leadership dot #2528: mistakes

I went into the Dollar Store and was astonished at the number of balloons that were lodged in their ceiling. This picture just shows a fraction of the waste; in reality, there were dozens more.

In a similar situation, on my previous excursions to Land’s End clearance sales and outlets I have seen bins of stockings, backpacks and totes that were incorrectly monogrammed – and thus accumulating unsold even at the bargain price of a dollar.

It’s one thing to make a mistake once, but another to make the same type of error over and over again. Gains in speed are offset by the losses from carelessness, not to mention the environmental impact of that which ends up being tossed before use.

Take a moment to assess your mistake rates. How much food ends up in the compost pile because it was incorrectly prepared? How many reams of paper head straight to the recycle bin because of errors in printing? How much paint is wasted because of improper color matching?

We generate enough waste from things that are done correctly. Don’t add to the problem by adding a host of mistakes to the landfill.

leadership dot #2521: be serious

Many organizations think they are doing their part for the environment by having recycling bins available in their facility, but the St. Paul River Center is serious about actually being able to recycle or compost the waste from their events. Instead of allowing people to independently decide what is trash and what is not, the Center had staff members at each of its stations directing people on how to properly dispose of their waste.

Far more items were recyclable than I would have expected or done on my own, including silverware and seemingly-plastic salad containers, but I was informed that they were corn-based and could be reclaimed. I have written before that one of the challenges of recycling efforts is the inconsistency in what is allowable in different jurisdictions and as a result, the bins are often so contaminated with incorrect items that the whole container needs to be thrown into the trash. In St. Paul, not only was this fate averted, but the staff who gave directions served as both a customer service and environmental ambassador.

Yes, there was a labor cost, but it was small compared to the environmental savings. The next time your organization touts an initiative, go the extra mile to be serious about implementing it. Do what it takes to truly do what you profess is important.

leadership dot #2514: color cycle

As the school year comes to a close, don’t toss those old markers! Crayola offers a free recycling program for schools to send in any and all markers – Crayola brand, other brands, highlighters or dry erase markers – and they will pay for the shipping! The program runs all year long, but at this time of year, it seems especially relevant.

All K-12 schools are eligible to sign up for the ColorCycle program at http://www.crayola.com/colorcycle.aspx. They even provide lesson plans if teachers want to incorporate curriculum around the recycling effort.

Sometimes we avoid recycling because it requires too much extra effort, but this is an easy sign-up process that comes right to the school for pickup. Parents: ask your school to participate today! Daycare centers: partner with a participating school! Teachers: click on the link above now!

leadership dot #2395: small steps

Building off the movement to reduce the use of plastic straws, the next frontier in environmentally-conscious packaging is the lowly six-pack ring. While many of these fasteners are, in fact, recyclable, only a tiny fraction of them stay out of the landfill.’

Corona beer is the first major brand to switch to biodegradable can holders, piloting the packaging in Mexico this year. Instead of relying on people to recycle they have taken the initiative to go plastic-free as part of their corporate environmental commitment. Other companies such as Carlsberg from Denmark and Florida’s SaltWater Brewery are experimenting with other glue or even edible options to hold the cans together in a pack.

While many people don’t even think about the six-pack ring or the impact they have on the environment, the new holders are estimated to save 1300 tons of plastic/year for SaltWater Brewery alone. With this kind of impact for a microbrewery, think of the difference it would make if Anheuser-Busch made the switch.

Everything about environmental stewardship relies on small, positive steps made repeatedly by many. How can your organization experiment with making a minor change in its packaging or processes to make a contribution to global health?










leadership dot #2385: do your part

I often wonder about the motivation behind corporation’s environmental initiatives: are hotels really foregoing clean towels and sheets in the name of Mother Earth or is it a loosely-disguised ploy to just save money? A new variation of this theme is happening at Walmart with their “One More” campaign. Plastered all over their checkout kiosks are signs encouraging you to “pack one more item” thus reducing the number of bags that are needed. Given the volume of their operation, I’m all for anything that can minimize their environmental impact, but I’ll venture a guess that it is more about keeping funds in their coffers rather than keeping plastic out of the landfill.

As you head out today to take advantage of the remaining after-Christmas sales, to use your gift cards or to exchange gifts that aren’t quite right, take it upon yourself to be environmentally friendly even if it inconveniences you a bit. Remember to take those reusable bags so it doesn’t matter how much you pack into them; bring your own straws instead of using disposable ones; bundle your errands and walk as much as you can rather than driving from store to store to store in the same plaza. Climate change is real. Do your part even without an economic incentive to motivate you.

leadership dot #2367: hierarchy

There is a meme that has been out on the internet showing the Hierarchy of Ethical Giving as articulated by Just Little Changes – advocating that people first give memories, then time, then various levels before having “buy” at the bottom of the pyramid.

I’d like to extend their concept a bit more and expand the bottom layers to read: Buy from a small business, Buy from a locally-run national store, and at the bottom Buy online.

As is the case for many people, some of my holiday gifts are coming from online retailers, but I am growing more and more conscious about the environmental waste such deliveries incur. Not only does it require a truck to deliver them, but online packages come with excessive packing materials, a box that is frequently discarded (recycled) and layers of paperwork that add to the environmental impact. Multiply that by millions and it matters.

As you are doing your holiday shopping this year (and for all the years to come), use this hierarchy as a guide to not only help the Earth but often to provide more delight to your recipient. It takes more effort to create an experience as opposed to hitting “one-click” to buy from your couch, but it may make your heart grow three sizes that day by doing so.


leadership dot #2339: tech trash

When I think of recycling technology, I think of going to a landfill, but the office store Staples has another idea. It was news to me to learn that Staples recycles technology – and even broadly defines what that is. They do so, for free, every day, but to celebrate America Recycles Day (November 15) they are incentivizing the practice by offering coupons for those who recycle next week (November 11-17).

Staples will accept most anything computer related including ink cartridges, but also gaming systems, GPS devices, MP3 players, shredders, cordless phones, DVD players and coffee brewers! (You need to find your own final resting place for kitchen electronics, televisions and lamps.) They will even wipe your data to meet Department of Defense standards.

Staples may have ulterior motives behind their recycling – hoping their environmental practices may cause you to go there for purchases as well as drop-offs – but it is a generous and extensive service no matter the rationale behind it.

Make recycling your technology a regular part of your organizational habits – especially now that you know where to do it for free.