indeed parenting as we had just become parents too. The beginner minds is also known as a “Growth Mindset“. Without it we would have never gotten the business off the ground.

It strikes me that a Fixed Mindset probably comes with age. And as we are now older – 48 (!), maybe we have slipped in our way of thinking. That is a dangerous thing given just how fast the world is now changing. Just when you think you know it all, you realize you don’t. Or you don’t realize you don’t and live a life of unknown unknowns in the famous words of Donald Rumsfeld. (Remember those simpler times of just lying about going to war? Good times. Hit the link – my favorite press conference).

Food for thought.

On the daily

Plastic-free around the world.

After a full 6 weeks in the UK working on our Circular-inspired gCycle nappy product and service for nurseries, landing back in Oz has been quite the shock.

The jet lag alone took a week to wear off but far more seriously was where Australia is on the plastic-free front.

The UK and EU are miles in front with their directive to phase out non-essential plastic by a soon-to-be-announced accelerated target date. Retailers like Iceland, Waitrose and John Lewis are getting ahead of it with bans on a series of single-use plastic items.

Meanwhile back home, Coles one of our two major grocery chains has done a world-class job ballsing up something as simple as ending the provision of plastic bags at the check out.

Details here.

And I came home with so much hope…

On the daily

Taxis & cash in London

While London cabbies have been waging a war with Uber they have also been holding out against accepting credit cards which hasn’t really helped their cause.

On this trip however the tide has turned and they all feature window stickers declaring their entry into the 20th Century by accepting plastic.

But alas I have detected a ruse of sorts. At the end of no less than three taxi journeys I produced my card only to be told that their machine was on the fritz…really? With no cash they all relented, rebooted and the card was accepted.

Today in Birmingham, none of these punters (pictured) accepted credit cards so it was straight to Uber. Convenience the winner again.

On the daily

Birmingham bound to talk Bioenergy

To Birmingham this morning to meet with Aston University’s European Bioenergy Research Institute. In a world where landfills are being phased out and Extended Producer Responsibility is increasingly the norm, finding new ways to manage waste is key.

For us, we have developed a plastic-free nappy which allows us to dispose of the product in regenerative ways. We can compost them as well as use Anaerobic and Aerobic Digestion. These latter processes create bio-energy that can be sold back to the grid as power or gas. It is perfectly Circular in nature and a stark contrast from the current Take – Make – Waste system.

As an aside, today’s edition of the London heatwave is causing delays all over the rail network and the citizenry is bewildered by the high temps with no end in sight. I’ll be missing this heat when I head home tomorrow night.

On the daily

To the Home Office

Today we meet with the good people at DEFRA, the UK Government’s Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to get a better understanding of their plastics policies.

Much has been made of their recent announcements to eliminate “avoidable” plastic. I want to understand what that means, how they intend to roll it out and if they will follow the EU in phasing out landfill and imposing Extended Producer Responsibility rules on manufacturers specifically in the nappy category.

EPR demands that manufacturers take back the products they sell consumers and dispose of them responsibly. It is one of the key tenets of the Circular Economy which we believe is the future.

In the nappy industry plastic is the major raw material. A cup of oil is needed to make each nappy.

Yes.

We need oil to make plastic.

And nappies are made of plastic.

20 billion nappies a year landfilled in the US

3 billion nappies a year landfilled in the UK

In summary:

Extract oil from the earth / make plastic nappies / use for 3 hours / put in holes in the ground for 500 years / hope it all works out.

Because of the plastic and the human waste issue, any take back scheme is going to be complicated. Attempts at taking used plastic disposable nappies and making something good with it has failed despite 25 years and millions of dollars worth of investment.

Nappies are extremely price sensitive and store brands like Lidl (similar to ASDA / Aldi / Walmart) sells nappies for as low as 3p (USD 4 cents / AUD 5 cents) each. This price doesn’t come close to factoring in the cost on the environment once the product is disposed. This “negative externality“, a wonderful BS term I learned in Economics 101 at Uni is paid for not just by the environment but also by us the taxpayers in the form of waste collection and landfill management costs not to mention the poor health outcomes often reported by anyone unfortunate enough to live near a landfill.

EPR changes that dramatically. The Total Nappy Cost or “TNC” as we call it here at gDiapers (!) includes the cost to collect used nappies, deliver to a facility and convert it into a resource. It assumes of course that the product can actually be converted into something useful which again in nappies has proved difficult. We see gCycle as the answer as the product doesn’t use plastic. This allows for multiple ways to convert it into a useful resource at the end of its (first) life.

So today will be insightful I hope!

On the daily

Combobulated

“Combobulate. (Verb) To put together in a somewhat mysterious manner. To bring something out of a state of confusion or disarray. To manufacture by some unusual or novel means. Antonym: discombobulate”.

This word has been in my head these last weeks as we have juggled working on gCycle and celebrating my Mum’s 80th with the family in Scotland. I pondered why in popular vernacular we only ever hear of the antonym. A mystery indeed.

It aptly describes our gCycle project. A move to the Circular Economy is multi-faceted, non-linear and requires many parties to come to the table. Some days I’d really rather wish we were in the widget making and selling business but alas we are here working on this wicked problem.

Yesterday we visited Findhorn EcoVillage in the very north of Scotland where my brother, sister and her husband lived for some time. It is the largest intentional community in the world and has the lowest CO2 per capita in Europe as they use 100% renewable everything. The village features some amazing sustainable houses: some round ones made from whiskey barrels (they smell great) others from rammed earth and one that seems to be where Bilbo Baggins lives.

The guide for our tour described the Founders back in the 60’s being guided by higher powers. It was a little like the movie Field of Dreams – “Build it and they will come”. They did build it and the people really did turn up. And they

continue to show up to this day. A perfect combobulation and one that inspires me today to keep going.