Friday, November 19, 2010

Quality Trash: Viewing Quality as more than a Final Good

During this past summer, I was working full time as an intern for a local Dayton company.  I was working long hours which required me to pack breakfast and lunch to my place of employment.  I would start my day off with yogurt and some granola.  One day during breakfast, I finished a package of BareNaked Granola and was about the throw the packaging away.  My place of employment was very supportive of recycling and had both a recycle and trash bin located in the break room.  I was about to throw the granola packaging away but first wanted to see if the bag was recyclable.  To my surprise, not only was the bag recyclable but it was part of a recycle program called Terracycle.

I saved the bag and decided that this was something worth looking into.  I wouldn't call myself an environmentalist but I do appreciate recycling and pay attention to my carbon footprint.  If debating between comparable items, I may make my final decision on the packaging material (compostable) or the reputation the company has.  I try to reduce the amount of plastic I use (water bottles) and am trying to bring my own bags to the grocery instead of collecting MORE plastic bags.  Needless to say, I researched more about this Terracycle program.  I found out that this BareNaked Granola teamed up with a recycling program that motivates and rewards teams and communities to recycle certain products. 

Here is how the program works: First, you join/make a team.  You then collect certain products like gum containers, juice box containers, tape dispensers, plastic Zip Lock bags and so on. There is an entire list of items that Terracycle accepts. Once your team reaches about 75 items, Terracycle will send your team a pre-paid shipping envelope in which you can send all the collected items to Terracycle.  Terracycle will then create and develop new products made from the used bags and wrappers.  As a group, you are not only rewarded for reducing the amount of waste in landfills but for each item you collect.  Based on the amount of products that you send in, your group will also be able to make a donation to a non-profit or school of its choice.  It's a win-win situation!  There's MORE: You can purchase items made from the used bags and wrappers you collected!  Items for sale include: jewelry, bags/totes, clipboards, picture frames, fertilizers and much more.

Terracycle was founded in 2001 by a 19 year old freshman and Princeton University.  The goal of this newly founded company is to eliminate the idea of waste by finding innovative and unique uses for disregarded items, aka - trash.   Since 2001, Terracycle has been very successful in accomplishing its goal.  Over 12.5 million people have joined the brigade which means that these people are making simple life decisions to eliminate the idea of waste.  Over 1.8 billion items have been collected through Terracycle and close to 1.5 million dollars have been donated to charities worldwide.  This company is a great example of how small, sustainable life decisions can result in a better place.  With the dedication and teamwork demonstrated through Terracycle, not only has the amount of trash been reduced but money has been donated to local charities. 

Terracycle is a very small step, but one in the right direction.  It is because of programs like Terracycle and devout members that participate in them that we can truly reduce the amount of waste we as Americans produce.  Programs such as this bring about awareness and gain interest in recycling.  I think this would be a terrific program to implement in schools and perhaps even at work.  Small containers could be placed next to vending machines to collect the wrappers from Starbursts, Skittles and so on.  I think this program would bring unity, empowerment and high spirits to a facility such as the one I worked at this summer.  Such a simple idea can have great rewards.  It's amazing how one idea can turn into such a reality and have such great results. 

So what does this have to do with quality? EVERYTHING! Terracycle is a great demonstration on how quality engages every facet of a product/company/service.  Brand, integrity, price, durability, material, ethics, history, packaging and so much more make up the definition of quality.  Customers have an endless selection when purchasing an item: that is, there are many options to choose from which makes quality even more important to make a product/company/service stand out.  Terracycle chose an ethically sound and responsible business plan, have a good cause and good reputation supporting their name.  Since my discovery of Terracycle, I have been more inclined to purchase products that can be recycled through Terracycle.  I find that my view of quality has grown to encompass the idea of stewardship and recycling.  

In conclusion, businesses should acknowledge and understand that not only are consumers looking at quality in the traditional sense of a final product, but also see quality in the sense of how the product was made and how it will be disposed of.  It is important for a company to deliver a well designed/durable/budget friendly product, all while keeping in mind the 'green' movement. 



Written By: Michelle Whelan

Thursday, November 18, 2010

December Is For Cynics: IET Post Graduation, Pre Employment

To piggyback on the post “Why Do We Need To Know This Stuff” I too have been thinking about my future and my IET minor. I can think of many ways to apply Six Sigma, quality management, and other things I have learned to many engineering jobs, including those in my main major of Mechanical Engineering Tech. But when I graduate in December I wonder still "what am I going to use all this for?" Will I be applying Six Sigma projects on my mom’s cooking? Making sure snow shoveling is up to ISO standards? Examining Baldridge criteria on our Housing Community?
But thankfully for a month and a half,  I’ve found escape through my fraternity. I will be in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico working as an intern for the American Leadership Academy. While my family, brothers, and friends will be thigh deep in snow, I’ll be on the beach enjoying highs in the upper 70s, lower 80s.
But it won't be a vacation. I will be interning and helping with every little task to make sure the program runs effectively. One of the requirements is to issue surveys about speakers and the program at large. Can I use my IET skills to effectively wrangle the data into useable chunks? I sure can. I can use my Six Sigma training to find cause/effect situations, my training in various quality classes to do regression analysis and various charts. I can find out what speakers actually did well and which ones were just mediocre by removing outliers, people who always vote low, and other variables.
While IET might only seem to be applicable to manufacturing, plants, or service industries, I can applying it to a unique internship opportunity.

-J. Matt