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Breaking Down Assumptions in our Recycling Challenge Research Phase

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In preparation for our Recycling Challenge, OpenIDEO invited a group of sustainability experts to join us for a brainstorming workshop. We tapped into their collective knowledge on sustainability to inspire our thinking for the Research Phase. 

The strength of OpenIDEO lies in its collaborative process and workshops like this one prove that Research is an important first step. As individuals, these experts have a vast collective knowledge on the topic of recycling – and when we bring them together for an open conversation, we discover some incredible ‘aha’ moments throughout the process.  

Here's just a few of the insights that energised us in the workshop and helped to shape our missions for the Research phase:
 

Language and Behaviour (Mission: Interview Someone)

With both English and French speakers in the room, we were excited to discover the nuances of translation around the word “recycle.” Bilingual Dorothee De Montgolfier explained that in French, “tri” translates as ‘sort’. We wondered if perhaps the act of ‘sorting’ may feel more manageable to individuals, leaving it up to the municipality to do the actual ‘recycling’. 

Let's think about the influence of language on our behaviour. Do we need new words that may improve our recycling in the household, or more importantly, on a global scale? Could the word “recycling” actually be disengaging the people we need the most? 

 

Designated Drivers of Recycling (Mission: Share What Works)

Back in 1988, the Harvard Alcohol Project sought to introduce a new social concept – the ‘designated driver’ to American society. They partnered with hollywood and television to help shape and influence people’s behaviours and by 1991, the proportion of Americans acting as designated drivers had reached 37%. Today the term is common knowledge and contributes greatly to drunk-driving prevention. 

Many people in the room collectively realized they had a “designated recycler” in their household or family, yet there is no social term around this role.

How do social norms and role-models affect our perceptions? What’s the ‘designated driver’ of recycling? Are there new social concepts we should introduce or borrow from other cultures? Where are the sustainable role-models in popular culture? 

 

What can smoking teach us? (Mission: Try a New Lens) 

How is social smoking similar to environmental impact? It’s not yet but we hope that one day it has the potential to be. Only a couple of years ago, people freely smoked in public areas. Today, due to legislation and campaigning, smoking indoors is becoming a taboo due to its negative impact on other people. Environmental issues feel less relatable because human implications are less obvious. But perhaps in time we can establish similar taboos on being careless with the environment. 

How might we humanise environmental issues and emotionally relate to them more?  How might the act of recycling become a consideration of others? 

 

The Research phase is an opportunity to bring diverse perspectives to the table. We have learned that by listening to the individual stories and insights of others, we break down our own assumptions – what we think we know – and it leads to new layers of insights that may have never been considered. This is why we have a Research phase before jumping straight into idea development.

If you’re up for diving deeper into the conversation, why not go out and interview someone – perhaps someone you know who’s not really into recycling? What can we learn from those who don’t recycle at all or find it difficult? Or join a Meetup to be part of a group conversation in your area.

We're excited to see what 'aha' moments you discover!
Cheers,
The OpenIDEO Team 

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Photo of John Wilson

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