Tag Archives: pollution reduction

Green Retail – There’s a Drone at Your door

For some of us the entire process of heading out to the shops can be a chore that gives us that Sunday-afternoon-before-work feeling in the stomach. But those days could soon be gone.

Here we look at another futures trend around ‘green retail’ that could fundamentally change the face of the shop;

Green Retail Trend #2 – Delivery Drones

You’ve probably already heard of Amazon’s ventures into delivery drones, with their service called ‘Prime Air’, aiming to get packages delivered into customers’ hands within 30 minutes of the online purchase. Only last month the US FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) ruled out the use of these drones, however most would be inclined to write this off as an expected red-tape hitch that will eventually be overcome.

prime air

Once this technology reaches commercial scale it’s difficult to imagine much that couldn’t be delivered by drone, even large things in smaller parts… again the environmental benefits could be extensive, particularly through cutting out the majority of the transport logistics and road-based travel. Drones will be battery powered, fuelled by clean solar energy. No need for shops to carry as much inventory – an online purchase will often bypass retail outlets altogether, with most orders going direct to the distribution centre then into the drone.

If we can simply order goods via drone, or even send our own drone out to collect an online purchase, it’s highly likely we’ll fall into a habit of on-demand purchasing. Give the drone a fresh groceries order for tonight’s dinner, and 30 minutes later it returns with its kill : )

santa drones

Whether or not delivery drones are set to undermine the high street remains to be seen though… the drones may simply become another delivery channel for retailers. I’d expect the make-up of the retail shops to change but the main street itself will likely survive – after all, the main street has been around for a few thousand years. Robo-copter is unlikely to be the thing that puts an end to it.

The Top 5 Trends Towards Greener Retail

When it comes to shopping are you a hunter or gatherer…? Do you only go to a shop when you’ve decided, of your own volition, that you need something, then proceed to said shop to obtain the thing and only that thing? Or do you start at the shop and see how many things you suddenly realise you simply can’t live without? ; )

Always a topic that tends to galvanise opinions at a dinner party, the notion of ‘sustainable retail’ could be a complete oxymoron or a new term that signifies some paradigm shifts in how we procure goods in the 21stC.

I wanted to focus on some emerging trends that will change the retail outlet itself – not only the way in which we procure goods but the way we design the shops themselves, the size of the spaces being leased, and the very nature of what constitutes a ‘shop’.

I’ve got 5 hot tips. Here’s the first;

3D printing

As recently as the 80s, 3D printing was just a dream. A mere 30 years later we’re now printing car parts, pharmaceuticals, parts for jet engines, homes, prosthetic limbs and even replacement organs.

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An illustration of an artificial 3D-printed human heart. Check out ’10 Ways 3-D Printing Could Change the World’ at HowStuffWorks. Click above.

A 3D printer is, to keep things simple, a printer that sprays layer upon layer of a selection of raw materials (e.g. ceramic, plastic, metals) to make something solid and three-dimensional, or ‘real’. We can already buy a 3D printer for our homes and offices, and it’s still early days.

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‘…we’ve kind of put the factory into a little box. The factory can be one person at home again’. (Bre Pettis, CEO Makerbot Industries)

Within only a few years we’ll be able to 3D scan our own bodies, transmit the details to the 3D printer and watch as our new shirt (which we designed and customised on a free tablet app) is created in our very own home. Ray Kurzweil (Google head of engineering) puts it at 5 years away (good article here on 3D printed fashion).

Sound enticing? At face value this could wipe out the majority of the manufacturing chain, transport & shipping, and even the retail outlets… extensive environmental savings… but I’ll be fascinated to see if it’s enough to overcome our deepest urges for ‘retail therapy’ and the very experience of going out to reward ourselves in an outlet that will by necessity become hyper experiential in itself?

Only time will tell. Stay tuned.

What Electric Vehicle Sales are Missing…

I’ve been told that if you buy an electric vehicle (EV) and plug it into the grid to charge it you’re only reducing your vehicle emissions by about 5%. The problem being that most of our grid energy still comes from coal. If you really want your EV to mean something you either need to purchase Green Power or charge it with solar panels.

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The Nissan Leaf. No exhaust pipe – now that’s cool.

I’m currently in the market for a solar system for home, so I’m keen to know what I should do if I also want to charge an EV? I know I can either buy the additional panels with the original installation, or size the inverter / micro-inverters to allow plug-ons later. But what size should I get and how long will it take to pay back?

By my table-cloth calculations I should allow for a 1.5kW solar system which, when running my EV from the solar energy, will pay itself off in 2.5 years and give me surplus energy. Nice. [I’ve included my calcs below in case you’re curious].

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Solar Blanket concept – one day, but for now we’ve got roof-top solar

So, what we really need to see when buying an electric vehicle is a packaged deal including solar panels and charging kit for the home and even for the office. The road price of EVs in Australia is still high but also still falling, and I’d hope the $2,500 cost of a PV system is something the car dealer could even throw in as a sweetener… that’s what I’ll be asking for : )

Calculations [I didn’t fail maths at school, but I didn’t top the charts either, so feel free to check]

  • A Nissan Leaf runs at roughly 18kWh/100km – equivalent to approx. 1.8-2.3L/100km
  • Current electricity cost daytime =25.0c/kWh [I’m saying daytime because I want to charge the car directly from my solar panels a couple of days a week]
  • I currently drive about 150km/week in total and spend around $30/week on fuel
  • So to run the Leaf I need 27kWh of electricity to charge [18kWh/100 x 150]; let’s say 30kWh. 30kWh costs me $7.50/week to run the car [30kWh x $0.25].
  • This saves me $23/week or $1196/annum on petrol, based on today’s petrol price of $1.49/L. do you think that will rise or fall in the future?!
  • My solar panel/s need to give the car around 4.28kWh/day [30kWh/7]. To deliver 4.28kWh/day I’ll need say a 1.1kW system, but typical packages come in 1.0kW or 1.5kW.
  • A 1.5kW system is currently averaging around $2,500 installed [good quality and warranties], including RECs. If I’m simply upsizing the system I’m buying for the house then the return for the EV panels is even better, given that the inverter and install costs are shared.

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Which has the Best Sound: Formula E or Formula 1? Judge for Yourself…

I can still recall a ‘discussion’ I had 20 years ago with someone who insisted that F1 car racing was good for the environment ‘because the advances in technology make all cars more efficient’. To me that was a bit like telling the Neanderthals that perhaps if they just ate a little bit less they might not go extinct so quickly.

Jump to the present day and we are finally in the midst of a step change – Formula E racing… ‘E’ = Electric.

I got drawn into a conversation last week about some new electric McLaren model that was being tested – and believe me it’s a challenge to draw me into discussions about cars. But I thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool if there was a global Grand Prix circuit for Electric F1?’. Would be great to promote innovation in zero emissions vehicles.

So like all of my good ideas I Googled it and discovered that someone’s already thought of it, and indeed the inaugural Formula E starts this year in Beijing, touring 10 of the world’s cities. Sadly Australia isn’t on the circuit (lost opportunity?).

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And like all good innovations in technology there comes a time when our culture is tested. For this one it’s the ‘grunt’, the sheer thrilling sound of an F1 engine. How could a Formula-e possibly equate and will it sell tickets? Well, apparently the rules for F1 engines changed this year, making them quieter [hybrid petrol-electric engine]. And from recent test drives of the F-e cars the power is still there and the torque even better. But the sound… well, difficult to describe but I came across a quote from Gizmodo that fits;

The combination of tyre road noise, electric motor whine and aerodynamics package produces a sound that’s definitely futuristic — it’s somewhere between a jet aircraft, Star Wars podracer and supercharged hair dryer. We love it.

But don’t let me try to convince you… check out this test drive video from the FIA Formula-e site: I think it rocks and can imagine the sound of a race being something else again. This is the start of a new wave of innovation, and this time the racing tech really will transfer into something useful for other cars. Judge for yourself – click on the car to make it go : )

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Green Wave for Cyclists – Would it Work in Your City?

Does it  make your blood boil when you’re driving and you see cyclists running red lights? This topic is a terrific conversation starter and friendship-ender and not many people sit on the fence.

Whilst I can see things from both points of view, the issue of ‘safety’ makes it a bit of a no-brainer – running red lights in any mode just isn’t safe. But having to stop at up to a dozen or more red lights when cycling through the city also defeats the purpose somewhat. So, what’s the solution? [because there always is one]

The Danes, being such a suave and design-focussed lot, have come up with a way to get rid of red lights for cyclists. And it hardly cost them a cent. They simply re-programmed the traffic lights to create a ‘green wave’ during peak periods.

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If cyclists are happy to cruise along at 20km/hr they’ll get a continuous run of green lights all the way into town. Throw in a bit of signage, road markings and driver awareness communications, and you’ve got an elegant solution to an inflammatory problem. Check out the official Danish web site for other cool stuff they’re doing in the ‘World’s first Bike City’. Also fun to watch this video from someone riding into Copenhagen – astounding to see how many people cycle!

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So right now  you’re probably saying ‘but that’s too slow for cars!’… well, the average driving speed in metropolitan Sydney [i.e. all of Sydney, not just the CBD] is around 32km/hr during peak periods. I couldn’t find CBD-specific data but from experience it’s even less than this.

Amsterdam has them. San Diego has followed suit. New York City is working on it for Prince St. Perhaps even major urban developments could be brokering this re-programming as part of improving the value  of their project?

Do you think Green Waves would work in your city?

“Imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time.”

A beautiful piece around the psychology of hope…

It’s easy at present to succumb to the temptation of criticising the intentions of Australia’s government – they want to repeal our carbon pricing scheme, lower our emissions reduction targets and generally commit to being a bench-warmer in global affairs.

But if you’ve read this blog you’ll likely know that Newton is a mate of mine, and I often refer to his Third Law – the one about ‘equal and opposite reactions’. So for all the head-in-the-sand hyperbole that we’re seeing at the moment, there must be (by definition) an equal measure of positivity and vision and hope out there somewhere.

And I know where it is.

It’s you.

Hope is that feathered thing perched on your soul (Emily Dickinson)

When doing some reading about place-making I came across this short but intense piece about the psychology of hope, about ordinary dreamers dreaming big and acting on that lump in the throat or tear in the eye… about acting now.

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Shared on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova

This is a moving piece about the decisions we make in life, about living with compromises and their long term effects, and about course corrections. I have a lot of friends who are around the 20-year mark in their careers, and I know at least some who might be feeling exactly this way right now.

If you do want a prosperous future, if you do want a clean future for us and our kids, if you do want to be an Aussie and keep punching above your weight in the global ring, then let that feathered thing take flight. Dare to ‘imagine immensities’ and set about making them come true… you are surrounded by like minds, those who are creating the equal but opposite force.

Have a read of this short piece about hope, then get to work. Now.

Designing with Intent – Leaving Your Fingerprints Behind

I was lucky enough this past weekend to have a tour of the new Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) at the University of Wollongong, just south of Sydney. The project is targeting a Living Building Challenge certification, and is the result of a design interrogation that has gone into extraordinary depth.

As I was hearing about how the design unfolded, about the investigations that had to take place for every potential material, the careful balancing of systems and services, and the richness of the detailing, I was struck by how much care had been taken in creating this building.

sbrc

We are under constant pressure to get things done quickly and to meet budget, and at times it can be easier to fall back on what we’ve always done. It’s easier. The SBRC has a poetic logic about everything – it’s hard to imagine why anything would have been done differently – but to get there required the entire team to be aware at every moment, and to not fall back on ‘easy’.

And this is my Monday Motivation for the week; it was clear to me that this project was full of what I think of as ‘fingerprints’ – the thought and care and intent of the client and design team in every design outcome and every detail. Nothing had been left to chance or to ‘easy’. The result is an environment that feels so much more human and comfortable and calm, and it gently vibrates with the energy that has been invested in the built outcome – it has fingerprints.

As we go about our business this week, let’s be aware of when we fall back on ‘easy’ and aim to put forward ‘better’ options whenever we can. Let’s see how many fingerprints we can leave behind in our work.