Circular Economy, Random Neuron Firing

Christo & nappy waste

 

IMG_2209I was thinking more about Christo’s latest work in Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake featuring 7,506 pink barrels of oil. That glorious pink structure represents the amount of oil needed to make 5,000,000 nappies.

That may seem like a lot but it isn’t.

Every day in the UK, 8,000,000 nappies are landfilled.

Every.

Day.

Said differently, every day a tad more than Christo’s pink oil barrel barge is extracted from the earth as oil, made into nappies that are used for 3 – 4 hours at a time by just 5% of the population and then buried back into the ground for 500+ years.

Every.

Day.

In the US where 50,000,000 nappies are landfilled every day we need 10 of Christo’s pink oil barrel barges a day to grasp the impact.

In so many ways human beings are awesome but we so suck when it comes to product design and we are just starting to feel the affects of our suckiness (technical term) now.

We can do better.

We will do better.

We have to do better as there’s no other place to call home despite Elon Musk and the Interstellar movie.

Circular Economy, Random Neuron Firing

gCycle progress

 

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After a very balmy London weekend, today I headed to Exeter for some hardcore composting discussions while Kim headed in the opposite direction to Brighton to meet our first trial nurseries.

Our gCycle project is demanding a whole new take on how we manage nappy waste. We have a plastic-free nappy and are now looking at different ways we can treat that waste to create a valuable resource and avoid landfill.

Ridan is the very best of British engineering. They have developed a low-cost, highly effective piece of kit that nurseries, community centres and even the National Trust’s cafes use to turn food waste into a really good quality compost.I met Dan from Ridan at  St Sidwells Community Centre, one of their existing customers to check out the set up. They are a great candidate for gCycle and trials will get underway shortly.

The move from a linear (take – make – waste) world to a circular one (regenerative cycles)  takes time but progress is being made!

PS: 7,000 oil barrels standing 20 metres high and weighing 600 tons emerged in Hyde Park this morning. The latest from Christo.

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Random Neuron Firing

Setting the tone

After 14 years on blogging platform Typepad I finally moved over to WordPress yesterday.

And the move has been revelatory. Back in 2001 (!) Typepad launched their revolutionary platform and then never got around to updating for like everything (mobile, media uploads etc etc) WordPress on the other hand is everything you want in a blogging platform: intuitive, customisable, mobile friendly with excellent customer service when you need a tip.

In posing a question to the WordPress customer service crew yesterday, I was first asked an unexpected question but one that really made me stop and think.

The question was “How do you feel”. That was pretty disarming. I thought about it and responded that I felt pretty good. And that’s pretty crucial data for the Customer Service agent about to surprise and delight me. Because if they know going in that I’m infuriated / ready to go Postal, they will probably manage the inquiry differently and more effectively.

By asking that question they know my state of mind and attitude which is sort of more important than the question itself. It almost guarantees a better outcome.

Random Neuron Firing

Well this is quite the news…

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While Rome burns, the EU is actually doing something announcing sweeping changes to how manufacturers  make stuff and take stuff back and take responsibility for how it is disposed. A whole raft of disposable products will be banned and landfills will be phased out. This is big. Really big.

For other major developed countries (I am looking at you America and Australia), get inspired and make a move. Or obsesses about your hapless President's tweets or embrace climate deniers as our leaders are doing Down Under…

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sitPeRlTdNs]

 

 

 

 

Random Neuron Firing

Making a resource out of waste – one gMum’s journey

For the 7 years we have been in the US getting our "g" thing on, I have been so keen to see the home composting / commercial composting worlds get on board with our product.

And then, out of the Twitterverse of all places, emerged Miriam, the Queen of Compost (she's actually a writer by trade by she does great compost). Check out her post here or just read below about her journey into making a very valuable resource out of her kids gDiapers.

Imagine a world where this was the every day. I want to go there. I never thought dirt would make me so excited.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Saving 3000 diapers from the landfill…a gDiaper success story

 

A few weeks ago, I posted the picture above on my instagram feed and said: From compost to garden in 2 yrs — saved over 3k diapers from landfill thanks to gDiapers.   
Well, Jason, one of the founders of gDiapers contacted me and asked me to share our story with him and so I decided to blog about it here.
I first heard of gDiapers back in 2008, before I was pregnant with my son who is about to turn three.  I believe I saw them in a Gaiam catalog at my mother-in-law's house and I immediately was taken by how great they were, since they provided a happy medium between cloth and disposables.
Fast forward to the end of 2008 when I was pregnant with my son, and after a lot of research, I decided that we would go the gDiaper route.  My son was born on 07-08-09 and I was petrified to use the diapers at first because it just seemed like the logistics were beyond my capabilities.  But we pulled off the proverbial bandaid when he was just 9 days old because his umbilical cord fell off.  The first day of use was so easy, I couldn't believe I had ever been even remotely concerned about it (though I should mention that I realized quickly that everyone involved needed to be VERY aware of how to flush a diaper since my husband came home and just plopped on in the toilet upstairs and flushed — which may or may not have resulted in an overflowing toilet and water raining down through the pot lights in my kitchen below.  Oops.)  But aside from that small misstep, the gDiapers were super easy to use.  However, what I was still concerned about in the back of my head was composting…again, I couldn't wrap my mind around it, so I just avoided it.
After a couple of months of flushing EVERY diaper (which, with a newborn is A LOT of flushes) we realized that our water bill had gone up significantly.  So, we decided to start composting.  It was fall, and not the idea time to start a compost pile, but we figured it was worth a shot so we just went for it.  Our town provides a basic compost bin at a minimal cost, but we knew we wanted the bins to be where the sun could hit them which mean being very close to our driveway and street, based on how our property is set up, so we opted for something a bit more attractive.  From that moment on, we composted everything.  Kitchen scraps, garden waste, lawn clippings, leaves and gDiapers (the wet ones only, of course) — if it was compostable, we did everything we could to get it in the bin.  
Because we started in the fall, the compost never really had a chance to get to the right temperature before it got covered with snow.  It quickly filled up, but surprisingly, every time we thought there was no way we could ever fit anything in the composter again, we would open it up and it would have compacted.  Over the winter, we just cleared the top of it of snow (so we could fill it) and went from there…there were a LOT of diapers in there.  I will be completely honest.  We didn't compost every pee diaper — if I was out and about, I didn't save them to bring home.   But we did flush every poopy diaper.
In the spring, we started to clear out our gardens and added a lot more yard waste which brought the green vs. brown levels back to a more normal level.  We just kept doing what we were doing and the compost kept compacting and we kept adding to it and every once in a while my husband would turn it by taking a shovel and moving it over a spot.  
(turning the compost)
(first attempt at using the compost, the compost was pretty new…so it wasn't 'gold' yet – here's the layer we put down under the compost from the nursery)
The first time we actually used all of the compost was in the late spring of 2010 – it had not all turned to 'gold', but we were able to use it as the base for our new raised vegetable bed and then we added compost from a local nursery to the top of it.  That year, we had a HUGE crop of vegetables.

 

Over the next year, my son started daycare and unfortunately, though they allowed us to use the gDiapers, they did not save them to compost, so I know that those ended up in the landfill.  Since they decompose much faster than paper diapers, I was at least pleased to know that we were doing the best we could.  
Our son stopped using gDiapers in the Fall of 2011 because he was potty training and his daycare required pull-ups.  At home, he was in underwear.  But our daughter was born on October 27, 2011 and so we started the cycle all over again.  This spring, we opened up the compost bin and spread out the dirt in our vegetable garden for the second time.  We had bought a second compost bin and allowed the original one to sit for an entire year.  When we opened up the bin to spread it, it was beautiful, perfect dirt…nothing short of amazing!!  And really, totally easy.  I know I have waxed on and on about this now for a bazillion words, but really, the effort is minimal and the impact is amazing.
 (second compost pile that sat for a year turned into perfect dirt!!)

 

 

 

 

Our son wore gDiapers for 2.5 years.  Averaging around 1900 diapers the first year and then around 1000 for the second year (since he was in daycare two days a week) – that's almost 3000 diapers saved from the landfill by either composting or flushing (the poopy ones).  Even with the lack of cooperation from his daycare program, that's still a big impact!!

 

Random Neuron Firing

Capitalism 2.0

This is from a website of a fellow B Corp – Cutting Edge Capital. And it will really make you think of the possibilities.

Notice:

– the stark difference in the "build to grow to sell" model vs. the new way.

– the view of taxes:not something to avoid or minimize but pay to serve the county and State. 

– that small business, not the 1% are the true job creators, the community creators and the key to a recovery not ever imagined before.

The Little Grocery That Could

May 22nd, 2012

By Michael Shuman

What happens next in the economy – the nation’s, the state’s, and Seattle’s – no longer lies in the hands of Capitol Hill politicians, the Federal Reserve, or even the boards of companies like Microsoft and Starbucks.  It depends on entrepreneurs like Jason Brown, who has big ambitions for his small business.  Jason recently opened a grocery store in the heart of downtown Bellevue called Your Local Market.  It combines the best features of Whole Foods, like high-quality local and organic products, with down-to-earth prices and familiar brands of low cost cleaning products.

Jason, however, is not your typical small businessperson.   For more than three decades he has been an innovator in retailing.  He brought Columbia Sportswears to New Zealand and Australia.  He created the Natural Apothecary, which was sold to Wild Oats, and then went on to develop Andrew Weil Vitamin Advisor.  He grew a bi-coastal company called Organic To Go, which at its peak made healthy options available in 33 cafes and 150 outlets.

Today, Jason is all about “local.”  He and his team have scoured the Pacific Northwest for great suppliers of local fruits, meats, and wines, and now has more than 3,000 regional products.   He has turned his store into a community center, with a full calendar of speakers and special events like single’s nights.  He holds monthly fundraiser in the store that has generated more than $36,000 in new donations for children’s organizations.  He has recruited local angel investors to become owners, and is committed to keeping the store into the hands of the community. Unlike Organic To Go, which was a national chain that ultimately was taken over and then taken apart by international investors, his is committed to growing more stores only in the state of Washington.

So far, the business has fared remarkably well, considering the times we’re in.  It opened in November and weekly sales have grown steadily to a peak of over $200,000.  It has added 75 jobs to the Bellevue economy (probably double that when indirect effects are counted), and has already become a significant generator of taxes for the city, county, and state.  For three years prior to opening, site was an eyesore with an empty parking lot and a boarded up building.  After a $2 million makeover, the market is now bringing a local streetscape back to life.

Yet even in the hands of a skilled entrepreneur, Your Local Market is no guaranteed success.  The grocery business is notoriously difficult, with huge perishable inventories and tight margins if you want to serve the best in local products yet be competitively priced. Like other businesspeople, Jason made a series of bets that the economy would recover more quickly.  To survive, he has become the business equivalent of a kayak runner, surveying each week’s challenges and then deciding when and which direction to shoot the rapids.

If Jason can just grow his weekly sales to $200-250,000 per week consistently, he will clear break-even and be able to focus on growing his business, which is good for everyone.  In the meantime, besides courting more local investors, Jason has created a membership for his customers, which gives them deep discounts on your groceries over the next year or two. This program awards huge savings—20% or more—on the household necessities at a time when many Bellevue residents are economizing to get by.

Across the country, smart entrepreneurs are pioneering alternative financing methods like this to survive the recession.  Unlike investments, presales usually do not require expensive legal work.  In Oakland, California, a popular coffee shop called Awaken Café was able to finance its move to another store by preselling coffee.  In Hardwick, Vermont, Claire’s Diner has financed itself through a frequent-eaters program.

Small business innovations are key to our national recovery.  Studies consistently show that small businesses, especially new ones, are the most important creators of new jobs in U.S. economy.  Two Harvard economists analyzing metropolitan areas across the country found that the greater the presence of small business, the higher the economic growth rate.  Two Penn State economists also found that more local businesses meants higher per capita income growth.

The verdict is virtually unanimous.  The United States will only succeed if small businesses like Your Local Market succeed.  The message for Seattle residents is equally clear:  If you want to bring the region out of recession, buy local, invest local, and think local first.

Random Neuron Firing

B Corporation’s Champions Retreat & Dansko’s amazing HQ

Last week was a big one for travel. Four of the team were in London where we launched gNappies.co.uk and attended the Baby Show in London.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I headed to Philly for 2 days for B Corporation's Champions Retreat. gDiapers became a B Corp earlier this year. The B Corp mission is to use the power of business to solve environmental and social problems. And that is exactly what Kim and I had in mind when we launched gDiapers 6 years ago. Given Occupy Wall Street and the generally dim view people have of companies today (The NY Times yesterday quoted  a poll showing Companies ranking in the single digits – a tad higher than Congress when it comes to trustworthiness) I am very excited to be a part of this movement. 

As a part of our time in Philly, we toured one of the bigger B Corporations – Dansko footwear. There's nothing more interesting for a business owner that to go and see how other companies do it, especially those that have shared values and are successful. Dansko is of particulular interest for Kim and I as the founders -  Mandy Cabot and Peter Kjellerup  – are also married and work side by side (and by chance have a ridgeback just like ours!)

Dansko did not fail to impress. They have an amazing culture – you could feel it – and a facility to die for. The buildings are of course LEED certified and simply beautiful. The photos below don't do it justice. 

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It all started with Clogs back in 1991.

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This divider was all natural, portable and beautiful.

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This is the biggest green wall in the US. The combination of the sound of running water and the site and smell of that green wall is fabulous.

 

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Not one but three meditation rooms.

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Natural light pours in everywhere.

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The green roof shown here captures 70% of rain water. The remainder is directed into holding tanks for grey water use.

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The Foundation does amazing work.

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In place of regular down pipes, they use chain links to channel rainwater into holding tanks. They apparently sound beautiful when the rain comes down.

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This is B Corporations Declaration of INTERdependence (Get it? We're all in this together so rather than work purely for shareholders, B Corps work for ALL stakeholders) which we all signed.

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While in Philly we toured the site that saw the drafting of the Declaration of Independence  and the Constitution. I am finally figuring out US history. You blokes really didn't like the Poms did you?!