Category Archives: recycling

Collaborative consumption in France

Goat rental at 10 euros/day in the French Alps for natural lawn care from E-loue

One step removed from barter (but getting closer every day), and a hot new trend documented by two new business books in 2010 – “What’s Mine is Yours” and “The Mesh” – the mode for sharing and renting our physical assets is being driven by the economic recession and a wider societal backlash against wasteful and mindless consumption. If you’re ready to jump in, here are some resources for France:

Zilok, the French version. Rent anything from a car to a lawnmower or power drill. A Citroen C1 rents for 40 euros a day.

E-loue Goat rentals for lawn mowing etc. for toys (4 toys for 6 months at a monthly rate of 15.9 euros)

Supermarmite – Buy and sell home-cooked food in your neighbourhood. They call themselves the first social network for sharing home-cooked meals. Car sharing platform.

Louerunetudiant Outsource your business needs to a student: market research, telemarketing, design, animation, translation etc.


Social media network for recycling launches in France

Brand new French recycling network My Recycle Stuff is not just eye candy, it works like social media and allows you to create a profile, user groups and barter online for items. It is still in beta, and free, but looks like it may move to a paid subscription model, which is less cool. Nonetheless, I signed up, trawled the mosaic and saw some nice stuff like a bright red retro radio and a brand new Ipod.

Documentary explodes myth of nuclear energy as clean and green

France: Pierrelatte

France: Pierrelatte

Since the 1970s, France’s commitment to nuclear energy has been axiomatic and based on a societal consensus that it provides energy independence as well as a source of energy which is both clean and green. The green component of the argument rests on the assertion – taught to all engineering students as gospel – that 97 % of spent nuclear fuel in France is recycled and transformed into re-usable fuel. That myth was shaken last week by a documentary broadcast on Arte entitled “Déchets – le cauchemar du nucléaire” (Waste: the nuclear nightmare) which showed that EDF, which is France’s main electricity provider, sends nuclear waste to Siberia where most of it is not recycled, but instead is laid to rest in the atomic security complex of Tomsk-7, Siberia.

The documentary provoked disarray in parliament, where the Junior Minister for the Environment, Chantal Jouanno, said she would order an internal enquiry. Speaking on France Info radio, she said: “For my part, I haven’t been able to confirm or deny this information, so there has to be an enquiry.”

The main argument of the documentary is that Areva and EDF run a fuel “cycle” where after first use in nuclear power plants, the fuels are treated and transformed into 3 % of of nuclear waste which has to be stored, 1% of plutonium which is re-used to make MOX (a mixture of uranium oxide and plutonium) and 96 % uranium which is enriched to produce new combustible fuels.

Whereas in fact, of the 96 % of the uranium which is sent to Russia to be enriched, only a tiny fraction is actually re-used (in 4 out of France’s 59 nuclear power plants). This means the real rate of re-use is closer to 10 %. Areva and EDF maintain that under French law, it is illegal to send nuclear waste overseas, and therefore the 96 % of uranium which goes to Russia is recyclable fuel.

Now, the fact that this used uranium is sent to Russia is not news. An official overview of France’s nuclear policy is available online, and the pdf entitled “L’énergie nucleaire en 110 questions“, on page 45, states the following: “The volumes of URT (uranium issu du retraitement) used today in France do not justify the extension of or the creation of a specific industry dedicated to the manufacture of URT fuel, this is why it has relies on existing installations overseas, for example in the Russian Federation.”

The semantics of this debate clearly illustrate the chasm between France’s elite engineering corps – notably graduates of the Ecole Des Mines – and the political class and civil society, both of whom have probably fallen victim to a kind of consensual blindness in wanting to believe the myth of a perfectly clean, green and safe nuclear industry in the competent hands of the country’s best and brightest, who themselves have operated behind the veil of their techno-scientific jargon which few have sought to explain clearly to the man in the street.

Earlier this year, Areva withdrew the use of its corporate slogan “L’Energie au sens propre” (“Energy in the literal sense of the term” with a play on the word “propre” which means clean) following action by the ARPP (France’s watchdog for advertising standards) based on a complaint filed by the Green party that the claim that nuclear energy was clean was inconsistent with the production of nuclear waste. Watch this short video (set, oddly, to “Funky Town”) to get a sense of the corporate message Areva is trying to get across – the offending slogan has been replaced by “Experts en énergie (Energy Experts).

Give your Christmas tree back to nature

Thanks to friend and community organizer Corinne for this tip on how to recycle your Christmas tree in Paris this year. The city authorities are organizing a pick-up of trees from January 2 to February 1 at 95 collection sites in the city’s parks and gardens. No ornaments or fake snow please – only the bare tree will be accepted. They will be ground up and used to enrich soil in the city’s green spaces. Last year 15,000 trees were recycled this way.

via Paris city hall website

“Picnic tax” on plastic cups and cutlery in 2009

As part of the government’s drive to use fiscal measures to encourage more sustainable behaviours, Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo announced this week that plastic plates and cutlery would, starting next year, face a “picnic tax” of 90 centimes to the euro for every kilogram. Similar “green” taxes on wasteful fridges, washing machines, televisions and batteries – accompanied by tax breaks on their more eco-friendly equivalents – are also under consideration. Each person in France produces on average 360 kilograms of waste per year, and France has more incinerators per person than any other country in Europe.

via Le Figaro


Growing greenhouse tomatoes with byproducts from oil drilling

Tomato growers in a seaside town in the southwestern deparment of the Landes have signed an agreement with Canadian oil company Vermilion to mass produce tomatoes in greenhouses heated using byproducts from oil drilling at Parentis-en-Born


The deal envisages building 17 hectares of greenhouses by 2012 which will provide the capacity to produce 30 to 85 million tons of tomatoes every year. The greenhouses will be heated by cogeneration – capturing byproduct heat from the oil drilling process and converting it into electricity. The project will cost 20 million euros and is funded by four farmers – all agricultural engineers belonging to Odelis, a fruit and vegetable cooperative in the south of France, as well as by regional and local authorities and the European Union.


Technically, this is a first for France. The sulphurized gas will be recaptured and used to power a cogeneration factory which will transform it into electricity. This electricity will in turn heat the greenhouses. Even the hot water expelled by the drilling operation at 60 C will be channelled through a heat pump to supplement the electricity generation. The greenhouses themselves will use water in a closed circuit and the tomatoes will be grown on eco-friendly substrata of coconut fibres which can be recycled. 


The deal provides an eco-friendly image for Vermilion as well as the prospect of staying competitive for the French tomato farmers, whose main competition comes from Spain, Morocco and Turkey, all of which have significantly lower labour costs. “More than 40 percent of our production costs come from electricity, which has become 30 percent more expensive in recent years,” said Bruno Vila, one of the partners in the project.


 via Le Monde


How to find a green job in France

A new green job search site launched in France this week called Clicandearth covering offers in all areas of the environment and sustainable development – climate, waste, water, renewable energy, site management, earth sciences. The site claims to be unique in the genre in France because the job offers are classified by sector.

Elsewhere on the green job front, Courrier Cadres magazine has a round-up in this month’s issue of the green job scene. The article divides the scene into three different categories: professions which are adapting, those which are taking off and those which are emerging. Among the adapters are specialists in environmental law working for corporations, green auditors, environmental consultants (carbon audits, best-practice training for staff etc) and green architects. The environmental law consultants need to track European Union law very closely because eighty percent (see here) of the laws affecting the environment in France originate in Brussels.
Job descriptions which are in the category of “taking off” include environmental risk manager, wind turbine project manager and hydrobiologist.
And those that are considered “emerging” include the following:
Agrobiology consultant – everyone wants organic fruits and vegetables but only 2 percent of cultivated land in France is farmed organically. This job entails advising and helping farmers convert to organic farming and to do some hand-holding during the transition.
Manager of an urban bicycle-sharing network: After Vélib in Paris and similar programmes in Lyons, Marseilles, growing numbers of French towns are eager to jump on the bandwagon. Making sure that each user can find a bicycle at any place or time of the day is a tall order. “You have to supervise the transfer of the bicycles from one station to another, keep the entire stock in perfect working order, organize the staff schedules – 400 people to manage in Paris,” said Eric Callé, 33, an engineer who heads up the operational division at Decaux, which runs the Vélib network in Paris.
Medical consultant for the home – this is someone who comes to your home to audit it for potential sources of allergies. Working in collaboration with your GP, they will conduct a one-on-one interview, collect air samples and do a thorough audit of the home to try and eliminate all allergens.
Environmental psychologist – Not really a green shrink, but rather someone who studies the relationship between individuals and where they live to produce recommendations which can improve their quality of life. Profession linked with the public sector, for instance in urbanization studies.

French consumers are throwing away less packaging

For the first time ever, the amount of packaging that goes into French trash cans has gone down. According to figures released by Eco-Emballages and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) the amount of packaging (expressed in sale units per consumer and not including plastic bags dispensed at the check-out) went down by 0.55 percent between 2003 and 2006. What’s behind this unprecedented decline? People are smoking and drinking less in France. Tobacco consumption is down 20 percent, wine, beer and spirits are all down 6.5 percent, 5.7 percent and 2.9 percent respectively. Sales of CDs, cassettes and photo films are also down. The food industry, for its part, has made efforts to reduce the weight of its packaging. Plastic bottles, for example, are 10 grams lighter than they were in 2003 and aluminium cans are 11 percent lighter. The disappearance of plastic bags from the check-out counter has played a role too. In 2006 a total of 3.1 billion plastic bags were distributed, down 70 percent from 9.4 billion in 2003.

via Les Echos  

Biodiversity and environmental education short-changed at the Grenelle

The last working group at the Grenelle took place on Friday, the day after the official closure of the summit because of time overrun. Participants tackled biofuels and the “greening of democracy”. The latter has received scant media coverage but is important as it deals with improving transparency and accountability through legal reforms which would confer institutional status on NGOs and increase the public’s ability to obtain compensation for environment-related health problems. There was apparently no deal on the proposal to allow class action suits for victims of environmental damage, but the issue of giving special protection to whistle-blowers on the environment will be hashed out in union negotiations on health and work. An independent authority will be set up to mediate conflicts linked to environmental expertise, and a parliamentary commission will be formed to define its parameters and set-up.

The roundtable also confirmed the adoption of official recognition for NGOs as actors and partners in the social dialogue between governments, employers and workers. The Conseil Économique et Social (Economic and Social Council) which is France’s third most important constitutional assembly will be reformed to include NGOs as decision-makers in the process of formulating recommendations for bills to be submitted for approval in parliament.On corporate social responsibility, the Alliance pour la planète. obtained its wish that companies who do not respect an already existing law on transparency and accountability be sanctioned.

The issue of greenwashing was discussed as well, and the Grenelle reaffirmed the need to reform the main regulatory body that governs advertising standards in France to include independent monitors. At present the body is only regulated by industry players.

On biofuels, Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo announced the creation of a study group to evaluate the ecological and energy efficiency of the first generation of biofuels (those extracted from cereals which would otherwise be used as food) and pledged to step up research and development efforts on the more promising second generation biofuels.

The working group will convene for a general review before February 1, 2008.

Among the weak links identified by NGOs at the close of the Grenelle were biodiversity and environmental education. The Association for the Protection of Wildlife (ASPAS) issued a communique deploring the neglect of biodiversity in the Grenelle to the benefit of problems which require economically profitable solutions such as transport and construction. Aside from the establishment of “biological corridors” which will link isolated wildlife preserves, there was scant attention paid to the protection of oceans, tropical forests and notably the DOM-TOMs, France’s overseas territories such as Martinique and Guadeloupe, which are key areas in need of biodiversity protection.

On environmental education, the Alliance said that the working groups stopped short of making serious proposals. “Along with the question of waste disposal, these are the two areas where the Grenelle has not finished its work,” said Anne Bringault, director of Friends of the Earth, France. “The only thing which was adopted this morning, was that we have to integrate the environment into the public sector, but also in education, in schools, from the earliest classes. The working group has to deliver fresh conclusions before the end of the year.”Illegal logging was another issue, and here Borloo pledged that France would ban all imports of illegal wood and make the fight against deforestation a priority of international negotiations (in the context of Kyoto).

Grégoire Lejonc of Greenpeace France welcomed this statement, but added that the NGOs did not obtain satisfaction on the certification of tropical wood. Instead of restricting itself to an FSC label, the government has said it will allow imports of both FSC wood and PEFC (Program of the Endorsement of Forest Certification) wood, which is not endorsed by NGOs as they say it has weak environmental standards.”It is now up to us to make sure there is a precise follow-up on the executon of the plans and commitments taken publicly by the government and the president,” said Yannick Jadot, campaigns director for Greenpeace France and spokesman for the Alliance.

The NGOs have a big job on their hands monitoring the progress and implementation of this huge colossus of policy proposals, and making sure that Sarkozy honours his central commitment articulated at the press conference last week (thanks to Brian Fitzgerald at Greenpeace for pointing this out – I missed it in the deluge of announcements). “From now on every major public project, every public decision will be judged on its effect on climate, and on its carbon cost. Each public decision will be judged on how it affects bio-diversity. The onus won’t be on ecological decisions to prove their merit, but on non-ecological projects to prove they can’t be done any other way.” The dangers are everywhere – lack of vigilance from the public as media interest wanes, evisceration of the proposals as they grind their way through parliament, opposition from the ruling right-wing UMP party which is joined at the hip to the pesticide and automobile lobbies. But no matter what happens next, a new process has been set in motion and peoples’ expectations irrevocably modified.

via Actu-environnement

Bags and accessories for ethical shoppers

The accessory and handbag stands at the Ethical Fashion Show were the places where I most wanted to violate the “consume less” ethos. The pieces were all so deliciously tactile and so “right now”. One of my favourites was A-Typik, a Franco-Colombian company that makes jewellery from a unique material known as vegetable ivory, or Tagua nut from the South American rainforest. For each necklace sold, the company donates one euro to a Bogota orphanage. Beautiful colors, modern designs and a pleasure to touch.

Cruselita employs small groups of artisans in Madagascar and Niger to make jewellery that is essentially tribal and ethnic in inspiration from a variety of materials such as raw silk and wood.

Coll.part from Switzerland takes used rice and food sacks from Cambodia and recycles them into bright and colorful bags which are strong and lightweight. The company provides resinsertion for women in difficult situations as well as antipersonnel mine victims.

Mexico-based Nahui Ollin makes eye-catching handbags from candy wrappers and other recycled materials.