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Interesting Green Business Ideas? November 25, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business.
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When we consider what are processes are and what can be done better and then add in some creativity we can come up with some great efficiency options.  It is key that we are creative in this process though because some of the best ideas may seem a little bit odd when first discussed.  I have a few examples of solutions that seem odd at first glance.  Some have been very successful others could potentially succeed or fail but the jury is still out.

UPS No Left Turns

UPS spent quite a lot of time and effort reviewing their driving patterns in an effort to decrease their fuel consumption.  They came up with quite a few suggestions that they are offering to the general public.  One of the experiments that they did was to eliminate as many left turns in their routing as possible.  Their assumption was that you spend a lot of time idling in traffic if you make left turns.  They posted information about this on their website that describes the theory and the benefits.  Here is a small part:

In 2007, UPS route planning technology, which minimizes left hand turns:

  • shaved nearly 30 million miles off already streamlined delivery routes;
  • saved 3 million gallons of gas; and
  • reduced emissions by 32,000 metric tons of CO2 – the equivalent of removing 5,300 passenger cars off the road for an entire year.

When this idea was first pitched I will guarantee that someone either said or thought “What are you talking about?”.  I am certain that it seemed like a crazy idea.  The innovator saw that there was potential and experimented to see if the theory would work.  It did and as you can see it made a huge difference.

Sam’s Club Square Milk Cartons

While listening to a podcast recently I learned that Sam’s Club has been analyzing the transportation of staple items for potential efficiency gains.  One of the changes that they are making is that they are changing the shape and size of milk containers to be more transport friendly and efficient.  I found a link to the press release on Sam’s website that outlines the idea.  Here’s an excerpt of the what the concept does for them:

Today’s new square or case-less milk jugs do not require crates or racks for shipping and storage. Instead, the newly designed milk gallon is self stacking because the spout is flatter and each gallon can rest on another during transport, as well as while on display. It’s estimated trucks used for shipping from the processor to club can accommodate 9% more milk — 4,704 gallons per truck or approximately 384 more jugs — without any metal racks

Imagine how large of savings both from an environmental perspective and pure economic perspective this “simple” change will make.  Although 9% seems like a small number think about how much that means to a retailer as large as Wal-Mart and how much milk they will touch over the next 5 to 10 years.  It will have a dramatic effect. 

Japanese Company Employees on Roof

Recently, while reading articles about green developments I ran across an article of a Japanese company that is having all of their employees sit outside on the roof of their building in order to limit the use of energy to light and reduce carbon emissions.  I think that this might be one of the strangest ideas that I have heard but who knows.  Here is an excerpt of the article:

Japanese office supply manufacturer Kokuyo has mandated its employees to work in a newly constructed rooftop office for 90 days each year, or about a third of their annual work days.

Again, I am not certain that this is great idea or not so don’t put all your employees on the roof when it’s 0 degrees outside.  This one may well be the idea that seems strange at first and then a little later still seems strange. 

Sum it up

The ideas above are not designed to be implemented by every company and probably wouldn’t work at every company.  They were thrown out there to be examples of how some strange, crazy, off the cuff ideas turn into real innovations.  Also, they may point out that some are just strange. 

I would definitely think that you should consider what will make your company more efficient.  When you do think outside of the box (or the milk container) to come up with innovative ideas as to how to make yourself better.  Some times those strange ideas turn into common logic in the future.  Imagine the guy at Xerox who invented the original computer mouse!  Now, it is a standard in today’s market.

Look for efficiencies, challenge common “knowledge”, and be innovative.  Let me know if I can help!

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