Effective Outreach is Zero Waste Outreach

POSTED ON May 8th, 2013 BY

iStock_000001862125XSmallZero Waste is hot and the word is spreading, with zero waste goals and/or plans adopted in 13 jurisdictions in California and multiple communities in Italy, the Philippines, Canada and elsewhere. The recent Zero Waste Week activities in the Bay Area show that the principle of redesigning product life cycles in imitation of nature is taking hold more broadly than ever before.

While many in the environmental field understand the necessity of using natural resources wisely, all too often outreach resources are managed less prudently. In our years of working with agencies involved with bringing Zero Waste into the public’s daily life, we’ve evolved a few principles ourselves, which we call Zero Waste Outreach™.

Here are the elements that go into making an outreach campaign as efficient –  and therefore as close to Zero Waste – as any Cradle to Cradle® -designed product could ever be:

  • ALWAYS the first step: Make sure your organization is modeling the behavior(s) you’re trying to disseminate with your campaign. If needed, conduct an inreach campaign to make sure this is true before launching any outreach. This includes staff, your board, the hauler, … anyone the public may be looking to for leadership. Your credibility is one of your biggest sources of outreach capital.
  • Make research an integral part of your outreach, including pre- and post- campaign measurement;
  • Add communications-based targets to the more obvious operations-based objectives. Example: a measurable change in attitude, as well as tons diverted;
  • Agree on an overarching strategy (based on your research) before diving into tactics (See Glossary below);
  • Segment your audience by stage of behavior adoption below)to get the right message to the right people at the right time;
  • Come up with a brand (look and tone) for your campaign and stick to it;
  • Make events as effective as possible by making sure operations as well as communications are in place and continually checking in with one another. Example: Make sure organics recycling is available at the event where you’re exhibiting, if that’s the behavior that you’re promoting;
  • Integrate Social Media into your tactical mix from the start;
  • Pilot your campaign — or, even better, two or three versions, together with a control — to test your strategy, tactics and/or message before full roll-out;  and last but not least …    
  • Aim for a waste-free campaign, including estimating printing accurately (if printed materials are even needed) and selecting giveaways carefully.

Whether upstream or down, effective outreach is Zero Waste Outreach™. Because we don’t have a minute, or a dollar, to waste.



Inreach — Outreach internal to an organization, usually for employees.

Stages of Behavior Adoption — Per Diffusion of Innovations theory. The stages, in chronological order, are Awareness, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation and Confirmation.

Strategy — Guiding principle, logic, direction for your campaign. For example: Framing litter reduction in terms of improved real estate values. Emphasis on bottom-up, grassroots channels over top-down.

Tactic — A method or channel for communicating your message. Examples: bill insert, radio PSA, e-newsletter, Facebook page.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *