3p is proud to partner with the Presidio Graduate School’s Managerial Marketing course on a blogging series about “sustainable marketing.” This post is part of that series. To follow along, please click here.
By David Groves
Many of us remember the first time we were introduced to the blue bin. Depending on where you lived in the late 1980s or 1990s, a curbside recycling program was probably established in your municipality (unless you're still waiting for one). We separated out our glass, metals, plastics and paper, placed our blue bin on the curb and our obligations toward a sustainable world were satisfied. As long as the plastic water bottle ended up in the recycling bin, our conscience was cleared to consume as many as our paycheck allowed.
Given that the national recycling rate is under 34 percent, it's clear that many of us don’t bother to recycle at all. Others maintain the attitude that by using the blue bin, we’ve done our environmental deed for the day. This is in part the fault of the green movement of the 80s and 90s, which unintentionally marketed this idea to encourage recycling. And like any first impression, it stuck. To many, municipal recycling programs provide the false sense that we are doing enough. This may have been the case decades ago. Unfortunately, as our world fills up—with both people and the natural resources we’ve transformed—the environmental problems we face require much more than just using the right colored collection bin.
A way to compare apples to apples in the complex world of environmental responsibility is to look at the reduced carbon footprint of recycling versus other energy-saving activities. As a baseline, most communities that have municipal recycling accept glass, aluminum, tin, plastics #1 and #2 and unsoiled paper and cardboard. If one recycles all of that material over the course of a year, his/her carbon footprint will shrink by about one-third of a ton of CO2.
Yet, there are many other ways to reduce that same amount of carbon emissions: