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How a Family Reduced Their Carbon Footprint and Saved $1,342 Per Year Using Lean Six Sigma - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Lean Six Sigma isn’t just beneficial for business – it works great at home and in life! Here’s an example of how one family reduced their carbon footprint and saved money.

What Is a Carbon Footprint?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “carbon footprint” refers to the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere each year by…

  • an individual
  • a household
  • a building
  • an organization
  • a country

It is usually measured in pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents, and it typically includes both direct and indirect emissions. Direct emissions, according to the EPA, are the ones that a person can directly control, such as driving a car or heating a home with natural gas. Indirect emissions are consequences of activities for which individuals can’t control the amount of emissions.

For example, homeowners can control the amount of electricity they use, but they can’t control the emissions that are associated with the generation of that electricity, because the electric company controls that.

Project Results Summary: Reducing Carbon Footprint

Using Lean Six Sigma To Reduce Carbon Footprint

Annual Carbon Footprint Reduced By 7%

Project Wins

  • Reduced household Carbon Footprint Emissions by 7%.
  • Helped improve the environment.
  • Gained insight into the activities that result in carbon emissions.

DMAIC Approach

  • Investigated which areas of improvement that could have the most impact and still work within the set parameters and follow the Voice of Customer.
  • Targeted categories listed in the carbon footprint software.

Context

  • Reducing a homes carbon footprint reduces the amount of resources that are used and the amount of pollution that is released into the air on a daily basis.

Project Details (DMAIC Process): Reducing Carbon Footprint

Define Phase

Voice of Customer

  • Customer was a homeowner who was concerned about the environment.
  • Customer wanted to lower carbon footprint by at least 5% without adding any additional costs.

Baseline Data and Performance to Customer Expectations

  • The baseline data was collected and analyzed to determine areas of improvement. These improvements were grouped by category and tested in phases.
  • A running chart was used to document the results at various improvement phases.
  • Data driven testing continued until a 5% carbon footprint reduction was reached.
  • Only the items with zero cost were considered per the VOC.

Project Charter

Reducing Carbon Footprint With Lean Six Sigma - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Project Timeline (Estimated vs. Actual)

Reducing Carbon Footprint With Lean Six Sigma - Project Timeline - GoLeanSixSigma.com

 

SIPOC

Reducing Carbon Footprint With Lean Six Sigma - SIPOC - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Measure Phase

Baseline Data Capture

Carbon footprint measurements were based on the following data:

  • Location of home
  • Square footage of home
  • Number of persons living in home
  • Annual household income
  • Annual food, home goods and services spending
  • Vehicle(s) gas mileage and annual distance driven
  • Annual electricity, gas and water usage
  • Amount of air miles traveled annually
  • Amount of public transportation miles traveled annually

No historical data was available since this was the first carbon footprint reading for this home.

Data was captured and entered into the carbon footprint software. Data type is Continuous.

Reducing Carbon Footprint With Lean Six Sigma - Baseline - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Local Average

  • Transportation: 18.4 tons
  • Housing: 7.8 tons
  • Shopping: 20.8 tons
  • TOTAL: 47 tons

Reducing Carbon Footprint With Lean Six Sigma - Carbon Footprint Emissions Per Year - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Although the baseline measurement of 24 tons is much better than the local and national averages, it is much higher than the World average of 10 tons of C02 per year.

Analyze Phase

  • Brainstorming led to several potential causes that could affect energy and resource use and impact the carbon footprint.
  • Analysis of the data showed significant improvements could be made to reduce the amount of carbon used. These improvements would not require major lifestyle changes or any additional costs.
  • The online software divides the carbon footprint into three categories – Transportation, Household and Shopping. The approach chosen was to make improvements in one category at a time and measure the impact to the overall rating after each set of improvements were proposed.

Reducing Carbon Footprint With Lean Six Sigma - Fishbone Diagram - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Hypothesis Statements

Reducing Carbon Footprint With Lean Six Sigma - Hypothesis Statements - GoLeanSixSigma.com

 

  • Statement: Carbon footprint can not be reduced unless all team members are involved and actively participate.
  • Null Hypothesis: Carbon footprint will not change
  • Alternate Hypothesis: Carbon footprint will be reduced will minimal participation from other team members.
  • Conclusion: A significant reduction in the carbon footprint was made even with minimal or inconsistent participation from the other team members – Reject the NULL.

Improve Phase

What Was Accomplished?

  • Accomplished a pledged reduction in the amount of carbon and exceeded customer expectations by 2%
  • Chose solutions that not only met the VOC criteria (5% reduction with no additional costs) but also could be easily implemented into their customers’ household routines

What Was Learned?

  • Several options were available to reduce the carbon footprint
  • It is best to select reduction options that best fit the customers routine, lifestyle and budget

Baseline and Improvement Data Comparison

Reducing Carbon Footprint With Lean Six Sigma - Improve Phase - GoLeanSixSigma.com

A 7% reduction in carbon emissions can be achieved based on three phases of pledged improvements in the following categories:

  • Transportation (vehicles)
  • Housing (energy)
  • Shopping (food)

Pledged Improvements

  • Phase 1 Improvements – Transportation (Vehicles)
    • Maintain Vehicles – Check tire pressure and maintain vehicle regularly. A smoothly running machine trims pounds off the carbon footprint.
    • Practice ECO-Driving – Reduce highway speed to 65, most car engines get less and less efficient as speeds increase. Also, reduce rapid acceleration and braking.
  • Phase 2 Improvements – Home (Energy)
    • Adjust Thermostat – Adjust thermostat settings in winter and summer by 2 degrees and reduce to a neutral setting during the day when unoccupied.
    • Line-Dry Clothing – Use dryer less and consider drying outdoors (if sunny). In addition to saving emissions and money, it’s nicer for your clothes and helps extend their lifetime.
    • Switch to CLF – incandescent light bulbs use four times more energy than their efficient CFL relatives for the same brightness.
    • Purchase Green Electricity – Voluntary buy-in to EPA-certified green power from local utility company.
  • Phase 3 Improvements – Shopping (Food)
    • Go Organic – buy organic food including reducing chemical toxins in the environment and encouraging sustainable farming practices, which frequently accompany organic farming.
    • Change to a Low-Carbon Diet – A third of all food emissions in the United States come from red meat and dairy products.
    • Chicken and vegetables have up to ten times smaller footprints per serving. Small diet switches can make a BIG difference.

Control Phase

Monitoring and Response Planning

  • If the proposed measures are not followed by all team members, the reduction in carbon emissions will not be realized. This would also eliminate any potential cost savings.
  • Team Member 1 will serve as the person responsible to monitor team member activities to make sure everyone is on board. Team member activities will be monitored on a weekly basis.
  • Another carbon footprint reading will be taken every 3 – 6 months. If target goal of 7 % is not maintained, additional carbon reducing measures will be introduced.

Additional Benefits Of Improvements

  • Transportation Carbon Footprint Savings (Vehicles): $166/year
  • House Carbon Footprint Savings (Energy): $386/year
  • Shopping Carbon Footprint Savings (Food): $859/year
  • Total Carbon Footprint Savings: $1,342/year

Other savings and emission reduction may be realized if other options are explored such as telecommuting to work, vehicle upgrades, purchasing Energy Star appliances and reducing air travel.

How are you reducing power consumption? Tell us in the comments below!

Register for Green Belt Training & Certification and being saving money while reducing your carbon footprint today!

Appendix

  • CoolCalifornia.org – The online carbon footprint used for this project is provided by CoolCalifornia.org – a non-profit organization whose founding partners include state government agencies, universities, and a non-profit organization, all focused on finding solutions for Californians to stop the climate crisis. They believe small, simple steps serve as building blocks for reducing carbon footprint and making choices matter.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at University of California San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.
  • Mike

    This is an excellent way to show the whole process of Lean tools in use.
    Thanks

  • rr

    Excellent!