Why Don’t Americans Recycle and How Can We Change This?

Honest question, how many of you actually recycle? Would you consider yourself an avid recycler or a convenience recycler?

GOOD recently released an interesting infographic detailing the problems surrounding recycling these days.  As it turns out, most Americans, despite knowing why they should recycle, still don’t. It seems a little absurd thatAmerica, normally at the forefront of the green revolution, still cannot manage to get the majority of its citizens to properly dispose of its trash.

Why is this major problem with an obvious solution so difficult for Americans to solve?

The recycling dilemma is a perfect example of how widespread awareness does not necessarily equal widespread action. Almost all Americans understand the benefits and importance of recycling, yet the majority of us still don’t dispose of our trash in the best possible way. A lot of us still struggle with figuring out whether or not pizza boxes are recyclable (they aren’t). And these simple frustrations inevitably cause us to give up and recycle only when it is convenient.

What this essentially boils down to is a basic communication problem. Thousands of organizations have been fantastic of explaining why we need to recycle, reiterating this important message over and over since we were children.

Their main problem is not properly explaining how we should recycle. Most of us are clueless about the details of what actually is recyclable (and what isn’t), and even more importantly, we don’t want to be bothered with having to figure it out. Busy people don’t want to spend the extra five minutes seeing which bin they should throw their juice box in.

We need to be told where our trash should go. As silly as it sounds, the inconvenience of having to research which items are recyclable needs to be removed. Something as simple as a phone app, that listed items as recyclable or not, would probably increase recycling statistics tremendously.

What does this mean for your nonprofit?

As a nonprofit, your task is not only to make people aware of the problem at hand, but more importantly explain clearly how they can help solve these problems. Most charity websites are fantastic at describing the problem, but many fail to take this explanation one step further with a call to action. A simple “donate” button at the bottom of the page is no longer enough.

You must make the connection between the Why and the How for your supporters. Most people want to help your cause, but often lack the knowledge of how they can help. By explaining exactly what your want people to do and how they can do it, you are saving them the time and effort they probably wouldn’t have wanted to spend.

A simple call to action is often all that is necessary to transform awareness into results.  Tell your supporters how to donate, how big of an impact $x will make, how they can share your cause to their friends.  You must make your call to action as easy and clear as possible.

Because that is essentially what people want, a simple and clear way to do good.

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