written by john lewis

Environment Category Archive

Introducing AcornHq

A couple of months ago I left my position at Ponoko, handing over to the highly capable Josh (aka Mr Judkins). It was quite emotional leaving Ponoko, *sniff*. We were in Argentina at the time and Sarah suggested it would be a good idea to take a couple of months off once we got to London.

“And do what exactly?” I said.

“Whatever you want!” came the rather apt reply…

I got to chew on that chestnut while we continued traveling around Argie. The two big reaffirmations for were: 1) I love the web, still… and 2) I love to create. Then I had an idea I knew I wanted to work on followed by another and another.

So here’s the first, AcornHq:


AcornHq is, in a sentence, a carbon offset site for iPod and iPhone users.

At the very core the idea was to promote more environmentally responsible gadget ownership. To start with this means we provide an easy way for people to offset the carbon associated with their iPod or iPhone.

We all love our iPods and iPhones but they do have a very real cost to the environment. Carbon is emitted when your iPod is manufactured, when your iPod is transported from the factory to you, and when you use power to recharge your iPod. How that power is generated to recharge your iPod also has a huge impact. Think hydro vs. coal…

So you come to AcornHq and join a tree by purchasing a leaf, for US$3.50. Once all the leaves on that tree have been taken, we plant a tree in the South Island to offset those iPods. Trees being most excellent at extracting and absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

You can then place your tree on your website and watch it fill up with leaves as more people join it. Also, when the trees we plant reach the end of their life, the plan is for any timber produced by the trees to go into community housing projects.

This is just the start and I’m quite excited about everything else to follow but do have a look and let me know what you think!

A big public thank you to my lovely wifey for helping me wrap my brain around this idea and asking the hard but essential questions. Thanks to Olmec Sinclair too for his hard work which has ultimately allowed me to realise this idea.

This is the first of (what I hope will be) three or four wee projects you’ll see from me in the next couple of months.

P.S. Argentina has to be one of the most insanely great countries in the world, you really should go visit. It’s a total Lovemark for me – hope to go back to live one day.

Posted in: Apple, Environment, Web, Work

75 grams of fat… and 75 grams of carbon

I’m more than a little giddy to see this appear on the Celsias blog:

Carbon Labelling is Born into the World
A humble packet of crisps has apparently become the first product in the world to have a genuine CO2 label.

In December I posted about food labelling with regard to the environment and so I’m very happy and encouraged to see it happening. This is huge, I hope we see more of it!

Posted in: Environment

More debate, and more information

Following on from my post the other day on the effect cows have on our environment I’ve been thinking more about food miles or, probably more accurately, food environmental cost.

Maybe we need, as consumers, some way of comparing apples with apples when making our purchasing decisions. Just as we need to be more aware of nutritional information with our expanding waistlines, we need to be more aware of the cost to the environment of our food.

Without much educated knowledge on the subject, I believe there are two key components. The cost of actually creating and producing the food in terms of emissions AND the cost of transporting the food to the consumer.

Logic would state that local food is good for the environment because it requires less transport to reach you (which is bad for the environment). But it’s not as simple as that which is why an index or exact figure amount on packaging (like calories or fat) would be so important.

There has been some press lately in the UK about the logic and cost in importing food items like kiwifruit from countries on the other side of the world, such as NZ with the term food miles bandied about a lot.

Our trade and industry groups were quick to point to reports such as Lincoln University’s own Comparing Energy/Emmision Performance [PDF 343KB] which refuted a lot of those claims. It reasons that, taking into consideration the amount of energy needed to produce and ship the food, it was more efficient for NZ to produce items like sheepmeat and apples and then ship them to the UK than it was for the UK to produce them itself. In the case of sheepmeat, we are 4 times more efficient.

Imagine another scenario as a UK consumer who wanted to be environmentally conscious deciding to buy locally grown tomatoes rather than cheaper imported Spanish tomatoes. However, in winter, the more environmentally friendly option would be to buy the Spanish tomatoes as they have a lower cost to the environment than local greenhouse-grown tomatoes.

foodlabel.gif If we had, as consumers, a way of quickly making a comparison and decision based off a number figure or index we’d be a lot closer to becoming more responsible consumers. How it would exactly work is another seperate problem and as always any system is able to be abused and misused. But would it be insane to imagine it working something like this?

Posted in: Environment

Something I’d like to see more debate on

I was reading the NZ Herald yesterday and came across an article titled Cows , not cars, top threat to environment, says UN report.

Some key takeways:

Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.

[Growing meat and everything it entails] produces 9 per cent of all emissions of carbon dioxide

their wind and manure emit more than one third of emissions of another, methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide.

It makes for interesting (and possibly shocking) reading for those of you who, like me, are starting to become more aware of environmental issues from a personal level. The big question for me that comes directly from the article is Will I create a more positive impact on the environment if I choose not to eat beef or drink cow’s milk than if I sold my car?

There seems to be a focus on transport as the main culprit and the key to solving climate change. Whether that is an accurate reflection of the work, research, and literature on climate change, I don’t know. But I definitely feel it from the (sensationalist) media and the general public.

It also makes me wonder about opponents to the colloquially known “Fart Tax” and whether facts like these were included in the debate – I somehow doubt it. As a nation of 10 million cows we need to get real about the actual cost of producing and consuming our bovine friends.

I don’t for a second believe that the answer is to kill all cows or any suggestion like that. As Al Gore said rather eloquently towards the end of An Inconvenient Truth, the answer lies in making savings and efficiencies in everything across the board rather than searching for that one single silver bullet. If we can reduce the effect cows are having on our environment through smarter and more realistic consumption then we will find ourselves much closer to the goal of reducing emmissions to pre-gluttonous levels.

And hey, we might find people have a few less heart attacks as a result. :) We definitely need to see more debate on this.

Update: Catching up on RSS feeds I see the Celsias blog has already talked about cows :)

Posted in: Environment