Leadership Blog

Zero Waste: From “Why & What” to “How & Now”

Remember Larman? …who first thought Zero Waste might be “out over our skis.”  And then, he and his boss, Jeff, along with Mike and Tina, became unwavering champions at Mohawk Industries for Zero Waste.  Their landfill haul savings was a respectable $35,000 but the manufacturing waste savings was awesome, approaching $1,000,000!

Time and again, the Zero Waste financial benefits far exceed any expected savings from reduced landfill hauls.  Seeing Larman recently, I asked if his team of over 200 is sustaining their target of less than 50 gallons per week of curb waste (apple cores, banana peels, etc.).  “You betcha!” was his emotional response.  Our society needs more like Larman, Jeff, Mike, and Tina, who move from “Why and What” to “How and Now,”…to quickly turn Zero Waste into habitual practices.

Moving from the “why’s and what’s” of previous blogs, below is a collection of best principles and practices on how to win “World War III on Waste”:

Best Principles

  1. Manage the Culture: Make Sustainability values-based and personal (ref. blog: frontlinefocus.us/?p=1086).
  2. Sustainability and cost benefits are mutually inclusive, for business and society.
  3. Organize the focus:  The Site Executive owns the success; find champions, like Larman, Jeff, Mike, and Tina; exploit small-group strengths.
  4. The best solutions are upstream at the “top of the pipe” with product and process design.
  5. ZERO Waste is not complicated, but it’s about managing the details of Zero tolerance.

Best Practices

  1. Define & Analyze the Baseline: Metrics, Culture, Housekeeping.
  2. Describe success; i.e. What It Looks Like.
  3. Identify Barriers: What in the pile is keeping you from Zero?
  4. Define a rigorous Focus Plan: What? Who? When? How? Now!
  5. Communicate & Educate: the Zero expectation; Key Messages; new processes; new-hire orientation.
  6. Segregation of Waste is the first step; make it simple and convenient.
  7. 40-Day Focus: a 20 minute daily frontline Sustainability coaching tour for 40 business days (ref blog: frontlinefocus.us/?p=1168).
  8. Audits: Executive “laps” on the frontlines; Self- audits; Expert audits.
  9. 24 X 7 Focus that includes sustainability at home.
  10. Keep the Focus Fresh, with communications and celebrations; jazz it up!
  11. Follow-up; Follow-up; Follow-up!

The web sites of USZWBC (http://uszwbc.org/) and Elemental Impact (http://www.elementalimpact.org/) are great sources to keep up with successes, best practices, and new ideas for getting to Zero.

…and Happy Birthday, USA! Remember to live out our responsibilities to this sustain this great country together …socially, economically, politically, and environmentally.  And then, after the BBQ, remember to recycle those bottles, cans, and such!  God Bless the USA!

…And Pass It On!
Quote from Scott Lutocka, Facilities & Sustainability Manager at Piazza Produce & Specialty Foods in Indianapolis, recipient of the 2014 USZWBC Gold Excellence in Zero Waste, again proving it can be done!  “I believe in their (USZWBC) vision and message as well as advocacy for Zero Waste.  We have a tough road ahead as we continue to try to convince businesses and communities that this is something that should not be optional.  It’s not rocket science!”

Piazza Produce's USZWBC Gold Excellence in Zero Waste Award

Piazza Produce’s USZWBC Gold Excellence in Zero Waste Award

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World War III on Waste

Our global community urgently needs connected and collaborated Sustainability strategies as deliberate as those that could win World War III.  Volumes of data as well as physical realities warn us as rates of material consumption and waste generation increase around the world.

The good news is that technology has improved efficiencies and consumption dramatically.  The bad news is that we are behind in finding more needed technological solutions and consumption behavior changes.  Few argue about whether the issue exists, but many argue about the degree of the issue.  Whatever the degree, we must get busy to provide solutions.

The harsh reality is that the consequences of not solving the environmental health problems on a timely basis will eventually be as economically and environmentally disastrous as a world war.  Who will take the lead?  One would hope the government, but the words and speeches must translate into truth and action.  Is it business leaders? …community leaders? …technologists?  The solution requires all of those and each one of us.

So what can we do?  While one company or one individual cannot save the planet, getting the job done takes each of us doing our part.  No super-heroes will come zooming in to save us, and no silver bullets are available.  No one has a free pass on this, so we must each be engaged. In business, leaders have a special responsibility that starts with building a basic strategic focus, which then moves to leading execution and building culture (refer to “FrontLine Focus on Sustainability Strategies,” http://frontlinefocus.us/?p=1111).

The USZWBC is one organization bringing together a network of problem solvers and collaborators in search of and doing the right things to win the war on waste.  Check out the USZWBC site at http://uszwbc.org/ and the Elemental Impact site at http://www.elementalimpact.org/ to stay on top of strategies and tactics that can help win your War on Waste.

At the end of the USZWBCAtlanta Conference last month, the people were energized to return home to make a difference.  They must.  We all must.  As a leader, your job to lead Sustainability is more than a noble cause…it is a requirement to win World War III on Waste for sustainability of society.

… And Pass It On!


My father hailed from the “Greatest Generation”, having fought on the frontlines in the Battle of the Bulge.  The quote below has a profoundly deep meaning to me. (refer to “Sustainability of Our World, and Freedom,” http://frontlinefocus.us/?p=223)
From Thomas L. Friedman, co-author of That Used To Be Us: What ‘freedom’ was for our parents’ generation, ‘sustainability’ has to be for ours.  …because without sustainable practices, repeated crises in the market and Mother Nature will impose more limitations on our way of life than anything the Soviets ever could have.”



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