Monthly Archives: March 2013

Convenient, ethical, affordable produce?

I have been looking for a while now for the easiest way to switch my grocery shopping from one of the big two (Coles and Woolworths) to some of the smaller grocery stores around Melbourne that hopefully will have a better way of operating which isn’t hurting Australian farmers.

I think I’ve found it.

For a very similar price I can get my groceries delivered, with minimal packaging (no plastic bags and a reusable wooden crate to deliver the groceries) and a much fairer buying practise from the farms which grow the food.

I will do a comparison over the next few days once my food arrives, for the moment I am excited at the idea that I can easily steer clear of supporting Australia’s supermarket duopoly.

I was reminded of something I read some time ago that was written by William Schulz, the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, a group that works for people imprisoned for their beliefs. He said: ” I think we who work for justice and come face to face regularly with its negation are at risk of losing that which animates all healthy beings: the capacity to respond to the graciousness draping the world in colors vivid and electric, the warmth of the sun, a lover’s touch. If we neglect to notice these, why attend to anything else? E.B.White said, “every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day.” But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.

Essentially 3 awesome quotes mixed together, if my sources are correct they are the thoughts of Mary Spilde, William Schulz and E.B White. I hope by posting this it becomes useful to somebody

Consumers Have Power

Today I was researching into why Starbucks didn’t become a success in Australia in the way that it did/is in America. Their implementation of their stores around Melbourne was flawed, evident by the way they closed down a lot of their outlets.

 Some say the reason why they failed is because they used the same business model that they used in America for here. Melbourne has a rich coffee culture and the low-quality low-strength sugary syrupy coffee of Starbucks just didn’t fit in with what the people here really wanted.
Another reason could be that they opened a lot of stores around the place in a short amount of time, and some Melbournians felt Starbucks were forcing themselves onto them through the great number of large shops. 
The point that I want to make is that it was people like us, the consumers, who shut down this big business by not buying their product. Everytime you buy something your money is like a vote, for whatever you buy, and against whatever you don’t. 
 It’s good to keep this in mind. 

The Story of Electronics

Another great video on electronics and its impact, a must watch!!!

The Story of Electronics employs the Story of Stuff style to explore the high-tech revolution’s collateral damage—25 million tons of e-waste and counting, poisoned workers and a public left holding the bill. Host Annie Leonard takes viewers from the mines and factories where our gadgets begin to the horrific backyard recycling shops in China where many end up. The film concludes with a call for a green ‘race to the top’ where designers compete to make long-lasting, toxic-free products that are fully and easily recyclable.

Story of Bottled Water with Annie Leonard

A must watch video on bottled water!!!!

The Story of Bottled Water, released on March 22, 2010 (World Water Day) employs the Story of Stuff style to tell the story of manufactured demand—how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. Over five minutes, the film explores the bottled water industrys attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces.

The film concludes with a call to take back the tap, not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.

Our production partners on the film include five leading sustainability groups: Corporate Accountability International, Environmental Working Group, Food & Water Watch, Pacific Institute, and Polaris Institute.

The Beggar

Today, as I walked home from having dinner out with friends, it started to rain really hard. Not only that, the wind made it nearly impossible to stay dry. The cold air chilled me, leaving me shivering while trying in vain to cover myself from the downpour with my little umbrella. As I walked briskly through the rain, I noticed an old lady, dressed in black, sitting on the ground with a hat laying upturned in front of her. This woman is a beggar. I’ve seen many beggars like her, sitting with their eyes to the ground, in this place. But for some reason, I felt moved to help her. Maybe it was the cold rain or the fact that we’ve been trying to make a difference in the world through our actions, I can’t be sure, but what I do know is I felt a strange sympathy for this woman.

Usually, I would just walk quickly past the beggars, not giving them a second glance. But this time, I felt differently. I placed a couple of dollars in her hat as she thanked me excitedly. I was glad to be able to help a bit, but saddened by the realisation that I don’t know what’s going to happen to this woman after tonight. I don’t know if she’ll have a safe place to sleep tonight. I don’t know if she’ll be able to get a hot meal soon. I don’t even know her name, but I know I care about her well being.

Growing up in Asia, we were taught not to give change to beggars because they were usually controlled by a syndicate which would purposely cripple the beggars in order to gain sympathy. They would go as far as kidnapping children, cutting off a limb or two, and make them beg for money. We were told that the money given to these beggars would go as quickly as it came into the syndicates pockets. And the little money the beggars do get to keep, goes to harmful causes like drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. So how can we help these beggars?

There are beggars everywhere, even in Melbourne. Though the poor are certainly more numerous in developing countries, each nation has its share of beggars. My question is how do we help them, not just for a day or a week, but for the rest of their lives? How can we enable them to have a better living condition? We can’t keep doling out money, so how then can we improve their lives?

All these questions came just from encountering about one poor old lady. It’s amazing how one lady can effect me, hopefully for the better, if I just choose to be open to the world of activism.

words@bld.50: Saying no to the prima dona | Soumitri Varadarajan| Thursday 5 April 2012

Some time back I spoke at a pubic event – this is the blurb and link to that event.

It was 1994. I take up an academic position.

I declare that from that point on I would not design products.

(How does one continue as an Industrial Designer without designing objects?)

I rationalised that Brundtland had a fundamental flaw and was speaking only to the designers of objects. I have since disagreed with the fundamental position that there is any point in ecodesign or in making objects more sustainable. (In Portugal in 2000 I said Ecodesign was dead). There is no point in the cultural project of sustainable consumption.

It is possible to say no to consumption. There are more worthwhile causes and more meaningful projects for design people to engage in than the indulgence in the joy of refashioning artefacts for human consumption.

I have not designed an ‘object’ since 1994. I have no use for the black shirt!

Thursday 5 April. start. Gold coin donation

RMIT building 50, Orr Street, Carlton. (Off Victoria Street between Lygon and Cardigan Sts.)

Formally known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), the Brundtland Commission’s mission is to unite countries to pursue sustainable development together.

via words@bld.50: Saying no to the prima dona | Soumitri Varadarajan| Thursday 5 April 2012.

via words@bld.50: Saying no to the prima dona | Soumitri Varadarajan| Thursday 5 April 2012.