Friday, January 14, 2011

"Resolution motivators" for the New Year

Thoughts about green New Year's resolutions

With the turn of the calendar announcing a new year I remembered, as a kid, the flurry of activity in my house around the development and pronouncement of New Year's resolutions - those idealized goals for the next year which, if watched but not too closely, made the start of a new year enjoyable.

So I was thinking about this while reviewing a lot of material in preparation for this posting. And, it occurred to me, there are "resolution motivators" that we can use to help each of us craft our resolutions with respect to sustainability and green manufacturing for 2011.

So, here goes.

In no particular order, my top 10 "motivators" are:

1- "You snooze … you loose": The standard phrase employed when someone is not keeping their eye on the ball and gets bested, scooped, left behind or otherwise trumped by someone else. Think large lethargic corporations comfortable in their business practices while their competitors watch the trends and changes and respond resulting in increased profitability, market share and, at least, continuity in business. Reading any of the sources of green technology and business practices shows us that our competitors are not sleeting. Stay competitively awake.

2- Avoid "technical dickies": Definition - when I was in high school there was a "dickie craze." Dickies are faux turtleneck sweater necks (and a bit of shoulder) that you can wear under a shirt to give the appearance that you are wearing a full turtleneck sweater. They are the sweater equivalent to the clip on tie. Whereas they may appear to fool some … they eventually are apparent for what they are (a fake item). Green washing is, to me, the equivalent of a "technical dickie" - something that is not what it appears to be and only fools other "dickie" wearers. Don't green wash. (If you are not familiar with the greenwashing term see the July 10, 2009 posting)

3- "Every one wants to drink milk … but no one wants to milk the cows": This is a saying I got from my old friend Professor Dick DeVor of the University of Illinois. And he got it from his late father-in-law, farmer Herb Luedtke. Country wisdom. We all have to put something in to get something out. That is the reason for the social element of the triple bottom line of sustainability and, frankly, just common decency and good sense. A corollary to this is the familiar "no such thing as a free lunch."

4- The golden rule - "them with the gold makes the rules"; This was a well worn saying of one of my old, now departed, Berkeley colleagues Joe Frisch. It can actually be a positive concept. Consider Walmart (or any other very large corporation with a lot of sway over their suppliers).  Walmart has embarked on a mission to green up their supply chain. Working with the Sustainability Consortium at Arizona State University and the  University of Arkansas they are using their marketing leverage to drive the creation of eco labels for products sold in their stores so consumers can make decisions about what to buy. And they've been proactive about reducing packaging waste. Using your leverage to make things happen.

5- "Why worry about future generations? What have they ever done for us?" Attributed to Groucho Marx. This is the mantra of the "me generation" and has contributed to much of the situation we find ourselves in today. Sustainability, as we have discussed many times, is insuring the future has the same, or better, opportunities that we have. Same opportunities for education, life style, health, freedom, leisure, employment, nourishment and so on. Tall order. But that's what this is all about.

6- "Lead, follow or get out of the way": (and see number 1 above). There is probably nothing more frustrating about someone who is intellectually, or competitively, asleep than if, also, they are blocking your way. I had a friend who used to refer to a mythical "intellectual hat pin" (another relic from the past) that they would employ to poke someone to get someone to start taking some action or, at least, wake up and get out of the way. Leaders have special responsibilities (see numbers 1, 2 and 5 above). Maintaining an open and responsive attitude towards new drivers for reducing impacts in their operations and enterprises is at the top. And then taking action is next.

7- "Live life like a pizza … one slice at a time": I never quite understood this one but it is on a billboard along Interstate 80 outside of Dixon Ca advertising an Italian restaurant. I have other versions of "living life like a pizza" but won't bore you with those. This reminds me of technology wedges. These tech wedges (see September 15, 2009 blog) if this does not ring a bell) are designed to make small, but measurable, reductions in impact or consumption in a process or system. Rather than trying to eat the whole pizza in one bite, take small slices and make measurable, but consistent, progress.

8- "You cut and I pick": This has to be one of every mother's standard instructions in the face of siblings trying to divide like a pie or donut or something else they'd both rather eat all of. One slices and the other then gets first pick of their piece of the pie, or whatever. This insures that the "divider" will do their best to cut the item as close to equal in half as theoretically possible to insure the "chooser" gets a fair shake.  Or, unless the chooser is asleep, the divider loses out. Be fair in your appraisal of any new concept or idea … just as if you were the divider.

9- "This will come in handy if we never use it": This was a phrase often employed by my father, reflecting his depression era "save it" mentality when any item or object came up for disposal but it seemed to have some inherent value or usefulness. He was not a hoarder by any means. But he did know how to get the most out of anything. The "low hanging" (if you will) energy or resources in any factory or facility ripe for saving/reducing/reusing is usually very large indeed. Find it and save it. As Ben Franklin would have said "A kilowatt saved is a kilowatt earned."

And, finally

10- Don't rely on the "magic 8 ball" or similar schemes for your planning.  Read, think, ask, try. There are a lot of resources out there, specially now on the web, put together by folks who spend a lot of time scouring the world looking for innovation, examples, etc. - read them! Some of these sources are listed at the bottom of this page. Google search is an amazing tool. But read, think/analyze, then act.

Thanks for reading along. I hope this provide some stimulation for your resolutions this year.

And, Happy New Year!


  1. Great list of "motivators" especially the one slice at a time, too many times progress gets derailed because people want it everything done NOW and only one way. Real sustainability will come when we embrace many solutions to the problem and implement as many as we can.

  2. Live life like a pizza simply outstanding..thanks for the 10 motivators..I see that your so passionate in helping others!! thanks a lot!

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