Eco conditioner review

One of the things I’d like to do more of is product reviews with an eco focus.

I‘d also like to make this more of a video blog. Why? Because I don’t always have much time to write good articles and it is a relatively ‘quick’ way of generating content.

I say ‘quick’ because even a five minute video like this one takes about two or more hours to upload.

With all the depressing news lately, I believe it is very important to give credit to people who are trying to protect our environment. Not enough people do.

So without further ado, here is eco review #2!

If you are a manufacturer, markerter, retailer or distributor and you’d like me to do an eco focused review, I’m happy to do that. You may not get five stars, but you will get some free exposure!

Also, if you have suggestions for other eco product reviews, just drop me a line.

I often read reviews about eco products and reviewers often blindly miss the point. Particularly when reviewing electronic devices.

Such is the case with my next review: the Marley XLBT headphones.

Green economics

What is happening to the world?

In short, most people refuse to act, because they’re be too busy justifying their need for a high standard of living, blaming governments for the situation, & avoiding the underlying social & environmental crises. This sounds like an inescapable viscous cycle to me.

Yes its all been brought about by greedy 1st world nations. Blatant consumerism- which capitalises on the latest scientific advances and all the while fueled by governments who only think in short term economic gains. The first need is to communicate the problem. The next requirement is change. People are afraid of change, but to me it seems the world is changing for the worse anyway.

Anyone who has read Schumachers book “Small is beautful” will know that over the long term, what we are doing to planet Earth surely must be considered uneconomical. Are people so afraid of change now that they’re willing to bury their heads in the sand about the future repercussions? I think where we’re headed, the changes will be a lot more daunting than the thought of giving up our most prized possessions. Chaos will be surely covered in one of my future articles, but who wants to live in a world without nature?

TRADITIONAL ECONOMIC WORKING PRINCIPLE:

  • There is a general consensus that a fundamental source of wealth is human labour
  • Businesses & Governments maximise profit, consumption and therefore economic growth
  • Employers maximise labour effort (bosses expect their “pound of flesh”)
  • Employees minimise labour effort (to work is viewed as a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort; wages being a kind of compensation)

BUDDHIST ECONOMIC PRINCIPLE OF WORK:

  • Work gives each person a chance to utilise and develop their [unique] faculties
  • Work enables humans to overcome their ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task
  • Work provides the goods and services needed for a becoming existence [creativity activity is vital]

The former, in short, tries to maximise consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort, while the latter tries to maximise human satisfactions by the optimal pattern of consumption. It is easy to see that the effort needed sustain a way of life which seeks to attain the optimal pattern of consumption is likely to be much smaller than the effort needed to sustain a drive for maximum consumption.

It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them.

But what can we actually do about it? Firstly, don’t replace things before we need to; repair them if necessary, use them until they can no longer be repaired. Yes, there is some real satisfaction to be gained by owning things that last through time. Do we need the latest 3G phone or mobile electronic device? Buy services, not products.

Someone posted this on LinkedIn…

537068b5-4af5-4240-98a1-48af74d7ba46-large

And here is my internet response:

Nice looking car BUT it still has exhaust pipes. Why?

*glares at everybody in the room* [that’s right]

For fuck’s sake, companies were meant to be phasing out the internal combustion engine more than a decade ago. I know that is not what you want to hear, and actually I don’t enjoy speaking out, but honestly, someone has to. Because in today’s world, this is bullshit. You should not be allowed to even build a 503 horsepower car in the year 2016, let alone sell it.

It may *look* cool, but it is most definitely *not* cool. Do you want to know what I honestly think? I think that while it still has exhaust pipes, no combination of advertising, graphic design or industrial design can make it cool.

It’s like mechanical HDDs. We know the technology is all but dead, but people still buy them.

You can make the exterior as stylish as you want, but if there’s still a fucking combustion engine lurking in there somewhere underneath the bonnet (or wherever new place you want to put it), you –as customers– should all turn your fucking noses up at it. You should all turn your noses up in disgust. You should put on a posh voice and say “oh, darlings, exhaust pipes are so 1992 don’t you know?”.

Now, you don’t often see scientists speaking out on such matters. We tend to shut up and stay in our laboratories. Stuck behind all sorts of weird instrumentation and computer-controlled devices. And I’ll admit that most scientists have always traditionally appeared very uncool. We were usually the clever ones who were picked on most at school. As scientists, we might know a lot of shit, but the trouble is, we don’t have the power to actually persuade anyone of anything.

Well not this scientist. This scientist has also recently studied design. That’s what makes me ‘dangerous’. And among other things, design is most often used to pursuade people to buy new products and services. There’s a conundrum here though because this scientist has studied science before design. What difference does that make, you ask? It makes all the difference. It means to me, science will always drumpf design. Not the other way around.

I believe that scientists (and ex scientists for that matter, because I fall squarely into that category) all have a DUTY OF CARE to planet Earth, to call out whatever they see as unsustainable. Otherwise, you non-scientists would all be whinging in two hundred years time: “Why didn’t you tell us anything a hundred years ago? Why didn’t you warn us then?”.

Well we are warning you, now. We are all waving our fucking arms in the air effectively saying “Danger Will Robinson, danger! Climate emergency!”.

Here’s the thing: we can’t appear too emotional, because we’re scientists. It’s our job to be as unemotional and as Spock-like as humanly possible. Right? Otherwise our data, our results and conclusions may be biased by our mere ‘feelings’. And we just can’t have that. We have to be as objective as possible. So we usually keep ‘feelings’ out of it.

But I think this is actually half the reason people are still not listening to us — because there’s not enough emotion in our collective voices.

Jesus fucking Christ. What more do scientists need to do before the world starts getting it? DO YOU WANT US TO SHOUT? Do you want us to dance up and down? What!?

Now, I know that 7999 people will most probably not like my reply. But there will be a few wise ones that do like it. And gradually, I hope that small percentage goes up with time. That is the purpose of me speaking out. That is the purpose of this blog.

Here’s something manufacturers and industrial designers need to think more about: backlash on planned obsolescence.

If there’s one thing in this world that I can’t stand, it’s companies like Microsoft and Apple…

Who seem to make things go obsolete well before their time. And no one can tell them not to. They just keep getting away with it. Why? Probably because they make a lot of money getting away with it. That’s why.

But there are no laws to stop them getting away with it. And what this materials scientist thinks right now is “by fucken oath there should be [laws to stop them getting away with it]”. That is coming from an ex materials scientist. Right.


I think you all know what I am talking about. I’m talking about ‘old’ printers that don’t work with newer computers simply because the ‘drivers’ have ‘issues’ with the “operating system”. I’m talking about new software that won’t run on old hardware. I’m also talking about new hardware that won’t run old software. I’m talking about Apple’s proprietry connectors.

Let me tell you a little anecdote. I can even remember my dad saying about 15 or 20 years ago way back when I was a kid that Apple (you know, Macintosh it was once called) forced you to use their special cables and connectors, and thus were able to charge a premium.

At the time, I took what he said with a pinch of salt. I thought “well it’s their computer system, I suppose they would want to do that. Who can blame them?”. But now, fast forward twenty-odd years and my old man is dead [RIP, he died last year] and what he said to me in the 1990’s is looking even wiser now than it did when he said it all those years ago. Because it just so happens to be true. This man, my father, would be 90 years old if he were alive today. He was old but he knew something that I didn’t. That something is called ‘wisdom’ and all early adopters from what I’ve seen tend to suffer from a severe lack of it.

Back in the day, we used things called serial ports and parrallel ports to plug in our printers. So they got the information from one cable and they got their power from another completely separate cable. The thing is, they were slow. Really slow. But when USB came along, all those printers and mice and things became much less useful. The same thing happened to compact discs when Apple decided not to include a CD drives on their latest desktops.

People will always need to buy new peripherals to work with new plugs on their new computer system. That is now happening with USB-C connectors. Do you want to know what I think? I think USB C can go and get fucked, that’s what I think. All of my stuff (two external hard drives, external sound card for microphone, graphics tablet, mouse, wireless solar keyboard, external webcam, flash drives, the entire bloody lot is USB2 now isn’t it?). USB2 and it is plenty good enough. I’m sticking with it.

Yes, I’m talking about Apple ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack on it’s newest smartphone. Now, keep in mind that I don’t even own an Apple iphone. In fact I have never owned an Apple iphone. And here I am, compelled to write a blog article about how narky it makes me feel. Because knowing what I know, I probably won’t ever own an Apple iphone. I’m writing this from an imac retina. I don’t own an ipad. And right now, that is the way it is going to stay. After buying just one Apple product, I’m fast becoming anti-Apple. And the headphone jack decision is my last straw. It is the catalyst to me becoming “anti-Apple”.

So I’m going to just say it here in black and white. I’m going to share with all you strangers the reason it makes me so narky. Because this is my blog, my little ‘space’ and I can say pretty much whatever the hell I want. Right? There’s this thing called “free speech” in the West that not enough people take advantage of… this is vida enigmática… [Read more…]

Our environmental footprint

Most of the global economy is based on the idea of selling physical products. And if you’re not selling something yourself, your clients are people that do.

B I’ve noticed that in some environmental discussions and debates, Westerners automatically assume that their country is less polluting than poorer countries. I don’t think pointing the finger at China really helps. And here’s why:

I think our blatant consumerism in the West doesn’t compare favourably to the third world, because all of the things that we buy have a kind of “environmental footprint” if you like. And note that I’m not even really talking about CO2 emissions here (even though the US carbon emission per capita is 17.56 metric tons while that of China is ‘only’ 6.19 metric tons per capita). Carbon is not the only element on the periodic table although it is the one that goes into the atmosphere more than the others.

If China pollutes rivers or whatever making loads of stuff for the West, who is really doing (causing) the polluting? The chinese manufacturers? Or is the Western consumer demand for those products ultimately to blame?

My main backround if materials science. One of the more eye-opening subjects I found out about (in terms of environmental degradation) is called “extractive metallurgy”. Extractive metallurgy is the study of chemical processes that we use to extract an refine metals from their ores. Basically, in a nut shell, all materials have to come from somewhere. Ususally it’s either the Earth’s crust itself or sea water.

In most of the processes, you need either need huge amounts of electricity and/or high temperatures and/or huge amounts of other chemicals to obtain the desired elements and/or compounds.

For example, here is just one of the many steps in the refinement of germanium:

GeO2 + 4 HCl → GeCl4 + 2 H2O

In this step, the reactive gas chlorine is being used to make germanium more reactive. So chlorine, which is toxic, is used in one of the processes to extract the element germanium from its oxide. Okay.

And here is just one of the steps in tellurium refinement:

HTeO−3 + OH + H2SO4 → TeO2 + SO2−4 + 2 H2O

In this step, sulfuric acid is being used to make tellurium more reactive. Okay.

And where are germanium and tellurium being used you ask? They are two semiconductors that are the basis for integrated circuits and other electronic components in all sorts of electronic devices. Not so good.

In fact, many other nasty chemical compounds are used in the extraction, refinement and manufacturing industries. Many others.

I’m not 100% sure, but I think the worst offenders are the electronic consumer devices, simply because they contain the most number of hard-to-extract elements. The harder-to-extract elements require more chemical treatment steps. That’s just one of the reasons why they these elements are so expensive (not just that they’re rare). In fact I can probably go so far as to invent a new theory, which goes something like this: “the higher the unit price of an element, the more damaging its extraction process is to the environment.” But I digress…

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of chemical elements used in computers and extracting them from the ground and processing them taxes the environment (especially when you consider all of the planned obsolesence we see today). Our current way of life creates more and more electronic waste that cannot be recovered or recycled (except perhaps the gold bits)

I recently asked a few questions on Quora and I’d like to share those questions and answers with you now. Listed here are some of the toxic chemicals and semiconductors that are used in electonic decices. Go on, take a look. Can you begin to see how big the problem is now?

The point is, nasty chemicals are used at all steps of the extraction and refinement process. We just don’t ever see them being used in industry. Oh but they’re there alright. They’re being used all the time.

Suffice it to say that if Westeners think they pollute the Earth less than a typical 3rd-worlder, in my eyes, they are sorely mistaken. [Read more…]

The problem with science

I think the problem is not with science, but with the entire 1st world civilisation.

Science is great and I don’t fundamentally disagree with any of it – but it doesn’t have any guiding moral or ethical principles. One problem with science right now is that scientists invent things without thinking through all of the possible consequences. And then some kind of “revenge effect” inevitably bites them in the arse later on down the track.

Another big problem is that businesses can take hold of any scientific discoveries and innovations they feel like and just exploit them for all they are worth.

So we know that this society will all too willingly absorb any new scientific knowledge into profitable new enterprises. Well ok – not so big a deal you might say – and it’s not. That’s the benefit of science. Right? Yes.

But then when those same scientists turn around and say: “No, now you are all going to have to change the way you do things, because we’ve figured out that this is not a sustainable industry” or “it turns out there’s this horrible side-effect”, no one listens. Not the people working for the industries, nor the people buying products from whatever those industries happen to sell.

So basically everyone is using the results of science whenever it suits them, and they are not heeding many of the warnings that science is giving…

People willingly accept, take and use the scientific discoveries. But the very same people never as willing to relinquish those very same inventions. Are they? [Read more…]

Message to the beauty industry

Someone recently wrote this on LinkedIn. And I think it is because of some of the more ‘critical’ things that people are writing on there. Here is what was said about us:

I am not sure that calling consumers vain, stupid or irresponsible is going to win hearts and minds. Many consumers will use these products to address real dermatological issues such as adult acne – if you’ve never suffered from it you are very, very lucky. It is not vanity to want to present yourself to the world blemish free.

Raise awareness, educate and inspire to use natural products like crushed apricots etc but as any parent, spouse, manager or mentor knows, constant streams of negativity do not win respect, admiration or a desire to follow/change.

I have taken a while to respond to your reply. Because I was thinking about how best to do that. Firstly, it’s not just consumers that are being “vain, stupid or irresponsible”, it’s the businesses that are as well! Perhaps ignorance is a better word to describe it?

Firstly, from a materials point of view, I do not understand why anyone would want *additional* exposure to synthetic polymers. Plastics frequently contain plasticisers and half of those are known to be carcinogenic… we touch plastic items all day long and I for one don’t think it is all that good for us.

Okay, so many plastics do not contain plasticisers you might say. Well here is something else that people should know more about. (antimony (III) oxide is used as a catalyst in the production of PET)

So yes, if you eat fish, or indeed any food that comes from an ocean and you use creams containing microbeads, and those same microbeads are found in one-third of fish that are being caught around the world, yes you are being kind of stupid. Sorry, but you are. I think all ecologists would probably agree with me on that one (because they cannot be considered good for the environment). Microbeads that is, not ecologists. Some things just need to be said. [Read more…]

Best Printers for Publishing Card-Stock & Other Substance

Interaction is obviously one of many http://essay-company.co.uk/ most important and critical tactical aspects of an organization’s success. You could have most impressive products or the most effective or services, if your interior and external communications are poor, then a need for your products or services improves a personal banner of concern. When interacting the worth of services or your products, you would like to focus on how they will reward your clients. [Read more…]

Be the change you want to see in the world.

There’s a lot of pessimism at the moment about our long term future. Will we still be here in a 100 years’ time? 1,000? 10,000?

It’s clear that we need some pretty significant changes if we’re going to survive as a species for that amount of time…

What do most people do about it? They go home and watch TV because they’re depressed about the whole predicament. I’m not even going to label the problems. But my point is that most people distract themselves any way they see fit. They fall into the trap of hopelessness. They end up doing jack shit. In short, they don’t change. [Read more…]

What is wrong with society today?

I was writing an e-mail today regarding a new illustration commission I received from the biodiversity alliance. I got a little side-tracked and this article is what came of it, although the illustration below is one I prepared earlier.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2016. All rights reserved.

Yes we dance around and laugh and joke… at our peril. That is what we are doing as a civilisation. I do not think we should even have fireworks and such wasteful things unless we are meeting our targets for global emissions reductions (for example).

I’m not saying that it’s not worth talking about on your website, I just think that people have no choice left but to try to be happy and not get too sad about the state of the world… otherwise look at you and me… I suffer from chronic depression. I am sure that many other clever people suffer from clinical depression too. It is only by working at what we know is right in our hearts that we can feel better about what we are doing for the world. So I believe we must “be the change we want to see in the world”, be a part of the solution, not be a part of the problem. And to make it so that what we think, what we believe and what we do are all aligned. Otherwise, we are only fooling ourselves…

So yes unfortunately people are definitely “having fun while we roast ourselves.” But do we really want people to be miserable about our situation instead of ‘happy’? Miserable & depressed people probably cannot adjust and react to challenges as fast as happy people.

I think many older people are just “making the best of it” in the face of so many daunting challenges (and they really are and it is enough to make me not want to have children). I think a lot of young people are massively depressed because half of the older generation is still telling them what to do the old way based on the industrial model of business (sell more stuff, buy stuff because it is good for the economy, and money = happiness) and they are being simultaneously bombarded with mixed messages about the climate but I think many of them are feeling completely helpless. They are getting mixed messages (consumerism vs environment) and we are mostly stuck.

I think one of the reasons that the adolescent suicide rate has gone up is because of this (my sister who is a secondary high school teacher has told me so directly). I don’t think young people do all these ‘bad’ things intentionally; they behave how they were taught to behave, how society brought them up. I never questioned or considered the environment until year 9 general studies class. And then I heard about all these problems the world was facing essentially all at once…

One other problem is that the older generation is half-expecting that the younger generation will somehow come to the rescue and “save the planet”. How is that going to happen when the exact same mentality is being passed on? How is that going to happen when older politicians and wealthy people are essentially in charge? I think it is us older people who need to change first because all children naturally learn from role models. [Read more…]

Why do you buy?

Just a few decades ago, the reason we gave to buy something new was because our product simply broke and it could no longer be repaired. So we had to replace it. Fast forward to today, and we find that many products are no longer repairable because to do so is deemed ‘uneconomical’. These days, the art of repair seems to be all but completely forgotten.

Not too long ago, when we needed to replace something, sometimes we could even replace it with an identical model. How many times does that happen today? Never. Why? Because even if we wanted to, a product’s life cycle is so short that it is no longer possible to buy the exact same item even only 1 or 2 short years later.

Nowadays we have to buy a completely new replacement product. We have no choice. We can’t buy the same item even if we wanted to! We’re increasingly forced to live in a more ‘disposable’ world!

But what about our environment? Redesigns require more design time, new moulds and new machinery. Redesigns require new instructions, new packaging.

I am going to argue here and elsewhere that all product cycles which are shorter than necessary are sheer environmental folly. I am going to argue that product cycles need to be much longer, that the products themselves should be user-serviceable wherever possible and that replacement parts should be freely available (and for a very reasonable cost).

I think product designers have a special ethical obligation to design for the long-term not the short term. Just because you can create something new doesn’t mean that it is any good. I believe that a great design will stand the test of time. I believe that customers will return to reliable, trustworthy brands –even decades later– provided that their products have been shown to endure.

And I think consumers have an equally special ethical obligation to keep things for as long as possible. Not only is this much better for the environment, but I think we’d actually be happier for it because we’d get more satisfaction buying things that we actually need, when we need to. I almost never throw something out because I get bored with it. I always try to find a new home for my old products. I’m hoping that you will too.

You might complain that the cost of a new replacement battery or charger or whatever hardly makes it worth your while. “…for only 15 dollars more I can get a brand new XYZ…”, I hear you say. The reason for that is partially because of supply and demand. If more people bought just the replacement parts instead of the whole darn new thing, the cost of the replacement bits would surely plummet, due to the economies of scale.

What is the environmental cost of consumerism?

“We’re very very disconnected from what we consume. So because of the widening degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed we no longer have any real appreciation for the embodied energy, the embodied destruction, the embodied suffering that goes in to every stage of the supply chain in the things we buy.” — Mark Boyle

I‘m sure that most consumers don’t care less what chemical elements are used in the manufacture of all the products that they buy. I’m talking about all the elements and compounds required to make all of these products function like they do. But consumers should care. We should care about what products are made of, what they are made from.

But with things like consumer electronic devices, customers simply don’t think about their ‘ingredients’ much. I think the problem with this world today is that consumers don’t question the true origin of synthetic materials, let alone how they are extracted and processed.

I think people really need to wake up and ask where their materials are coming from, learn about all the many processing steps each material requires (extraction, refinement, manufacturing, production) and also ask what happens to all these materials at the end of the product’s life. In many cases, even with recycling of plastic/paper/metal, the majority of materials on the periodic table aren’t being recycled and are ending up in landfill (and/or the ocean).

I think each product sold should have an ‘ingredients’ label showing exactly what materials are in it. That way, people could [eventually] reference which materials have the highest ecological impact…

The obvious exception is of course food. Wherever food is concerned, then consumers quite rightly want to know what they are consuming. We want to know all the food ingredients. We want to know what we put into our bodies.

[Read more…]

Where do you want to go today? [Windows upgrade psychology]

A few days ago I received yet another persistent reminder to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. So I thought I’d share some insights from a long-time windows user. Here is my open letter to Microsoft.

Dear Microsoft,

It all began with that nagging little popup thingo at the bottom right of my computer screen. I don’t know about the other X00 million people, but I personally found that so annoying I soon disabled it. As soon as I realised it wasn’t going to disappear on it’s own. As soon as I saw the pattern. Why did I do that? I did it because I know that it was far easier than upgrading the whole OS.

There’s a famous quote about lazy people at Microsoft:

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”– Bill Gates

Now you have taken to my inbox. Several times in fact. Humans are good at recognising patterns, aren’t they? I’m sorely tempted to label your email ‘spam’, because I don’t recall signing up to any email newsletters about Windows upgrades. What’s next? Are you going to be pestering people to upgrade with facebook and twitter? I really don’t think you should do that. Trust me.

Yes we are busy people. Some of us do need reminders. But what about people with good memories? Do you think we have forgotten about your kind offer? Or are you lumping us all in with the forgetful ones? Thanks. [Read more…]

The ultimate rant from an environmentalist.

So I was signing a whole bunch of petitions on care2 just now and came across this text written by a man named John Smith, which was left as a comment!

I don’t believe in any form of god, but I think this man is at his wit’s end already and I know exactly how he feels. I thought I’d save it for the sake of posterity, and to hopefully encourage some of you [Read more…]

What you don’t have you don’t need it now.

How often have you bought something expensive only to want to replace it with something else –something even pricier– within a very short period of time? In short, you’re no longer satisfied with what you have. You want more. You want to maximise.

OOriginally people used to buy higher-priced quality items because they last longer than poorly-made, cheaper items. So the idea was that we’d spend more in the short term but less over the long term. Which is great because buying something that lasts longer it makes more economical and ecological sense. We never used to purchasing a replacement item solely because it was an “improved” model. Originally, we paid for quality items because they added some kind of value to our lives.

Now you may think all of the vendor’s products are so good, that you want to buy more than one model, so that you can choose which one to use based on your personal preference that particular day. A bit like the Thunderbirds — they had a fantastic selection of transport vehicles to choose from, didn’t they?

Usually you feel strangely compelled to buy something new because the new product is bigger, better, faster, more accurate, has more features, contains more memory, is smaller and lighter, stronger or more fashionable. Brands have become so strong today that we start to define our own identity by them; we associate with some brands and not others.

But where exactly did we go so wrong? We hardly even question anymore whether we really need the new item — we buy it because we can. We buy it because it’s fun. We also buy it because our government tells us that buying things is “good for the economy”.

Most people don’t even give so much as a second thought about throwing out something that still functions. These days, things become superceded or obsolete at crazy rate.

[Read more…]

Why humans are stuffed.

Many people consume so much more than they really need to make themselves ‘happy’. Worse, we all know this and we all just keep on buying more stuff anyway, don’t we? As if somehow our world can be fixed by purchasing something else. The cycle is like watching a depressed alcoholic try to cure his problem with more even more alcohol…
Photography by Kate Betty Smith
Photography by Kate Betty Smith

No matter what anyone tells you, half of the bloody reason we are in so much shit in the first place is because [Read more…]