Can One Little Sticker Change the World?

These Come From Trees StickerEarlier this year, I was in the bathroom at my son’s elementary school when I saw the sticker you see at left on the mirror above the sink. I was intrigued by the promise that one sticker would “save up to 100 lbs. of paper every year.”

So I visited the website (TheseComeFromTrees.com) and ordered a bunch of stickers for Matrix Group. Jessica, who is on the “green team,” put stickers everywhere we use paper: in the bathrooms, the kitchen, all the printers.

Curious to see if the little stickers would make a difference, I started paying attention to the amount of paper waste in the women’s bathroom. Here’s what I found: in the women’s bathroom, the trash bin for paper hand towels used to fill up before lunchtime. Today, the bin does not fill up at all during the day. This is consistent every day. The women of Matrix Group are absolutely using fewer hand towels in the bathroom. Could the little sticker really be making a difference?

We haven’t reduced the number of female staff, so that couldn’t be the cause. And I can’t imagine that we’re using the bathroom any less. So I started talking to my co-workers and they all agreed that because of the sticker, they are using 1 paper hand towel instead of 2. We had effectively halved our paper consumption!

This got me thinking. How had a little sticker changed behavior?

I attended a presentation last week by Don Schmincke of the Schmincke Research Alliance. He effectively articulated why management consulting doesn’t work: You can’t change behavior by changing the process. You need to change people’s beliefs in order to change their behavior. People need to believe and understand why doing something is important and necessary.

So how did the little sticker make me change my beliefs? In this case, I don’t think the sticker changed my beliefs, but it did help me connect the dots between trees and my paper consumption. The little sticker also made it easy for me to do good: just think about where paper towels come from and use fewer!

This reminds me of signs that remind us that stormwater drains go into a nearby river or bay. Even though I already don’t litter, I’m extra careful when I see that a gutter or drain will dump into a body of water.

Or how about the gauge in my Honda Hybrid that tells me how many miles per gallon I’m averaging on a tank of gas? There is a number that I shoot for with every tank. When the gauge tells me I’m below that number, I look for ways to change my driving to up that number: I coast more, I don’t speed, I use distance to slow down, I turn off the AC, yada, yada.

The question is: in our daily lives, what other signs and reminders could help us be more productive, healthier, greener, nicer? What labels and signs have helped you make a difference in your life?

P.S. I hope you’ll consider ordering stickers for your home and office. Heck, I’m thinking of buying a bunch and plastering them in bathrooms of bars and restaurants all over town! Won’t you join me?

2 thoughts on “Can One Little Sticker Change the World?

  1. I’m looking forward to someday having a smart power meter in my home, so I can see exactly how much electricity I’m using for the fridge, computer, AC, etc.

  2. I’m really surprised that this worked. That means that people were intentionally using more than they needed? Or just not thinking about it, I guess? It speaks to the power of communication and signage.

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