Monday, May 24, 2010

The Kaizen Culture: Don't Manage Waste, Eliminate It

Kaizen is the Japanese term for constantly working to eliminating waste in all ways, at all levels. It's quite popular in manufacturing and other pursuits, and is helping to increase the competitiveness of our industries.

But in our everyday lives-- now, that's a different, sadder story. Today is large trash day here in Swarthmore. On just a few nearby streets, I saw enough nice, usable furniture out on the curb to furnish an apartment.

Our current approach, at its best, is called cradle-to-grave management. But that's a misnomer, since there is no actual "grave" where so much waste can be buried. As in our industries, we must seek to eliminate waste, by not producing it in the first place. This is called cradle-to-cradle resource management, or zero-output waste management.

The way we're "managing" our waste now, we're destined to drown in it, sooner or later.