Turning off the Tap

Cam Bartlett

 

wasteless“If you walked into a room flooded with water, would you first start mopping the water, or would you turn the tap off.” This was the question that Wasteless posed to us at the beginning of their talk to us on December 28th. Wasteless seeks to educate young students about their plastic use habits through fun, interactive activities. One of these methods is Garbology 101, which includes a number of illustrated games and activities. They provide this game for free for low-income schools in exchange for their feedback to improve the game. In this way their communication model is somewhat participatory and involves a dialogue between Wasteless and the communities they are trying to educate. They utilize a dialogic communications process—a process where the aims of a communication aren’t completely decided beforehand—to help shape their communications process. They also rely heavily on edutainment to keep children involved in lessons on waste management, using memory games and relay races to teach sustainable practices. Their communications outreach, at least as it was shown in their presentation, seemed to focus on Window 2 of the Jahari window: Wasteless’s hidden knowledge. This knowledge includes information about recycling practices and plastic use, as well as the harmful effects of some plastics on human health and the environment.

Wasteless seeks to mainly address three different Sustainable Development Goals. The first is 3: Good Health and Well-Being, and they address this by educating children and communities on the harmful effects of numbers 1, 3, 6, and 7 plastics on human health. This goal comes directly from the language in India’s Sustainable Development Goal 3: “By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination.”

Wasteless also seeks to address SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, and 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. Throughout their presentations they emphasized the present and future states of the local communities through both raw and photoshopped pictures. The photo of them dining at the dump shows how out of hand and unsustainable current waste management strategies are in India, while the photo of the beach completely covered in trash elicited a response of alarm for the future of these communities and their beloved beaches.

What struck me most about Wasteless’s approach is the extent they were willing to do research to fine-tune their messages and games for children. They spent many extra hours testing their games to make sure their messages were received as they intended them. This led them to some insights. One of these insights was that children perceived the background color as contributing to the meaning of the cards in the memory game. However, I would have liked to hear more information about how they framed their communications, and if they used a social marketing approach to understand how to frame their information for the greatest impact.

At some times it can seem frustrating that the generation in charge isn’t doing enough to curb our effect on the environment and our local communities. Their response seems to be to hang their hope for change on the younger generations, who aren’t as set in their ways and are likely to adopt sustainable practices and bring them to their homes. With their outreach, Wasteless hopes that soon we can all collectively decide to finally turn off the tap.

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