Coca-cola as an Environmental Indicator

Canary in the coal mine – why Coca-cola is a great environmental indicator.

In this post, I argue that the Coca-cola company is a potent social, and environmental indicator, and why you should pay attention to their environmentally friendly products, and campaigns.

 

A friend of mine recently posted this video on my facebook page (Thanks Sonja). Edit: The video has almost completely disappeared from the internet. It’s even been removed from Coca-colas own site. After 30 min of digging, I did find a video. You can read more about the caps that turn old coke bottles into squirt guns and shampoo dispensers here.

Many people believe because I am ‘Environmental Mona’ I would like this sort of initiative. Well, yes and no.

Although I am pleased that Coca-Cola is taking steps to increase product lifespan, I’m actually not a fan of this particular product. However, I am thrilled about it as an environmental, and social indicator.

Several of the ideas in this video are already being used as DIY projects in Asia. There is no need for a product like the one Coca-cola is selling here, because they are already being made. The DIY projects rose from an economic necessity, and now Coca-cola is mainstreaming them to make a buck.

At the same time, coca-cola is introducing several new products in the world, to extend the lifespan of one other product – in my view, an action that creates a greater problem than it solves.

You now have a situation, where you wanted to expand the life of one end-of-pipe-product (the empty bottle) but created, 10 new plastic things, that you need to buy to extend the life of that one bottle.

You have now generated more material that eventually has to be disposed of.

Also, there’s the ingenious soap-bobble extension. Wow, how fun. Now you’ll have kids begging their parents to buy a set of ten plastic items, to screw on empty soda bottles. And if they don’t have empty bottles?

Yep, buy more fizzy liquid sugar, in a plastic bottle.

From the above, you might think I really, really dislike this product. Well granted, I kind of do. But I also love it. I love it because it reveals so much more about the state of the world than Coca-cola knows.

When Coca-cola launches a product like this, it’s because there’s money to be made. They are putting this product out there because there is a marked for resource awareness. There is already a focus they can tap into.

It is also the reason why they’ve joined the 3D printer market (with an equally redundant 3D-printer). DIY and local manufacturing is a big wave and it will grow over the next decade.

I do not for a second buy into this greenwashing Coca-cola is trying to pull. In my view, this product creates far more waste than it eliminates. But they are one of the best environmental and social indicators out there. When they start making noise, you better listen because they will tell you where the money and the focus is. And what is really the underlying platform of money and focus? Need.

So what are they actually saying with this product? What kind of needs are out there right now?

 

1) We (the world) are producing to much waste, and need to change that

2) We (producers and consumers) need to expand the lifespan our products

3) We (the global community) have an interest in doing so, and a knowledge about why it’s important

 

Canary in the Coca-cola coal mine

 

Coca-cola is the canary in the coal mine. When the bird starts behaving differently, you should pay attention.

 

 

 

*Disclaimer: This is the part where I’m supposed to say, that none of this post is targeted directly at the Coca-cola company or any of its products, but who are we kidding. If they have a problem with this post, they can send me an e-mail.

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! -Climate change denial, and how to overcome it

In this post, we’re gonna focus on overcoming climate change denial. This means we’re gonna talk about why addressing climate change feel overwhelming, and what you can do about it.

Now we’ve established I’m a +30 cinephile, let’s dig deeper into the truth about climate change, and why we would rather not know.

Before you read further, ask yourself this: Are you willing to give this post a fair change?

 

When the content gets hard to deal with, are you gonna close the tab and go back to puppies and facebook, or are you gonna keep reading?

 

You might as well be honest with yourself because I’m going to be honest with you. More than that, I’m going to shed light on that little voice inside us all, that starts crying when it all gets too real and too overwhelming. The voice that says ‘It can’t be this bad. I’m sure they’ve got it wrong. I’ll go back to reddit now, and look at people who dress like Disney characters’.

If you’re still here you’re already further than most

The truth is we have a dire situation on our hands. Newest data suggests, that we have now surpassed the safe level of atmospheric CO2, averaging at 397.7 ppm in 2014, with a peak 404 ppm in the spring of 2014. The agreed safe level is 400 ppm.

If no drastic measures are taken NOW, we are facing a temperature increase of about 4.5 Degrees Celsius.

This will make many nations look like Water World by the year 2100.

It will also likely result in a big decrease in fish population in the oceans. In combination with our current overfishing, this might result in the death of the ocean. Yes death, as in no more fish in the sea, and hence no more sushi for your chopsticks.

 

If the world does not act in regards to climate change, we are facing droughts, famines, the greatest migration problem ever seen, deforestation, desertification. All in all, a world that sucks.

Overcoming Climate change denial - we're gonna die

See, I told you I was a cinephile


Why isn’t anybody acting?

You already knew that the world is in a bad state. None of the above was news to you, right? So, is there nothing left to do? Should we just give up? No, there are plenty of ways to act.

If we’ve been hearing these warnings for many years now, why are we still on collision-course?

Why are there still heads of state skeptical of climate change? What’s don’t the majority of Americans worry about climate change? And why on earth is the government of my home nation systematically cutting and worsening our climate initiatives?

A part of the problem is, we’ve created this big a complex world, but our hardware, our brain, is monkey_Brain_MonaJensenstill set on ‘monkey’.

The psychical structure and functions of our brains haven’t changed for thousands of years.

As an unfortunate consequence of this, we relate to the world around us as if we still only had to attend to food, shelter, and coitus.

Thinking about what our actions today will bring us 50 years down the road, is just not a natural process for us. Which means..:

 We have to work for it.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of our brains system 1 and 2. Or the reptile- and the cognitive parts of our brain. In short, we have a lazy brain that wants to conserve energy. It does this, by not working too hard, and converting as many actions as it can, into habits we don’t need to think about – like walking.

You’re pretty skilled at walking. You don’t need to think about that too much. The same with driving a car, brushing your teeth, and talking with your mother-in-law.

All these things we do out of habit. They required a lot of energy and focus from us the first times we did them, and then, with practice and repetition, they become mindless habits.

You gotta work (that lazy brain), bitch

Climate change is not something we can do on autopilot. Grasping the full scope, and furthermore, accepting that we haven’t gained knowledge of the full scope yet, is a job for the cognitive brain. We have to invest energy. This is why it feels so overwhelming.

“What? There’s more? I don’t think I can take it!”

Yes, there is haWork_bitchrd work ahead.

The world’s ecosystems are in a dire state. 2015 has so far had the biggest hurricane ever recorded, the worst droughts ever recorded, and the worst forest fires ever recorded. 50% of the cases of extreme weather of 2014 were attributed to climate change.

 

You wouldn’t be reading this post if you didn’t already know that something is wrong, and you want it to stop being wrong. It not impossible, but it will require work.

Are you still reading? Well done, not only are you among the top percentage of people determined not to stick their head in the sand, and you also building your skill of using your cognitive brain with more ease.

Face the state of your life with determination. You can’t change your situation before you accept it.

What was that thing about it-security?

I fall into the same trap of a lazy brain. I have some really smart people in my network, who know a lot about IT- and data security. They tell me about IT-dangers, and what to do about it.

Every time I feel I have almost gotten up to speed and have a basic level of security, a new threat comes along and I have to learn everything all over again.

Then I think to myself: ‘Oh come on!! Just tell me what to do, already!!security_and_environmental_science

I just want to know, what program I need to install in order to make sure I’m ok in terms of IT security.

But as anyone with the faintest knowledge about IT knows, it’s so much more complex than that.

Just like fighting climate change and working for environmental preservation, is so much more than turning the water off, or buying a Prius.

If you’re not an environmentalist, it’s an immensely complex situation, and the more you learn about it, the more complex it gets. Just like I find IT security a much bigger subject the more I learn about it.

 

Making the complex manageable

Finally gaining this insight was a blessing and a curse. It became obvious that my post needed to be centered on making sense of the immense, and turning the mass of numbers and facts into something you could actually do.

 

This is also the reason for my environmental planner‘s ABCs. Which takes us full circle back to what you can do when facing the truth about climate change. I will cover this in the next blog post.

A short note on the Cowspiracy documentary

 

Overall the movie hits a critical subject that should be addressed to a greater degree. I do however want to comment a bit on it:

If you want to quote the movie while arguing for vegetarian/vegan diet, do not use the numbers given in this movie. Most numbers are accurate, but a few are misleading. The agricultural sector is not bigger than the energy sector.

Facts and flaws in the Cowspiracy documentary

Facts and flaws in the Cowspiracy documentary

The movie had a few scenes where one sided arguments and opinions weight heavier than facts. For instance, I find his critic of Allan Savory very biased, and misleading. Yes, Savory did order the termination of thousands elephants, for conservational purposes, but openly admits to the mistake (Note, Savory’s method has met a lot of criticism from peer reviewed researcher). But the method of diminishing his expertise in the movie is one I find unprofessional, and borders on ‘Emotional Porn’, with no scientific reference.

As a lot of other environmental documentaries it points the gun in the wrong direction. At the end user. At you. Eat vegan, take short showers, drive a bike, shop local, turn of the lights, recycle you waste.

The movie establishes that big corporations are an issues, and that they govern laws and regulations. And then the movie turns to the consumer. What is key in most, if not all, environmental issues is, that we get the biggest impact, if we start at the top of the food chain (pun intended): Politics and big corporations.

Besides from cutting meat consumption, the best thing you can do, is go into politic. Get active in whatever way you can. Maybe this means setting up a petition that you sent your government. Maybe it means campaigning. Maybe it means running for office.

The point is, end of pipe is not where you change the world –it’s where you uphold the status quo, and a high comfort level.

That being said here’s a short summery of…

What Cowspiracy got right.

Yes, agriculture is a major contributor to global warming, runoffs, desertification, hypoxia, rainforest destruction, and the list goes on.

OceanDepletion_Monajensen

Ocean depletion

Yes, the world’s oceans have far passed their threshold for sustainable fishing. I was surprised that the movie did not mention the fact, that most fish caught are being used to feed other animals for meat production.

Yes, a handful of companies have a tremendous amount of power and political influence, and this should be address to a much larger degree.

Yes, adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet will do loads for the environment, and I strongly suggest you do so. Or at least just cut down on meat consumption. But read op on the production methods! Almond production has an insane amount of water usage, and contributes to Colony Collapse Disorder, because of the heavy usages of neonicotinoids, pesticides, where bees die in millions.

I know, it’s a complicated world, and there’s much to think about. But if you really want to do something, if you really want to point that gun, then point it in the right direction. Get political.

LEGO is changing the plastic industry! Here’s why Everything is Awesome.

I’m back! After 4’ish years of not blogging, I’m ready with a new load of subjects, articles, and explanations about sustainability and environmental behaviour. It seems fitting that I should write one of the first posts about something I’ve loved and cherished since childhood: LEGO.

LEGO recently announced its investment of 1 billion DKK (150mio $US) dedicated to research, development and implementation of new, sustainable, raw materials to manufacture LEGO® elements as well as packaging materials.

This is great news for the toy and general plastic industry! And for me!

Here’s a short explanation of why everything is awesome:

  • We consume an enormous amount of plastic – and it’s polluting our environment and our food supply. Our oceans alone have an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating around in them. We even have “Islands” made entirely out of floating plastic. The plastic pollution in the oceans is very likely to end up in our food chain. Producing alternative plastic products that, when discarded, are biological degradable, is a must in regards to combatting further plastic pollution.
  • Current plastics are recyclable, but are always downcycled. Even if you returned all your old bricks to a LEGO factory, they would have to be color sorted in order to not end up as a greyish goo. I love Space LEGO, but I don’t want only grey bricks.
  • LEGO bricks are produced in a quantity of between 20 and 45 billion bricks pr. Year. In the overall scheme of plastic toys hitting the marked each year, isn’t’ a lot. However, the LEGO brand is a worldwide known and trusted brand, and currently more powerful than Ferrari. They are copied.
    Going on the marked with a plastic-like material that is made from plants, gives them first-mover status and will increased the demand for more toys made from biodegradable material. This will of course spill into other industries pushing the marked away from non-renewable based plastic

See, I told you it would be short.

This first-mover decision from LEGO will have other companies turning green of envy. Not only is LEGO creating better and smarter trash (and I’ll come back to why that matters in a later post), LEGO is creating a full circle product.

As a consumer with a box of bricks in your hand, you know you are buying;

1) A product that, when discarded is more environmentally friendly than that of the competitors,
2) A product that will last for generations, without the need for maintenance or upgrades, and
3) Will always deliver a fun and creative expressions.

 

Oh, but I’m an adult, I don’t care about sustainable toys

Well you should. Besides from the obvious environmental, economic and health benefits of NOT pollution our food supply, LEGO offers a great many advantages for adults as well. In my workday a coworker and I set a timer for 15 minutes, break out a small box of LEGO and start building. Why? Because it’s simply impossible to feel stressed while building LEGOs. And don’t take my word for it. The Serious Play initiative has got the world of finance talking.

To sum up, I’ve been a happy customer of the company ever since I stepped on my first brick, and I’ll likely continue to do so, until my old arthritis plagued fingers can no longer separate the 4×2 from the 8×2.

As this old add delightfully sums up: What it is, is beautiful.

Its beautifull

LEGO add from 1981

Endnote;

If you want to know more about plastic pollution in the oceans, or want to help reduce it, go to Plasticchange.org.

Sustainability, stupidity and socks.

The following is about some of the basic problems in changing lanes to a more sustainable future, and about sustainability cognition:

This post sprung out of something as simple as a journey from my bedroom to the bathroom. I went to go use the bathroom, but had to turn back to put on a hoodie and knitted socks because it was so freaking cold I couldn’t stand it.

Now, I far from live in a mansion. In fact, there’s only about 1,5 meters from my door to the bathroom. So why the desperate need for warmer clothing? Well, we’re on the top floor. Right above us, is the attic. This is what it looks like:

Attic_monajensen

Do you see it? The bare bricks, the total lack of insulation? (2016 Edit: Well, there is a layer of insulation beneath the attic floor, which is my ceiling. I have no idea how thick is is)

And this is the view from my window. The white stuff is snow (Sorry for the newb like window reflection, but there was no way in hell I was opening that window).

Sne og vindue

In other words, I live in a country that has a chance of snow from November to April, but has very low standard requirements for insulation, regarding buildings build before 1980. And that combination makes me a little bit angry. Cold and angry. And this is not a raggedy old building, this is a standard building in Copenhagen.
The following picture is from one of the cities in Denmark the closest to Copenhagen, in terms of size, culture and age of buildings. It’s taken with a 45 degree angle, so that it is possible to see the facades, as well as the roof tops. Lots of heat just getting lost. Lots of energy just wasting away.

37747_650_550_0_0_0_0

20% wasted energy

Studies show that more than 20% of Denmark’s total energy consumption can be eliminated, just by isolation our current, badly insulated buildings (in Danish). Some even argue it’s closer to 35%. I would love to say that Denmark is one of the worst sinners in the world when it comes to bad insulation, but we’re not. We’re like most other countries in the world. Actually we’re in the good end of the scale. A terrifying thought.

There have been different initiatives from the government to promote investment in housing insulation, where citizens could apply for financial help, in order to put in new and better (or any, in my building’s case) insulation. But this was only to stimulate the economy in the financial crisis, and now that the economy is finding a balance again, isolating your house just isn’t as attractive as buying that new car.

So why is it that, even though the insulation would still be a better investment than the car, we don’t see people rush to the insulation companies? I’ll tell you. The insulation has no bling. No status. How are you gonna show of your wealth and style? With a 2,5 inc fiber filling, or with a new Ford?

Now, I don’t wanna go as far as saying that human beings are stupid as a whole, just a little bit tied to our biological and social need of being accepted by the pack, in order to ensure our survival. We are a pack animal and we need to fit in to remain in the pack, and to show of power to excel within the pack. Hence the new Ford.

So now we seem to have an issue. We have nice cars, but will soon have no gas to put in them, and we have a big energy bill, that will only get bigger as prices of fossil fuel will rise. That seems to me kind of, ummh.. Stupid. But on the other hand, you can’t just rise against the pack, keep the old out-of-fashion-car, and use the money on insulation, can you?

What if it was all of a sudden in fashion to plan for the future and save money? What if all of the sudden you knew, that fossil fuel prices would only go up, and that you would have to cash out.

The economic crisis had a wonderful effect on the world’s sustainability cognition. All of the sudden it became popular to invest in renewable resources. Just like it did in the past oil crisis’. We saw the point, we saw the necessity. And most importantly, we saw ourselves. We saw, and we knew that keeping passive, will hit us hard. I have a motto:

The biggest lie in sustainable management is that we are doing this for our children and our children’s children.

child-817373_1920

We’re not. We shouldn’t be. We should be doing it for ourselves. Non-renewable resource reserves such as crude oil and helium will have run out before I even retire. Old age is gonna suck if we don’t act now. Unfortunately, the only thing that reminds us of this, is a crisis. When the world has settled again, we go for the car. So what do we do? Launch the world into a global crisis every now and then, just to stay on our toes. Insert a sense of panic every so often? NO! (I’ll get back to that in a later post) Fear is not the answer.

Part of the wolf pack – It’s biology, baby

We have to change the way we interact and the themes for which we are accepted into the pack. What if your neighbours frowned at you for not insulation your house, for not buying energy efficient appliances, for not eating organic food, what would you do then? What would you do to fit in and be accepted? What if the community, if states, pushed its government to make decisions that were long lasting, economically beneficial, and would secure enough resources for its citizens? Where would it start?

I think it starts in the individual. In the stubbornness of one person, to do what he or she finds to be right. In standing up to the pack and not buying that car. Then it spreads. Friends, family, neighbours, facebook relations. At some point these norms reach the key people who have governance enough to make a substantial difference. It’s all about the first movers. Marketing science knows this. Communication science knows this.  It’s time for environmental science to know this. It’s time for environmental science to understand that if it wants to succeed, if we want to succeed, we need to draw upon knowledge from other scientific branches, such as communication, economics, social network science, behavioural science, learning theories and much more.

I believe it’s doable. I also think I will be posting a lot more about the dilemmas and promises of this approach. In the mean time, maybe I should learn how to knit, so I’ll have socks for my freezing home.

Social acceptance.

*end note from 2016: Looking back, I’m glad to see that I was on the right track, and that the environmental sciences are welcoming other fields of science. I am a bit sad that I took a 4 year break from blogging, though. I Wish I had been gutsier back then, and shared these posts more. Hopefully this is one of those moments where you learn from your mistakes.