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Final Update: Waste Free Wednesday - let's start a social movement to cut down waste 1 day a week

Get people to pledge to stop consuming products that will end up in landfill on Wednesdays. UPDATES: I've uploaded new content to the Facebook page to try and build this idea in the real world.

Photo of Jes Simson
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UPDATE (21 May):

OK - so I've just completed my second No Waste Wednesday and today went much better than last week.  I think that this shows that building a really strong habbit is going to take commitment over a couple of weeks (at least until it becomes second-ish nature).

Key Lessons So Far:
  • I have to remind myself constantly throughout the day:
    • how might I tie this new habit to other Wednesday habits (eg: exercise regime / social events / mid week tiredness) - similar to Leigh's incredible work over here
    • how could I use tech to remind me throughout the day?  I've used outlook reminders (scheduled as meetings) close to lunchtime and home time to remind me not to buy things.  I could also set up to do tasks that send me push notifications around these times.  Social could also work well - however, only when friends are also participating on mass and posting about it. 
  • I'm constantly surprise by what is and isn't recyclable in Australia
  • The power of social - I think that there are a couple of ways you could further harness social to build this:
    • posting a pledge badge on your feed - it not only keeps you accountable (friends know about it), but spreads the word and enables encouragement. 
    • Perhaps you could also amass points for the difficulty of your weekly challenges as well as the number of consequtive Wednesdays you have participated. This could be posted on your feed or to the group. This could encourage this to become a weekly thing rather than just a one day wonder. 


We all know that we consume way too much.  As communities, all this stuff adds up pretty quickly.  One of the largest barriers to large scale behavioural change is the mentality that individual action can't actually impact this consumption at scale.  

So ... how might we empower people to change their wasteful behaviours while helping them to empower their communities to do the same?  By creating a social movement centered around communities collectively reducing, reusing and recycling.   

IDEA - Introducing Bret ... 

Meet Bret, he has just socially pledged that he will go waste free on Wednesdays.  He pledges that he won't consume anything on Wednesdays that will end up in a landfill.  

Because Bret pledged this on his social networks, he will not only be held to account by his friends, colleagues and community, but he will also help amplify the 'waste free' message to his network. 

Partnerships with key organisations in Bret's community will help him stick to this pledge while also further amplifying the message. 


The pledges need to be adaptable and responsive to individual circumstances, otherwise the movement will be too rigid to take off. 

Bret pledged that he won't consume anything that will end in Landfill - he will only consume products that can be composted or 100% recycled.  His girlfriend Laura is more hardcore, she pledges that she won't buy anything on Wednesdays, instead relying on the things she has amassed over the week.  

Liam sees Bret's pledge on facebook and thinks that that's probably a bit too much for him.  For the first month, he pledges to stop buying bottled water (this is something he does regularly.)  Sally pledges to stop smoking on Wednesdays so that her filters don't end up in Landfill (or down a storm drain).  

When Liam and Sally see Bret at the pub, they have a laugh about how they have found the challenge and the tips and tricks they found have worked.  Everyone has also been posting about the troubles and triumphs they have faced following the peldge on their social networks, which increases this sense of support.  


While Bret has the best intentions, he often finds it really difficult to follow through.

Reminders - App

With the 'No Waste Wednesday' App, Bret is able to access toolkits that help him identify the areas where he will struggle to follow his pledge.

The App will also allow Brett to schedule reminders (push notifications etc) to help him throughout the day.  For instance, 15 minutes after his alarm goes off, the app reminds him to grab his lunch out of the fridge (as he can only buy lunch in non-recyclable materials where he works).  He also schedules a mid-morning reminder to grab his ' keep cup' before he goes and buys coffee. 


'No Waste Wednesdays' have developed a useful toolkit to help Bret along the way.  This toolkit includes shopping lists, recipes, how to guides to help him navigate his Wednesdays. (similar to live below the line: )


The app also encourages Brett to keep going.  The app outlines some of the personal benefits Brett will receive when he reduces his waste.  

For instance, Brett has committed to use the money he usually spends mindlessly buying things on Wednesdays to take Laura out for dinner at a fancy resturaunt if he sticks to his pledge for 3 months.

Brett is also happier because he is engaging more with the products he is buying because he is thinking about what he actually wants. 

See this article on the benefits of buying less stuff


There are two different ways you could help build this within communities: (1) leverage the power of participants' social networks to amplify the message (eg: facebook updates / tweets / pins / instagrams about journey); (2) partnership with key community organisations so that they  can help spread the word and build up support. 

Potential parterships:

Brett is constantly remindered to keep to his pledge because key organisaitons within his community amplify the message.  As a result, Brett really engages with these organisations. 

If this is to become a movement, you probably need to allow organisations to take the concept, mould it and make it their own (an open source philosophy).  This will give organisaitons the breathing space to really engage with it.  

(1) Schools: Bret works as a primary school teacher.  He encourages the kids at his school to bring their lunches in recyclable or reuseable packaging on Wednesdays.  He also uses 'Reduce, Reuse and Recycle' as a theme to help teach his kids about science, human geography, maths, history, consumer issues and the environment.  The art and music teachers also get kids to creatively engage with recycling in their class by using recylced materials. 

(2) When Bret visits his local supermarket, he notices that they have specials on products that are 100% recyclable every Wednesday.  These discounts are greater where the packaging is made from 100% recyclable materials too.  They also promote unpackaged fruit and vegetables on this day.  

(3) Every Wednesday, Bret's facebook newsfeed fills up with creative ways his friends are fulfilling thier pledge - along with a #nowastewednesday .  Bloggers and online publications that Bret likes are also pushing him content that shows him how to recycle or upcycle things so he doesn't need to buy new.  Food blogs are also showing him great ways to revamp Tuesday's leftovers so he doesn't have to throw it away. 

(4) Bret also likes brands that engaged with sustainability.  Bret begins to deeply engage with the brands that also promote 'no waste wednesday' - see Patagonia's ' common thread's pledge'. 

(5) One Wednesday, Brett urgently needs to buy a new jumper.  He walks down the highstreet and notices that second hand shops (charity / thrift / opportunity shops) offer promotions on Wednesdays to buy 'recycled' clothing.  He also notices that shops that mend or fix things offer promotions. 

UPDATE 1:  18 May 2014 - My experience with Waste Free Wednesday

So I went waste free last Wednesday and these are the things that I found:

(1) Building up a framework to support pledgers is going to be key to change behaviour because sometimes you just forget.  Reminders, setting daily (or monthly) goals and tying behavioural change to habits is really important. 

I was really good for the morning, I remembered to pack my lunch and then I went shopping after the gym and I completely forgot.  I ended up buying some cheese wrapped in glad wrap.  I was really annoyed with myself once I realised. 

( 2) How do you quantify waste on any given day?  

So, I ate leftovers for lunch and dinner on Wednesday.  I also ate some nuts for breakfast that came out of plastic packaging (although I didn't purchase or throw that packaging away on Wednesday).  Does the packaging that the food came in on another day count towards Wednesday's total?  I feel that you can't get too picky about this because then it will be too hard, but equally there is potential for loopholes. 

(3) Social element 

I really think that a social and community element would help drive this - if anything, it could ensure that there are reminders throughout the day to go waste free. 

I've started a pretty simple facebook page over here to try and prototype this idea: .  

I've also got the twitter handle @nowastewed


Describe how your idea would help form new habits and improve recycling at home

I think this could work for a couple of reasons: (1) A big idea that's simple to understand, memorable and flexible enough to appeal to a wide demographic / can be adapted to meet the needs of that wide demographic (2) Linking behaviour to a day of the week (hump day). Changing behaviour is really hard. By building on an existing pattern (the week), building a memorable trigger into that week (No Waste Wednesday) it is hoped that behaviour will slowly change over consecutive Wednesdays. Using the weekly pattern also gives the movement 52 days a year to engage, increase awareness and build behavioural change. (3) increasing engagement and awareness. Where people have pledged, they should be compelled to engage with the products that they are purchasing to work out what can actually be recycled and what is destined for landfill. This knowledge, awareness and engagement will hopefully impact action during the other six days of the week too. (4) Tapping into a human need to connect with the community, do something that matters, is meaningful, be part of something bigger than yourself (and help the environment) (aka intrinsic incentives). (5) starting small and building behavioural change over time as you gain mastery and confidence. It's much easier to pledge behavioural change 1 day a week than to go cold turkey. Hopefully the weekly cycle will help people reflect on what they struggled with each week to improve and get better as they go on. (6) doing it together - using the community (off and on line) to help collectively build and change behaviours. If the movement gains traction, there is comfort in knowing that your pledge is shared by the community. You feel part of something bigger and can draw inspiration from others doing the same thing.

How might you design an early, lightweight experiment to further develop your idea?

We could prototype the idea on Facebook. I've started a pretty simple page over here: . I've also got this twitter handle @WasteFreeWed

What aspects of your idea could benefit from the input of our OpenIDEO community?

If there are any digital advertising or product people out there, I would really appreciate the feedback on how to build social movements. Any suggestions for a pledger toolkit would be greatly appreciated. I hope to prototype this over the coming week. UPDATE: Any help to write content for the new Facebook page / twitter handle to help prototype the social element would be greatly appreciated.


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Photo of Jessie Dong

This idea reminds of Earth Hour program. "little" effort can make a big change. Great thinking!

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