Welcome to the very first edition of Green Stories. We’ll be looking at people who are making a difference in the environmental space, profiling their green stories and discussing their work.

First up is Vince Schutt, founder of Enviromentum. He’s a data geek and focuses on helping people adopt environmentally responsible behaviours through motivational interviews. This is part 3 of a multi-part interview (click here for part 1 and part 2) and we’re talking about being DTF ~ designed to fail.

Enviromentum’s Focus        

“There is a virtual cornucopia of literature in the behavioural sciences to help us solve the climate change problem. At Enviromentum, we’re looking at social, psychological, health sciences. For example, how do clinicians work with patients to help them stop smoking? You can treat lung cancer all you want, but if you don’t cut out smoking, that’s the offending thing. A good doctor needs to be able to help their patient quit smoking because no number of drugs is going to beat not having the offending agent there. You can give them drugs all day, but there’s a much simpler way – just quit.

I wanted to be able to apply the principles that are out there, towards specifically environmental interventions.”

~ Vince

Designed to Fail

Akhil: What I get so far is that it’s not just enough for one aspect of the product to be green. If you`re serious about being green you are thorough about it. From this one bar of soap, it`s packaging is made from recycled paper, it’s shape maximizes use and packaging, all these little details that make me realise you care.

It’s kind of like how people perceive electronics. It’s the little details like Apple back in the day that made you realise they care about the customers. Versus here, it’s the little details in the product itself that makes you realise that this company cares about sustainability. Which you might not find is a product by someone like Koch brothers.


Vince: That`s right. And one thing I want to note is that you just said Apple “back in the day”. You didn’t just say Apple. Indicating that there is something about Apple that was different than what it was “back in the day”.

And I can actually show you what the difference is between then and now by looking at the bottom of my laptop right here. You’ll see there are 4 things missing on the bottom of my laptop. Those are the feet of the Apple computer.

In my Six Sigma training, there’s this concept called Design for Six Sigma (DSS). And DSS is saying that we are looking at every aspect of whatever it is we’re making. You pick the product, whether an Apple computer or a Dove bar or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. In DSS I’m going to design that product to not fail. And to do that, I’m going to look at every single method of failure that could happen. I’m going to work on understanding how each failure could happen and then I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen.

This is a process known as FMEA: Failure Mode and Effects Analysis. You want to understand your product inside and out. How can it fail? And you go through a brainstorm mode to figure things out.

But this Apple computer, I only get a 1 year warranty. I have to pay for a 3 year one. Which, based on DSS and FMEA, indicates that they know their product is probably going to fail within 3 years.


I only get a 1 year warranty. I have to pay for a 3 year one. Which goes to show that they know their product is probably going to fail within 3 years.

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Externalizing Failure

It’s designed to fail.

Yes! So, this came back form service a week and a half ago. What they didn’t fix was the 4 missing feet on the bottom. Why was the screen covered but not the feet?

They knew it would happen.

They knew it would fail and didn’t want to pay for it! The way it’s made, they can’t just replace the feet, they have to replace the entire bottom plate. And the cost to replace that would be something around $130.

A much simpler solution would be DSS. You prevent it from failing in the first place so that way you can actually have it covered by warranty.


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Durability = Sustainability

You’re saying that if you’re being green as a company, you should apply DSS principles for sustainability, i.e. look at every aspect of the company.

Exactly! What’s interesting is that durability and sustainability are not different. Durability is the most important part of sustainability!



Stay tuned for Part 4 coming soon!