August 27, 2011

Being green without seeing red

Filed under: Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 8:44 pm
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What's the answer?

Making progress in leading an environmental friendly lifestyle oftens seems to involve taking two steps forward and one step backwards. Why do I say this?

Well, take the most basic of human activities: eating. Doing this in a ‘green’ way is not straightforward. The more you get to understand about the decisions you are making, you realise there are no simple choices. I have written on this at greater length elsewhere.

Or moving onto another day to day task – washing and drying clothes. Though the following may seem all very prosaic, when it is an activity you do at least three times a week, it starts to matter. In my previous house, I used our airing cupboard to hang-dry clothes (making myself feel smug that I could use the ‘spare’ heat coming from the hot water tank). Our new house also has an airing cupboard but for some reason, clothes take 36 as oppose to 24 hours to dry. It turned out this was because the previous owners, who incidentally had started up their own green company , had insulated the hot water pipes and tank very well, reducing the loss of heat. So I face a paradox: saving energy here, do I have to succomb to getting a tumble dryer, using up lots more energy, and then even more to iron the crumpled items? There is, of course, a very simple solution: just to be patient and wait longer between washes!

My dilemma reminded about the findings of a study which discovered that new, more effective and efficient forms of lighting often stimulate greater energy consumption, rather than less. Basically, once it becomes easier and cheaper to get light, you have more of it as it allows you to do more stuff.  The article goes on to highlight the below:

Even now, the interiors of homes and workplaces are typically lit at only a tenth of the brightness of the outdoors on an overcast day, so there is plenty of room for improvement. And many outdoor areas that people would prefer to be bright at night remain dark because of the expense. If money were no object, some parts of the outdoors might be illuminated at night to be as bright as day.

So it seems that being green will also come to mean resist seeing the light.

August 22, 2011

Could houses of the future be empty?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 7:43 pm
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We still have lots of stuff in our house

Moving house makes you aware of stuff. As I packed up into the early hours of the morning before our move, two things crossed my mind:

Firstly, the obvious: it is all too easy to amass sickening amounts of stuff, some of which you realise you fail to use enough. Perhaps the 80/20 rule applies to possessions too: you use 20% of them 80% of the time.

Secondly, a lot of the stuff, certainly that which creates the most bulk, could be avoided if we so chose. We have boxes and boxes of books, which could all disappear on an e-reader, and we have towers of CDs and DVDs, which could go on MP3 players or get to us streamed on demand. Though we are relatively young household – we started ‘creating’ it some ten to fifteen years ago – we have items which now appear like relics of a bygone age: VHS videos and cassette tapes. We are just missing vinyl to complete our analogue media collection.

Given that all this content could be digital, and thus invisible, why is it that consumers still feel they don’t have enough space and that storage items such as the ubitiquous Billy bookcase and Ival storage system are global best sellers at Ikea? Maybe the answer is quite simple – a lot of us do just like stuff!

August 19, 2011

Experiencing textbook customer delight

Filed under: Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 9:13 pm
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Our box of delights

Imagine you had just moved into a new house and you found the above box waiting for you. Well, that’s what happened to us. Like you, we were intrigued – it had clearly come from our mortgage company (Halifax), but given that we now had official ownership of the property, what more could they want us to do?

We opened it up, pulled out the rather excessive wood shaving packaging and found a surprisingly thoughtful and welcome selection of ‘goodies’. There was a half bottle of white wine, instant coffee, tea bags, hand soap and lotion, biscuits, chocolates, as well as a handy mini tool box and picture hooks. What was particularly impressive was not the fact that these items turned out to be much appreciated (the chocolate disappeared first, whilst the contents of the tool box have been used daily since), but that the items were all rather ‘nice’. The tea and coffee were Fairtrade, the soap suitably posh and poncey, the biscuits were organic and the wine very drinkable (for the person who had it…).

It doesn’t actually stop there. A couple of days later I rang the savings call centre at Halifax to inform them about our change of address for an ISA product, but it turned out there was no need to have made the call: their system had already processed the change. A centralised system that can recognise and respond to the same customer dealing with the organisation across different touch points – something much discussed but never before experienced. I am keeping my fingers crossed for more moments of delight – or another big box of goodies at the very least!

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