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I recently gave a keynote on the topic of simplicity at a management retreat in Germany for a large lighting company. As with most retreats, we did a physical team-building exercise, which in this case was a five-mile hike up a mountain together. At the very top of the mountain, we enjoyed a delicious dinner in an isolated log cabin in the forest. For sure, I expected that we’d be dining with paper plates and plastic flatware, but instead, there were regular plates and metal silverware. I commented to an attendee that this was quite a fancy affair to be having at a camp, to which he replied that it was required by law. Rewinding the day in my head, it occurred to me that even during one of our mountainside pit stops, we were drinking coffee out of regular porcelain cups.

The simplicity of disposable plates and utensils is quite desirable from a time-saving perspective, but their environmental impact is quite complex. McDonough’s mantra of “reuse instead of recycle” echoed in my mind.

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