How to Bridge the Gap from Knowledge to Action

Master Recyclers are in the business of inspiring our neighbors, coworkers, family and friends to take action. Most people know they should reduce, reuse and recycle. But what people think is not always what they do! In fact, research shows that just giving people information has little or no effect on what they do.

If brochures alone won’t change behavior, what will?

Studies reveal that personal contact with a trusted source, teamed with core values, specific resources and simple tips to address problems, is a powerful combination to inspire action. The personal contact part is the magic of the Master Recycler program!

Inspire people in your community to save more and live more with a few of these techniques:

  • Connect through shared values. Relatively few Americans, even in green thinking Portland, take action for environmental reasons alone. One way to ensure that a broader range of people feel engaged is to talk about the value that is added to a person’s life when they make sustainable choices. Talk about what you get out of reducing, reuse and recycling and it will likely strike a core reason for others. Examples might be: thriftiness, responsibility, community, self-sufficiency, fun, health and family, smarts and achievement.
  • Name specific places to go. Most of the time people just need to know where and how rather than why they should do something. Tell people about your favorite place to get stuff repaired or your go-to consignment shop for clothes. 
  • Share solution-oriented achievable actions. Stay positive and avoid shaming. Meet people where they are at with small steps of change. Talk about the bulk section at Winco if that is where they are more likely to shop than going to a whole new location like a farmer’s market.
  • Highlight the actions you want, not the one you don’t want. When you say, "Oregonians recycle enough material every year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to 740,000 cars." you just made it normal to recycle.  Everyone in Oregon seems to be doing it. In contrast, it makes it normal to waste materials to say, "Each Oregonian throws away an average of 4.6 pounds of trash every day." It is now weird to do anything else. 
  • Share your stories. Personal stories help others see that change is easy. Share the basic steps you took to achieve your actions. And don't be afraid to share your shortfalls, so people can see how you overcame problems. Everyone loves a good twist in the plot of a story.
  • Celebrate/validate what people are doing. Give people the opportunity to share what they are doing to help the environment, where they go to do it and why it is important to them.
  • Abundance, not personal sacrifice. Diets don’t work. People don’t want to give stuff up. They want to move toward something positive rather then away from something negative. So, instead of sacrificing and not eating red meat, a person can enjoy fresh unprocessed fruits, vegetables and grains because they are healthful and taste good. 

The most important way you can inspire folks is by saying you care. Just wearing your badge tells folks, "Yes, this is important enough to me to make this commitment." Thank you for that commitment!