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April 16, 2019

Kyle Cameron: 'Shake it off' and reduce consumption

April 15, 2019

Kyle Cameron is a senior communication major in the College of Communication Arts and Sicences; he is the outreach coordinator for the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center.

As a communication major and outreach coordinator for the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center, I was excited to help the center run a pilot of the “Shake it, Don’t Waste it” campaign — a waste reduction campaign targeting paper towel conservation. Spearheaded by the professional services firm Circuit Media Green, the campaign promotes mindful consumption of paper towels by encouraging bathroom users to shake excess water from their hands after washing and before using any paper towels.

After Circuit Media Green contacted SSRC offering campaign media, I chose to test its persuasive ability and impact with the goal of seeing it implemented more broadly on campus. At first, I was skeptical of the campaign’s ability to effect paper towel conservation behavior due to its limited selection of print media and narrow message theme, which utilizes informational messages exclusively to influence conservation attitudes.

However, because the campaign itself is straightforward and easy to maintain, cost and risk were able to be kept to a minimum during testing, and the bathrooms of the SSRC provided me with an ideal test setting because their on-site proximity facilitated data collection.

To better understand the average paper towel use of the facility before introducing campaign media, I collected baseline consumption data during fall semester to establish a control group. Findings from the control group indicated an average use of 16 lbs. of paper towel each week.

The "Shake it, Don’t Waste it" case study was then launched on Nov. 15, with campaign print media making its debut in bathrooms and employee break areas that week. After a month of campaign media exposure, I found that SSRC employees were using 14 percent fewer paper towels and had reduced overall consumption by a pound per week. With the campaign finding success in influencing our department, I believe that similar efforts may easily be carried out campus wide.

One of my coworkers at SSRC, student data analyst Maddy Pugh, shared her thoughts on the campaign: “When I first saw the ‘Shake it, Don’t Waste it’ stickers in the bathroom, I was so surprised by how many trees could be saved just by using fewer paper towels. Now, I shake my hands before drying them everywhere I go.”

The success of this initiative shows how a conservation campaign can be effective even with limited resources and promotion. If Spartans seek to implement conservation efforts more broadly on campus — and we should — the findings of this case study have established a precedent for success in encouraging paper towel conservation.

Who knows who will be shaking it next for the sake of zero waste?