The Sigma of America’s Wastefulness


Food

According to Mother Nature Network (MNN), in 2010 the average American was 36.6 years old and eats 1,996.3 pounds of food per year.  Of interest, you can reference the latest US Census Bureau data and discover there are about 305 million Americans.  Essentially, these facts stack up to an annual food consumption of about 609 billion pounds.  Even more interesting, The Society of St. Andrew reports that about 40% of the food produced in the United States is wasted.  This means that America wastes about 244 billion pounds of food per year.  But how bad is this, really?

As many know, the Sigma scale of measure tells us how good something is.  The more Sigma’s the better.  For example, airline baggage handling is about 4 Sigma, but the airline flight fatality rate is about 6 Sigma.  This means that the next time you get on an airplane, you are about 1,800 times more likely to reach your destination when compared to your baggage.

Perhaps this may be little scary, but doctor prescription writing is only about 4 Sigma, as is the accuracy of your next restaurant bill.  A real shocker is ICU care.  You might think it would be really good, but its only about 3.5 Sigma.  On the other end of the stick, we should note that the likelihood of a celebrity marriage lasting for 30 years is about 2 Sigma, as is IRS phone-in tax advice and depression misdiagnosis.  So, we know from 30 years of collecting data, world-class performance is around 6 Sigma, average is about 4 Sigma and 2 Sigma is horrid.  But hold your seat, the worst is yet to come.

Let’s now get back to our nation’s problem concerning the waste of food.  Given the facts, America is about 2 Sigma when it comes to making good use of our food supply.  However, according to Chelsea Green Publishing, about 95 percent of the water entering our homes goes down the drain.  As you may have guessed, this is about Zero Sigma.  According to several sources, America’s economic waste is around 32%, or about 2 Sigma.  So it would really seem that our government controls it’s spending about as much as we value our food and water supply.

In the final analysis, it would seem that measuring the scope and depth of the problem is one thing, but quite another to fix it.  Then again, wanting to fix something is really hard when you’re tummy is full, clean water is on tap and there’s some decent money in your pocket.  In the big scheme of things, the bell curve applies and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Need prevails.

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About Mikel Harry

Dr. Harry has been widely recognized in many of today's notable publications as the Co-Creator of Six Sigma and the world's leading authority within this field. His book entitled Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations has been on the best seller list of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, and Amazon.com. He has been a consultant to many of the world’s top senior executives, such as Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman of General Electric Corporation. Dr. Harry has also been a featured guest on popular television programs, such as the premier NBC show "Power Lunch." He is often quoted in newspapers like USA Today and interviewed by the media, such as The Economic Times. In addition, Dr. Harry has received many distinguished awards in recognition of his contributions to industry and society. At the present time, Dr. Harry is Chairman of the Six Sigma Management Institute and CEO of The Great Discovery, LLC.
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2 Responses to The Sigma of America’s Wastefulness

  1. Douglas Baker says:

    Mikel,

    I’m loving these !!!  

    Thank you,

    Doug        Douglas O. Baker Consulting | Planning | Advocate | Resources | Services | Life Special Needs Advisor – Lifespan Guidance, Navigation and Planning 949.300.5035 Los Angeles – Orange County – San Diego – California – National Facebook Resource page ; http://www.facebook.com/specialneedsadvisor Interview ; http://ultimateautismsolutionmembers.com/pdf/UAS_NEWSLETTER_05.pdf LinkedIn ; http://www.linkedin.com/pub/douglas-baker/5/2a5/755   “A Parent of Autism helping other Parents, Families and Professonals of Autism and Special Needs”

  2. Christopher says:

    Hello,

    Nice read! I enjoyed the way you linked the ‘Sigma’ value to every day realities, it will certainly resonate better with the layman who might otherwise find the concept of Six Sigma too overwhelming! 🙂

    The point you made about how 95% of the water that comes into our homes is wasted is also very true and worrying. In fact if I am not mistaken we waste over 20 Liters of water each time we flush the toilet and that’s a huge waste of resources, considering the fact that we teach everyone to constantly keep the toilet flushed. When everything is looked at in terms of waste, the whole ‘picture suddenly begins to take on a different hue’. But you are right, until we really start to feel it, nothing is likely to change in the short run.

    Just spare a thought for all those millions starving in countries like Africa for instance….something is just not right.

    Cheers,

    Christopher

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