Engaging Consumers in a “Green” Lifestyle: insights from recycling

05 May 2010|Kelli Peterson

Last week PespiCo, Waste Management and Keep America Beautiful announced a partnership aimed at increasing recycling rates from 34% to 50% by the year 2018 through the use of stand-alone kiosks called Dream Machines. The importance of this effort cannot be overstated as an impetus for building sustainable awareness in the collective marketplace. And as a strategy for a company in the canned beverage business, it’s a home run.

We are on the upside of “green thinking” becoming a mainstream trend. Some might argue it’s gone mainstream given that Nike, Starbucks, Wal*Mart, P&G and others have been very active voices in recent years proclaiming game changing measures are critical to the future of our planet. They are not incorrect.

However mainstream consumers aren’t quite in lock step with these brand leaders. Green products are not readily accessible, understood nor many times considered affordable. This doesn’t mean that consumers aren’t interested, they just aren’t equipped enough yet to understand the benefits and value proposition many “green” products and practices offer.

Enter the simple activity of recycling. It’s easy. The outcome is obvious, tangible. We feel good about that. The simplicity of it (equipped by our infrastructure of city, work facilities and evolving retail and product adaption) makes us want to take action. Who doesn’t want to feel like they’re doing something good a couple of times a day, for even a couple of seconds? When we do one positive thing, it often makes us want to do more positive things. The Dream Machine takes this feeling of satisfaction and pride one step further by rewarding recycling behavior financially.

Becoming conscious recyclers opens our eyes to other earth saving activities.
This is why recycling is critical to engaging consumers in what is often an escalator of green behaviors. The more that simple practices with tangible outcomes are practiced, the more quickly the principals behind them are embraced and translated to other behaviors.

It’s true that PepsiCo is in the business of single-serve beverages. And recycling all of those aluminum cans seems like a latent no-brainer in our collective conscious, but we know that all behavior change starts with the first step. By creating the opportunity for even more people to take that first step, PepsiCo may be influencing a generation to come. Thinking about the motivations and subsequent emotional drivers behind recycling can provide insights to all marketers and product innovators interested in connecting with the “latent” green consumer.

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