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Jim Benson

Quality Insider

Making Waste Explicit

A true example of personal kanban

Published: Monday, March 29, 2010 - 12:27

Making mochi naturally in Ecotopia.

Noticing waste serves no purpose. Understanding it does. Whether we seek to manage waste or attempt to eliminate it entirely, we need to know how much of it exists and what form it takes—what is its volume, its shape, its weight. So we monitor it. We watch it. We learn from how it grows, how it spreads, and what its effects are.

On an idyllic spring day on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Washington, in the crisp fresh air I stood rapt as people heated rice over an open fire. With huge mallets they furiously pounded the grains in a mortar, turning the hot steaming mass into a glutinous paste that is life’s most perfect confection—what the Japanese call mochi. With apparently heat-resistant hands, they grabbed and worked the steaming paste, transforming it into the fluffiest mochi balls imaginable.

This scenario took place at the 2008 Mochi Festival at IslandWood. IslandWood is an educational facility situated in the heart of a forest in the middle of an island in Puget Sound. In their carbon-neutral environment, IslandWood’s stunning 255-acre campus embodies an ideal: In this setting, students of all ages can spend a few days or even an entire university term studying sustainability and culture.

Me? I was there simply for the mochi.

While waiting in line, however, I passed IslandWood’s own low-tech waste monitoring system.
Its name is “Wade.”

Wade measures IslandWood’s food waste. Diners place their meal remains into one of three buckets for weighing: Noncompostable food (like meat), compostable vegetable, and liquid waste. Wade’s goal is simple: Leave diners cognizant of the amount of food waste they create, even if it is going to be composted.

The added benefit of Wade is the visual control of waste. At all times, the amount of waste from previous meals is visible. This keeps diners mindful of the goal and conscious that their actions affect it.

This message translates well for setting up a personal kanban. Whether it is for one person, a family, or an entire group at work, keep in mind that once a type of waste is identified, it will always require managing and people will always need to be reminded of it.

Food waste monitoring at IslandWood

Making waste explicit

  Originally published on Personal Kanban.


About The Author

Jim Benson’s picture

Jim Benson

Jim Benson is the creator and co-author (with Tonianne DeMaria) of the best seller Personal Kanban (Modus Cooperandi Press, 2011) winner of the Shingo Research and Publication Award, 2013. His other books include Why Limit WIP (Modus Cooperandi, 2014), Why Plans Fail (Modus Cooperandi, 2014), and Beyond Agile (Modus Cooperandi Press, 2013). He is a winner of the Shingo Award for Excellence in Lean Thinking, and the Brickell Key Award. Benson and DeMaria teach online at Modus Institute and consult regularly, helping clients in all verticals create working systems. Benson regularly keynotes conferences, focusing on making work rewarding and humane.