Sustainable Christmas communication

Have a cradle-to-cradle Christmas — Have a cradle-to-cradle Christmas — Use the holidays to promote sustainability and build trust

In this post, I’ll tell you exactly how I used Christmas to communicate sustainability, why it worked, and how you can use it to build trust with your customers and stand out from your competition.

The best part? Your business becomes even greener while being cost-competitive, scouts’ honor. (7 min.)

TOO SOON!

I know, I know… It’s too early to start with Jingle Bells.

Except, it’s not. You’re running a company that’s making the world better while turning a profit. Utilize the holiday season to promote sustainability.

I know you are busy creating an impact on the world, so here’s a 7 min read on using Christmas to grow the trust of your customers and thereby spread the sustainable spirit. 

In bullets:

  • I made a to-and-from card for Christmas, which had information about recycling on it
  • It solved a problem (always lacking to-and-from notes to put on presents) and gave a non-invasive hint about recycling
  • The cards were made of 100% biodegradable paper and are clean enough to eat
  • This cradle-to-cradle paper builds trust with your audience/clients because it shows that you take your role as a green professional seriously
  • Building trust with audience and clients, makes them talk about your service/product or cause because they can relate – Therefor, as a green professional you win market shares by making small sustainable choices
  • If you want cradle-to-cradle Christmas product to build trust between you and your audience and get a leg up on your competition, now is the time to start planning (more tips at the bottom of this post)


The story – Using the holidays to promote sustainability

I was recently cleaning out my drawers and found this card. I made it two years ago, and it’s been sitting in my drawer as a memorabilia since. It was one of those gut-feeling ideas that I knew I had to run with.

Sustainable Christmas communication

I don’t know about you, but I’m always missing the little to-and-from cards you stick on presents at Christmas, meaning I have to resort to, um, alternative ways of writing people’s names on gifts. It’s fun if you do it once, awkward if you do it twice, and it turns out grandmothers remember that kind of thing.

But what if the to-and-from cards had a little something extra on them?

 

I called our designer and had the layout made faster than you can spell ‘Christmas cards’ backward. Then I got them printed as business cards because it’s an easy standard to work with, and it’s fairly cheap.

I left little piles of cards in public places where a steady stream of people would pass by, throughout city hall (my workplace), as well as in cultural hubs and libraries.

Here’s the backside.

Sustainable Christmas communication

Your Danish might be rusty, so allow me to translate.

 

Remember, there’s a new recycling scheme in 2017

For more information see Skidtergodt.dk

 

The cards were a big success and even the chief executive, who is famous for being sparse with his compliments, said they were a great idea — I lived off that shoulder pat for weeks.

Why it worked

It turns out other people are like me and know there’s likely a gift for aunt Ida they forgot all about, and will be hitting the shops last-minute — and forgetting to pick up cards.

As a result people took the to-and-from cards. They were a tangible aid for a recurring problem.

The message on the back was non-intrusive and kind. I was not pushing a sale, or giving a speech about why to recycle. Instead, I was merely reminding them, ‘Hey, there’s a new thing coming up, and this is where you find more information.’

Take a closer look — green to the bone

I forgot to mention something about the cards. They’re made out of 100% sustainably produced, cradle-to-cradle certified paper.

 

In short, this means there is no soil depletion, the production is CO2 neutral and contains only safe chemicals (and as few as possible). This paper is so environmentally friendly you can eat it! I know, I tried*.

 

I learned about this product at a sustainability event where I was giving a talk about behavioral change and recycling. A representative from a company that makes the paper, was giving a talk about cradle-to-cradle products. The concept of toxin-free paper blew my mind, and I’ve been a fangirl ever since.

The name of the company? KLS PurePrint.

The second time I met Kasper, the aforementioned representative, he scolded me because the so-called green municipality I was working at didn’t have chargers for electric vehicles. Yep, PurePrint is a company that is green to the bone while delivering great products. Every. Single. Time.

They are Scandinavia’s only cradle-to-cradle certified printing company, and are one of only three companies IN THE WORLD with the certification.

They also serve as a personal inspiration on how to use sustainability to survive and thrive in changing markets. In PurePrint’s case, they used their green products to stay afloat in a diminishing market.

100 years ago, there were 2000 printing companies in Denmark. Now there are 80. PurePrint is one of them.

See, I told you I was a fangirl, and with good reason.

The best part? They are cost-competitive because they know the only way to stay in the game.

 

Building trust means loyal customers

Why am I raving about this? Because it’s products like these, that give us hope and builds trust.

Having Christmas cards or business cards made entirely of cradle-to-cradle material is a great conversation starter, and I for one have used it countless times.

“Here’s my card. Oh, by the way, this card is so cool, it’s made out of 100% compostable materials, and it’s so clean you can eat it!”

It’s also a way for you to send a powerful message to your audience:

 

You’re not just thinking of sustainability in your given service or product, you are practicing what you preach. You went that step further to make sure you leave nothing but your legacy behind.

 

Why are your customers buying products from you? Because they care about the environment, and they know we collectively have a responsibility to do better.

Imagine your customer opening a package from you and finding cradle-to-cradle certified paper or compostable packaging. No chemicals, no heavy metals, no microplastics.

 

Imagine what that experience feels like for your customer, when he is already purchasing from you, a green company?

 

What is your customer going to think about you? How likely are they to buy more products from you and spread the word about your brand?

 

These products are cost-competitive, but you win customer loyalty, and thereby market shares. You can even use these products to document your work with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

 

It’s a triple win. Your customers are happy, you expand your customer base and sales, and most importantly, you ease the pressure on natural resources.

 

Stand out from the competition

I know you are busy tending to your primary product or service, as you should be, but bear in mind that you amplify your brand and the trust between you and your customer when you go the extra mile.

 

 

Think about it, your customer has a business card or greeting card from you — that they can eat!

 

Then they meet your competitor, who hands them a shiny business card that’s clearly not sustainable.

 

What’s happening in the mind of your customer at that moment? I’ll tell you what’s happening: They’re looking at the shiny card, thinking;


‘Well, it’s pretty, but I’m sure it’s full of chemicals — I definitely shouldn’t eat it.’

 

BOOM!

There’s your leg up. Now regardless of what your competition says, that card is going to be a reminder that you share the values of your clients. Your competitor doesn’t.

For me, the tipping point was learning that 1/3 of fast food wrapping in the EU contains dangerously high levels of fluorinated substances, which has been linked to all kinds of immune system issues, like cancer.

They don’t break down over time, meaning they just accumulate in you.

These were even found in muffin forms. I made muffins for an 8-year-old’s birthday party, so learning about this research changed my shopping habits DRASTICALLY.

 

If you can honestly tell your customers that your packaging is 100% free of fluorinated substances, that awesome. But compare it with the fact that your competitors offer a 1 in 3 chance of dangerously high levels of it fluorinated substances, where will your customers go?

This doesn’t have to be just paper or packaging. Look at your products, your uniforms, your electricity  — if you dedicate yourself to making small, but sustainable changes in your company, you can set yourself apart from the rest of those in your field. And let’s not forget all the sweet karma points you score for simply making the world a little bit better.

Cradle-to-cradle Christmas _ Something Green

My prediction is, that we’re going to see a lot of this in the coming years, especially since companies like Coca-cola and Nike, have started flashing a greener agenda.

Now is the time when genuinely green professionals can make themselves stand out, by being firstmovers.

 

Get on board, and make Christmas greener

If you want to get on the cradle-to-cradle train and showcase your commitment as a sustainable professional, read on.

SomethingGreen works with content and copy from a sustainable behavioral change angle. This means we write anything promoting green actions.

 

From web pages, and newsletters, to company greeting cards, we’ve got your back. We also do graphic design and project management.

And of course, we use only cradle-to-cradle certified paper for our printed materials.

Here are some things we’ve worked on:

  • Business cards
  • Gift cards and greeting cards
  • Annual reports and strategies
  • Booklets on recycling
  • Letters
  • Stickers for recycling bins (not cradle-to-cradle, sadly)

 

So get in touch and let’s make you stand out from your competitors while making the world just a bit better.

There is no unreachable audience! Making recycling sexy – and fun

This post looks at how the so-called hard-to-reach audiences can be addressed in a creative, and somewhat surprising way. Environmental communication at its best.

Warning: This post contains crude language.

 

When working in the environmental sector, you’ll come across a target audience that’s considered hard to reach.

I’ve talked about the importance of knowing your audience before, but in the field of sustainability one segment stands out as the infamous impossible-audience.

These are the ‘I don’t care’ people.

I don’t want to get slapped with the prejudice hammer, but this audience also often consists of males working in construction, carpentry, and similar jobs.

Environmental Communication Recycling

 

The following is a great example of why you should never give up when you encounter a hard audience or experience a push back.

 

Boys will be..?

My brother works as the department manager in a company that produces industrial size printers.

 

It is a very male-dominated workplace, and the tone is often crude and with sexual tones. We all know workplaces like that.

 

That last time I saw my brother, he told me about his latest team meeting.

 

He runs a team of 14 men. Once a week they have a team meeting to address work-related matters.

At the last meeting, my brother had made and brought with him a little game (this is where it gets crude).

 

The Game

He pulled to pieces of paper out and said:

I brought a game with me. I want you to solve this puzzle. What do the signs say?’

 

He held up the first sign: ‘Puh

Then, he dramatically said the word and got his team to join in, in a collective ‘Puuh!

 

He held up the second sign: ‘Say

Again, with a dramatical flair, he got his whole team on board: ‘Say!’

What do the signs spell out?

Puhhh-saaaay’, ‘Puh-say’, ‘Pu**y!’.

(Yes, I’m bleeping the above. Hopefully, you get it. If not, ask a friend. Not a coworker, not a family member, but a friend)

 

My brother got a big laugh from around the table, and a couple of groin-related jokes.

 

I have one more’ he said, and pulled out two additional pieces of paper. The second round was about to start.

 

Onl’. He looked in anticipation and got the table to join in. ‘Ooonl’.

Paapr’. The crowd joined in. ‘Paapr!

 

My bother continued ‘Onl –paapr’ ‘Only-paapr’ ‘ONLY-PAPER!

 

He pointed to the recycling bin in the corner of the room.

That bin is only for paper’, he said to the perplexed crowd.

 

Yesterday I saw someone had put a banana peel in it. If we throw biodegradable in the paper bin, and that goes to the treatment facility, we might end up contaminating a ton of paper because it rots and spreads bacteria. Then the paper can’t be recycled and has to be burned. Waste of money, waste of resources. So can we now agree that Onl Paapr goes in the bin?

 

He had everyone’s attention. They nodded and verbally confirmed. The bin was for paper only.

 

 

Just to recap, that’s 14 men, who just laughed at a pu**y joke, now agreeing that it’s important to recycle. When was the last time you heard about something like that?

Recycle paper

 

Why it worked — Environmental Communication at its best

 

My brother’s a smart cookie and there’s a reason why he’s head of his department at such a young age. He’s also been forced to listen to my ramblings about recycling and psychology for, well, a long time.

He knows that telling his men off, and mentally hitting them in the head with something as uninteresting to them as recycling, isn’t going to work.

Furthermore, he knows he needs their attention, and that laughter is a much better tool than fear, and being told off.

 

He broke their mental barrier to recycling by inserting it right after a locker-room joke.

 

The first joke was a setup, introducing them to a game where the reward would be a dirty word. By doing that, he had them all on the edge of their seats, trying to spot the dirty word in the second round. What would it be this time? Even dirtier?

 

They were open to taking in new information. They were engaged, trying to be the first to figure out the next word.

And bam! Information about recycling.

 

You might be wondering why it’s even a big deal getting this segment onboard the recycling train. Because daily environmental actions, like recycling, open up a door for a deeper conversation about sustainability. It’s your entry point to substantial change.

 

The takeaway — you can make it sexy!

 

No target group is impossible to reach. I repeat:

No target group is impossible to reach!

 

You just have to know who you’re dealing with, and be willing to work on their terms, be it technical reports and pu**y jokes.

 

Set up a situation where your audience is open to taking in new information.

 

In conclusion:

Recycling, high-five bro

Want more dirty, I mean fun advice on pro-environmental behavior? Add me on LinkedIn or go to Somethinggreen.org to get your smile on.

 

Your words matter — how big organizations accidentally hinder sustainable change

The headlines of your articles are not just for snazzy clickbait. If done wrong they might work against you – and against the environment. Here are the do’s and don’ts of writing headlines.

 

 

Yesterday while scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, I came across the following article from the World Economic Forum.

Headlines for sustainable content Asian plastic

 

90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers

This is a really interesting subject and I wanted to know more, however, what really got me was the words the WEF decided should go along with it:

’Eight of them are in Asia, two in Africa’

‘Urg’ I thought to myself. ‘That’s a bad choice of words for this piece’.

The World Economic Forum, an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is committed to improving the state of the world. This fact makes the above even more problematic.

Though in line with the article and truthful in it’s nature, that small sentence does way more harm than good. It’s working as a hindrance for sustainable development.

 

Why words matter

Let’s deconstruct the sentence.

By writing ’Eight of them are in Asia, two in Africa’, it’s easy to infer, that no other continent in the world is home to one of the rivers causing 90% of the pollution. This is still completely true and in line with the article but it has unfortunate side effects:

  1. You are basically saying to everyone outside these geographical areas, that this problem is confined to two specific regions, which make people outside these areas distance themselves from the problem, seeing as it’s “over there”. It becomes Somebody Else’s Problem*
  2. People who actively take steps to lower their plastic waste feel discouraged because they are let to believe that their actions have no impact at all. This will leave them less likely to want to change their habits or push for change in the future.

 

Additionally, you risk enhancing old believes that Asia and Africa do not care about the environment. This is, of course, a generalization, not to mention an outdated view of the two continents but unfortunately, the western part of the world still views Asia and Africa as lazy, indifferent or unknowledgeable to environmental issues.

 

What to do instead

Had they instead chosen a solution-orientated caption, they could have fed into the positive wave of change already taken place around the world – the focus on oceanic plastic pollution. If the World Economic Forum wanted to leave the reader more informed but also more likely to support anti-pollution initiatives in the future, they could have replaced the caption with something like this:

‘By knowing which 10 we can focus on targeted solutions, with higher success rates’ 

They could even just have copied points from the article itself, for instance:

‘The rivers all had two things in common; a generally high population living in the surrounding region – sometimes into the hundreds of millions – and a less than ideal waste management process’

 

Why it works

The first example is simply putting a positive outlook on a dire situation. Yes, the ocean is filled with plastic, but by pinpointing the 10 biggest sources, we can act.

Action is the keyword, because only presenting your audience with the (often negative) facts of global pollution issues and climate change, serves as an emotional paralyzer.

What the heart hears is: The world sucks and no one, especially you, can do anything about it. You might as well go back to facebook and kittens.

Instead, by choosing a more positive angle you are telling your audience, yes, this is a bad situation, but knowing the facts about it gives us the power to act.

In the second example, you’re getting even more specific in regards to what needs to be done, so we can turn the problem around.

It would send a signal that 90% of the world’s oceanic plastic pollution is caused by manageable problems that we already know the solutions to – waste management.

Having spent half a decade in waste management I guarantee you that less-than-ideal-waste management is not the same as impossible waste management.

 

But wasn’t it just click-bait?

Possibly. I mean, I clicked on the article. One could argue, that the caption is just right because it evokes resentfulness towards the places responsible for it. But then what? You would have to read the article to the end to get the positive news. And even this is still an issue because you just confirmed the preconceived notion that Asia doesn’t care, meaning that your audience is actually more likely to dismiss the positive news about the advances in Asia because it contradicts a strong held believe – that Asia pollutes, and don’t care. This is what’s known as the backfire effect. You can find a more colorful description of the backfire effect here.

Even if it is just a click-bait aimed at the WEF’s target audience, would you really want to risk pushing everyone who scrolls past the article even further away from taking action on the subject?

 

Small tweaks – Big outcome

I chose to write about this specific article from the World Economic Forum, for two reasons. Firstly because of their inherent role as a promoter of sustainable change, and secondly because their article was well written and had a great balance of facts and behavioral change elements.

The article clarifies how big of an effort China is making to intensify waste management, and mentions Delhi’s ban on disposable plastic. Furthermore, at the bottom of the article, you can find links to articles about how to combat plastic pollution – also known as a call to action.

I want to stress that I think weforum.org overall produces great content and I am a happy reader. Like this nice whale piece, below. It has a positive headline and caption, as well as a great photo – there’s even a sea pun!

 

But the devil is in the detail, and small tweaks like the above can push sustainable development much faster.

By empowering the audience with a positive outlook, you are allowing for much more support towards passing the necessary legislation, investing in alternative products or cleanup technologies, and willingness to change habits. Like giving your audience concrete advice on social media, complete with jokes and pictures.

This also means saving time and money for the companies and regulatory bodies working to solve the problem. But most importantly, you work towards removing more plastic out of our oceans.

 

 

*As coined by the great Douglas Adam, Somebody Else’ Problem refers to people’s ability to simply ignore things they don’t want to deal with.

Advanced waste – why the Frack is recycling so hard?

Why are there so many bins to choose from? Why don’t they just make recycling easier? This post is about why how our advanced waste makes reeks of complexity, and what you can do to make your daily recycling habits easier. 

 

Have you ever found yourself staring at a sea of different waste bins, trying to figure out what goes where? Or have you ever had a heated argument with a friend or relative about how to recycle? If yes, then you’re just like the rest of us and it begs the question, why is recycling so hard?

Recycling is a big industry by now and few will argue that it isn’t an important thing to do. This is not a post about how, or why to recycle your waste, but about why there are so many rules and so many bins.

In the tiny country of Denmark, there are a least 100 different schemes. This can result in a lot of confusion if you move from one city to another because you have to learn the rules of recycling all over again. It also means that you could end up in a heated debate with your ant Irma about which bin to put your newspaper in.

Why do different cities have different recycling bins?

Advanced Waste Complexity Recycling

If you travel, you might have noticed different waste bins, with different shapes and different rules.

Maybe you’ve entered countries and thought;

Hot damn, they recycle a lot of stuff here! Or the opposite, they don’t recycle at all. What is wrong with these people, have they no shame?

The answer to why there are differences in what cities recycle is partly money and logistics. It takes money to transport and sort waste. But you also need to have facilities which are able to treat the waste. Not all cities have equal access to waste treatment, hence they develop different schemes to match the local circumstances and financial situation.

 

But that still leaves us with the more important question.

Why is recycling so hard? 

Rule are rules, right? Why can’t each city just make easy rules to follow? The answer may seem counterintuitive:

Progress! 

We have made astounding advances in technology. The world is full of magnificent things, that just one generation ago would have bedazzled the world. Even my coffee maker seems to require me to have an MIT degree to operate it.

Look around you, look at all the amazing things you have. You are reading this on a laptop, iPhone, tablet, or e-reader. Most of your kitchen appliances are a mix of metals, plastic, rubber, electronics and maybe even glass. Even your clothes consist of a myriad of different products. Fabric, zippers, beads, even el-wire.

 

 

We live in an amazing, awe inspiring and highly advanced world, and because of that we produce advanced trash

 

We have highly sophisticated waste. You can’t just toss it. Something as simple as a container for moisturizers may have a glass bottom and a plastic top. Should you sort it as glass or plastic? Or should you separate the two pieces? Should you rinse out the moisturizers or is that ok to leave in?

What about electric toys? Plastic or e-waste? Metal, maybe?

 

All these questions are a natural byproduct of our advanced world.

 

Being a waste geek, I often get asked questions about waste and how to sort it.

Recently I was sent this picture with the following question:

 

The After Eight conundrum – Picture by Stefan Anker Straasø

‘I can’t seem to figure out if some types of waste are paper or plastic. Like this After Eight wrapper. Paper or plastic?

And what about that little thingy that closes bread bags? It contains both metal AND plastic, so where should I dispose of it?’

 

 

It’s a darn good question, and I personally never heard it before.

The after Eight wrapper is likely a paper with some form of a coating, making it near impossible to recycle. Furthermore, the way the Danish recycling system works in most part of the country is, if your waste has touched food you can’t recycle it – this will likely change in the future as demand for resources rises.

The little bread twisters are devils and cause frustrations for many recycling superheroes. If you don’t use them directly to lock other bags then sort them as metal, as the plastic will be melted off in the recycling process.

 

Our waste and recycling system is just a logical byproduct of the way we live our lives in this high-tech world.

 

The above are both great examples of how the tiniest things in our everyday lives, are complex beyond reason. Why should I have to think about this when I just want to recycle and do the right thing?

It’s not that the people planning your local recycling schemes can’t do their job, or that big corporations are deliberately destroying the planet. It is just the unfortunate consequence of making everything around us more and more complex.

But, I can’t change that. Can I?

The world is insanely advanced, and every time I buy something I get about 10 different materials and I have no clue how to separate them – what do I do?

Let’s be honest, one person doesn’t change the world. But one person can definitely move it in the right direction. Want to be that person? It’s surprisingly easy. If you’re new to this, start with the easiest step. If you’re already a pro, move on to the more experienced step.

Small step

Stop buying plastic bags. Yes, we are starting at baby steps here.

It’s so easy to carry an extra shopping bag on you, that you have absolutely no excuse for not doing this. And compact shopping bags come in all kinds of cool designs now, so you can look good while lowering your ecological footprint.

You can also simply fold an old shopping bag, and keep it in your purse. Here is a video (and a link here).

(See how easy it is. I do this with my bags at home)

Why bother?

According to the world watch institute, the world has a global consumption of 4 to 5 trillion plastic bags—“including large trash bags, thick shopping bags, and thin grocery bags.

Roughly 80 percent of those bags were used in North America and Western Europe. Every year, Americans reportedly throw away 100 billion plastic grocery bags, which can clog drains, crowd landfills, and leave an unsightly blot on the landscape.”

 

You might think that your bag can’t possibly make a difference. Well, worst-case scenario, no it doesn’t’ and you save money and plastic for no other reason. Many countries pay for the bags, so there is money to be saved.

In a better case scenario, other people will see you whipping out your smart little bag, and think: ‘Wow, that’s really clever. I should start doing that.’ They will start doing the same and will introduce other strangers to the concept. And so it ripples.

Medium step

Buy products with only one material or with a take-back/lifetime warranty
Examples include:

  • Clothes made from only cotton/wool/silk
  • Bags or shoes made from just one material
  • Doc Marten shoes (Lifetime warranty)
  • Furniture made from only one material (Go here for more sustainable furniture)
  • An entire webshop which only features lifetime warranties

 

If you feel ready to step things up, here is a list of 37 things to do, to reduce your waste

Big step

Don’t throw stuff out.

This might seem like a really small step, but it makes a large impact. For example, if you want a new dining room table maybe consider shining up your existing table before spending money on a new one.

Remember that there is joy and pride in taking care of your belongings, of learning skills that enable you to polish a table, or sew on a new zipper.

I want to clarify that I do not endorse hoarding! There is a huge difference between buying a lot of stuff and not getting rid of it, and buying only stuff you really like or need and making sure you can keep it for decades.

There you have it, a few easy steps to get you started in regards to dealing with the advanced waste in your life.

I’ll end this post with a personal anecdote. I am fortunate to still have two grandmothers. They have taught me many things growing up, both in terms of what to do, and what not to do.

They are both children of the war and have both lived in times of scarcity. One of them is a hoarder. Not the horrible kind you see on TV, but she buys thing she finds on sale. She doesn’t need it. She doesn’t even really want it, but she buys it.

The other grandmother seldom buys anything. Her kitchen has not been remodeled since the late 50’s. She has told me that sometimes she thinks about remodeling it, but then again, she likes it the way it is and doesn’t really need a new kitchen.

Because her and my grandfather always make purchases which are well thought out, and out of necessity instead of desire, they were able to own recreational things such as a boat, a summer house, and an auto camper. This on the salary of one working-class adult.

My very responsible grandparents, on their wedding day, more than 60 years ago.

My grandmother was a stay-at-home mom, and they made do with my grandfather’s salary. Of course this was much easier to do in the 60’s than it is today, but still.

Because they never wasted money on things they didn’t need or didn’t really want, they can now afford to stay in the house they have lived in since the 1950’s. A house they love and cherish.

Many of their peers have resorted to selling their houses and moving into a smaller apartment because they could not pay the mortgage out of their retirement plan – but not these kids. Now, in their 80’s, they take care of their house, and enjoy the freedom and space it gives them.

 

That’s the kind of person I want to be when I retire. Someone who doesn’t spend money on things I don’t need. Someone who can stay in my home if I so desire. Someone who has had a life of adventure, of boats and auto campers and hopefully, someone who can inspire my grandkids to live a life of joy, with or without a lot of material goods.

Wanna see my spaceship? How to communicate with climate change deniers

Ever wondered how to communicate with climate change deniers. In the previous post, I explained WHY there are still climate change deniers out there. Now I’m giving you hands-on advice, on how to break the neurological stubbornness — and yes, there’s a spaceship.

 

If you work in the environmental field, you will encounter several different personas.

One of them is the denier. He denies the logic of whatever argument you make.

 

I have worked with recycling for some years now, and the denier personae have some telling characteristics.

I’m gonna break down what that denial looks like, shed light on the actual meaning behind his words, and give you the communication tools to get your message out there. Most importantly, you won’t come off as a personal threat.

A conversation with the denier might go something like the following. For the sake of the example, I’m going to give my denier a name.

Meet Dave! He’s attending a talk I’m giving, about the importance of recycling.

 

Communicate with climate change deniers_ Dave

Our “Dave”

Me: Sorting your waste is really good for the environment.

Dave: Hah! Once the garbage trucks pick up the waste, they’re just going to put it all in the same container anyway.

Me: No, the garbage trucks don’t mix the waste. It is kept separated and brought to a processing plant.

Dave: I don’t believe you. They’re just going to mix it.

 

 

Understanding the underlying emotions

Timeout. Let’s look at the interaction. I’m giving Dave some information, and he’s refuting it.

At first glans it may look like Dave just has the wrong information, or that he’s an arrogant twat. He’s basically saying that he knows more about the waste industry than I do. I am the person working with waste after all, and Dave thinks he knows better than me.

If I didn’t know why Dave is acting like this, it might be a frustrating situation, where I leave the room feeling like I’m wasting my time on stubborn, old Dave.

But if we dissect the situation, and look at the emotional conversation of what Dave “hears”, and “says”,  here’s the actual interaction:

 

Me: You need to sort your waste because otherwise, you’re being a bad person by not caring about the environment.

Dave: I don’t want to recycle, cause I’m afraid it’s gonna take a lot of effort on my behalf and I might not be able to get it right. If I can’t sort my waste correctly, it will hurt my ego.  I like to think that I am good at most things, so sorting my recycling wrong will make me feel inadequate.

Therefore I‘m gonna use this old rumor I heard about the garbage trucks mixing the waste, to prove to myself, and to you, that the whole thing is a waste of time and energy. Then I won’t have to change my mind or my actions. More importantly, I won’t have to risk the ego punch of not knowing how to recycle.

 

 

Remember my post about some convictions being tied to a sense of self. Well, this is one of them. On a subconscious level, I am a threat to Dave, because I am “telling him,” that he’s a bad person by not recycling, and that there’s something he’s not good at.

 

There’s a chance you’re reading this right now and thinking:

‘No. Come on, Mona, people are better than that. No one feels emotionally threatened by waste.’

 

Are you sure? Having a strong sense of identity is normal and sometimes that identity is tied up on being good at something specific.

Other times, it’s tied up on being good at everything. Or maybe even being bad at everything.

 

Try taking just a few minutes to, mentally, go through your friends and family members. Do you know people who don’t like being wrong? Do you have relatives who take criticism very personally?

Did you ever go to school with someone who only saw their mistakes and weaknesses, and disregarded every good grade they got?

Humans are not rational beings, and climate change is really scary and complex. Humans aren’t good with complex issues — we like simple solutions and quick-fixes.

 

 

Get on their team — how to not be a threat

Okay, not that we’ve learned to listen to the emotional conversation, it’s time to do better.

With more than 5 years as a professional trash-talker, I’ve met a lot of “Daves”.

When I do, and am greeted with the counter-argument that they just mix the waste, I say the following, magical words:

This is the van. Pretty neat, eh?

I used to think that too!

Yes, I remember the story of when it happened in [insert whatever city you feel like], but then I went to see the trucks in action, and they have made these really cool technological advances on the trucks.

Now, the trucks have separate compartments for the different kinds of trash. It’s really cool!

 

 

All of the above is true, I had heard the rumors of the mixing and had, at one point, believed them. By telling Dave this, I put myself in the same boat as my audience, before giving him more information.

 

To recap:

I, via my choice of words, tell Dave that he and I are the same. I understand him, I am like him. I also (subconsciously) used the excuse of the truck.

If I get the feeling that it’s the fear of not messing up the recycling that’s standing in the way, I say this:

‘Dude, I’ve always been into the environment but I was so confused when I first started recycling. Like, is this plastic or glass, right? Luckily, someone showed me this trick to tell it apart. The rest was just a matter of practice. It didn’t take that long, and now I can help my grandmother recycle.’

 

You need to put yourself on the same team as your audience.
Understand them. Respect them. When you do that, you are no longer a threat.

I do the same when I speak in front of larger audiences.

The following is a little trick I use. Feel free to steal it and use for your own line of environmental work.

When talking to a larger crow of people, with many different backgrounds where I haven’t the slight clue if they are “Daves”, I say hello, I introduce myself, and then I say:

“Would you like to see my spaceship? I swear, it’s not a pickup line.”

 

Then I show them this photo.

 


“This is my spaceship, the big round one. I live on it with 6 billion of my closest friends.

On a spaceship, you have to bring all your resources. Food, water, tools, a guitar, and so on.

When you’ve used your resources, that’s it. You don’t have anymore, it’s gone. So you need to manage your resources and not overspend.

The same thing goes for our globe. We only have a finite amount of resources, and if we use them all, that’s it, it’s gone. This is why we need to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.”

 

Yes, the above will get different reactions depending on your audience. Some will find it childish, and even patronizing. Never the less it still breaks down a barrier between me and the receiver and creates a common frame of reference, giving me a solid based to start from.

 

I repeat:

Starting a talk by establishing a collective understanding of the subject (creating a common frame of reference) means, I build trust with my audience, and get in the same boat as them.

Throughout the talk, I’ll now be able to refer back to the spaceship, and why it’s important that we manage our resources.

 

 

Summing up — how to deal with deniers

1. You’re not perfect either. First of all remember, that you too have been a stubborn mule at some point. I sure know I have (Sorry Jens, you were right about the equator thing).

Remembering that we’re all humans and that we all have areas where we’ve stubborn or feel vulnerable, will make it much easier talking to people, who are currently neurologically tied to their conviction.

2. Don’t be the Hulk. Remember, that when you are in a debate with a denier, you are emotionally threatening the receiver. You look like the Hulk, ready the smash them with your beliefs. To put it in another way; your facts and evidence, are emotionally hurtful.

It’s important for me to stress that this doesn’t mean you should discard evidence and facts, for the sake of making the other person feel emotionally at ease. But if you are an emotional threat, your listener will treat you like that and will either fight or flight. I’m sure you’ve experienced both before.

3. Use your common denominator. Find common ground, something you can agree on, and use that as an entrance to start a respectful conversation about the subject. When you peel away all the convictions, the cultural differences, and our social bubbles, we all really want the same thing — to be happy. Does the change you want to make, tie into the other person’s idea of happiness? Why, why not?

You don’t have to be preaching to the choir to find common ground with your audience — just respect them, and be curious.

 

I know the above is hard work, and the world we live in is making it harder. The social media bubbles only allow us to see what people with similar opinions think. At the same time, the fast pace of the internet is deteriorating our ability to learn complicated subjects and keep a healthy critical mind. (If you want to know more about this subject, I highly recommend reading The Shallows.)

 

Okay, that’s it for now. Now go and test it out in your field. I would LOVE to hear how you’ve used it, and if it helped! So leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

If you need help communicating your green message to your audience, get in touch! We do web copy, e-mails, social media campaigns, and much more.

 

 

Social Media and behavioral change – Saving time, money, and cutting the bullS***

In this post, you’ll get hands-on examples of how to use social media for quick and dirty behavioral change campaigns. One of them took me 10 minutes to make and saved my workplace 2-4 weeks of work, and thousands of dollars. Spoiler, 

 

In my day job, I convert recycling advice and environmental information into information that makes sense, and more importantly, that you can act on.

If I make you wiser that’s good, but I’m still only halfway there. For me to succeed, I need to give you the information you need, and the tools to act on it, while giving you that little push you need to change your actions.

An important thing to note here is, I don’t make people do things they don’t want to do. Most people want to be more environmentally friendly, they just need the tools to do it. That’s where I come in.

In the olden days of communication, you would just give your recipient a lot of information, but as I’m sure we all know, information isn’t enough.

Social Media Behavioral Change Healthy eating

 

We all know smoking is bad, and exercise and a healthy diet is good, but somehow we’re not all super healthy non-smokers.

 

I won’t get into why behavioral change is more important than information. You can read my posts about it here, and find additional resources here. Just remember that your words matter when you’re doing SoMe.

So how can social media, or SoMe as the kids call it, initiate a changed behavior?

 

Social media, when done right, can enforce a sense of purpose, of belonging, and an urgent need to act. These are all emotions strongly tied up to behavioral change.

But instead of giving you a lot of information about how to do it, I’ll show you.

The following are two examples of quick and dirty facebook updates I did, and an explanation as to why they worked.

 

1) The pink April Fools

This spring we were lucky enough to get our hands on this beautiful pink waste bin. Just look how happy I am. It’s basically a pink version the same gray bins we are distributing to the entire municipality.

I wanted to make a big event with it on April 1st, but the entire team, myself included, was swamped with work. And April 1st was on a Saturday this year, making it even more difficult to pull of a happening.

 

Enter the magic of the internet!

I did some horrible photoshopping, got creative with the text and voila! This is the facebook post I made:

 

‘YOUR NEW BIN IS PINK!

Last Thursday the municipality approved the new design plan for the waste department.

After a short budget negotiation, it was decided that the entire municipality will get a trash bin in hot pink.

The new bins will put recycling on the agenda and put this municipality on the map as a first-mover when it comes to environmental action.

If you’ve already received a grey bin, it will be swapped with a pink bin during the summer of 2017.

You can read more about the new design guide and the color pink here: http://roskilde.dk/de-3-stoerste-spoergsmaal-om-din-nye-affaldsordning

So yes, I am obviously not a creative genius. I spend 30 min making this post and then posted it on Facebook. The link takes you to a page of the top 3 questions about the new recycling scheme – a page we had difficulties directing traffic to. I boosted the facebook post with the equivalent of 22 US dollars.

The results? It had a reach of more than 14.000 people, got 400 reactions, 60 comments, 24 shares, and 1328 clicks on the link. This also made it our most visited page, as we were averaging around 500 clicks per week on ‘hot topics’, and 10 clicks per week on ‘bottomfeeder’ pages. This is by far the most clicks we’ve had on a site regarding the new recycling scheme. In a municipality of 90.000 people, getting this response to waste is pretty darn good.

 

Why it worked

This was an openly bad joke. It was not trying to be anything special. It was not trying to educate. It tabbed into a tradition, loved and hated by the Danish public – the horribly obvious April fools pranks.

It took a boring trashcan, and gave it some pesaz!
In other words, the message I am sending is, don’t worry you won’t get a big pink waste bin. You will still get a waste bin, but in a less intrusive color – and no, we’re not gonna lecture you.


What’s the takeaway?

Tab into what already exists. Christmas, traditions, old jokes. I once accidentally planed a recycling event on valentines day! So, when I promoted it I added a bunch of hearts and romance, and made the header: WE LOVE TRASH! It was a close save, but it worked.

Maybe April fools isn’t your thing. That’s cool. Here another example of SoMe working its magic.

 

2) Cardboard or carton? The money saver

 

I work with waste management, and getting people to recycle more. That also means explaining the rules of recycling.

In our recycling scheme, you can put your carton with your paper, but you can’t put cardboard with your paper.

This is confusing and we’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to tell the difference between carton and cardboard. The long answer has to do with the wood fibers in the two materials, but it tends to make the listener even more confused.

Instead of a wall of text, I tore off some cardboard from the office supply room and stole the carton roll inside a toilet paper roll. I grabbed my phone and went to work. 10 minutes later, with the aid of an Instagram filter and a layout app, I had this picture.

I shared it with a text explaining the difference in this way:

‘Are you down with carton?

We’ve received some question about the new recycling scheme. One of them is, what’s the difference between cardboard and carton?

Well, cardboard and carton are tricky areas, but this is our rule of thumb:


Cardboard usually comes in big quantities, like furniture packaging. When you tear it, you can see a middle layer inside the cardboard, which is wavy.

Carton, on the other hand, is “just” thick paper. When you tear it, it still looks like thick paper.

From may 1st, carton can go in your paper bin. Cardboard should be taken to the recycling station.

Share this information with your neighbors 🙂

Thank you for recycling!’

The results blew me away!

I didn’t even boost this update, meaning I spend no money on it, but it got 26 shares, 116 reactions, 857 clicks, and had a range of 6774 people. Again, in a municipality of 90.000, that’s a big deal considering the photo is basically a picture of trash. Even the mayor shared it!

So for 10 minutes work, and no money at all, I did what a communication campaign would have done in weeks or months of planning, and thousands of dollars worth of graphics, printing, and distribution. Let’s just recap:

I saved my workplace weeks of work, and thousands of dollars, in 10 minutes

This is the power of social media

 

Why it worked
It visually explained the difference between the two materials, making it easy for the citizen to test his or her own waste. It eliminated a lot of energy and frustration that would have been spent contemplating the difference.

It took away the am-I-doing-it-right doubt, that many people face when sorting their waste. It gave them a tool for solving this issue in years to come and thanked them for making an effort.

 

What’s the takeaway?

If you’re a good communicator, and you know the underlying motives and frustrations of your audience, you can work around the old ways of designing behavioral change campaigns.

If you can deliver your message in a to-the-point fashion, you can get away with taking photos of your waste, and just add an Instagram filter.

 

Summing-up

 

Social media is an easy, cheap, and fast way of narrowing the gap between you and your target audience. It’s a platform, where you can get away with fast updates, camera phones, and cheap editing apps.


If on the other hand, you want to make a super high-end folder, your audience will not tolerate sloppy graphics, faulty grammar, or bad jokes. But it works for Social Media.

 

SoMe is a place to meet your equal

 

This is especially important if you work in government. You are usually the authority, telling the citizen what to do, and how to comply with the rules. This automatically creates a gap between you and a (skewed?) power balance.

On social media, it’s ok to make bad jokes, with horribly photoshopped pictures. If you are fun and can look your audience in the eyes, that’s what matters.

Don’t be afraid to be human and don’t be afraid of snarky comments on Facebook. It’s a part of how the platform works, and the rest of your audience knows that the trolls are just trolling.

So go get your share on, and make the difference you need to make 😉

Just the tip – How recycling and other low impact actions open big doors for important change

A few posts ago, I wrote about how I sometimes felt like a whore because of my work, but it seems only fair to share the good stories as well.

 

Today my body shivered with excitement, my mind raced, and my heart was pounding. I was getting that feeling that you get when you do something worth wild. That feeling that makes you want to scream, yes!

 

What caused this excitement? Hearing people talk about the plastic wrapping on a cucumber. Now, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, you dirty minded person, you.

 

The background story – why plastic wrapping on a cucumber is very exciting

I work with waste management, and it’s my job to get about 90.000 people to recycle their waste. Talk about pressure. As part of this job, my team and I have just done a test with 250 households, to try out the new recycling scheme we’re implementing for those 90.000 people in the time span of the next two years.

 

We did this to make the transition for the entire municipality as smooth as possible for everyone involved. It’s a big process and a lot of things can go wrong, so we wanted to prepare as much as possible before the actual BIG implementation of the new scheme.

 

Now the six-month-long test has been completed, and the past two nights have been spent on meetings with the involved citizens, gathering the final information, and talking about what will be happening over the next few years.

 

So imagine this: 250 households have been sorting their waste in a matter very different from what they are used to, and from what the rest of the municipality is doing. They’ve been doing this for six months, with only a handful of people in the municipality, to guide them through it.

 

Most of them have had to deal with the inconveniences of getting new waste bins, both inside and outside their house, as they had to sort glass, metal, paper, bio/green, and other. Metal and Bio are two completely new fractions of waste, and the citizens in the test have never done this before.

 

Hence these meetings, held in the late hours of busy people, where not only a place for feedback and questions about recycling but also served as a place to vent emotions. And there was a lot of venting. But there was also something profoundly beautiful.

 

No, recycling won’t save the planet, but it will get you thinking about it

 

The people at the meeting have now been sorting their waste for half a year. They have done a decent job a recycling, the short timespan taken into account. But the actual change is not in their litter bins – it’s in their minds.

 

At both meetings I overheard people debating, how much packaging came with their groceries, how much waste they produced in their everyday life, and how many recourses they used.

 

“Why is there even plastic wrapping around a cucumber? I mean, do we really need all that plastic?”

 

This is what makes me tick. It’s not about the recycling, it’s not about turning off the tab, or switching off the light bulb, cause in the big picture, that’s really not a lot of change. But if you do it right, these non-essential, non-effectful environmental actions open the door for a change in mindset.

 

If you do it with intent, you can start a much more important change, than just a change in their trash bin.

You can make the change from unaware to aware, and ready to take action.

 

Plant the seed and be ready to water it

If you plan for this you can have an alternative action ready at the right moment.

In the case of the added awareness about packaging and unnecessary waste, be ready to offer kind and helpful advice on how to cut down on packaging in general for instance by shopping at farmers markets and using reusable grocery bags. Or ask the person more about how much of their waste they think is possible to eliminate and how, as this will get them thinking about alternative actions within their own frame of reference and comfort.

If you plan for these moments of added awareness, you can have valuable tools ready for your audience, and help them make that change they so deeply want to make, but don’t yet know how to.

 

You don’t need to force your way through mindsets, you can start with, well… Just the tip.

Buy it once – keep it forever

Following the post about rotation, and how it’s an environmentally friendly choice to rotate your stuff, this seems like an adequate follow-up.

 

Tired of buying crap that you have to replace every few years?

Wished there was a way to only buy things once?

I present BUY ME ONCE!
A webpage that only features products with a lifetime guaranty.

 

I am absolutely in love with this one! Besides from being amazing gift ideas for weddings and such, it also a great way to find things of high quality that will last you a lifetime. The Buy me once webpage even features socks and shoes! Yes, a lifetime guaranty for shoes.

The Buy Me Once webshop is basically a compilation of products that offer a lifetime guaranty. It doesn’t itself sell anything, but it shows you your choices of made-to-last products and redirects you to the actual product shop.

The webpage is a break up with endless consumption and the need for more. We still need things, and we still want to give our children toys, but what if those toys were meant to last a lifetime, instead of just a few years?

teddy-1113027_1920

What if, instead of buying shoes every year, you bought one really good pair that had lifetime guaranty? In the long run, you would save money, as you are not buying new stuff all the time. Plus, you save a trip to the store.

Of course, the shoes won’t last a lifetime. That’s not the point here. Products with lifetime guaranties do last for a longer time, meaning they have a lower impact on the environment.

It all comes down to, what trash you decide to buy.

In the end, everything you own will become trash, so make an active choice, when you are buying things, because you are not just buying things. You are buying waste.

So buy quality waste, and less of it.

 

Rotation is the new recycling

Look out recycling, there’s a new kid in town. One that’s more energy efficient, cheaper, and consumption lowering. Furthermore, if you live in a big city, chances are you can save a lot of money and time because of it.

 

In short, rotating your belongings means selling or gifting them. In recycling, you often downgrade the quality of the materials your working with, due to the treatment process, whereas you preserve the item exactly as it is when you rotate it.

For instance, when you recycle a plastic bottle, it is turned into another plastic product, but with a lower quality of plastic. If you rotate (sell or gift) a plastic box, it’s still going to be used as a plastic box, with the same quality of plastic.

The past 5 years have seen a widespread increase in sharing services. AirBNB, Über, and even Craigslist are among the many internet based platforms you can use to pay for services in a peer to peer regime.

You can sublet your apartment without the hassle of knowing someone, who knows someone. You can sign subscription on dresses, enabling you to wear a new stunning dress at every party. You can even have 2nd hand baby clothing mailed directly to you, washed and cleaned, in a leasing service.

The sharing economy is rising in every fiend of commerce

There are a growing number of services and facebook groups that offer 1:1 second hand sale, swap, or give away. You simple upload a picture of what ever you are selling or giving away, and then people respond, and come pick it up.Sharing economy

No more flea markets, no more trips to the recycling center. Someone else is picking up the tings you no longer need.

If you’re at the other end of the table, and are in need of one particular thing, then you can use these services to find people who just happen to be giving it away for free. The only thing you need to do is pick it up.

If you’ve ever moved to a new city, or a new country, you know how you often start your new life going: ‘Fuck, I need this thing!’ And then you need to spend a lot of time, and/or money getting it. Nowadays, all you need is an internet connection and some patience. If you aren’t extremely picky, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for, at a reasonable price, or free.

Why is it a good thing?

 

Environmentally, rotation is godsend. Whenever you help a product escape the gloomy faith of the trashcan, you are doing the environment a solid.

Table_rotation_monajensen

Take a table for instance. To make the table, you need wood.

Seeing as the wood may not have been grown under sustainable conditions, there’s a good chance of soil erosion and loss in biodiversity, being some of the costs of growing the tree that produced that wood.

 

The trees are cut down and transported using diesel driven machinery. Not good for the environment. Then shipping. Then maybe painting or the use of other chemicals to process the material.

Then packaging, usually cardboard, or bubble wrap. The manufacturing of both of these materials use a good dosage of chemicals and water.

Transportation_monajensenThen more shipment to stores and showrooms.

And then you buy it. You also need to take it home. More transportation.

If you then decide to discard you table, and not rotate or recycle it, it goes to either land field, adding to the production of atmospheric methane gas, or it get’s incinerated. The ladder is more environmentally friendly, as most modern incineration plants have quite good combustion and air filters, and use the excess heat for district heating.

Do the environment a solid – rotate your stuff

If you instead of discarding decide to sell, or gift that table, you are eliminating all the formerly mentioned steps and pollutants, with the small exception of the transportation between you and the receiver of the table.

 

Isn’t it bad for the economy?

money_monajensen

This is a valid question, and has often been the main point when arguing against recycling and peer to peer sales. Isn’t it bad for the economy if I stop buying tables? Not necessarily.

By not spending you money on furniture, or expensive hotels, you are freeing your money to be spent in other ways. You will now maybe buy one item of quality clothing, instead of 3 easily discarded items. Or you invest that money in investment pools, stocks, or bonds.

You could put that money into a college fund for you, or your children, now investing in both the educational system, and you country as a whole in the way, that you are adding to the amount of well educated citizens who, by the way, also make more money.

In short, the money saved by using these services does not end up in a mattress. They still end up in the economic system, but have usually been used to enhance the quality of your life.

A counter argument is often; well, if I don’t buy cheap clothing produced by child labor in India, the Children of Indian won’t have a job, ergo their quality of life will decrease. Though there is some legitimacy to this point, feeding the system of child labor through cheap clothing is treating the symptom, not the cause.

The argument is a mental loophole, used to justify your current purchasing habits. If it where to be true, you would not need to change your habits. This makes your brain happy, because habit changing is hard.

If you really want to do something to support children in 3rd world countries, there are plenty of programs you can donate money to. Or you can use your saved money to go to law school and become a human rights lawyer.

Getting back on track: Spend your money on happiness

Rotation, swapping, and battering are no longer reserved for students or low income families. It is, slowly but effectively, becoming a common practice.

 

Happy-life_sharing_economy_monajensenI highly encourage you to embrace it. And then spend the money you save on enhacing the quality of life for you, or your loved once.

Live out dreams, go travel, or just buy that really high quality food that you love so much, but never buy.

 

Rotate your stuff, do the environment a solid, and enhance the quality of life.

 

End note: A big thanks to Majken, who was the source of inspiration for this post!