I like to think that when people are confronted with important world problems or are presented with decisions of an ethical nature that they will choose to make sacrifices or give of themselves for the greater good of the global community. However, this is not always the case – especially when it comes to small measures resulting in incremental change. My grandpa once said that laziness, and not necessity, was the real mother of invention and I can’t say that I totally disagree.
Global change makers are constantly looking for ways to elicit proactive or globally minded actions from people. One way to accomplish this is to create a system where making the favourable choice is so easy and second-nature that it takes more effort to not do it. Regardless of what that says about our level of engagement as citizens or personal character, the effort gap does give rise to innovation and creative design.
On my recent trip to San Francisco I spotted these garbage can designs that help to shrink the effort gap. The bins themselves have built-in reservoirs for collecting bottles and cans, preventing them from getting mixed in with the trash. I think it is a great way to link the desired action of recycling with a simple method for achieving it.
Obviously it is not a perfect system – the recycling receptacles are fairly small (though I’d suspect they get skimmed regularly), they are only for bottles and cans (I can’t remember if there was other recycling infrastructure present), and some people aren’t going to comply (due to ignorance or arrogance or both), but it is a step towards improving waste-management in a large city -so I say hurrah!
I think these types of ideas should become commonplace in many communities. They can help to change perception over time so that the simple action becomes the default choice. The impact that good design can have on influencing behavioural change shouldn’t be ignored, but embraced.
Are there actions around your community or city that you think could be improved through design? What are some other ways to help bridge the effort gap? Let us know!
** Also – don’t forget to share your thoughts with us on projects or ideas that you’d like to see on RUE. More info here.