The words "environment," "green" or "sustainability" don’t appear in my job title, but over the past couple of years, I’ve transformed my position at Dell into what you might call a green job. Doing so has convinced me that with focus and the right goals, just about anyone can do the same thing — no matter what you do for a living.
When I became senior packaging manager at Dell back in 2006, my goal was to build the world’s best packaging team, not just in the PC industry but in any industry. Not an easy achievement, nor a terribly measureable one. There’s no international ranking for "best packaging team," after all. So we outlined what "best" meant to us, which was: 1) to create truly innovative packaging, 2) using minimal and sustainable resources, 3) that helped reduce complexity for customers and cost for the company.
Meanwhile, Dell was formalizing its environmental stewardship strategy, identifying parts of the business that offered the most opportunity to reduce our environmental impact. Not surprising, products and packaging were high on the list. So my team put an environmental lens on our work, giving life to a new strategy we call our three Cs:
- Cube: How big is the packaging?
- Content: What’s it made of? Could it be made of something better?
- Curb: Is the packaging material easily recycled by customers at their curbside?
We’re using less. Over the past two years, we’ve eliminated the use of more than 18.2 million pounds of packaging material. That’s the same weight as about 226 fully loaded 18-wheelers.
We’re reusing more. In two years, we’ve increased the amount of recycled content (such as plastic from milk jugs) in our packaging by around 32 percent. The company has integrated the equivalent of more than 9.5 million half-gallon milk jugs into its packaging. That’s enough to stretch from Florida to Maine — more than 1,500 miles!
And we’re making it easier to recycle. More than half of our packaging materials can now be conveniently recycled by customers using their local curbside pickup programs. We’re shooting for that number to be 75 percent by the end of 2012.
The three Cs have transformed my team from great packaging engineers into inspired environmental champions within our company. I think they can do that for your team, too.
Look at the raw materials and natural resources you consume in the course of your work day — paper, electricity, water, gasoline, etc. Consuming less could reduce both cost to your company and impact on the planet. If you lead a team or an entire division within your company, what operational or strategic changes could you implement to really reduce your consumption?
In additional to using less, you can choose to use "better." Our engineers, for example, are using locally sourced bamboo to create product cushions for the laptops we manufacture in China. Sourcing locally reduces the environmental impact of shipping paper pulp from the U.S., and fast-growing bamboo actually makes for stronger product packaging. By choosing a more sustainable material, we’re better serving our customers and our planet.
And, perhaps most actionable, RECYCLE. Whether it’s using 100 percent recycled paper in your office printers or making use of recycling bins in the work place, make it a point to choose recycled goods wherever possible and recycle all that you can. At Dell, we’ve set a zero-waste goal in our operations. It’s a high bar, but it’s a worthy, actionable goal that helps keep employees vigilant about environmental stewardship.
When you think about it, any job can become a green job. And the planet could sure use a few more employees on its side.
Based in Round Rock, Texas, Oliver Campbell is senior packaging manager for Dell.