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.
Quick Facts about "These Come From Trees"
- Check out our "welcome post" to learn about what inspired this project.
- Eco-minded Citizens: See what you can do with These Come From Trees!
- K-12 Schools, check out our Education Challenge
- Hundreds of Businesses Using These Come From Trees Stickers
- Proven up to 29% paper use reduction
- A single "These Come From Trees" sticker can save around a tree's worth of paper, every year
- More than 50,000 stickers distributed since 3/07
- Laminated stickers hold up to washing.
- A typical fast food restaurant with two bathrooms can use up to 2000 pounds of paper towels a year
- The average coffee shop uses 1000 pounds of paper towels a year
- A single tree produces around 100 pounds of paper
- Roughly 50,000 fast food restaurants in the US
- 200,000 gas stations in the US
- 14,000 McDonalds' in the US
- 10,000 Starbucks in the US