SB 1383: Composting Outreach to Multi-Family Residents

Man emptying compost pail into correct cart
A new campaign encourages organic material composting for multi-family residents.

SB 1383 requires everyone in California — residents and businesses — to separate and compost organic materials, such as plant trimmings, leaves, grass and food scraps. In much of the Bay Area, yard trimmings and food scrap collection has been offered to single-family households for years. But the new law is providing a much-needed push to roll out food scrap collection service to multi-unit buildings. These buildings, which can have a few as four and up to hundreds of individual units, provide challenges, but also opportunities to keep more organic material out of the landfill.

Food scrap collection is an entirely new concept to the vast majority of apartment, condo and and townhome residents, and a clear and effective outreach program is a must-have. Outreach is ideally implemented at each building site. A successful program requires a good partnership between the service provider, the city or waste agency, and the property manager.

Gigantic is proud to have been part of a great collaboration with the South Bayside Waste Management Authority and their service provider, Recology, to create a composting campaign for apartment and condo residents.

Our team helped focus the campaign for the end-user of the program: the resident. The campaign will support the work of Recology’s implementation team and include a doorhanger for individual units and a poster for lobbies, trash areas and mail rooms. Both highlight the new food scrap composting requirement and link via QR code to a step-by-step instructional video. To support this site-specific outreach, we’ll be promoting the video on social media via paid promotion.

The video works to show, not tell, and visually communicates the food scrap recycling process. The addition of select graphic captions help identify key steps in the process. Voice-over in three languages (English, Spanish and Cantonese) help reach residents who may otherwise miss the message, while providing more detailed information.

Our video also includes 1383-required messaging about the law and its goal to reduce greenhouse gases.

We enjoyed working with this highly motivated client team. The program rolled out in June and we look forward to seeing the results!

The Social Media Swamp: How to Deal with Anti-Environmental Comments

meme - what the otter sees
Dealing with the social swamp isn’t easy

As many of us know from running environmental campaigns on social media: online platforms bring out the best in some and the worst in others. It can be disheartening to learn that not everyone is as supportive of clean water, wildlife, or air quality as we are. What seems a no-brainer to us, (do you actually WANT pollution in your water?), is anathema to others.

For some of us who monitor these online conversations, (and I include myself here) it may be hard to read and manage negative comments that target our work or the things we are trying to protect. Fortunately, my unflappable colleague at Gigantic, Nancy Roberts, coached me through this aspect of our work in our recent campaign for Respect Wildlife. In this blog, I’ll share what I learned from her “Keep Calm and Carry On” approach to social media management. You can view the campaign here.

Nancy’s Top 3 Social Media Comment Tips

1. Don’t take comments personally. If monitoring comments becomes mentally taxing, take breaks or assign the task to someone else.

2. Understand that comments are data points.

3. Establish a comment policy: Include how you will deal with profanity, bullying, slurs, violent language, or other troublesome content, and create a threshold for when you will hide or delete a comment. If you are a government agency, you may need to adhere to free speech regulations and let comments stand, more so than nonprofits or private businesses, which can set their own policies.

For Facebook: Hide rather than delete comments. This will prevent conflict.
For Instagram: You can’t hide comments; delete only if absolutely necessary.
For Twitter: You cannot hide replies; if they are truly egregious you can report to Twitter.

Decide how/if you want to respond to comments. In most cases we recommend no response unless there is significant misinformation. Let other commenters step in to present an alternative viewpoint or challenge the naysayers. This is more authentic.

Lessons Learned from Our Recent Respect Wildlife Campaign:

As mentioned above, comments are rich sources of feedback, even the negative ones. Here are some takeaways on the campaign that we and the client gained through comment feedback:

  • Not everyone loves animals or cares if animals are hurt. (Especially seagulls!) Some people view humans at the top of food chain, and therefore it’s ok show dominance. While not the majority, this view is especially hard to deal with, but an important thing to remember. Appeals to protection, being a good person, etc. will not work for this type of individual.
  • Regulations, even those meant to protect vulnerable species, are viewed by a vocal minority as government control and overreach, and inspire especially negative comments.
  • Not everyone understands or supports a humorous approach. Many expressed enjoyment of the campaign’s exaggerated artwork style, but it inspired some very literal thinkers to call out the “falsehoods” shown in the memes. (We actually did know that otters don’t really see humans as swamp creatures!)
  • If feeding or approaching wildlife is “fun” for humans and pets, it’s considered harmless.

Good luck on your next social media campaign! I hope you connect with supporters and learn from the detractors.

Rainwater: Collecting Our Most Precious Resource

water scene at Magic Johnson Park
Magic Johnson Recreation Area, Los Angeles, CA

It’s mid-December, and we’re on our second “big rain event” of 2021-22 rainy season in the Bay Area. It’s been four weeks since the last storm, and for the past three years, total rainfall is way below average. This is a predicted new pattern: less frequent rain, bigger storms, persistent drought cycles. And, as the storms get bigger and rain falls in a shorter period of time, our storm drain systems can get overwhelmed and much of the precious water can wash away into the bay and ocean.

This past year, our team has worked with stormwater professionals in California to research the best ways to promote stormwater management techniques—that already exist—to capture and use rain water from these storms. A great example of what’s possible is Magic Johnson Recreation Area in Los Angeles.

This beautiful park uses built-in systems that mimic nature, and sustain the park while preventing pollution, capturing water, and providing residents with a beautiful open space.

Stormwater education has been almost exclusively focused on the pollution that stormwater carries to our waterways. The good news is that “capture and use” projects also clean the water, so it can be used on site for irrigation. This leaves more of our water supply for humans and wildlife.

Green stormwater infrastructure is an elegant solution that results in many benefits to communities: green space, more water supply, less dependance on importing water. It seems like a win-win, but is lacking in public awareness, funding, and integration with statewide water supply planning.

It will take ongoing effort to rebrand stormwater as a resource, and not as a source of pollution. Our team will do our best to help the industry simplify technical terms and jargon to resonate with voters and elected officials who need to support projects in their communities, and to state officials who must fund them.

Zero Waste Holiday Outreach — 2020 Style

Well, if there’s one word none of us would like to hear in 2021, it’s “unprecedented.” Throughout 2020, so many things we took for granted in the world of zero waste and recycling outreach, such as promoting reusable bags and cups, had to be postponed or replaced with COVID-19-related topics, such as sorting shipping waste or putting masks and gloves in the trash.

Now the holidays are here, and we find ourselves in the same outreach predicament. We can’t rely on tried-and-true holiday campaigns like our “Giving the Gift of Good Times” video for Santa Clara and Marin Counties. (Click here for the 2019 version). No-waste gifts that involve groups of people, such as fitness classes, dining out, amusement park passes, or theater tickets are not a viable option this year. Even food waste reduction topics need a fresh take, as gatherings have been reduced in size or cancelled altogether, and some of our neighbors are facing food insecurity.

create joy, not waste holiday ideas

For our clients this year, we helped adjust messaging to cover these topics in a way that aligns with public health guidelines and new realities. For example, for Palo Alto, we created a “Create Joy, Not Waste” ad, web page and bill insert (above) to align with hosting a small gathering with Zero Waste style. Actions like portion planning, using reusable dishes, recycling bottles and cans and decorating with compostable decorations still make sense, even if it’s just for your own household.

We re-envisioned our Zero Waste gift idea list to remove gifts for in-person activities and include those that offer online versions, such as art classes and music lessons and streaming theater. Local options for all of these were available, offering another benefit to the community. Outdoor recreation is at an all-time high, so national and state park passes can replace amusement parks.

And lastly, if staying home means we’re more likely to buy “stuff” this year than past years, we made sure to provide options for zero waste gift ideas that eliminate or greatly reduce packaging waste—shampoo bars, unpackaged handmade soaps, or subscriptions for refillable beauty products.

We hope this inspires you all to keep the Zero Waste holiday outreach traditions going. Small tweaks to the messaging are all it takes.

 

Reflections on a Gigantic Decade: Campaigns for a Healthier Planet

As we move full speed into 2020, I finally took a moment to reflect on the past 10 years (of my 18 years as founding partner!) here at Gigantic Idea Studio. I noticed that our portfolio of projects from the last decade reflects the evolution of recycling and pollution prevention programs locally and worldwide.

Feeding Food Scraps to Compost

In the early to mid 2010s the focus of residential outreach turned to food scraps. Many of our projects assisted local agencies with promoting participation in food scrap recycling programs—getting food and food-soiled paper into green carts so they can be composted instead of landfilled. These programs reduce waste and greenhouse gases—a win-win. Binny the Green Organics cart, a mascot we created for Livermore Recycles in 2014, has worked tirelessly to win the hearts and minds of residents to help them overcome the “ick factor” and compost their organics. We have watched Binny become a local star with many adoring fans!

Binny the Green Organics Cart helps Livermore residents recycle right.

The City of Palo Alto started a food scraps collection program in 2015. Gigantic helped promote this new practice through a character named Zak Zero, and by featuring local residents as peer messengers. Palo Alto now composts 2,300 tons of food scraps a year, saving 670 metric tons of GHG. And 80% of households participate, at least partially!

zak zero of palo alto
Palo Alto’s Zak Zero spreads the good word about zero waste
Sorting Out Recycling

As California ramped up recycling and composting requirements, the last few years of the decade saw the recycling world turn upside down. China’s National Sword policy impacted markets and affected recycling programs. In response, much of our recent work has included ads, bill inserts, articles, and videos to promote the message that sorting recycling properly is a serious matter—and that recyclables should be empty, clean and dry. Our most comprehensive campaign on this topic, Recycle Ready, was done for Palo Alto, and you can see it here.

In the past few years, we’ve helped StopWaste develop content to address the hot topic of food waste—a potent greenhouse gas contributor in Alameda County. Our work with StopWaste over the last decade also supported the implementation of a mandatory recycling and composting ordinance—also a trend of the last decade—as local and state agencies flexed the power of public policy to help reach waste reduction goals. As we enter 2020, we are proud to be part of the team working on food waste reduction in Santa Clara County.

Happy Reusable Cup says Together we can do great things
Promoting reusables in Santa Clara County
Cutting Single Use Items

Another trend in waste reduction—the reduction of single-use disposables— is another pressing issue gaining traction in the media, as coverage of marine debris and coastal litter has gone mainstream. Cities in the Bay Area and beyond are responding with foodware ordinances, plastic straw bans and produce bag requirements. We’ve worked to help promote efforts to reduce use of disposable foodware with StopWaste, County of Santa Clara and most recently, supporting the new foodware ordinances in the City of Palo Alto.

Connecting Behavior Change to Clean Water

Lastly, we look back fondly on the decade that saw our relationship with Clean Water Program Alameda County grow. In the early 2010s we focused on general stormwater education as well as integrated pest management topics related to gardening. But with the explosion of awareness of the Pacific Garbage patch and wildlife harmed by marine debris, the severity of the issues facing our oceans gave birth to our beloved mascots Fred and Izzy. With three video campaigns under our belt, we look forward to creating a new video on gardening in 2020. We were happy to expand work on these topics with “YardSmart Marin,” a new organization aiming to reduce pesticide use, and with City of San Rafael to reduce illegal dumping. In 2020, we look forward to piloting a litter reduction campaign as well.

Here’s to the next decade of engaging the public in programs for a healthier world!

Recycling Realities: How to Create Anti-Contamination Messaging

 

There has been a lot of media coverage lately about the problems and challenges of recycling, including the rejection of the tons of recyclables that we used to ship to China. Because of the news, many community members are aware that something bad is going on with recycling.

In our presentation at California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) on August 12 in Rancho Mirage, California, I presented some notable examples of anti-contamination recycling messages by haulers, as well as our own work tackling these issues in Palo Alto and Livermore.

items prepped for recycling or rejected

We based our work on actual recycling realities in each city. In Palo Alto, the contamination was focused on food and liquid in recycling. In Livermore, sorting issues (“Wishcycling”) as well as organics cart contamination were affecting the quality of the recycling stream. These findings informed our social media, newsletter content and campaign concept development.

Clearly presented information, using clear calls to action (Wipe, Pour, Scrape, etc.) and good visuals is a start to tackling the problem. Reaching residents using a multi-channel approach, and repeating the message regularly will help get the word out.

View the presentation below: 

 

 

Stefanie’s Garden: Living Your Values to Inspire Change

backyard garden w fountain
A backyard haven

For over a decade, Gigantic Senior Associate Stefanie Pruegel wrote articles, ads and other content to promote something she always wanted to do: create a “Bay Friendly Garden.” But living in a small urban condo made that impossible. Fast forward to 2016: Stefanie bought a property with front and rear yards in need of some serious TLC, giving her the chance to live her values and use her knowledge to create something awe-inspiring.

Bay Friendly Gardens prioritize drought-tolerant and native plants, use integrated pest management (IPM) instead of pesticides and herbicides and reduce water use. Stef began right away by converting the lawn to a native plant garden, using information on sheet mulching and planting that she learned from our client, StopWaste.org. From there, she added native plants and trees, with over 100 species represented.

“Honestly, it was a lot of work, but rewarding to restore the property to add wildlife habitat. For a while, my satisfaction was all about the transformation and techniques. But now I love to just sit and enjoy the flowers and watch the butterflies, birds, bees and hummingbirds that weren’t there before.”

Stef with her rainwater collection cisterns

Stefanie also thinks it’s important to share what she has done to inspire others. Not only did a neighbor replace his lawn because he was motivated by her work, but the garden is being featured at the annual “Bringing Back the Natives” Garden tour on Sunday May 5, 2019.  Stef says the best way to help people understand possibilities is to “show, don’t tell.”

In addition to the lush plantings, Stefanie installed three 1,000 gallon rainwater collection cisterns, which she hopes will keep the garden going without any additional water throughout the summer season.

Read more about Stefanie’s garden here.

“Selling” No-Waste Holiday Gifts with Fun and Connection

I’ve got a guilty secret to share. To retreat from the past year’s stressful news cycle, I’ve been watching Christmas movies on the weekends, on a cable channel that is running them marathon-style, non-stop until Christmas. Last Sunday, while watching Return to Christmas Creek, I was heartened to see that a prominent theme was the rejection of material gift giving during the holidays. The story’s main character, a busy professional named Amelia, is told by her boss that her shopping app, designed to easily buy gifts online, is missing the true spirit of Christmas: personal connection. He rejects funding it and Amelia is devastated.

We were thinking of this very theme as we developed a video ad to promote waste-free gift giving with Santa Clara County Recycling and Waste Reduction Division. Our video also celebrates experience and connection over things. Gifts that provide experiences create memories—and while stuff ends up in the landfill, memories last a lifetime:

 

At the end of her journey of self-reflection, Amelia revamps her shopping app to include ways to help those in need, and because this is happening in movie-land, it is celebrated and funded and everyone gets their happy ending! (Oh, and she reunites her family and finds true love in the process of course!).

In order to help people give Zero Waste gifts of experience, we created a list of great gift ideas on SCC’s website. For a real-life version of Amelia’s app, or if you’re thinking of starting or promoting a registry, try out SoKind. The site allows anyone to collect non-material, homemade and charitable gift ideas in one place to share with friends and family.

Best wishes for a fun-filled, waste-free holiday season from the entire Gigantic team!

 

 

Sunnyvale’s FoodCycle Branding and Video — A CAPIO Award Winner!

Sunnyvale’s “FoodCycle” program is unique in the Bay Area. It truly “recycles” food into a new product—animal feed! The food scraps are collected using a split garbage/food scrap cart, and sent to a facility for processing. Using the garbage cart is a clear departure from nearby cities that collect food scraps in the yard trimmings cart to create compost. To address the many public concerns with this major change, the City needed clear and engaging marketing tools – including a video:

 

The Gigantic team structured the video around a behavioral process: How do people deal with food scraps? When do they make them? The information is broken down into clear steps:

1) Preparing the collection pail with accepted liners,

2) Showing when and how food waste is created,

3) Detailing what kinds of food scraps are accepted and

4) How to dispose of the kitchen waste in the new curbside cart.

This approach differs from other food scrap outreach that emphasizes what kinds of food are accepted. Instead, the model “FoodCycles” in situations when food waste is generated: cooking/prepping food, cleaning up after meals, and cleaning old leftovers out of the fridge.

We’re proud to say that the video won the Epic Award of Distinction in its category at the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) annual awards competition in April 2018.

 

Ugly Food Grabs the Spotlight in Fight against Food Waste

UglyFruit_Veg

Food waste prevention gained mainstream traction this past year, and deservedly so. Different from the effort to recycle food scraps, eliminating food waste before it happens is an issue that that most people—even those across stark ideological divides—can agree makes sense to tackle.

Approximately 25% to 40% of food grown and processed in the U.S. is wasted. That statistic alone is staggering, but considering that over 20% of all children in the county live in food-insecure households, it becomes even more astounding that this waste exists.

Fortunately, thanks to inspired individuals, nonprofits and private companies, there is new effort to combat the problem.

In the fall of 2014, our colleague Jordan Figueiredo launched the Bay Area’s first Food Waste Forum and helped sponsor a local Feeding the 5000 event in Oakland. It was at the Forum that many of us saw “Just Eat It,” a documentary made by a Canadian couple, which vividly shows just how much food is wasted by farms, supermarkets, and restaurants.

The food waste issue went viral in 2015, with Jordan Figueiredo’s @UglyFruitAndVeg, a clever social media campaign using amusing, shareable images of funny-looking produce—perfectly good to eat, yet discarded by most farms and supermarkets as unsellable. @UglyFruitAndVeg even garnered coverage on Fab Life with Tyra Banks!

But more than just an awareness effort, private companies and nonprofits are working on hands-on, innovative solutions to the food waste problem. Our client StopWaste is working with private company LeanPath to help reduce avoidable, pre-consumer food waste from commercial and institutional kitchens in Alameda County as part of the Smart Kitchen Initiative. Lean Path’s technology helps track pre-consumer food waste as it occurs, giving management and kitchen staff the information they need to make better buying and planning decisions.

The EPA had already taken note of the issue and in 2012 launched the “Food Too Good To Waste Campaign,“ which provides a ready-to-go campaign toolkit, to reach out to residents on the local level about wasted food.

This movement has even inspired start-up businesses such as Imperfect Produce and Hungry Harvest that market unsellable fruit and vegetables by providing delivery of “ugly” produce boxes, similar to CSA subscriptions. Trendy chefs in New York are creating entire menus from excess food waste at pop-ups. All, in all, 2015 has been a “tipping point” for this important issue.

We applaud everyone involved in the food waste reduction effort, and look forward to continuing our support of this important work in years to come.