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Waste Awareness Campaigns

Next Wave to Accelerate Sustainable Consumption?

The consumer psyche is complex and challenging to fully comprehend. Marketers work tirelessly to figure out ways to get people to change their spend patterns, all the while influencing people’s tastes and preferences. It’s no different when it comes to getting people to understand the magnitude of their impacts around waste. Visualization and perhaps even the shock-and-awe factor are the latest trends when it comes to waste awareness. To achieve understanding on the how and the why recycling waste of any kind is important, we have to understand that it goes beyond the planet impacts, it’s one of the ways in which direct power is given back to people. Waste is one of the few areas that people have the ultimate control over whether materials get a second life or not. Think about all of the stuff we consume. A small change in one city amplified across all cities in the world can amount to something significant.

More and more we are seeing innovative trends in social awareness campaigns where companies are focused on getting consumers to care about how their products are recycled. Take coffee cups. World coffee consumption is on the rise and not expected to slow down anytime soon. On one end, climate change threatens how this demand in coffee will be properly met, on the other end, we’re concerned with more waste generated as a result. The infamous paper to-go coffee cup that every morning commuter can’t live without. In Manchester UK, the #1MoreShot social experiment campaign launched in October. Eleven giant coffee cup recycling bins were placed throughout one of the busiest streets. The campaign is for residents to recycle 20,000 coffee cups throughout the holiday season. The coffee cups will be recycled into pellets that will be used to create garden products that will then get donated to a local charity in Manchester (further driving change that will benefit the community at large). In the UK, 2.5 billion coffee cups are consumed each year, of which, less than 1% get recycled. The local retailers joined together to fund and pilot this campaign. They hope to fund this type of initiative so that it is feasible and scalable and more cities can launch these types of campaigns alongside businesses. Other popular awareness campaigns center around social media hashtags, such as #UglyisBeautiful (to end food waste around ugly fruits and veggies), #ivalueFood (help bring awareness that foodwaste links to declining natural resources) and #wastenot (advocacy to pressure businesses on waste issues).

What if we could see this change in not just cities but across other industries? Take the fashion industry, for example, companies like Patagonia, H&M and among several other major retailers are looking to tackle clothing recycling or reuse by involving the consumer. Patagonia’s value proposition is to give their products a second life through not only recycling, but also creating a marketplace for Patagonia users to sell their items. The company’s Common Threads Initiative was so counter cultural it essentially told consumers Patagonia wants you to buy less of its products. This social campaign, in turn, showcased Patagonia as a leader in this industry. It struck a chord with their consumer base and that reputation has followed them in a positive way ever since. H&M launched an in-store clothing recycling program in 2013 and has collected more than 32,000 tons of clothing to date. H&M has mass appeal to consumers being a lower-priced retailer than Patagonia. Continued awareness on this type of initiative has the power to change the industry even more effectively.

The planet is at a crossroads when it comes to accelerating sustainability at a scale and pace that will actually help mitigate global warming past the point of no return. Today consumers have a say and an important role to play in this new reality. How we go about this to build momentum will determine success. Awareness campaigns can be successful if we leverage the right types of technology and trends. #1MoreShot is a great example of this because who doesn’t drink coffee daily? Other social media platforms are engaging in awareness campaigns, for instance, Snapchat, had a special filter dedicated for Earth Day this year. There’s more to be leveraged when it comes to engaging consumers beyond the mundane recycling efforts. The hope is to get real change to take place and become ingrained in the psyche of consumers. We see this hope manifested most in millennials. No other group understands what is most at stake when it comes to climate change. It is estimated that millennials will lose $8.8 trillion during their lifetime in dealing with climate change-related issues. Overall, more awareness is needed at a systemic level for businesses, cities, and countries to address waste issues and it starts with successful social awareness campaigns.

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Jenni Moon

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