Choosing a positive or negative approach to sustainability | Waste Wise Products

Choosing a positive or negative approach to sustainability

Choosing a positive or negative approach to sustainability

While there is no denying benefits of recycling, using positive or negative messages & signage can aid your program participation.

You can find examples of both approaches to adapt for your own uses. There are the cheerful Coca-Cola bins in red and white like the cans and bottles asking you to “Give Back” and “Give Positively.” Compare that to the more direct wording of the New York City Department of Sanitation whose handbook for businesses says, “Recycling: It’s Not a Choice, It’s the Law.”

If you are trying to encourage more of your employees to use your recycle bins, you may be wondering what is the best mix of positive and negative messages. A recent study was conducted by marketing professor Kate White of the University of British Columbia and presented at a briefing on “The Science of Getting People to Do Good” held at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. In summary, they both can be effective as long as you match the message and the details.

Positive messages

  • the benefits of recycling worked best when they were paired with abstract concepts; including the importance of recycling and how it improves the community and conserves resources
  • more likely to encourage people to recycle in the future

Negative messages

  • work best when they were combined with clear instructions and statements about the urgency of environmental problems
  • produce better results when it came to persuading people to take immediate action

In practical terms, most workplaces will want to rely on positive messages for their ongoing waste strategy. Still, negative messages may sometimes be suitable to address urgent needs or for time-limited events. Consider these factors when developing your next corporate sustainability program.

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