Thursday, 19 July 2012

Sustainable marketing?

Carton image link from

I came across this article through a tweet, it reinforces other readings I have had around the net about the new forms of marketing that are being adopted.  Mainly, these are:

  1. Build a web-site:  this is important to show case your ware, services and other offers you have.
  2. Get your web-site to link to relevant page within itself, ie lots of cross linking to connect the site, this is useful for search engine rank.
  3. Get other site to link to your site: this is very important in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and for certain key word searches your site should come up more prominently.
  4. Start a blog to promote your knowledge:  this is not to market your services, it is to market your knowledge.  Blog about any important information that is relevant to what you sell or do, and this blog reflects your expertise in that domain, as well as being a repository to all things connected to what you do, like a single place to look for that information.
  5. Be social: connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and various other social sites that may be of use to make contacts, promote your blog and knowledge.

However, there is one added piece of interesting information this article adds which is the reason for this post, and that is that it reports on the a recent survey in the US that 78% of internet users conduct online product research before making a purchase, stressing the the shift towards active participation of the consumer.  That is a very interesting results because it highlights the shift in awareness of consumers and the application of mind to the process of purchase.

Therefore there is one more point I think should be added to the above list:

       6. Be truthful and sincere:  there is no room for marketing gimmicks, the old school of marketing by insinuating half-truths in order to leverage consumer trends and aspirations is loosing grounds and one cannot hide behind false pretence.  We can still see so many product advertisement jumping on the sustainable and green bandwagon when clearly a little research online demonstrates the fallacy of these marketing campaigns.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

India getting professional plumbers!

A nice little article on the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), India, which is offering a 120 hours course to aspiring plumbers.  This is good news for quality construction, and a real need too as many constructions sites have very poor plumbing work, mainly in terms of aesthetics and poorly installed plumbing leading to breaks, rust and loss of heat in poorly insulated plumbing.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Energy consumption world map

I found this interesting interactive workbook that display energy consumption trends worldwide in 2010 and 2011.  It makes for a fascinating discovery.  All data is expressed in terms of equivalent oil consumption.  In other words, weather the energy source is Natural gas, nuclear, coal, oil, hydro electricity or renewable energy (solar and wind presumably), they are all expressed as oil quantities in equivalent energy unit.

Here are a couple of screen captures I have taken,
Coal : You will notice at the top 3 drop down menus that allow you to select the energy source.  Also note that these graphs are per capita consumption figures, ie the amount of that energy source consumed in the entire country divided by the population.  Of course no one burns coal nowadays or very few households, but a lot of coal is used to produce electricity, and this is then consumed by the industry, households, offices and that not.
The biggest consumers of coal energy are the US, Australia, Kazakhstan, China, South Korea, Czech Republic, South Africa and Poland.

 Note however, that the consumption ranking are relative to the overall consumption.  Australia, which tops the list consumed a little of 2 tonnes of oil equivalent of coal in 2011.
Oil : This the highest contribution of energy source in the world in 2011.  However, surprisingly Singapore tops the list of per capita consumer followed by Kuwait and, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  In other words they burn a lot of oil for their energy use (may it electricity or transport needs).  The US which is often singled out as a oil guzzler only comes 9th in the list.

Actual oil consumed by Singapore in 2011 was a little over 11 tonnes per person.

Natural Gas : The natural gas is another product of the oil industry and shows again an unexpected statistic.  The two countries that peak the trend are Qatar and Trinidad & Tobago!!  Of all nations I was surprised... but then again we all need electricity to run our ACs in the summer! 

The energy consumed in 2011 by Trinidad was a little over 14 tonnes of oil energy equivalent.

Nuclear Energy : Here, no surprises, France is the biggest consumer of nuclear energy in the world followed closely by ..... Sweden, not a nation traditionally associated with nuclear energy, but nonetheless, because of its lower population, its energy consumption per person is high. The top 5 consumers are all in Europe.

The nuclear energy consumed in 2011 by France was a little over 1.5 tonnes of oil energy equivalent.

Hydro Electricity :  Norway is the staggering leader in this field, with a 30% of all worlwide hydro energy per person consumption.  Again, do note that this is not total energy, only per person.  For example the biggest producer of hydro energy is Russia, while the biggest consumer of such energy is China (presumably it imports its excess consumption from Russia).  Hoever, per capita consumption is very low due to its large population.

Norway consumed an equivalent of a  little over 5 tonnes of oil energy in 2011.

Renewable energies : Denmark is the leader in this field, they are very active with various schemes of wind and biomass production. Apart from second placed New Zealand, the biggest consumption of renewable energy from comes Europe, where countries like Germany, Sweden, Finland, and Spain have active wind and solar energy policies.

Denmark consumed an equivalent of 0.6 tonnes of oil energy from renewable sources.

To make the study a little more complete, I downloaded the data from which these plots where compiled and did a few more of my own...

Energy source distribution and total consumption per country
The plot show the total energy consumption by each country and the source of that energy.  Interestingly the most energy hungry people on earth are not the usual culprit.... (the units are in tonnes of equivalent oil energy)

Green credentials
In this plot I worked out and ranked the percentage contribution from each energy source for the country's per capita consumption.  The rank is from highest green source of energy to the most polluting source.  So for example, Norway which is at the top of this list sources in excess of 60% of its per capita energy from green renewable and hydro power source. The 11 lowest countries of this list all depend on fossil fuel for their energy needs.

Sustainable credentials:
Of course, the picture is not quite complete without also looking at the total consumption of a country.  Poorer country may not be able to afford fancy sources of energy, but nonetheless leave a  smaller footprint on the planet as their energy consumption are more frugal.  Here is one last plot that has a double ranking.  Ranked for frugality as well as green energy consumption.  What I would classify as a sustainable energy consumption rank.  The lower the energy consumption the higher on the list, but if a country consumes a lot of energy  but obtains it from from green sources, then it too should be higher up on this list.  This is the case with Brazil in 10th place on this list, it has a higher energy consumption per capita than the next 3 countries below it but its ranking is due to the fact that it obtains large part of this energy need from green sources.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

A new organic farmer in Chennai!

We were pleasantly surprised to see the news of a new local organic farmer in Chennai.  Nalla Keerai (Good Greens or Good Spinach) was started by s group of IT professionals wanting to make a difference for the plight of farmers who see their cost rise and their income drop.  Applying their minds to the problem, they have stepped forward to set up a model farm with practices that optimize cost and cut out the expenses of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.  Furthermore, they are experimenting with local vegetables and for now attempting to grow green leaves such as spinach.

They have 20 varieties of spinach being sold at 15 Rs a bunch.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Are women 'greener' than men?

According to this article, recent studies go to show that women care more for the environment then men.  This would be one more reason to empower our women, especially in rural communities where it also shown that women tend to be more responsible when handling finances.  Hopefully this article will go some way to promote more women in decision making roles that impact the environment.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Is Science Fundamentalist?

An opinion posted on the Hindu paper labelled The curse of science fundamentalism paints the woes of man made cataclysms as the rotten fruits of scientific fundamentalism. There paper sites Chernobyl & Fukushima nuclear disasters as well as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs along with a number of quotes from Arundati Roy's book, The Greater Common Good. I cannot fully agree with the author of this article for I feel that there are a certain number of Non sequitur statements.

For starter, are we talking about the same science that has created the Internet, the telephone, the solar panel, the aeroplane, peniciline, the polio vaccine, and million other technological innovations sprouting on a daily basis from the meticulous research of academic scientist? If so, we have a dilema, and if not then what science are we talking about.
Cell imaging of mitosis
(cell reproduction) in progress.

AIDS virus through an electron microscope

Nano carbon-tubes will one day
replace steel cables and open the way
for a space elevator to be built
First picture of an extra-solar planet
taken by the ESO VLT telescope.

Merger of two galaxies as seen
by the Hubble space telescope
The nuclear bombs were a culmination of a race between Nazi Germany and the USA, the later won that race and we know the conclusion of it, however bitter the taste of it I fear to think of what would have happened had the Rakshasa Hitler crossed the line first.

The nuclear tragedies of Fukushima and Chernobyl are a direct consequence of human error and deceit, not of scientific blindness. Humanity's growth and thirst of energy combined with the greed of corporations have lead to these accidents. The lessons learnt are precisely that these technologies cannot be entrusted into the hands of business corporations controled by capitalistic market demands. in fact I would advocate the need for such nuclear stations to be under the control of independent scientific bodies, devoid of financial and political pressures. However, the real solution will only come when we are able to master sustainable sources of energy such as solar, wind, tidal, bio-fuels and even fusion reaction. Again, all these coming out of the realm of scientific research.

Finally, to respond to the article's example of the Bhopal gas tragedy, it is again a direct consequence of corporate greed and our own governmental agencies incompetence for letting such a dangerous plant operate without the required safety norms (see the report in the link)

A good point

Science does not have all the solutions, we need to learn from our inheritance.

However, Mr Sukumaran (author of the Hindu article) makes a very valid point, and that is that as a collective human race we fail to learn the lessons of our ancestors. For this he quote the very pertinent words of an Americna-Indian chief 160 years ago, and I quote:
We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of a pony, and man, all belong to the same family. The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Chief Seattle, 160 years ago when his people were asked to leave their land now called Seattle
Mr Sukumaran makes the point that We have to learn precious lessons from tribal people on an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle. But we have only displaced them, damming their rivers in the name of the greater common good. He goes on to argue that in the name of the Greater Good, many of our leaders have done wrong to the country. This is a very interesting debate, one that I would not like to take a categoric stand, for I feel that there it is all a question of balance between the pressures for the need of progress and the importance of preserving our heritage, cultural, artistic, social, economic, and environmental.

The bottom line I feel, and I think is also one of the points made in the article, is that our actions and decisions needs to be made in the name of sustainability. Should the introspection of the proposed actions reveal to be measures unsustainable for the future, then we should abandon or plan a programmed phase out of the process.

But one thing is for sure, Science is fundamental in our quest for understanding but not an exclusive path.