Friday, January 4, 2013

Using green to make more green

When it comes to convincing people to live a greener life, the equation is pretty simple:

You're trying to overcome inertia, history, habit, the way things have always been done. It won't be easy.

People will rarely do anything just because "it's the right thing." If they did, every urban commuter would ride a bicycle and we know that's not going to happen anytime soon.

Recycling programs work when they're easy and free. The minute you make them confusing or add a fee, participation goes down.

That's why I think this move by Starbucks is pretty smart. They're hoping to cut down on the number of paper cups their customers put into landfills by selling reusable plastic mugs for $1.

They're also reducing their operating costs by having to give away fewer paper cups and passing it off as an environmental initiative, which is good marketing.

It should work. It's easy, cheap and gives people a way to feel like they're making a difference everyday without having them make a huge change in their behavior.

The challenge for people will be to remember to bring their cups with them. That's the convenience factor. If Starbucks wants to incentivize people who buy the cups, they can either knock a few pennies off the cost of a refill – as grocery stores do for those who bring their own bags – or add a 5¢ to go fee for those who still want paper.

If you're trying to sell a more environmentally-friendly product experience, think about what's in it for your customers beyond just a "better world." Otherwise, neither your balance sheet nor our world will be any greener.

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