Clever ideas for getting people to do the right thing

  1. Writing a hidden message on the inside of packaging paper to encourage people to recycle.

2. Showing people how long it takes for certain types of trash to biodegrade if they toss it at the beach

3. Having a refill station in your college so whenever people run out of different kinds of soap, they can just use the machine to dispense more.


It’s so easy to make things…


…but it’s so hard to get rid of them.

Our stuff either goes to:

1) The trash, 2) The recycling, 3) Storage, 4) Someone else who will buy or receive it, 5) Earth via you throwing it out the window.

I prefer 2 and 5, but I always end up taking it to 1, 3 and 4.

Yesterday, I found an old desktop calendar a friend had given me years ago. It’s made of plastic, chipboard, magnetics and a wax coating, which are all bonded tightly to each other. Where did the makers of this product imagine it would end up when 2003 (the year I was supposed to use it) was over? I find it really interesting that we often only consider the “life” of the product. Among non-designers, the birth and death are usually absent from conversation, the same way those topics can be tricky when applied to living things. When the end is the landfill, the object is placed out of sight, as if it never existed. It’s crushed and squeezed so that it no longer keeps its form or usability. It’s rejected. We hope that it’s goes away even though it doesn’t.

We keeping ignoring the problem, which is that the large majority of what we make is trashed. But what if the garbage trucks stopped coming to our doors and no more landfills were created? Would we finally cease the desire to create and want more and more and more? We would be forced to actively think about how to get rid of things.

This article proposes charging corporations for taking back their product at the end of its life cycle and recycling it while eliminating landfills. It’s not about planting one tree on earth day or switching to CFLs. It’s saying we have a giant problem with how we deal with what we make, because eventually it’s going to harm us.

We have a flawed system in which corporations are endangering our livelihoods. The end result is collective apathy through individual selfishness. Call it human nature, call it hopeless; but you’ll always know that there’s a better alternative.