Branding is generally an attempt to associate your product or company with certain ideas or images to clearly differentiate it from others in the field. At its most basic, it is little different than its roots, in which ranchers would mark their animals so that they could be easily identified when roaming or grazing together, a practice that dates back to the ancient Egyptians or beyond. Eventually, that same concept was used in commerce so that when similar products from different manufacturers were shipped or sold together, each product could be clearly identified.
I think this issue of relativity is something that needs to be addressed in the recycling and sustainability industry. Too often we throw around terms. We declare that something is sustainable, that something is “green,” that something will save money, or will save energy. Or conversely, we ask whether something is one of those things. But, too often, we fail to give context. The truthfulness of our statements or the answers to our questions may depend on what we compare something to. Context and alternatives matter.
Successfully growing and sustaining recycling programs can sometimes depend on something as simple as where you budget recycling expenses. As budgets are being set for next fiscal year, now is the time to think about what you want to accomplish next year, how you want to fund it, and perhaps most importantly where you want to fund it.
As I have said in several presentations, if the only thing you care about is keeping stuff out of the landfill, littering works as well as recycling or any other sustainable resource management activity. At some point, we need to look beyond keeping stuff out of the landfill and really look at the impact of what we are doing. What are the financial impacts of your alternatives? What are the environmental impacts or the social impacts?