Arrg kxrrt!

Blog : Posts tagged with 'public relations'

*

Greenwash

In which we consider how to package coffee sustainably


When I was growing up, back in the heyday of capitalism, “caring for the environment” was seen as a bit of a fringe activity. In school, we were all taught how important it was; but in the real world, nobody really paid much attention.

Fast forward to today: companies are falling over themselves to be Environmental, and to show that they Care with big green hugs, pretty flowers and all that. But in many cases this is pure greenwash: an attempt to look caring because they know that caring sells, because ticking the “environmental!” box makes their company look good. Look at the details, and there’s often no real benefit.

One advert that’s been out recently has been particularly annoying us. Kenco, who make reasonably tasty coffee, but whose advertising campaign is annoying, silly, and patronising. “We tried using 100% less packaging,” they lie, “but it didn’t work. So we’re using 97% less packaging instead.”

All well and good: less packaging equals less materials used equals less weight equals less fuel used in distribution. Sounds nice, on the surface. If you look at it with a longer-term eye, though, things aren’t quite so clear-cut. The traditional packaging, as you probably know,* was: glass jars. One of the oldest packaging forms there is, and one of the greenest. It’s so easy to recycle that we’ve been recycling it ever since it was first invented; all you do is clean it and melt it. OK, there was a period of 200 years or so when we didn’t bother; but glass recycling was one of the first forms of recycling to be widespread in this country in the modern period. Even back in the days when, as I said, I was growing up and nobody really worried too much about the environment, we would still take a trip to the village “bottle bank” once a week. I loved to take each jar from the bag, and jump up to get it in the hole, trying to get as loud a smash as I could.**

What have Kenco replaced their glass jars with? Plastic packets. What’s the recyclability of plastic packets in this country? Virtually nil. Can you reuse them for anything? Virtually nothing. So, we go from glass jars which can be easily reused or recycled, to plastic packets which are useless after you get them home, and have to go for landfill. Change in packaging weight: a 97% drop. Change in waste produced: an increase of enormous proportions. Not quite such a good-looking result. Moreover, glass is made from sand, of which there’s no great shortage; plastic is made from oil, which is getting harder and harder to find. Oh dear.

The big disadvantages of glass packaging, of course, are weight and bulk. Less packaging weight means lower transport costs, and less fuel used. Yes, true, this is a good thing for the environment. It’s even better for Kenco, though. I suspect there’s one single big purpose behind this change: cutting Kenco’s transport costs. Their purpose in the world, after all, isn’t to heal the environment, and it isn’t even to make reasonable-tasting coffee. It’s to make money for their owners, by a) selling more coffee and b) lowering the cost of producing that coffee. Trying to persuade us that their cost-cutting is good for the environment will, I assume, help them sell more coffee to some people. In the long run, though, it’s a much less sustainable way to package. It’s not really as good for the environment, as they’d like us to think.

* and still being produced, of course

** And that’s not counting glass milk bottles and fizzy drink bottles, sold on deposit and reused many times over by the manufacturers since, ooh, the railways first came along and made large-scale distribution practical.

No comments yet. »

Keyword noise: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

*

Density

In which we double-check Heather Mills’s numbers


I’m not one to care about celebrities, and so I don’t write celebrity stories on here. So think of this, instead, as a maths story.

Heather Mills-McCartney. You know who I mean: the famous amputee who will soon be rich enough that she won’t ever have to work again, thanks to her upcoming divorce. You’ve also probably heard about her going mad on telly a few days ago. In which she said, specifically, that she’s been hounded by the tabloids for 18 months, and had 4,400 abusive articles published about her.

Let’s just assume for a minute that she’s implying all of those articles appeared in that 18-month period. That’s about 550 days.* Or, in other words, 8 newspaper articles per day. In Britain there are 5 papers that are definitely tabloids, plus another couple that are, well, rather mad and right-wing. If she was only referring to British papers, then she’s claiming that every “tabloid” newspaper** had an article about her every single day, and that all of those articles were abusive. Now that really would be obsessive.

I’m not exactly surprised that her PR agent resigned very quickly. He was probably sitting, with his head in his hands, moaning softly to himself. “Heather! Heather! Don’t you realise how much work I did, to get all that lot published!”

* I’m assuming she didn’t mean 18 months to the day

** It’s a difficult term now there are a couple of serious newspapers that are tabloid-sized. I’m being charitable to The Times here, you understand

No comments yet. »

Keyword noise: , , , , , , , , ,

*

Maybe things are changing, after all

In which politics might actually be looking up


When yesterday I wrote that everything was changing in politics, I was being largely sarcastic. I didn’t realise, though, that some things have changed slightly, in a small way.

A while back – over a year ago, in fact – I wrote about one of the things I hate about modern politics: the fact that all speeches, all announcements, are leaked to the press, trailed in advance, revealed to the papers, so that no political announcement, when it comes, is ever a surprise if you’ve been listening to the news. If you’re going to do that, why bother to do the speech at all?

Well, the other day, the new Prime Minister gave his first speech in Parliament since getting the job. And noone, other than the government, knew what was going to be in it. It’s a small step, and I’m not suddenly going to start loving politicians because of it. It’s a start, though, and it’s in the right direction.

No comments yet. »

Keyword noise: , , , , , ,

*

It’s Only Natural

In which we are careful not to confuse “natural” and “beneficial”


Two things struck me about the coverage yesterday of Patricia Tabram‘s drugs conviction. Tabram, in case you didn’t see the news, is the Northumberland woman convicted of growing cannabis for medical reasons. She likes to claim that her conviction is part of a grand struggle for rights, like the right of everyone to vote, which is over-egging her pudding a little. She’s certainly been using her conviction as part of a broad political campaign,* but that’s about as far as the similarities go.

Anyway, interviewed on Radio 4 last night, she said something along the lines of: cannabis is good medicine because it’s natural. Prescription drugs are not because they’re full of chemicals.** Which, of course, is a load of nonsense. Some people like to use the word “chemicals” as if it’s some dark, lurking evil, and like to imply that anything grown on a plant is healthy and implicitly Good For You. Despite this, you rarely find them tucking into a nice meal of potato fruit and yew berries.*** How many different chemicals are in your average pill? A handful. How many different chemicals are in a marijuana leaf? Thousands.

Tabram also said that prescription medicine made her feel suicidal, but cannabis had no side-effects at all. That’s her experience, though. Everyone has different side-effects to any sort of drug, “natural” or otherwise; I’ve known several people who have had bad psychological reactions to cannabis. It may be relatively innocuous, but just because you’re fine with it doesn’t mean the person next to you will be. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.

* Standing against Peter Hain at the last general election, appearing on the telly a lot, trying to get people to call her “the cannabis gran”, that sort of thing. I had second thoughts about mentioning her here, because I don’t like giving publicity to publicity-seekers, but frankly this blog is a drop in the ocean.

** Not her exact words, but that was the message she was trying to give.

*** I shouldn’t need to say this, but potato fruit are rather poisonous, and yew seeds are very poisonous indeed.

One comment. »

Keyword noise: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

*

Expectation and deviation

In which we know what people are going to say


Today, in the news, reports will be released stating that the July 7th attacks* were not preventable.

That in itself stirs up all sorts of thoughts and feelings, but I don’t want to write about those just now. What I want to talk about is the phrase there “will be released”. The habit people have of saying: “later, I’m going to tell you this

When I say “people”, I don’t mean ordinary people, of course. It’s something I mostly notice politicians doing, but I presume they were poked into it by their PR people. I’m sure that companies also send out press releases saying “later, we’re going to tell you this“, but when ordinary companies do it it doesn’t make the news.

I’m sure there was a time when people listened with bated breath to, say, the keynote speech at a party conference, waiting together to hear it for the first time. Nowadays, though, it doesn’t happen – the synopsis, or at least the speech itself, is always released beforehand. Nothing is a surprise, because everyone watching already knows what the speaker is going to tell them – it was on that morning’s news. This is, I think, yet another reason why the ordinary public cares less and less about politics.** There’s no real reason to do it, given the speed of modern newsgathering. The only reason it’s done as standard, I suspect, is that most publically-visible politics*** now is just another branch of PR, and putting out a synoptic press release in advance is standard PR practice.

It’ll never happen, but I just wish that for once, a politician would get up on stage, in front of the autocue, and say: “This morning, all the news reports said I was going to tell you X, Y and Z. Well, I’m not. That’s all nonsense, in fact; I just wanted to make sure all the correspondants listen to my speeches properly in future. What I’m actually going to talk about is…” It may never happen, but it would be wonderful if it did.

* “attacks” is such a nice euphemism for “death and destruction caused by psychotically religious madmen”, don’t you think?

** The Budget is one of the last big speeches or reports not to be released to the press in advance – and that may be partly why it’s still the biggest political event of the year.

*** Most consultation and bill-writing goes on discreetly behind the scenes, after all.

3 comments so far. »

Keyword noise: , , , , , ,

*

Search this site

*

Contact

E: feedback [at] symbolicforest [dot] com

IM: Ask me if you'd like to know

*

Post Categories

Artistic (118)
Dear Diary (349)
Feeling Meh (48)
Geekery (109)
In With The Old (34)
Linkery (37)
Media Addict (164)
Meta (79)
Photobloggery (94)
Political (113)
Polling (7)
Sub category (19)
The Family (31)
The Office (70)
Unbelievable (53)