Thirty-two years ago today, Stars Wars was released. A generation would be exposed to a new type of motion picture and the seed of sustainability was born within me. The funny thing is, I just didn’t know it yet.
I know it sounds strange, and no I am not a Sci-fi fanatic. I was however one of hundreds that where waiting in the longest line I had every seen wrapped around the Bel-Air Cinema that wonderful summer night in Mobile, Alabama.
I have wondered how I could write about sustainability and how I could share the experiences I have had over the years working with waste minimization, environmental and social causes. Tonight as I clicked through the channels I stumbled on “Star Wars”, I stopped to watch and it hit me! This was the movie that contained the scene that I had used to finally win over executives at one of the largest retailers in America.
I had been working as a Six Sigma Black Belt analyzing waste and environmental proposed projects. We had established our problem and believed that we had a workable project, but we could not get anyone to sponsor our project. Waste was not “sexy” it didn’t attract a lot of attention, even though it cost millions each year to handle. We discovered that the waste dumpsters were not being filled properly. We were sending out containers that had very little weight. That was a problem because you paid for the weight of the waste and you paid for the hauling of the container. We thought that if we could increase the weight per container we could reduce the number of hauls, and save money!
Simple, are so we thought. No one seemed to be interested. But, one day we had a chance to bring the project up again. This time instead of working from the Six Sigma template. I started off by asking the executives in the room if they had ever seen the movie “Star Wars”? I heard a deep gasp from my Master Black Belt. One guy actually said yes. So, I asked if he remembered the rescue scene where everyone jumped into the waste storage unit. Then a few more nodded.
I told them that this was what was happening inside our dumpsters. Just like the pole that Han had used to position between the two walls to block the compactor as the compactor was working to compact the waste and crush everyone, materials that we where throwing into our dumpsters were working, in our case successfully, to block the compactor blades from compressing the waste material in our compactor. So, instead of 8 tons per container we where only able to get one or two tons. The long post and boards that were being placed in the compactor were able to create voids and barriers that would not allow the compactor to compress the waste.
They all got it!
We were finally able to gain support on our first waste minimization project, thanks to Han Solo! That’s when it hit me. There was a simple formula for getting our projects moving and to winning support.
But, more on that in later blogs, for now… Thank you George Lucas for creating such a memorable moment!