Wednesday, May 16, 2007

b.s. from m & s

Here in Leeds, the LibDems are the same as anywhere else they get into power; they throw off their eco-talk and get stuck into anti-environmental corporate action. They wanted to use the Parks Regeneration budget to make a park into a car park! They - opposed by Labour, Green and even BNP alike - want to poison us with a rubbish incinerator.

The rubbish to landfill thing's an issue because of the Landfill Tax, designed to encourage councils to be more environmentally friendly. Building an incinerator reduces landfill but as an anti-environmental deed undermines the basic spirit of the Act. Why not try reducing truancy by closing down schools and sending kids up chimneys?

And these things pale beside the Leeds LibDems enormous drive for PFIing everything they can give away. They're giving us PFI schools with no kitchens! The meals are driven in every day from a company 80 miles away. As there's no kitchen, even if the school wanted to bring meals in-house in future, they couldn't.

To ensure that it's a waste of resources in every possible sense, the waste incinerator will, of course, be PFI too.

Still, there's something I rather like about my local LibDem councillor, David Morton. Not only is he the only councillor for the area who actually lives here, but he does an honest, open blog and isn't afraid of talking about his personal stuff or something way off-topic like Battlestar Galactica.

But he readily falls for corporate greenwash. He recently praised Marks & Spencer's Plan A ('because there is no Plan B').

It was the line 'I doubt whether Greenpeace and Jonathan Porritt lend there names to something lightly' that really made me put finger to keyboard.

(Is it cheating to take your Comments from another site and make them into a blog spot? Well, I've taken blogposts and made them into full-blown articles so I suppose it should be allowed to cut both ways. So here's what I said).

Greenpeace and Jonathan Porrit certainly do put their names to dodgy things. Check out this hefty article for Greenpeace, and as for Porritt's main organisation Forum For The Future, look at their partners list; RWE (largest CO2 emitter in Europe!) and several other major coal burners like E-On, plus BP, ICI, Unilever, British Cement Association, Tetrapak, Laing, GlaxoSmithKline, LandRover/Jaguar, Virgin Atlantic. Is there an ecocidal industry not represented?

Forum For A Future is there to make ecopolicy that business is happy with. It is not there to do anything that would seriously threaten profits, let alone challenge the suicidal policy of having economic growth as our top priority.

But anyway, on to the trip to M&S. The humous doesn't only have no indication of what food miles the ingredients have done. More importantly, it's refrigerated.

Just imagine how much energy you'd use if you left your freezer and fridge door open all the time. Now imagine having a fridge and freezer strong enough to stay at the required temperature, and heaters battling against them to keep your kitchen warm. Now multiply that by the size of the fridges and freezers in M&S or any other supermarket.

There is a technological solution to this; a wildly exciting new invention called the door. It can be made to any size to fit any fridge, and can even be made of glass so we can see what's inside.

According to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, shops use more energy per square metre than any other building. Why should a shop use seven times as much electricity as a local government office?

Because it blasts heaters on to the pavement at the entrance, aisles are lit to 1,000lux (about the same as a TV studio!), and counters up to 2,000lux.

But the big one - two-thirds of the electricity use - is refrigeration. Every open freezer uses about £15,000 of electricity a year. As they pay the bills, M&S undoubtedly know this. What are they doing about it? Nothing.

What are they doing instead to show their grasp of the scale and urgency of being sustainable? Encouraging 'bag for life' use, and 'aiming' (gotta love corporate use of that word) to reduce carrier bag use by 33% in the next three years.

There's a simple way to get people to use less bags; charge for them. In Ireland, a 10p tax has cut use overnight by 90% (more info here). But M&S aren't doing it.

Supermarkets are certainly not 'merely reflections of there customers wishes'; they move into places to corner a market; they display products and advertise to stimulate customers' desires.

If we just went to buy what we want, they wouldn't mind having glass doors that mist up on the fridges and freezers. But they need us to see the products as we walk past so we impulse buy. That's not responding to our wishes, it's creating them.

Indeed, if they merely responded to what we wanted, they wouldn't need to have sexy overpackaging.

That fresh bread smell? It's a chemical put in the air circulation system to make you feel hungry and buy more food.

M&S' Plan A is not them trying to be sustainable. It's them realising that we'll buy from them if they appear to be actively concerned.

Their first priority - enshrined in law - is to maximise shareholder dividends. For as long as appearing sustainable is cheaper than actually being sustainable, they'll just do the window dressing.

A supermarket that wanted to be sustainable would, at the very least and off the top of my head, not air freight anything in, would not be having any plastic wrapped meals (imagine if every meal on earth used that much packaging - it's inherently unsustainable and inequitable), would not have free carrier bags, would not import wine from outside Europe or beer from anywhere, and would be reducing its refrigerated sections to a fraction of what they are now with doors put on those that remain.

M&S know all that yet aren't doing any of it, so don't be fooled.

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