Category Archives: Sustainable ideas for business

What makes you spend your dollar?

Everyone has a friend who has to have the latest gadget or bag before everyone else. You may even be the person who loves to boast about how much of a bargain your latest pair of shoes or cup of coffee was. Everyone is motivated to shop for different reasons.

But the backlash against the latest or the cheapest is growing.  The latest is Cashmobs where a mob of consumers purchase full-price goods to support a business in need. It’s in direct response to Groupon where often the consumer deal comes at the expense of the small business.

Carrotmob is all about making consumption about more than just buying stuff. So this week we’re asking our mobsters, what would motivate you to change your shopping habits?


Got some questions on greening your business? Hear from the experts

Businesses can find out about programs and products to save money, water and power at next week’s Greening for Growth forum.

Hear from Current Consulting, Pure Organic Grocer and CitiPower Port Phillip Business Excellence Award winners’ Kosdown and Daisy Dry Cleaning about what they’ve done to make their business more sustainable.

You can also talk to:

Carrotmob (Helen and Ashlee) will also be there to talk about how you can get a mob of customers.

The event is held by The City of Port Phillip and Small Business Victoria.

Save time, save money and save the environment

Time: Monday 27 February, 5.30-7.30pm

Place: Port Melbourne Town hall auditorium, 333 Bay Street, Port Melbourne

Please RSVP for catering purposes (light refreshments provided) by emailing or phoning 9209 6777.

Using pester power for good not evil this Christmas

Like every little girl in the ‘80s I really wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid as a child. I never got one – a cheap knockoff called a cauliflower kid was the closest I ever got.

My parents seemed immune to ‘pester power’ until we all got a bit older. A few years ago my sister decided we should have a completely fair trade Easter. To start with it was just the easter eggs the kids handed out that were fair trade. But eventually even my parents got on board (although I’m still waiting for the year when my mum doesn’t feel the need to mention how much more expensive it is).

Research from Victoria University that came out a couple of months ago suggests that my family’s experience is pretty average. In a survey of 400 Melbourne families Victoria University researcher Dr Torgeir Watne found parents accepted their children as experts in sustainability and would choose products such as organic food, chemical-free cleaning products and energy-saving light bulbs based on their opinion.

“When the family perceived the child to be knowledgeable, parents were happy to cede decision-making power on the subject to their children, in a similar way to how parents often take their children’s advice on technology,” Dr Watne said.

Carrotmob is taking a break over January for some lazy beach times but we have some plans cooking for a bigger and better new year.

In the meantime we’ll be purchasing plenty of local, fair trade, sustainably-made goodies for our loved ones. And if the research is anything to go by, we’ll be receiving some too.

Why I can’t leave my hairdresser – a story about real sustainability and customer service

I’ve gone to the same hairdresser since I was born. You may be wondering what this has to do with Carrotmob or thinking I don’t get out much. While I did grow up in the one place, since I was 18 I’ve managed to juggle overseas travel and moving house with trips to the hairdresser.

For the last few years I’ve lived about an hour away from Paul and his salon. Just last week a friend gave me a recommendation for his hairdresser down the road that I ignored. Even Mel, who colours my hair, asked me last time I was there if I’d ever tried a city salon. Apparently other people have come back, turned off by the city prices. And while I was raised to be a penny pincher, that’s not the reason I haven’t left.

It’s all about relationships

When my mum had cancer Paul came over to her house and cried with her while he shaved her head. He then cut a wig to match her old haircut and refused to take any money. He gives a makeover every year to a year six kid at the local primary school who needs a self-esteem boost.  There are countless stories of his generosity. But even that isn’t all of the reason why I go back.

Maybe I could find a hairdresser who switches from politics to reality TV to inappropriate comments about his, mine and other peoples’ love lives in the blink of an eye. Maybe he could even give me a decent haircut. But he wouldn’t know that even though I was adamant I wanted a spiky fringe in primary school, I cried as soon as I saw it. They don’t know the mate I travelled around Eastern Europe with and they didn’t watch my sister walk down the aisle (and do the hair of both of them, of course).

Paul and his hairdressing salon are entwined in my life like a vine around the trunk of a tree. You could cut it away but the view would be a lot less interesting.

It’s about small business as well as the environment

So here’s to small businesses like It’s Individual. The places that make Melbourne and its suburbs unique. Carrotmob is about looking after the environment . But it’s also about supporting our small businesses. After all, Melbourne is the place where we’ve protested the arrival of McDonalds and Starbucks. It makes sense that we’d also want to support our locals.

If you have your own favourite small business we’d love to hear about it.

* This post is dedicated to Sean who asked me why we were investing time to support profit-making businesses. Sean remortgaged his house to make an amazing documentary called The Thin Green Line about African park rangers who risk their lives to protect the animals in their care. All profits from the documentary and foundation help equip these rangers and support the families of rangers who have been killed by poachers while on duty. Another good cause worth supporting.

Forget the carbon tax – reward the top polluters the Carrotmob way

It’s been hard to avoid the carbon tax over the past week. I’ve talked to people who support it and people who don’t. But I haven’t talked to anyone yet who thinks we should be doing nothing.

The big argument seems to be people still aren’t sure if what is being done is going to help. Clearly there are still people out there who don’t believe in climate change or sustainable living. But if you’re interested in Carrotmob I’m going to assume you’re not a sceptic.

In the whole climate change debate you do often hear the argument households switching off a light doesn’t make much difference. So by the same token it follows that big business can mean big change. The top 500 polluters the carbon tax is targeting haven’t been officially announced. But as Annabel Crabb pointed out on The Drum it’s pretty easy to figure out who’s likely to be included by looking at the latest emissions report.

The obvious top polluters are power generators. But there are also plenty of businesses you would buy from or do business with that made it onto the list for having 87.5  kilotonnes or more of greenhouse gas emissions—:

  • ALDI
  • Bega Cheese
  • Cadbury
  • Coca-Cola
  • David Jones
  • Harvey Norman
  • Heinz
  • IBM
  • Fairfax (The Age)
  • Fosters
  • Lion Nathan Foods (Berri, Dairy Farmers, COON, PURA, Tooheys, James Boag)
  • Mars
  • McDonalds
  • McCains
  • Murray-Goulburn
  • Myers
  • National Australia Bank
  • Nestle
  • News Australia Holdings (The Herald-Sun, MX, The Australian)
  • Woolworths (Safeway)
  • Wesfarmers (Bunnings)
  • Westpac

As consumers we need to keep asking, what are you going to do about it? How are you diminishing your impact on the environment?

Carrotmob tends to focus on helping small businesses. It aims to show business and government that people will choose to spend their dollars on sustainable business rather than just the cheapest product. But it doesn’t hurt to use the same principles for the high polluters too. Reward the ones like Linfox who have supported finding ways to move to a cleaner future and have already cut their carbon emissions by 28%. And be wary of the ones who spend their dollars on slick advertising campaigns to convince us they’re sustainable when they could be spending it on research. It shows we do want a sustainable future and we’re willing to pay for it.

Of course Linfox is a supply chain solutions group for business so it’s kind of hard to support them as a consumer. So Carrotmob is throwing the challenge out – any corporations on the list above want to pledge some environmental improvements in return for some consumer love?

Nazis, celebrity chefs and radishes: why heirloom food could stop famine and make fortunes

When’s the last time you saw more than one variety of radish at the supermarket? The number of radish varieties in the world has shrunk from 463 to just 27 in 80 years. And it’s not just the radish gene pool that’s slowly shrinking – fruit, vegetables, even animals are becoming less diverse. But why should we care?

Fear of global food shortages

According to a recent National Geographic article by Charles Siebert biodiversity is important for two reasons:

  • it has the potential to increase yield and
  • to reduce the risk of crops being wiped out by disease.

State-owned companies in China and the Middle East have been buying up swathes of land in Australia to safeguard their future food supply so the threat of worldwide food shortages is already becoming an issue for Australians. And Siebert says 90% of the world’s wheat is currently susceptible to a strain of stem rust fungus known as Ug99. According to Siebert stem rust is the same fungus that wiped out the potatoes in Ireland and led to the potato famine that killed and displaced millions, due to Ireland’s over reliance on one food source.

The positives of biodiversity

Of course in the developed world there’s a third reason why biodiversity is important. It tastes better. Known as heirloom varieties, many local gardeners are growing heirloom plants and storing their seeds in seed banks to look after obscure varieties. It’s also a way of preserving the family history with some gardeners keeping seeds which have been passed down from migrant ancestors.

The history of seeds and seed banks can often be fascinating. According to Siebert the story of the first seed bank plays out like a Spielberg movie. The Russian creator scoured the world for seeds before dying of starvation in a Stalin prison camp. At the same time Hitler planned an attack on the seed bank but a band of supporters whisked a selection of seeds to safety, several dying of starvation while protecting the food source of future generations.

A cash cow for the future

It’s no wonder that heirloom food is capturing the imagination of cashed-up foodies. It works on similar themes as the local food movement. London chef Oliver Rowe recently had a successful restaurant (and TV series of course) sourcing all the ingredients for his menu within access of the London Underground.

Yet a Google search on cafes specialising in heirloom ingredients came up with zero results worldwide. It’s a great idea for our next set of Carrotmob businesses. If I was wanting to open a café I’d be keeping my mouth shut and writing a business plan. Given the appetite for sustainable food with a story at the moment, setting up an heirloom café sounds like a winner to me.