Tips to Green Your Lean and Six Sigma Events

Applying lean and six sigma into your company can have considerable environmental benefits, even if that is 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, less overtime (reduced lighting and equipment use) and right sized containers for material and chemical use (just to name a few).

You can make an even bigger impact by making sure your event (value stream mapping, 5-S, kaizen or radical process improvement (RPI)) is conducted as “green” as possible. A green event as one that is organized with the goal of minimizing waste and promoting sustainable actions.

Handouts and facilitation materials

  • Capture notes using computer and overhead projector, instead of writing on flip charts and easel pads
  • If you need to write on paper pads, use static cling reusable easel pads instead of large post it notepads and flip chart paper, to reduce paper consumption
  • Email files and handouts to attendees before event, so they can review on their computer, and avoid printing the files
  • If you must print paper for handouts, consider the following (tips provided by Harvard):
  • Order Post-it Sticky Notes made from recycled paper, instead of those produced from new trees

  • Print on paper with recycled content (100% ideal)
  • Print only what you need before each day, as things change and may not be needed
  • Print double-sided to reduce paper usage
  • Reduce font sizes, margins and line spacing to reduce paper (while making sure it is still legible)
  • Use print preview options to make sure you don’t print pages that are not usable
  • Use soy-based ink to minimize chemicals and toxins
  • Print black and white instead of color, to reduce ink usage

Food and drinks

  • Cater food to avoid having participants leave the event and drive to get food, which also takes longer to get everyone back and started in the event
  • When selecting food options, consider the following:
    • Choose local food catering options, to minimize “food miles” and support the local economy
    • Offer organic food options to minimize fertilizers and chemical usage
    • Offer meat-free (vegetarian) options to reduce the environmental impact of raising livestock
    • Offer buffet style catering to minimize packaging from individual serving options
    • If you order individual packaged items, select options with compostable or recycled packaging to minimize trash to the landfill
  • Provide healthy snacks in bulk to reduce packaging, instead of individually packaged items, and to keep the energy level high during the event (not a sugar “crash”)
  • Provide a water cooler for people to refill their water bottles, instead of ordering bottled water, which reduces plastic bottles made from oil
  • Provide real silverware and plates instead of disposable and flimsy plastic silverware and styrofoam plates
  • Provide cloth napkins to reduce trash, or napkins made from recycled paper
  • Provide recycling containers in the room for bottles, cans, cardboard and paper
  • Provide a compost bin for leftover food

Room Selection

  • Select a meeting location with natural light to reduce lighting (electricity)
  • Select a room with updated temperature controls and newer HVAC equipment to reduce energy consumption
  • Select a room with energy efficient lighting (CFL and LEDs) to reduce electricity usage
  • Select a location that minimizes the distance traveled for attendees
  • Encourage attendees to carpool, walk, bike or take public transportation to the event in order to minimize vehicle emissions and gasoline usage
  • Make sure lights and projectors are turned off when not in use

Most importantly, explain the “green” benefits you have integrated into the event on the first day. You don’t want to assume they will notice the recycling bins or recycled post-it notes. This will also encourage them to think about meetings and events they need to setup in the future, and they will be more likely to implement these same ideas.