Look, if you don’t like my parties, you can leave in a huff. If that’s too soon, leave in a minute and a huff. – Groucho Marx
This continent likes to party around the pool, in the park, on the porch, in boats, around campfires, and before the game. Just about anywhere and any reason will spark this ritual of reciprocal social merrymaking that binds the tribe together.
Unfortunately, for party holders and goers, recycling rates are low at private gatherings. Get-togethers have been identified as particular gaps in the quest for personal recycling efforts. Even the greenest homes and sports fans rarely participate in the positive act of revelry recycling. But each ton recovered saves close to a ton of GHG. It’s the right thing to do, so can companies and individuals in the recycling field motivate festive festival givers and goers to have their (birthday) cake and recycle too?
You know those holiday waste reduction tips you march out every year to remind people to order less food and recycle their wrapping paper? Take the same idea a step further and focus on other festivities. Use social media and point of purchase promos to get inside people’s heads while their gearing up for their gatherings. Get interesting. “Keep the party going…Recycle.” “Party. Recycle. Repeat.” “Beer before liquor, never sicker. Recycle all year, you’re in the clear.” You get the idea. That extra diversion is in your reach, if you ask in the right way.
Consumer product manufacturers are in a unique position of influencing a product’s recyclability, as well as the individual consumer’s effort to recycle. In addition to designing the next hot trend, leading manufacturers are also doubling down on design for recyclability. They are creating products or packaging that not only jump off the shelf, but can make the leap into the recycling bin, can be sorted in a material recovery facility into quality commodity bales, and used by end markets to make next season’s must have item. And they’re using standard labeling to instruct the consumer on how to recycle the packaging.
If you’re in that camp, think about taking it one step further. Fold recycling into the wide reach of your company’s marketing arm and you have the influence to encourage individual behavior to recycle in places and ways they never have before. Can you picture it? The commercial for a cold brew featuring a party on the beach – but instead of a surfboard in the corner of the shot, show a convenient recycling container. Build recycling into the behavior, get inside their heads, and help them see that it’s cool. It’s right. It’s now. That’s designing for change.
Social responsibility is contagious between friends and is most easily learned through trusted peers. For you, the professional recycler, that’s your ticket to turning people’s penchant for partying into a recycling rager. So the next time you rhumba to Los Lobos, disco to the Bee Gees, or bop to Katy Perry, try planning your party (or influence your community or consumer’s party) to maximize recycling by:
- Buying recyclable or compostable party goods and containers.
- Setting-up multiple locations where recycling and compost containers are easily identified.
- Greeting your guests and letting them know it is a green party, where the containers are, and be the unbashful example of using the different receptacles throughout the bash (promise to divorce your significant other if they don’t as well).
- Assigning a few guests to be the green police (may be a great job for keeping Uncle Joe and Aunt Lindsay from fighting).
- Announcing a small prize for one lucky recycler or composter that would be valuable to anyone.
- Having other green symbols as part of the party motif, like asking people to conserve on cups, using reusable plates, or serving home grown or organic foods, or leaving the energy star stickers on all your new and expensive patio man-kitchens (we don’t think anyone would really do this last one but it sounds green).
We party a lot, and a lot of readily recoverable materials are thrown away much too often in this central activity of Western culture. Throwing hoedowns does not require throwing recoverable material down the landfill drain. So when it is time to party down and overtime, we hope you dance all night long and recycle.
How are you influencing recycling in your community? Let us know in the comments section below.