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Student-Initiated Campaign Cuts Paper Towel Use

Student-Initiated Campaign Cuts Paper Towel Use

Posted by Kyle Cameron on Feb 27th 2019

The MSU Surplus Store & Recycling Center (SSRC) completed a pilot run of the “Shake it, Don’t Waste it” campaign – a waste reduction campaign targeting paper towel conservation. Spearheaded by 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. 

My name is Kyle Cameron and I'm a senior Communication major and SSRC outreach coordinator. After Circuit Media 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. The bathrooms of the SSRC provided an ideal test setting due to the on-site proximity and ease of data collection.

To better understand the average paper towel use in the facility before introducing campaign media, a control group was established and baseline data was collected during fall semester. Findings from the control group indicate an average use of 16 lbs. of paper towel each week.

The "Shake it, Don’t Waste it" case study was then launched on November 15th, with campaign print media making its debut in bathrooms and employee break areas that week. After a month of campaign media exposure, SSRC employees were using 14% fewer paper towels and reduced overall consumption by a pound per week!

Maddy Pugh, student data analyst at SSRC, said, “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 the “Shake it, Don’t Waste it” campaign 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 establish a precedent for success in encouraging paper towel reduction.

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