Earth Consultants

Applying Lean Six Sigma to the Environment


For the 7th episode, I am posting an older (but popular) article on how to green your lean event. This episode gives tips and tricks to making your lean six sigma events and meetings more eco-friendly.

We also include a link in the notes to download a free checklist of these suggestions. There is also a link to the video version of this episode, and a link to a similar checklist for greening 5S events.

Relevant Links

Greening Your Lean Event Checklist (Free)

Video version of this podcast episode for “Greening Your Lean Event”

10 Tips for Greening your 5S events (with free checklist)

Access our past podcast episodes >>>

One of the podcasts I listen to is Mark Graban. He does the Lean Audio podcast and what he does is he goes in and talks through some of the post he writes, some of the older ones and including some of the new ones and just kind of reads through and talks to the article; just to make sure that the people get the opportunity to see the article by going to the podcast. So I thought that was a really good idea and so I’m going to try to adopt that and pick out some of the post and articles on the site and read them off to you and then if you want to go back and look at them or read through it, or if want to catch something that you missed when I went through it, you have the opportunity to do that on the site.

The first one I want to go through is called “Tips to green your lean event”

Applying Lean and Six Sigma into your company can have a considerable environmental benefits, even if that’s not the original intent of the event. The elimination of waste can have a positive impact on the environment through reduced materials, reduced travel distance, and less overtime, (which would be reduced lighting and equipment usage) and right sizing containers for material and chemical use, just to name a few of those. You can even make a bigger impact by making sure your event, which can be value stream mapping, 5s, kaizen, radical process improvement, (whatever name you call it) make sure that event is conducted as green as possible. A green event is one that is organized with the goal of minimizing waste and promoting sustainable actions. So on the site, there is a checklist that you can download, it goes through and highlights these different things.

The idea with that is you could review that, look it over before your event, and make sure you’re trying to do as many green things as you can. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, so you come up with other ideas, please contact, let me know, and I can add it to the list.

The first section to go through is “Handouts and facilitation materials”

First tip would be to capture notes using computers and overhead projector, instead of writing on flip charts and easel pads, and that will save some paper.

If you need to write on paper pads however, you can get the  static cling reusable easel pads, or smart sheets, or wizard paper or wizard sheets. There’s a couple of different names for them now, they are becoming more popular, but instead of the large post it notepads and flip chart paper, that will also reduce paper. These are things that you could basically post up in the wall and they static cling to the wall, you can write on them with the reusable markers, and you can wipe them off, and so you can roll them up and use them over and over again, and they just cling to almost anything, so they’re really nice.

Third tip is ordering Post-it Sticky Notes that are made from recycled paper, instead of those produced from new trees.

So if you are going to use post-it notes that you think is the best option for the event, then make sure that there is some amount of recycled paper content. Next would be emailing files and handouts to attendees before the event, so they can review on their computer or pull it up in during the event, to avoid printing the files. A lot of people are bringing their laptops or their iPods or other devices to events, and now they can just access it instead of just trying to estimate of how many people are going to show up, printing a bunch of stacks of paper that a lot of people don’t even look at it, or don’t even reference it, and so now its wasted. If you realize you really do need printout materials and handouts, then consider these following tips, and this came from Harvard University.

First is print on paper with recycled content, 100% would be ideal, I think 30% is kind of a minimum that you should shoot for.

Print only what you need before each day, as things will change, and may not be needed. So just print the materials for the first day, and then before the second day you can adjust and decide if you need additional materials.

Another tip would be print double sided, to reduce paper usage, reduce the font sizes, margins and line spacing to try to reduce paper, but you have to make sure it’s still legible, because you don’t want people to say “I can’t read this” and “print me off another sheet.”

Use print preview options to make sure you don’t print the wrong pages, or ones that are not usable, so always go in and check before you print, to make sure it looks okay and you don’t have something formatted, or goes off to another extra page, or it looks weird, or it got re-sized improperly, so always make that a habit to go in and do a print preview.

Use soy based ink, to minimized chemicals and toxins so there are greener ink options out there, and if you can print black and white instead of color, that reduces ink usage and is also a big cost savings too. If you’re conducting a 5S event specifically, we have another guide and I’ll probably read off that article in the next podcast, around what specifically to do about 5S events.

The next section deals with food and drinks.

So the first one would be catering food, to avoid having participants leave the event and drive to go get food, or they all go back to their office, or they go back to their work, they get distracted and it’s hard to get them back corralled in a timely manner. So have the event catered so they can all stay in the event activity, and sometimes you can take advantage and work through lunch if you need to.

When selecting food options, consider the following: choose local catering options so you can minimize food miles, which is basically how far your food is to get to you, and it helps support the local economy.

Also offer organic food options to minimize fertilizers and chemical usage, offer meat free or vegetarian or vegan options to reduce the environmental impact of raising livestock, and a good way to do that is to survey the attendees beforehand, and find out what their diet restrictions are, their preferences are.

Offer buffet style catering, so you can minimize packaging from individual serving options, as I’ve seen where people order from certain restaurants that all come in with all tons of packaging, every single item for each person. There is three or four little containers, and it’s a big waste, it just overloads the trash can in the room, and it makes a big mess, and it’s a lot of trash going to the landfill.

Also provide healthy snacks in bulk, to reduce packaging, instead of individually packed items, and keep the energy level high during the event, so don’t pick sugary items that people get a quick high and quick energy burst, but then they’ll kind of crash afterwards, so try to pick some healthier options.

Provide a water cooler for people to refill their water bottles and encourage them to bring them, instead of having bottled water, which will reduce the plastic bottle usage and plastic bottles come from oil, so it cuts down our oil dependency.

Provide real silverware and plates instead of disposable and flimsy silverware and Styrofoam plates. A lot of times, catering will bring in plastic tongs and those will break, or with silverware you would try to cut something and those will break and those are kind of annoying for the participants and it’s a lot of trash.

Provide cloth napkins to reduce trash, instead of napkins. Or if you think napkins are the best option, then try to pick some that are made from recycled paper.

Provide recycling containers in the room for bottles, cans, cardboard and paper and any other things that you recycle like glass. Maybe you can set up something for compost, especially if you have catering, and you have food in there. If people don’t eat everything, then you can collect up compost in a bin and just have it in that room, so that’s good for leftover food.

And then the room selection would be the third thing. So select a meeting location with natural light, so you can reduce the amount of lighting you need, so you can just open up the windows and everyone can see outside, and you can get natural light, which really helps with productivity and keep people awake and going strong.

Select a room with updated temperature controls and newer HVAC equipment, so you can reduce energy consumption. As people get into the room, there’s a lot of body heat that kicks in the air conditioning system, so you want to make sure that we’re using that energy in an efficient way.

Select a room with energy efficient lightning like CFL and LEDs to reduce electricity usage.

Select a location that minimizes the distance traveled for attendees, so looking at where people are located, and that could be internationally, or that could be within your country, or that could be within your city or your state. But just looking at where everyone is coming from and figure out what’s the shortest distance for the most amount of people to travel and that’s going to cut down on a lot of fuels and carbon emissions.

Where you can, set up carpools or some kind of van travel, or going as a group, where everyone can minimize having individuals going to the same place.

Make sure lights and projectors are turned off when not in use, so this a pretty common one where people just walk away from the room or maybe go out to the (factory) floor, they go out to the work area and they just leave the lights and projector running, so turn those off whenever those are not in use.

So those are a couple of good tips again that’s available on the checklist for you free to download on the site if you go into the free stuff section. That’s where you’ll find the checklist.

And most importantly, explain the green benefits you have integrated into the events on the first day or throughout the event, so people actually realize that you’ve gone out your way to try to make the event green. And they’ll probably try to incorporate it into their meetings and events, but sometimes you have to point out to them that you’ve done some of those things. It’s not quite obvious, or some people aren’t paying attention. So don’t just assume they’re going to notice the recycling bin, or the recycled post-it notes, but point them out it to them and say “hey, we got these and some have a little bit of recycled content to them” or “we’re going to use the smart sheets instead of paper to try to conserve paper usage.”

And the last thing I’ll add is one thing you can do, beyond just doing the greening your lean events, is that actually take some of your lean and six sigma resources and focus them directly on projects that will have an impact on the environment. You might see the WASTE acronym that we posted on the site throughout; it stands for Water, Air emissions, Solid waste, Toxins and Energy. So if you look at those five areas and look at your facility and your organization and determine what things do we impact the most, and then focus lean events and projects around reduction in those areas. So that would go above and beyond than just having a regular lean event or six sigma project team that is greening their events and meetings.

So if you have any questions or you have other ideas you think would help green typical events, please contact us through the website at Thanks!


Copyright © BPI. All rights reserved. | Newsphere by AF themes.