In my “Better Aesthetics = Better Results” post I discussed the operational benefits of using a properly-designed, high-aesthetic recycling bin.
For many programs, there is another equally-valuable role that these bins play in the marketing of your broader sustainability effort. Because people cannot see most aspects of your sustainability program, believing your sustainability promotion takes a certain element of faith. As such, that promotion can be greatly enhanced or badly derailed by the visual cues that people do see.
Think about most of the most successful aspects of your sustainability program. What of that do people see? Do they see the extra insulation that you added to a building, or the air sealing that you did to tighten up your building envelope? Do they see the heat recovery wheel that you added to your HVAC system or all the variable frequency drives that you added to all your motors? Unless you provided them with a special tour of all of your mechanical rooms and crawl spaces, the answer is probably no. Heck, even with the lighting that people can see, most visitors or occupants of your facilities don’t recognize the difference between the T12 and a T8 fluorescent tube overhead.
If you have a highly visible windmill at your facility (and kudos to you if you do), that is a big visual cue that makes people believe in your commitment to sustainability. So too with solar panels prominently placed on roofs. However, one of the most prominent aspects of your sustainability program that should not be overlooked is your recycling bins.
When people arrive at your facility and see prominently-located, aesthetic, well-labeled recycling bins next to every trash can, they see an effective sustainability program. They may only notice it subconsciously, but they do notice it. When they do, because the aspect of sustainability that they can see is run effectively, it makes folks more likely to believe that the aspects of sustainability that they don’t see are also run effectively.
The opposite is even more true. If you walk into a LEED-certified building and cannot find a recycling bin, are you as likely to believe that it really is a “green” building, or does a little bit of doubt creep into your mind? Say you are a College or University President who has committed your campus to sustainability. When someone, especially a prospective students, or alumnae donors walk into your campus center, or your library, or your theater, what do they see? If they see trash cans without adjoining recycling bins, or if they see poorly-organized recycling bins, or if they see custodians dumping recyclables into the trash, they will start to question not just your commitment to recycling, but your broader commitment to sustainability. It may not be conscious but that doubt will be there. And that doubt will make it that much harder to communicate your commitment to sustainability to those prospective students or alums.
If your goal is to promote sustainability at your facility or your campus, think about your recycling bins. An investment in even a few prominently-placed, high-aesthetic, well-labeled recycling bins can provide a significant payback. And, it is an investment that will be seen by more people on a daily basis than many of the other “green” marketing tools that you could invest in.
How do you cue stakeholders in on your “green” efforts?