Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Much Do You Recycle?

Dear City of Cambridge, MA,

Today I got an e-mail newsletter from a green-products shop in Cambridge, promoting Cambridge's efforts to become a 50% recycling city. It noted that currently, the good folks of Cambridge recycle about 35% of their garbage, but they could do better.

I'd agree with that statement -- the Boy and I were just talking the other day about how easy it is to recycle around here (we're not Cantabrigians, but we're big on recycling), and we wondered why people don't recycle everything they possibly can.  It's easy, it saves on trash disposal, and we don't have to spend as much money on trash bags. Win-win!

However, as much as I admire your campaign, I don't think it'll be effective for two reasons:

1.  Self-enforced pledges don't always mean that much. I don't know if they had this in your high school, but mine participated in Red Ribbon Day, a day where pretty much everyone had (or maybe was strongly encouraged) to sign a piece of paper saying they'd never abuse drugs or alcohol (including caffeine). Needless to say, I'm not sure how many of us actually stayed true to this pledge. I know I didn't, but then I pledged before I knew what a finely-crafted cocktail tasted like.

Anyway, my point is that if I (a) lived in Cambridge, and (b) took the pledge, would you recognize me without checking up and seeing if I'm being true to my word?

2.  It needs a cute character. I would've included "catchy tagline," but you do have "Recycle More. Trash Less." Which works. Kind of. It's not quite as catchy as "Get hip to the hep," a hepatitis-C awareness campaign from the late 90's that I still remember.

Nor is it as catchy (to me) as "L.E. Jack is back!" a Chicago Transit Authority campaign also from the late 90's that promoted the reopening of the Green Line. But then, it also incorporates a cute character, one L.E. Jack. The name stood for "Lake-Englewood-Jackson Park," the 3 main junctions of the Green Line, and the character was from a route realignment that took place in the early 90's. I liked Jack--he was cool. I think he helped the cause.

Seriously though, a mascot makes all the difference--it's something people can connect with. Just look at all of the Japanese corporate mascots. People love Domokun--and buy all sorts of Domo stuff--and this guy's the face of a satellite broadcasting company. You guys can't come up with Binny the recycling bin, or something?

These points aside, I do hope your campaign goes well, and I look forward to reading about its success (and hopefully not about any sort of disappointment). I'll even try to do better with my recycling to help out my community as well.

Your pal,

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