Many businesses embark on greening programs by taking a good, hard look at the stream of materials both into and out of their business. Often, this first shows up as recycling. We all know about recycling, and how we “should” be doing better. So, why aren’t we?
Being trained in the design arts, I firmly believe that if it’s not convenient or beautiful enough, people won’t bother. Yes, beauty has a powerful, usually subliminal effect on us. If something is repugnant and hard to do – why waste your time on it?
Luckily, there are some excellent examples of doing recycling right. For instance, check out the plastic recycling bin in a Swiss McDonald’s pictured on the wonderful website, “Eco Pic of the Day.”
Wish we had that kind of recycling beauty on this side of the pond? Good news! Last August, my family and I went to San Francisco, which in the resource (not “waste”) management world feels like a trip to the future.
The image at the top was taken in the California Academy of Sciences, itself an over-the-toply green building. Definitely worth a visit and do NOT miss the green roof. They had triple-bins all through the building, but since this was in the main pathway, the designers took pains to make it something that fits and is easy to use. It has beautifully weighted lids that pivot, always returning to the list of what materials to put in. This picture also has one key bit of information: “90% of your waste can be composted!”
Since San Francisco has municipal composting (how cool is that??), I embarrassed my family by taking photographs of trash bins. Ahhh, but not just ANY trash bins – these are happily color-coded with photos, so you know immediately what to put in each. Since color is deeply symbolic, it is no accident that the green is for compost, the blue is for recycling, and the black is for “landfill.” I’ve even seen places where the black can is much smaller than the others, to discourage use.
Finally, since pictures are far more eloquent than words, stations like this go a long way to assuring success. Again, pay attention to both the size and the colors of each poster. Size, color and number of choices work on both an explicit and a subliminal level. Advertisers have known and exploited this for years! We’ve starting doing something very similar at my son’s school events, and it works like a charm.
If you’re having challenges implementing a recycling program or getting participation, here are some tips:
1. Take a look at the containers you are using. Is it abundantly clear what materials go into each container?
2. Are the containers placed for convenience? Be honest – people are just not going to walk the entire length of your building just to recycle a single Coke can. If you can err on the side of more containers, do it.
3. Ask for suggestions from your co-workers. You’d be surprised how many people actually DO care about this, even if their at-work behavior is less than exemplary. By asking for their input, you can more effectively deputize them to be part of the solution.
4. Aim high! Why not consider a composting program? Maybe your apartment-dwelling, tree-hugging young employees will be thrilled to bring their kitchen scraps from home. And then blog about what a cool employer you are. There are a lot of composting services cropping up all over. It may not be as crazy as it sounds.
5. Please do not underestimate the value of good design! Color, size, material, and graphics play a deeply significant role in effective communication. Lavishing attention on your recycling bins communicates that it’s a high priority in your workplace. You really can make recycling fun and sexy – if you embrace the beauty, ease and grace of good design.
Harness the power of good design to make your recycling program sexy! Did you these tips useful? Let us know and share this with your friends!