These Come From Trees Sticker

These Come From Trees Sticker
This is the sticker we're hoping can save a couple hundred thousand trees a year. Amazing how the right message at the right time can make the difference.

Quick Facts about "These Come From Trees"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Aragon High School Deploys These Come From Trees Stickers

Aragon High School in San Mateo, California has an "Environmental Impact Committee" the head of which came across the These Come From Trees blog. Jason reached out to us, asking if he could get a fixed number of stickers for a set price, rather than buying a bundle, because the Committee is on a tight budget. We, of course, offered the school complimentary stickers.
Jason has promised to report back on how the project proceeds at Aragon. And in the meantime, if there are any other schools out there, that would like to deploy These Come From Trees stickers into their bathrooms, the same offer we made Aragon applies: complimentary stickers for your bathrooms, to help your school be that much greener!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ooops! Forgot about this one!

No sooner do I post about the benefits of Creative Commons licensing and an idea like These Come From Trees, than I remember that These Come From Trees had another meaningful open source moment a few months ago.

I got an email from this nice woman named Dina, who lives in Kuwait. She wanted to implement something like These Come From Trees, after reading about it some friendly blog who linked to us.

At first she bought some stickers, but then, a month later, circled back saying that while the English language ones were all well and good, she'd love to translate them to Arabic.

I provided her with the Photoshop EPS files, and she did her magic. This was the result:

I can't say for the life of me what they say, but they sure are pretty. Hopefully they're catchy too, and jibe with the basic tenets of the These Come From Trees project, which is that a non-judgmental, helpful reminder at the moment of consumption can really help reduce down the amount of unintentional waste we produce.

These Come From Trees has another copyleft experience!

Thanks to good old Creative Commons licensing, the These Come From Trees meme keeps spreading on its merry way.

The latest place it's shown up? Italy.

Luca emailed me asking if it was cool to use the logo and the tagline, and the general idea. I, of course, told him to go crazy, as long as he cited the original source.

Well, he has certainly taken it and run with it.

These Come From Trees stickers now add another language and distribution locale to its list, all the better for unintentional paper goods overconsumption the world over, eh?

Of course, I had to tell him in our email exchange that Venice's Marco Polo airport already has a couple TCFT stickers...sadly, not in Italian. He says he'll do his best to rectify that situation!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Social Media and Conservation

I'll be the first to admit I'm kinda a geek when it comes to using technology to do things day to day. You can see that on this project, in that it has its own blog, uses Paypal for payment processing, Google Analytics to see who's coming and going, Facebook to spread the word virally, and Technorati to see who's linking to this blog.

One of the big pieces of technology I was hoping to leverage is tagging on the photo sharing site Flickr. One of my favorite things on Flickr is the RSS feed I have of the tag "thisisbroken". People all over the world can post up a picture of something that's poorly designed, poorly thought out, poorly executed, or what have you, and tag it "thisisbroken" and I have subscribed to an RSS feed of all those pictures. I get to see the collective wisdom of people who are involved enough (or, hey, I'll admit it, geeky enough) to take a picture of something like that, and share it.

Similarly, I wanted These Come From Trees to be able to do that as well. As you can see, there's a Flickr widget on the right side bar of this blog that has a feed of the most recent pics tagged with "TCFT" (conveniently enough, These Come From Trees is the only project using that tag! It's good to be an early adopter sometimes....).

Well, up till now these pictures had mainly been me taking snaps of These Come From Trees stickers I had put up, using my Treo, and then text messaging them to Flickr.

Today, we had a milestone! Someone besides me tagged a picture "TCFT"! In this case, it was a picture of a trashcan overflowing with paper towels, taken in what looks like Denmark, by a gentleman from Germany:

I find that really cool! I hope to see more pictures showing up on Flickr with the "TCFT" tag in the future!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

10,000 stickers and counting!

Hey everyone! We've been working on posting up stickers around the bay area, but wanted to share a fun stat with you.

We recently sent out our 10,000th sticker to a These Come From Trees project participant! That's awesome. Every time I put one up, I remember that that sticker on the paper towel dispenser will save more paper that day than it took to make, and in a whole year will save up to 100 pounds of paper--one whole tree.

It saves the store owner money, saves the earth some trees, and helps educate each other in our day to day when it's easy to forget where things really come from.

Thanks for making this a success!

Monday, March 26, 2007

These Come From Trees in the Enterprise

Like referred to in an earlier post, I started a new position at VMware recently. Well, given the fact that VMware's virtualization products help enterprises consolidate their server farms, which is a huge energy saver, in that each server probably costs about $500 in power to run a year, I figured that the company might be open to some "green" innovation of a less technologically advanced sort.

So I set up a meeting with Wally Hong, VMware's head of real estate and facilities, to brief him on the These Come From Trees project, and see if there was a place for the project in the VMware mix.

Well, the meeting went great. VMware's in the process of building a new campus too, called "Promontory" which Wally shared with me has a goal of being a truly green campus. So I figured that was a great opportunity. It's unclear what is happening at Promontory in terms of paper towel dispensers. If the bathrooms had yet to be outfitted, I encouraged Wally to use the sensor-activated paper towel dispensers, in that the "time out" they have keeps people from being able to pull a bunch of towels in quick succession. However, if they had already outfitted the bathrooms with "old school" dispensers (like in VMware's current building stock), I encouraged him to consider the stickers as a useful retrofit.

I told him about the idea behind the project, inspired by watching people eat at In N Out (mildly creepy, yes), and how it had evolved, and the preliminary results we got from testing at a local coffee shop.

I also encouraged him to pay attention the next time he was in the bathroom at how many paper towels are used per wash. My non-scientific observations have resulted in the same rough average of three towels per washer at VMware as at movie theaters, coffee shops, and restaurants. I have a feeling it really has to do with the ease with which C-fold paper towels can be pulled from the dispenser.

Anyway, we ended the meeting with me giving Wally some stickers, and him saying he would pass along the idea to his report who is in charge of facilities. So we'll see what happens next. I'll be sure to post about it here.

There's a big opportunity, to be sure. Based on what I saw, three paper towels a trip to the restroom, and maybe three trips a day per person, times 250 work days in a year, times 2500 people is 6 million paper towels a year. Wow!

A "pack" of C-fold towels has 175 sheets in it, so we're talking 35k "packs" per year. There are 20 packs in a case, so 1700 cases. Assuming we see a similar reduction of 15% to what we saw in our pilot test, that's 270 cases VMware could save a year.

Each case weighs 20 pounds, so that's around 5k pounds of paper towels. Good lord, that's 2.5 TONS! And based on our rule of thumb that you get 150 pounds of paper out of a tree, VMware could save 35 trees-worth of paper a year by deploying "These Come From Trees" stickers in their restrooms. Pretty cool.

And this is just one company with 2500 employees. If we get some traction at VMware, look out Cisco, Oracle, eBay, Adobe, and Google....!

Anyway, like I said, when I know more, I'll post it here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

We're open source now!

The "These Come From Trees" project has now had its first meaningful open source experience. Witness, our new sticker.

To explain this process, a little story. Not too long ago I was at a speaking event at Citizen Agency in San Francisco, an internet company consultancy with a specialty in community. The event happened to be a speaking workshop, organized by Tara Hunt, and given by Lura Dolas. And though the speaking workshop was great, another really interesting thing I came away with was this discussion I had with Chris Messina, another Citizen Agent, about trademarks versus "community marks."

Chris was one of the founders of "BarCamp," which initially started out as a one-off "un-conference" in which the attendees set the agenda on the first day, and where the attendees are also the presenters, in contrast to the typicaly conference model of a series of single speakers presenting slide decks to large audiences.

Chris and I were talking about how when a trademark is freed, either through a Creative Commons license, which we have on the TCFT slogan, or through being designated a community mark, while the original creator loses some control over it, and as such would have more difficulty capturing part of the value created by their idea for themselves, this downside can often be made up for by a variety of things that can help spread the idea that much faster and make it that much better.

These Come From Trees now has its very own example of this. The original "These Come From Trees" sticker was heavy on research and thought, but admittedly light on graphic design. This is largely because Pete is good at research, good at thinking things through, but not all that great on Adobe Illustrator.

Furthermore, Pete's a big fan of fast prototyping, and iterating a design over time to get better as it interacts with the market. Well, the first instantiation of the "These Come From Trees" sticker worked well enough to prove its value in the pilot test, so we went with it.

Well, the other day, out of the blue, we received this email:

Hi Pete,

I came across your blog the other day, brilliant idea. Really like it.

Coincidentally, it’s a case of right time right place for an idea I’d had too. I’ve recently started a blog called Brand Boggler, and one of the ideas I’ve had is something called “Random Acts of Designess”, where designers do random acts of design for an unsuspecting cause they’d like to help.

More importantly though, I wanted to help you, so have done some work on your sticker for you to improve it’s standout and message – self explanatory really. I hope you don’t think this rude, and if you don’t like what I’ve done then no problem, just ignore it. If you do like it, I can easily send you the artwork or make some amendments, whatever you like really.

You can find out more about me and my blog here:
Hope you like the sticker, and look forward to hearing from you.

Guy Paterson

Guy had gone and re-factored our design. He had take what was an amateur attempt, and recognized the value in it, and put his own talent into making it look at good as it should.

It wasn't yet perfect, for example, Guy's from Australia, so he had changed the part that talks about how much paper can be saved a year into metric! But it certainly was a step up from the previous incarnation. So Guy and I continued to iterate the design he had come up with until it got to the point where it adhered to all the requirements we had come up with for the product.

At this point, we've ordered some new stickers, a small batch of 500 of this new design, to make sure that they look as good in sticker format as they do on the screen.

The big takeaway has been how fortunate we are to have licensed this project with a Creative Commons license, because it has let people all across the world interact more meaningfully with the project, and in this one case, have a big input into where it is going.

Now, with this sort of professional design, it makes it all the more acceptable for a large organization to deploy these all across their bathrooms, copiers, and printers. In fact, one of my tasks this weekend is to craft an email to the head of VMware's facilities department to see about getting together to get an officially sanctioned implementation going at the six or so VMware building locations throughout Palo Alto--servicing some 2000 employees, day in, day out.

Should be fun!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

TCFT in your Inbox!

Thanks to a product by the company FeedBlitz, you can now subscribe to have our posts show up in your email inbox, so you can keep up to date on the project!

Cool, eh? It's right over there to the right. You can just pop your email in there, and you'll get our posts in your inbox, rather than having to come back here to check in.

Of course, this blog also has an RSS feed that you can use with your feedreader, but not everyone uses one of those, so we thought we'd add this!

We have some exciting news coming up this week, so we want to make sure everyone can keep up with it!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

These ALSO come from trees! Part deux

Gail comments over on Tod Brilliant's blog about how she is going to use a "These Come From Trees" sticker on her printer to help her think for a second about how important her print job is before she prints it.

Great idea! hadn't even thought about that for home printing use. I have a sticker on my paper towel dispenser at home, and some on the outer case of my laptop, but not on my printer or keyboard! I'll have to fix that immediately.

In the spirit of "delivering the message at the point of decision making" I would recommend putting one on your computer monitor or keyboard, in addition to the printer. While the one on your printer will be helpful to internalize the message more broadly, you're not looking at it at the moment you hit "print."

This is why we encourage people to put the sticker on the paper towels dispenser right where the eyes fall while pulling out towels--so the message can be delivered right at the moment that the reader can actually do something about it--like one of those digital speed limit signs with the radar gun in it, it flahes to grab your attention, shows you the speed you're doing RIGHT NOW such that you can do something about it RIGHT NOW: take your foot off the gas. Which is kinda what we're encouraging: people to take their foot off the gas for their printer, copier, or paper towel dispenser!

Good thinking Gail! Keep 'em coming everyone.

These ALSO come from trees! Part trois

I just started a new job at VMware, a big software company. I now work in a cube-land, with lots of knowledge workers typing away on their machines, and, printing stuff out on their printers, and copying lots of copies.

Well, this last week has been somewhat of an eye-opener. When I was a consultant, I used an HP deskjet printer for all my printing needs, which weren't a whole helluva lot, but not zero either. But what was important there was that it was Pete paying for those spendy little inkjet cartridges. As a result, you think twice before hitting the "Print" button on that 50 page PDF document.

That dynamic changes when you know that your workstation is mapped to a burly Toshiba copier that can print that 50 page report in the flash of an eye--all on someone else's dime...

The other day, my friend Erin, who also works at VMware noticed a stack of "These Come From Trees" stickers on my desk, and pointed out, "Hey, we should put those on the copiers too." I thought it was a really good point, and bore looking into.

I'm a little conflicted about it, because this project was initially aimed at what I like to call "unintentional waste" of paper resources, like with napkins at fast food restaurants, and paper towels in public restrooms. That is, where people accidentally use too much, just because they're not really paying attention. The goal of this project has never been to tell people to not use resources that they feel they need. That might be someone else's project, like projects that work to get people to stop driving SUVs, or what have you, but it's beyond the aim of this project.

I'm not 100% sure if this idea of discouraging "unintentional waste" applies to business copying and printing to the same extent. I mean, a lot of the stuff that gets printed is very important, and helps the company make money--if it didn't, they wouldn't have printers and copiers.

And whereas I could sit and watch nearly every group of people at In N Out throw out multiple clean napkins, or sit in the bathroom (hidden in a stall!), listening to how many paper towels were pulled per hand-wash (they make a "shoonk! shoonk! shoonk!" sound as they are yanked out of the holder! It ended up averaging like three and a half towels--most people used two, three, or four but occasionally you'd here someone, literally, pulling ten in succession. It was fascinating--but this is for a separate post), it's harder to know the size of the opportunity for reduction in a business printing / copying context.

But at the same time I have to feel that a lot of the time big ol' powerpoint decks get printed out, placed on a conference table "just in case" attendees, who have been emailed that same deck, want a paper copy right there because they didn't bring their laptop. Or big ol' PDF reports getting printed out for "reading later" but ultimately just get dumped. So while I know the opportunity for reduction is non-zero, I don't know how big it is. Haven't done the homework yet.

Also, I wonder to what extent this would have an impact? I tested the initial "These Come From Trees" sticker in a coffee shop bathroom, measuring impact on paper towels. But this is different. Maybe I should do a test at VMware and report back.

What do you guys think? I suppose this is kinda the goal of this being an community driven, "open source" guerrilla public service announcment. Ultimately, it relies on the judgment of those using the sticker to be wise about where to deploy them to get the point across, but without damaging the cause. I'm sure if we all just make sure to be thoughtful about it, we'll make the right move.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance, and how not to be Gored

Having watched the incipient (and likely planned) backlash against Al Gore for his family's own electricity usage in the face of his work on Inconvenient Truth , got me thinking about how important it is for the "whole package" of a given product / service to "hang" together in the right way.

This is true with "These Come From Trees" as well, and I thank my buddy Noah, whose RA I was in college, for pointing this out in a message he sent me from the TCFT Facebook group. Noah's a journalist, so he spends a lot of time thinking about words and communicating. To quote him:

"If I were trying to really clarify the message though, I'd print recycled stickers. "

Totally good point right? After some research, custom-printed recycled stickers don't really exist as far as I could tell. Secondly, if they did exist, they would like come at a cost premium. Don't know how much, but as a fairly niche product, it would probably be appreciable.

This might be problematic, because we want to make sure that the costs of the stickers are as supportable as possible, such that as many people as possible are willing to buy them. Their inexpensiveness helps make the message more pervasive, which is the point. The more stickers out there, the more "costless waste reduction."

But Noah's point leads to a broader point, which is: the performance has to match the expectation, and this means anticipating questions like that, and dealing with them.

So, I've been trying to make sure that the "whole product" here jives with the intent. But I've been having a hard time. So many people have ordered stickers, which is awesome, that we've been scrambling to get all the infrastructure in place to get those orders out.

When I went to Office Depot yesterday, I specifically set out to find small footprint, recycled envelopes in which to send the stickers to people who got them. But mirabilis dictu, they didn't have any. Not a single one. Amazing huh?

We had to get some envelopes to start sending out stickers, so the first batch isn't recycled. However, going forward, we're going to make sure that all components of the project adhere to this guideline, as long as it doesn't impede the larger goals of the project (for example, not going to be making handmade stickers out of scraps of old envelopes--defeats the goals of the project).

Our next batch of envelopes will be coming from here.

Thanks for the food for thought, Noah, and everyone else who has been commenting.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Print-at-home problems, and Creative Commons solutions

Doc Sanchez had a great question in a comment, that deserves its own post. He said:

"Why not make the graphic downloadable? Then any schmo like me can print them off at home on a standard set of Avery labels from Staples (or wherever).

It'd only take a few minutes to set it up for easy home printing and would save everyone some money and time."

Exactly. If indeed this project is not-for-profit, and the point is solely to spread the idea as quickly and broadly as possible, why not enable print-from-home? It's a fantastic question, Doc.

The answer lies in the whole concept of win-win "costless conservation." That is, when conceiving of the product that could hit all the requirments necessary to make sure all stakeholders in this would win (paper towel users, environmental crusaders, and bathroom owners), we had to test, test, and test again to make sure the only stakeholder bearing the cost here was the paper towel producer.

We actually initially used Avery labels to do the prototype of the sticker. And the fact that we could do it, meant that anyone else could. So we were excited that this could help spread the idea quicker.

But while we were thinking through the full lifecycle of the sticker, we hit on "hey, bathrooms get cleaned. These things need to stand up to cleaning solvent. We should check that."

Well, we broke out the bottle of Simple Green, and gave the paper towel dispenser a squirt, and proceeded to wipe that sucker down. And as we wiped across the sticker, sure enough, the HP InkJet ink was no match. In fact, neither was the initial set of stickers we got from Contagious Graphics , the company that makes the stickers. We have 500 of our initial label run that we can't deploy, because their ink would smear when cleaned. The good news is, the second revision of the stickers, which are now laminated, stand up to cleaning.

However, the reason why this is important, is because the bathroom owner is just a part of this project as the label sticker. She's the one who decides whether it stays or goes. And if the ink is smeared, it ceases to provide value to that bathroom owner, and simply becomes another bit of graffiti for that poor business owner to deal with. And that is the opposite of the win-win proposition we're trying to achieve here.

So, as of now, in that we wouldn't want the "These Come From Trees" concept associated with stickers that degrade and are ugly, we aren't offering the image for download and self-print.

However, what we are doing is releasing the "These Come From Trees" design and slogan under a Creative Commons attribution license.

And we've notified Contagious Graphics that anyone can email them (paperlabels [at] contagiousgraphics [dot] com) and order the 2/19/07 proof version of the These Come From Trees graphic, in any quantity (their minimum order is 500 pcs), so long as they are laminated, and the 3" x 1.5" size.

Right now, the only reason why we're selling the labels is because not everyone may be excited about shelling out $120 for 500 stickers just yet. We're hoping that you order 20, 50, or 100 to start, and once you try it out, you realize how many you can put to work (I'm amazed when I find that I've put up 10 in a day, but it happens!), and call up Contagious Graphics on your own to get a big ol' order.

All we ask is that you post picture on Flickr, and tag them "tcft" and report back on your successes!

UPDATE: Henriette points out that I should be more specific about the Creative Commons license. The slogan and image can be used for anything non-commercial with attribution. Go forth and have fun with the slogan and image!

Welcome Seth Godin Readers

To everyone showing up thanks to the Seth Godin link, welcome to the These Come From Trees Blog!

This site is set to be the online pivot point of this project, the goal of which is to do some "costless conservation" with a viral sticker campaign that encourages people to think twice as they use paper towels and napkins.

As I said to Seth in my email, this project entails a lot of what he talks about on his blog: enthusiasm, candor, authenticity, and respect. So I'm looking forward to see what his readership has to say about it.

Check out the background of the project broken out below, and please provide comments, criticism, and feedback as they come to you! And subscribe to our RSS feed, and you can see updates and traction on the project as we post about it.

And if you think this is something you'd like to try out in your neck of the woods, stickers are for sale in the right sidebar!


Ask Versus Tell, and other marketing realities

This was touched on a bit in the previous post, but I thought it was worthwhile to expand on.

A big part of the idea behind this project was predicated on my belief that all things being equal, most people want to do the right thing. And this extends to conservation as well. As long as it's not terribly costly (like giving up your car, or riding to work in the rain), people are usually open to an environmental message.

But the question is, how is that message delivered? In our society, there are few times when someone can tell you what to do, and you're ok with it. Your parents (hi mom), you girlfriend, your boss, the police, etc.

But even then, are you really all that happy about it? "Move along sir," "clean up your room, Pete," all of these aren't exactly fun messages to hear. But you get over it, because you know that the alternative to non-compliance isn't exactly fun.

However, compare this to when someone asks you a favor. Especially when done in a friendly, considerate way. Most people have zero problem doing a small something if asked nicely about it. "Can you watch my bag while I'm in the bathroom?" "Excuse me, would you mind moving over one seat, so my friend and I can sit next to each other in this film?" and so on.

So, it was based on this thinking that the "These Come From Trees" message was adopted. The idea was that people didn't need to TOLD. That's why that sign in SFO airport was annoying enough to be that I took a picture of it with my cameraphone.

Or this sign that was in the men's bathroom at the Stanford Book Store (the fact that it was in the men's room is another topic). "Thank you for your cooperation."? That's a little harsh sounding. Sounds like the IRS or LAPD talking. How about "Thanks for your help in keeping the bathroom nice for everyone"?

In situations where we're the customer, we typically expect a little more deference. When you call tech support, they don't tell you "I need you to wait while I get rid of this other person" they say "Could you hold please?" or "Sir, I'll be right with you in a moment while I take her order." That's the right kind of tone to make someone receptive to your message.

Even with the "These Come From Trees" message, I really wrestled with whether or not "Remember..." should precede the message. I was very concerned that it could be construed as pedantic, and make it less likely for someone to consume, subscribe to, and execute on the message. And in this case, the difference between a pedantic message, and a respectful one could mean a tree's worth of paper over the life of the sticker.

Ultimately I went with it, because the message "These Come From Trees" without the "Remember" sounds like a statement, as opposed to an implicit request, and this message is, after all a request.

But still, it's important to think about how to ask nicely.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Right Message at the Right Time

Because I'm a recovering grammar nazi, and all around writing wonk, I kinda nerd out on effective versus ineffective communication. It's one of the things that makes me laugh, and enjoy life that much more.

For example, on the theme of bathrooms, those signs posted above sinks or paper towel dispenser that say "Washing your hands is good for your health, and required by law for employees". Those signs crack me up, because they're great signs, in the totally WRONG PLACE.

In that I'm a guy, I'll look at this from the male user's perspective: the decision of whether or not to wash your hands--the very decision that sign is trying to influence--isn't made at the sink! If you're at the sink, guess what, you've already been convinced! It's called preaching to the choir. If the sign-posters really wanted to affect hand sanitation, they'd post those signs over each urinal and the backs of stall doors, where I have nothing else to read! The advertisers have certainly already figured it out....

Anyway, so that's an example of BAD textual communication. Right message, wrong context. But what makes me even happier than the giggles out of seeing bad examples of communication is finding really GOOD ones.

And I had a feeling that the right message in the right context could be helpful reducing "costless" paper waste (more on "costless" in another post) that I had been paying attention to lately.

As such I figured that the message had a couple requirements:

1.It needed to be friendly. No one likes to be lectured. In the situations where I saw this message being deployed, the relationship is between a customer and service provider, and most customers don't like to be lectured. Further, because this was likely going to be a guerrilla message--not sanctioned, at least initially--by the "bathroom owner" the message needed to be costless to him too, and not insult his customers. That picture was taken at SFO, where even the bathroom signs display the dictatorial tone only possible by a government agency or other massive monopolist. Ick.

2. It needed to be portable. The collective action issue of having to convince, say, the VP of Operation for Starbucks, or whatever, was too much for a side project like this. Also, going to Kimberly Clark or Georgia Pacific (paper manufacturers) was going to be a non-starter--you think they want to see their sales fall? No. So this message would likely need to be added to a paper dispenser by a viral agent--you, me, whoever. That means that it had to be smallish, so you could carry it around and stick them on appropriate. This pointed towards stickers. Just as portable as graffiti, but nicer looking. Which leads us to...

3. It needed to look nice. Because these messages were going to be hosted in a venue that was "owned" by someone who wasn't the message transmitter (the good samaritan who posted the sticker), there was a duty on our part to make sure that the message didn't create problems. Again, we were shooting for joint value here: the only results for the bathroom owner should be that his paper towel costs fall, and he gets to feel like he's doing his part to help conserve resources. As such, we figured that a nice, well-designed sticker, with nice colors would be the right way of going about this.

4. It needed to be memorable. We needed the message itself to be "sticky", to add to its propensity to stay with the reader even after he left the place where he read it. So we shot for something that had a rhyme to it.

5. It needed a viral call to action. We already pointed out two audiences that the message needed to serve: 1. People using paper products and 2. the bathroom/venue "owner." But there was a third audience too: people who would be interested in helping with this project on their own, beyond using one less paper towel. This meant that we needed a viral call to action on the sticker. Something that told people why this was important, that their help was requested, and what their next step was if they chose to do so.

Ultimately, what we came up with is what you see above. We settled on a paper roll label as the most cost effective and portable medium to use, which would allow a well-designed, visually appealing message, in a mass-produce-able format. Vinyl stickers are too costly $.25-$.50 each just to buy, and are hard to get off (if someone really wants to remove the sticker, we don't want to make it terrible for them to do so).

We decided on the "These come from trees" message in that it evoked the value we wanted communicated to the viewer: using less of these helps save big, leafy, natural things. Its internal rhyme was nice, and had nice alliteration too. It hints at why the user might want to think about how much paper they're consuming, but it doesn't TELL them in a nasty "USE ONLY WHAT YOU NEED, YOU'RE A BAD PERSON IF YOU USE PAPER" fashion. I'd seen messages like that, and they're just gross. This was trying to be helpful, and non-judgmental. Kinda like a friend warning you just before you step in a puddle.

As for the viral call to action, we figured there was no better way than to leverage the memorable "These come from trees" than to buy the domain, and use that as the pivot point for this project.

Hence, as you can see, it's a blog, with pictures from people who have stuck stickers and snapped pics of them, and more. It also provided the venue whereby people could buy stickers to help promote the message. $.20 per sticker, each of which saves a tree's worth of a paper a year (more on that statistic later).

So that was the design process behind the These Come From Trees sticker. We're still evaluating to make sure it's the best way for everyone involved (paper users, sticker stickers, and venue owners) to get the message out, and we're always open to comments!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

These ALSO come from trees!

In the previous post, I touched a bit on how this whole project was set in motion. But once I had been awakened to pervasiveness of what I saw as unintentional, and costlessly avoidable, waste, I was really curious: where else is this happening? Where else are we accidentally, unintentionally wasting paper, but for the want of a helpful hint?

The answer was that far away from really. Just around the bend really.

Have you ever been washing your hands in a public bathroom, and when you're all done, it's time to dry them? Well, you sidle on over to the paper towel dispenser, and proceed to dispense paper towels to get your hands as dry as possible as quickly as possible. No one likes that icky cold water feeling, so usually this means pulling three, four, five paper towels. I've even seen someone pull out a good dozen or so, I guess each one picking up a eye-dropper of water. If we're talking about one of those roll dispensers with the spring-powered lever, you whale on that thing a good four or five times to get a nice paper towel shawl.

And I'm not saying this is what OTHER, unconscientious people were doing. No, this is EXACTLY what I was doing. I found myself doing it too, using three, four or more paper towels to dry my hands. I had never really considered it. But then when I thought about it, how much paper towel was I really "using" of those three? Because In N Out had helpfully awakened me to the These Come From Trees concept, I took a closer look.

What I realized was, of those two, or three, or four paper towels, I probably ended up using only about 30% of each. That is, rather than using up all the "dry"--to use a really bad coinage--in just one towel, I was using up just a little bit of the "dry" usually the "dry" right in the middle of the towel, in like three or four towels. Of course,along with this, meant that I was throwing away three 70% dry towels. Yikes. How many people use this bathroom a day? How many in a year? Oh goodness. That's a big number...

"But come on, Pete!" I thought to myself. "Surely you get something out of those extra paper towels!" I decided to do an experiment. Rather than doing the typical "pull three towels and rub" move, I would pull one, and see how it worked.

I was really conscious of seeing if this actually affected my experience, because everyone knows that hand-dryers are more environmentally friendly and all that, but at the end of the day, they suck because they take like a minute to use. I don't want to sit around in the bathroom for an extra sixty seconds! Come on! So I was very aware of whether or not using only one towel had a meaningful effect on my hand drying experience.

The amazing thing was, it didn't. Really. One towel, which then got like totally wet, did more or less the same job at three or four. It didn't take longer. My hands weren't colder. Nothing. So then I thought "I'll splurge" and tested using two. At this point, my hands were REALLY dry, really fast. So then I tried three. At that point, i couldn't even tell the difference between two and three towels. Not to mention four.

Based on all this testing, I concluded that I had found another instance where a lot of users, completely unknowingly, and for god knows what reason, where totally overusing a resource, and for no additional benefit. And the flip of that was that they could reduce that use, WITHOUT any cost. No performance hit. No nothing. Just pure, tree-saving goodness.

I had found something else that came from trees! But there I was again: what to do about it?

Monday, February 19, 2007

These Come From Trees Elevator Pitch

If you're here, you may have heard about this on the web, seen a sticker in a coffee shop / restaurant near you, or just might be a friend or family member of our dear Pete.

So, for those who don't know, the These Come From Trees concept was originated while having lunch at In N Out, that bastion of tasty burgers. The way that In N Out works, you order your food, wait for it to be made, grab it when your order is called, and then head on over to the ketchup and napkin dispensing island. Well, the thing is, because the ketchup and the napkins are centrally located, and you don't want to have to get back up to get more, you typically end up taking more than you really need.

Now, usually that sort of thing would just go without saying. But when I was at In N Out, looking around, I couldn't help but notice the napkins. Everywhere. Stacks of napkins on people's tables, out of which one or two would get used during the course of the meal. But here's the catch: when people are done, they don't leave the napkins. I think anyone would agree that the idea of using some random napkins on your table when you sit down would be rather, um, icky. So most of the people, as I watched, did the conscientious thing to reset the table to its base state for the next group, which means scooping up that stack of unused napkins, putting them on the tray with the other trash, and into the garbage they go!

This was amazing to me. Here we all were, me too, going about our business, not really thinking about the impact of our actions because, in this case, the resource was "free" to use.

Further, this wasn't an example of someone calling into question whether the use or misuse of a resource was "justified." This wasn't the same as someone saying "Wow, you shouldn't drive that Hummer, because you have no use for it" or making some other value judgment. Any reasonable person, when asked "should unused paper goods be thrown into the trash" would probably look at you sideways before saying, "Duh, no Pete."

That's what was amazing about this situation. If actually made to think of about these actions, everyone would be in agreement. I think if you asked anyone in there dumping napkin after napkin into the trash if they cared about conservation and the wise use of resources, we'd all say "yes." Of course we would. It was just that the thought process to intervene wasn't immediate, and internalized. But maybe there was a way that it could be.

I was truly curious how pervasive this problem was, and if there was a way we could all just "snap out of it" at the moment of consumption, and somehow reduce our waste. As I started noodling on it, I resolved to research how extended this problem was, and put my mind towards seeing if there were any good ways to deal with it.

Hello World!

This is the first post of the new These Come From Trees blog.

This blog, which will probably be replaced by a more customizable site in the near future, is the online home of the "These Come From Trees" project, an experiment in viral guerilla marketing, both online and offline, in the service of reduced consumer waste.

We welcome comments, praise, and constructive criticisms all. Thanks for stopping by.