Composting in the Township of Langley

The last weekend of February I had the opportunity to attend a one day symposium at the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. The day was filled with two keynote speakers, three breakout sessions on topics ranging from regional planning, transportation, and tribal issues. My biggest take away from the day was from the Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) for Planners breakout session, which focused on techniques and applications of behavior change oriented programs. Tess Rouse, Energy and Solid Waste Coordinator for the Township of Langley spoke about the implementation of The Green Can Program and the Township’s push for more residents to participate in composting.

The Township of Langley rolled out The Green Can Program in the summer of 2011 along with a township wide “composting is easy” messaging. They used door hangs with information about how to compost in your home, participated in community events, and bus shelter ads. They township had done a media blitz to increase resident participation in their compost program yet they were still not seen the level of involvement they had hoped would occur. They turned to CBSM studies which said prompts and reminders were needed to instill the desired change in behavior and they rolled out the sad face sticker promotion.

They began leaving green sad face stickers on residents who had failed to put out the green compost can, with a phone number to call if more information was needed. The sticker did not seem to act as enough of a prompt they changed the color from green to red and the language on the sticker to be more direct. Once they had their waste haulers distribute the red stickers on non-participating residents their compost line had received numerous calls some angry believing they had a fine and some confused as to what the red sad face meant but none the less had gotten those residents in noncompliance to take notice.

sad compost

In the first year of the township’s compost initiative they saw a 6% increase in organic tonnage the following year Langley increased the organic tonnage by 34% which is a dramatic leap. Langley’s utilization of sad face stickers as prompt and reminder to compost is a successful implementation of social marketing by promoting composting as the social norm and those who choose to continue to not compost are doing a disservice to their community.

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