Winning Green Friends and Influencing People

March 25, 2008 at 4:03 pm Leave a comment

A study was recently done on Southeastern Wisconsin reviewing why people do or do not recycle. (Read an article on the study here) Basically, the study shows that two groups are lagging: young people (twenty-something’s – not six year olds) are not as diligent in their recycling as well as apartment dwellers. Now, it stands to reason that young people are more likely to be apartment dwellers. So what is the real problem? Is it living in the apartment or is it being young that makes people poor recyclers? Young people, for certain, can come up with plenty of excuses as to why they don’t recycle. A few may include:

  • “I don’t have enough space.” (Between my espresso/coffee/cappuccino maker, my waffle maker, my 8 slice toaster, my blender, my quesadilla maker, and my hot-dog cooker combination bun warmer, I just don’t have any room left in my kitchen!)
  • “It is inconvenient.” (The recycling dumpster is 8 feet out of my way; besides I am running late to use the treadmill at the gym)
  • “I don’t know what to do.” (O.K. ~ This may actually be a legit excuse. Landlords are responsible for providing containers, dumpsters, etc. Visit to learn what to recycle in Waukesha County. Otherwise, call your city/town/village hall and they can direct you to someone who knows. They can also anonymously inform your landlord that they need to be providing recycling services to you, after all, it IS the law.) Presto! No longer an excuse for you!
  • “My frontal lobe has not completely formed and thus I cannot be expected to regulate my actions. I should not be expected to connect the dots in such a way that links my actions to the health of the planet that I will be occupying for the next (give or take) 60 to 80 years.” (O.K. if this is honestly your excuse, you need some remedial recycling information ~ read some of my old posts or visit my squidoo page. Then we can talk.)


But lets then call these excuses what they are, lame attempts to excuse ourselves out of something that is so easy and so logical my mom even thinks it makes sense. However, this report shows us more than who we need to tell to recycle more, but how the message will be most effective. Guilt and peer pressure do not work as well as supplying people with easy to understand ‘how-to recycle’ information and showing them the environmental and economic impact of recycling. So, when I am pestering friends:

“Oh wow, I see you are throwing that aluminum can in the trash. Did you know recycling that can saves enough energy to power a TV for 4 hours? I am so glad we can recycle aluminum and steel cans in our community”

instead of “Lame. Don’t throw that in the trash. You are a bad person if you do.”


“I just found out that we use 7 trees worth of paper every year. I am so glad I use recycled paper as well as recycle my paper to make sure I am saving all those trees. Oh by the way, paper recycling is in the closet. I am so glad we can recycle paper towel tubes and every other non-waxy paper.”

instead of “What is your problem? Can’t you see the paper recycling bin?”


“Did you know every hour Americans use 3,250,000 plastic water bottles? Crazy. We wasted 6.5 million barrels of oil throwing those bottles away last year. Good thing oil is so plentiful and cheap.”

instead of “What the heck, you drive a hybrid but make up for it by using and throwing away all those plastic bottles filled with tap water? Looser.”

I think people like the softer, nicer version of me. However, I still think peer pressure works, even if the study tells me otherwise. So, on occasion I may add “besides, all the cool kids are doing it” just to occasionally put myself in the cool kids category. Hopefully these talking points give you an easy way to remind other people what they should be doing with their recyclables and why they should be doing it. So please share some of your favorite ways to remind people to recycle.

recycle more,

Recycle Raccoon


Entry filed under: Facts & Figures, Little Action, Recycling. Tags: , , .

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