Six Sigma and more:
Going green and Six Sigma
Recently, I have been pleasantly surprised about the power of “going green.” I regularly teach a course in Organizational Development (OD). A significant part of the course is a series of team projects using OD to improve some aspect of real organizations. The students develop, with my guidance and approval, the actual project intentions. They usually choose to try to improve some aspect of the organization where they work. Because of my ever increasing concern about what we are doing to our home, the Earth, I decided this term to require that the projects all do something to attempt to reduce the size of the ecological footprint of each organization or system.
The projects evolved as follows:
- Three teams worked to improve or create recycling programs in organizations.
- One team worked with the City of Lansing to reduce its use of fossil fuel.
- One team worked to reduce waste in one agency of the State of Michigan.
- One team worked to reduce waste in apartment complexes.
- One team even worked to help a family become more “green.”
Here is a summary of the results:
- One team created an annual savings of $4,000 with a 600% return on investment.
- The state agency team saved $16,000 annually with no investment required.
- All the teams were able to identify legitimate opportunities with very attractive returns on investment.
Those results may not seem like much in the world of Six Sigma, but given that these students had no experience and only the help I could give them in class to work on their projects, I think the results and learning may provide some useful direction to your Six Sigma effort.
Let me share a few of the things I learned that may give you some ideas:
- There are apparently some power supplies that can actually save significantly on electrical power usage.
- Recycling paper is becoming a growing opportunity. The price/cost of it has increased 150% over the last couple of years.
- A look at physical distribution systems may be a great opportunity to save on fuel usage.
- There are apparently new fuel additives that are reducing vehicle fuel usage by 10%.
- Operating paperless or nearly so is still a significant opportunity for many organizations.
- CFL and LED lighting, programmable thermostats, weather stripping, and improved insulation continue to be opportunities for many organizations.
- Watch solar power. It is quickly becoming more economically attractive.
- Wind power is hot also. I understand that supply is having trouble keeping up with demand. That may be a new market for you.
- http://www.ecomall.com seems to be a great way to shop for other ”green” ideas.
- People CARE about being more ecologically responsible.
- Last but not least, talking to your customers and suppliers may yield some great opportunities for you all.
This learning may, I hope, be helpful, but I believe there is no silver bullet. There are some suggestions out there about how to make your “green” effort more strategic. The approach I like best is the one I’ve discussed before. It’s the one described by Ray C. Anderson in Mid-Course Correction (Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT, 1998).
All in all, my experience with my students has reinforced two things about “going green.” There are ever-increasing opportunities to save and make money by reducing our own ecological footprints and helping others to do likewise. And there is passion out there to do it. I believe “going green” is a good way to energize your Six Sigma effort.
As always, I look forward to your responses and questions. I’m at email@example.com.
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