I'm from a generation that instinctively thinks that separating out the household waste for re-cycling is a pain; on other hand my head understands the need to act to preserve the planet for my grandchildren and their children to enjoy. However, 2 relatively minor incidents just recently illustrated a couple of aspects of sustainability that people seem to be neglecting.
Each day, I visit my local gym for (what I laughingly call) a work-out. The owners recently modified the shower system, installing buttons to limit the amount of water used; you press the button and get a spray for 15 seconds before the supply cuts off. You press again to repeat - yes, we've all used them, they're commonplace and a really good idea; they have probably prevented the waste of billions of litres of water a year, and I wholeheartedly applaud the initiative to install them. However, when the flow starts, it is cold, and it just starts to get to a nice temperature when the flow cuts out. When restarted it is cold. Suffering cold showers every day since Xmas is taking the whole thing too far and it was time I did something about it. I filled out a long feedback form, explaining the problem. Much to my surprise, the following day (and so far, every day subsequently) the temperature has been increased and the water flows at a constant and pleasant temperature. What this shows is that, while we need to act responsibly and think about sustainability, we have to balance that against the need to provide customer service and satisfaction
My second story relates to a visit to my local convenience store on a very wet and miserable morning, to buy my Sunday newspaper. To prevent my paper getting sodden as I walked back home, I asked for a plastic carrier bag. The sales assistant apologetically informed me that the small and flimsy bag she produced from under the counter would cost me 5p. I was astonished and a tad annoyed - she agreed with me that the profit margin in that transaction was ridiculous, and she was embarrassed to charge this fee. What this illustrates is something I have seen in countless businesses over the last few years - many simply see the sustainability issue as another way to increase profitability, rather than a bona fide contribution to preserve our legacy
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My son is 32 and stills draws up a list of Christmas presents he wants, and sends it around his family and friends just like a wedding gift list.
I struggled to think of something to get my 15 year old grandson for Christmas - he has an iPad, a laptop, this year's "must-have" PS4, a TV bed in his bedroom, an iPhone
my wife's 8 year-old grandson got so much for Christmas that even now (2 weeks after Christmas Day) he still has not got around to playing with / using all of his presents
I got some seriously major presents (an iPad, a laptop, a kindle) mainly because people couldn't think of anything I needed
On reflection, we agreed that this was all ridiculous, and had nothing to do with the real spirit of Christmas, so my wife has come up with what I think is a brilliant idea: next Christmas she is going to take the money that she would have spent on each of us, and donate it to a charity; she will also encourage us all to consider doing the same with the money that we would have otherwise spent on her.
She also feels somewhat aggrieved about the amount we get hassled by charities to which we have contributed - it seems that once you contribute to a charity, they latch on to you and keep coming back for more. She intends to find a single and very identifiable charitable case (such as a specific child, or a wild animal) and concentrate her help on that cause. The benefit should be that she can more easily check that the full amount reaches the destination for which she intended.
I think that this is a brilliant idea; I will follow her lead. What do you think?
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Just before Christmas, I had an operation to remove my epididymis; this was the culmination of a TWO YEAR journey in terms of this particular medical problem, during which I experienced the best and worst of the National Health System, which was particularly interesting, since I was a patient at Furness General Hospital, one of the NHS Trusts central to the recent national news headlines about the state of the NHS. My conclusion is that there are some fantastic people working in the NHS, and they tell me that there are some fantastic systems supporting surgical operations – but that there are some real issues in terms of systems which support the "front-of-house" which play a significant part in dragging the reputation of this great British institution through the mud. The lesson would seem to be that, as always, the proportion of attention to each element of the eternal triangle - cost, functionality and quality needs to be appropriate to the purpose of the system. and that doesn't seem to be the case here
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