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Vance Packard’s consumerist utopia

You might not have heard of Vance Packard. He is not well known today, but in 1960 he wrote a book about the onset of consumerism called The Waste Makers. It describes the invention of planned obsolescence and decries the advent of a throwaway society with striking prescience. In the opening of The Waste Makers, […]

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Food waste and food loss

This week the World Bank has been highlighting the problem of food waste, reinforcing previous findings that between a quarter and a third of the world’s food is lost or wasted. I’ve written about this before, pointing out that this happens in developing countries as well as overconsuming Western ones. The World Bank report gives […]

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How Loowatt is rethinking the toilet

Last year I wrote about the importance of reinventing the toilet for the 21st century – the need for waste systems that recognise waste as a resource, that capture and recycle nutrients and don’t contaminate clean water. This weekend my mum, who is a dedicated Madagascar-watcher, introduced me to a great example of just such […]

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Four principles of the Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is an approach to industry that moves away from linear consumption and towards reuse. If you’ve heard the phrase and aren’t entirely sure what it means, here are four principles that explain the philosophy. A true circular economy is zero waste. Nothing is thrown away, because waste is designed out by making […]

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The People’s Design Lab

I’ve shared a few different sustainable design projects recently, the most recent being three different ways to make a toaster. There’s a real movement underway for ways to re-design things to design out waste, reuse materials and put whole product cycles on a sustainable footing. Usually this is the province of design studios and university […]

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Scotland investigates landfill mining

One of the signs of resource depletion is the development of unconventional alternative sources. As prices rise, more exotic forms of extraction become economically viable. In the case of oil, it’s now expensive enough to make deep water drilling and tar sands possible. The price of gas has spurred Japan to experiment with methane hydrates, […]

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Ecover’s recovered sea plastic packaging

I’ve written in the past about the continent-sized mass of floating plastic debris that circles in the Pacific ocean. There’s one in the Atlantic too, and three others. Each of them marks a confluence of sea currents, so floating waste accumulates there. Biodegradeable waste such as scrap wood will eventually rot away, but plastics just […]

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Saving the dark

I’d heard of nature reserves, marine reserves, and national strategic oil reserves. Dark reserves are a new one to me, but Britain got its second this month. Brecon Beacons National Park, in Wales, has just been declared an international dark sky reserve. It joins Exmoor National Park as the two places in Britain so far […]

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Waste and the definition of affluence

Yesterday’s post about waste was from a developing world point of view, but I read an interesting counterpoint last night. It’s from Mark Burch, writing on the idea of Sufficiency for the Simplicity Institute. “The very goal of consumer culture, which is universal affluence, ignores the definition of affluence which is ‘more than enough; abundance; […]

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Food waste in developing countries

The issue of food waste was in the news last week, after a report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers showed that up to 50% of the world’s food is wasted. We usually look at this from our own perspective, the amount we throw away as households and the behaviour of supermarkets. We feel guilty […]

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