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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

The following post looks at how the so-called hard-to-reach audiences can be addressed in a creative, and somewhat surprising way. Environmental communication at it’s 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.

 

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

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

Environmental Communication Recycling- Somethinggreen.org

 

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

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.

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 trow 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?

 

Why it worked

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. 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, opens up a door for a deeper conversation about sustainability. It’s your entry point to substantial change.

 

The takeaway

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 a be willing to work on their terms, be it technical reports and pu**y jokes.

And 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.

 

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 has 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 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’re 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.