It is no secret that I Love a Clean San Diego loves reusables. We provide everyday reusable tips, sell stainless steel straws at our events, and encourage volunteers to B.Y.O reusable supplies to clean ups, all in an effort to reduce waste. Now, we’re proud to partner with other organizations that are doing great environmental work! Today’s blog comes from Drew Beal, Chief Environmental Optimist at Kill the Cup — a waste reduction program that encourages consumers to bring a reusable cup when they get coffee. Kill the Cup is now turning into a nationwide environmental initiative on college campuses, and Drew is here to share some tips on making it FUN to go green!
Did you know that 50 billion paper cups get discarded in America each year? This creates a lot of landfill waste… but it’s not just the end of the lifecycle that matters. The manufacturing process of those 50 billion cups results in the same amount of co2 emissions as adding 1.1 million passenger vehicles to the roads. Clearly, we have a cup problem!
Paper cups represent just one piece of a much larger problem: consumer waste. But what incentives are in place to encourage us to change our behavior? Many coffee shops offer a 10-cent discount when you bring your own cup, but that’s not going to move the needle. And most people get tired of environmental messaging. If we’re serious about changing behavior, we have to make it FUN!
So that’s what we did when we created Kill the Cup — a social-media inspired game that offers prizes and rewards to coffee drinkers who share photos posing with their reusable coffee cups. We’ve implemented our waste reduction campaigns on college campuses across the country, including a few right here in our backyard: UC San Diego, University of San Diego, and Cal State San Marcos.
After learning a few things about encouraging environmentally responsible consumer behavior on college campuses, we’re confident that many of these tactics can work just as well in office or community settings. Whether you’re seeking to increase reusable behavior at your home, school, office, or community, here are 5 tips to make it FUN to go green!
1) One step at a time. Establish a specific goal for your reusable campaign. It can be tempting to launch an all-encompassing “go green” initiative that targets cups, bags, bottles, and everything under the sun. But you run the risk of alienating people by asking them to do too much. Target a single reusable action, and keep the length of the campaign at about four weeks. (They say it takes about 30 days to form a new habit.)
2) But first… let me take a Selfie. Recent studies report that 93 million selfies are taken each and every day. How about doing something productive with that self-portrait? Sharing a photo of environmentally friendly behavior can make a difference. When you see pictures of a colleague or classmate engaged in eco-friendly behavior, you become more likely to also engage in a green activity.
3) Keep score. Photos are fun, and so are leaderboards. Whether people are getting rewarded for taking alternative transportation, or for bringing reusable cutlery to the office — they love getting points! Create a scoring system for your campaign, and make sure it’s easy to understand. In our recent University Challenge, for example, students received 5 points per photo, with a maximum of 1 photo per day.
4) Create teams. What do people love more than getting points? Winning! Many reusable activities are viewed as actions taken by individuals. By forming teams, you can help establish social norms around the desired behavior change. Instead of “Hey Jim, bring a reusable bag to help the environment,” it becomes, “Hey Jim, bring a reusable bag to help us win the Office Challenge!” Completely different perspective.
5) Measure, measure, measure. Photo-sharing campaigns are a lot of fun, but let’s not lose our focus on the overall objective: waste reduction. Identify metrics that will capture the desired behavior change. At Kill the Cup, we partner with coffee shops to measure the reusable rate — the percentage of drinks served in reusable cups. When we see an increase in the reusable rate, we know the campaign is working. And when that happens, everybody wins.
And that’s it. I hope you found these tips to be helpful, and I wish you the best of luck with your reusable initiatives. It’s an uphill battle we’re fighting to encourage environmentally responsible behavior, and it’s people like you that will help us get there. Visit the ILACSD website for more information about our pollution prevention programs and feel free to contact KTC with any questions, comments, or feedback. We look forward to hearing from you!