Think Locally, Act Globally

March 26, 2013

It’s a common catchphrase in today’s world: Think Globally, Act Locally. I get the general gist of the mantra -- Consider the issues of the world, and do what you can in your own local sphere of influence. This is OK for the individual but just doesn’t cut it for business.

Most large businesses (and many mid-size and small ones, too) have value chain reach that spans states, regions, countries, and continents. Businesses can’t afford to think globally and just act locally.

Businesses need to think locally and act globally.

By “think locally” I mean this -- You have to take these massive, often unfathomable, global sustainability issues down to a scale that is understandable.  That connects to your frame of reference.

For example, the issues associated with sending sending waste to landfill are difficult to fathom on a global scale. We all generally know that landfills are a gross and noxious reality, but we often think of them as “elsewhere.”  But if you take the landfill problem down to your own frame of reference, it is rather easy to fathom.

Envision your own home and the land it is on. For most of us, that is less than half an acre and possibly not more than an apartment parking lot. Now imagine every product you use must either stay in your house or be put somewhere on your half acre.  Forever. 

Now imagine the current trash volume you generate versus the waste that you recycle and compost.  How fast would your home and half acre become awful?  Uninhabitable?

Now take that idea globally. Our world’s population has ballooned to an all-time high of 7 billion. Social scientists predict this to grow to 9 billion in the next two to three decades. 

We can no long design our products to last once, often times for less than 10 seconds, then be discarded to the landfill -- to “elsewhere.” Because there is no “elsewhere."

Businesses are acting. Of the global Fortune 350, there are over 30 zero waste and other significant waste reduction goals and targets. Expect more to come, especially as certifications like the Underwriter’s Laboratory Landfill Waste Diversion Claim Validation program become better known.

I have worked on multiple zero landfill strategies and will publish a white paper on the topic later this year -- stay tuned.




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