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Metro Vancouver’s new anti-waste campaign: Cool green, or just plain Grinchy?

December 28th, 2009 · 4 Comments


This holiday season, Vancouverites may have noticed a trashy little ad campaign from Metro Vancouver encouraging them to re-think their holiday waste. These are transit ads at my local Canada Line station spied on my way to Oakridge Mall (OK, I’m busted – not all of my shopping takes place at the local handmade craft fair) The city also assembled an over-sized garbage-bag tree on a busy corner downtown. Here’s a link to a nice YouTube video they produced on that bit of street theatre.

In all, it’s a simple message, and one that resonates with me every year I see store shelves groaning under greater loads of tacky stuff I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Yet, it appears not all Vancouver shoppers agree. More on that presently.

First, a few Green Briefs Thoughts on the ads themselves.

The image of the Christmas-bow-clad garbage bag is a decent idea. It’s very direct and easy to see. It’s a bit stark on the white background though, and a cheerier font for the headline would have created even more contrast between the charm of the holidays and the reality of our garbage situation. I’m not sure the multiple bags execution works. It certainly looks a bit weird side-by-side as posted above. The real garbage tree downtown was a nice touch – assuming they didn’t use real bags fresh from the back of a truck.

On the whole, though, they could have made the campaign much more powerful by adding a human element. Imagine a small, cute child posing with the ‘trash present’. This would not only make the image more of a stopper, it would allude to the fact that waste is a long-term problem we’re literally giving our children every year.

Then again, not everyone seems to be on board with this message of waste reduction at all. The ‘garbage tree’ was picked up in an online news story by the Vancouver Province, and several reader comments gave it a Grinchy thumbs-down.

“Hey METRO VANCOUVER – hows about keeping your nose out of my business?” quipped one, (presumably unaware of the fact that garbage is everyone’s business)

Another reader went further afield. “Spent weekend Christmas Shopping in Seattle… no City Hall Humbugs…they closed main streets to have a parade and … handed out mulled wine in plastic glasses,  right on the sidewalk…” (Add carbon emissions to that person’s Christmas list)

If anyone from City Hall is reading this, please let me know what the response was to the campaign from your point of view. I’ll follow up with a few calls in the new year to see if there were any measurable results in garbage volume.

In the meantime, desr green Briefs Readers, have a very Merry Christmas, recycle what you can, drink the rest and remember that even the Grinch finally figured it out:

“And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Tags: Events · Green Creative · Green Politics · Sustainable Lifestyle

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Greg // Dec 29, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Hey — thanks for posting about our campaign and that suggestion about the human element… that’s a good idea for next year.

    Check out our video of the Garbage Bag Tree –

    The bags — all of which are being reused — were actually filled with air!

    Shoot me an email if you’d like more information.

    – Greg from Metro Vancouver

  • 2 admin // Dec 30, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Greg. Happy to support any initiative that moves the city in a greener direction.

  • 3 Peter Cech // Feb 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Our evaluation of the campaign looked at a few things. We checked with Shelfspace (formerly Retail BC) to see if the economy affected sales. They reported a “strong” Christmas but won’t have solid data from Stats Can for a few more weeks. We compared garbage volumes collected at the curb throughout the region in the two weeks after Christmas with data going back to 2006/07 – which are influenced by many factors including weather – and did note a decrease compared to the previous three years. We then did a follow-up online survey to measure retention of the campaign’s core message. Of those responding, about a third recalled the campaign/reduce message a month later and, of those, a third reported adopting waste reduction practices such as reusing wrapping paper, buying products with less packaging and rethinking what they purchased. Let me know if you want to follow up.

    Peter from Metro Vancouver

  • 4 admin // Feb 9, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Great results, and good on your team for following up so thoroughly. Hope you give this recap to the media (Maybe in a garbage bag?) Keep up the good work!

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