Posts Tagged ‘terracycle’

by Megan Yarnall

Social media is popular for various reasons including the fact that it’s easy to reach people and that it’s free. Media such as advertising and marketing often is not free, so for many companies it is hard, if not impossible, to find room in the budget. For companies who don’t mind taking a leap of faith, there’s another option, one that TerraCycle relies heavily upon: owned media.

I say “leap of faith” because sometimes you have to shell out some cash to create the owned media, and then be patient and wait for the fruit of your efforts to materialize. Here at TerraCycle, we just started a bi-weekly podcast that documents eco-tips, eco-news, and features interviews with key players from our partners such as Elmer’s, Dropps, and Garnier  as well as leading voices from the sustainable industry.

Of course there was some limited start-up capital required to outfit one of our tiny meeting rooms: making the space soundproof, purchasing a podcast mic and sound equipment, and making sure our social media manager had the most appropriate sound editing programs on his computer. So, how do we justify spending the money on something that won’t bring us outright income?

Well, the podcast is an affordable investment. The start up cost wouldn’t have paid for a few days of Google Ads and this piece of owned media (the podcast itself) becomes a multi-use platform. When people hear the podcast, they learn about the company, its mission, and then (hopefully) are encouraged to sign up for the TerraCycle Brigade program and help us collect and recycle waste! Moreover, we can offer interviews to our valued partners and create or solidify relationships with industry leaders.

Other pieces of owned media include books, TV shows, company magazines, and blogs. Some of these require a larger output of money, but in return the outcome can be greater. The product can end up paying for itself. Additionally, with things like magazines, you can partner with advertisers to help foot some of the costs involved.

Some pieces of owned media will be more of a challenge than others. You can always write your own blog, you can’t just sign up to have a TV show. As with all things, it’s easier to start small, at TerraCycle we began blogging for smaller sites years ago, today we write for the New York Times, Treehugger and other major news sites. TerraCycle was in the media long before the founder and CEO, Tom Szaky, wrote his book and appeared on the National Geographic Channel with TerraCycle’s show “Garbage Moguls.” But any company can find a unique engaging angle worth pitching for a show or a book; just turn on your TV to find a 100 examples of small business turned reality TV hit show.

Additionally, you have to remind yourself that owned media is an investment. There’s cost involved, and while it may pay for itself in the long run, you’ll have to be patient. For the less patient, or for those who can’t (or don’t want to!) put up the cash, blogs are a great option. Social media partnerships allow for collaborating with like-minded businesses and charities and you can support each other’s causes with guest posts and mentions.

The vital element is this: you must remember what you can offer to other people, not always what they can do for you, and you should keep in mind popular media and how people are consuming content these days.

For TerraCycle’s podcast, visit iTunes and search “Talking Trash with TerraCycle” or visit www.terracycle.podbean.com.

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by Megan Yarnall

TerraCycle is a national and international company that stays local. Sound like a paradox? It doesn’t have to be one.

Since there’s usually a big push around “buying local” at the holidays, when everyone is doing more shopping than usual and trying to get the best prices, I started wondering how staying local fits into the plans for a national and/or international company, and how those companies can help encourage consumers to stay local. I’m not talking companies like retail stores, but instead companies like TerraCycle or even those that aren’t often consumer-facing (think, a national film company or a social services company).

The temptation to go to the large, national retail stores that are offering substantial holiday discounts and incentives is hard to resist, understandably. So what will help consumers veer toward local stores regardless? And why should a company not personally involved with, say, shoes, when people are looking for shoes, be concerned?

My answer here is community and personality. Even for a national company, engaging consumers at every level – including local – is key. Not only that, but by showing that your company cares about local causes in the areas it has offices, or the area it serves individually, you show part of your company’s personality, and that your company has depth. When you care about what your community cares about, they will care about you as well. Participate in a walkathon or help coordinate a gift drive. TerraCycle does this in August with its Graffiti Jam, works with local community improvement non-profits such as Isles, and enables its Brigades to donate to local charities in their respective towns.

One factor that can also help consumers buy local is knowledge. Consumers need to know why buying local is beneficial and why not all of the focus should be on cheaper prices at large stores. In order to engage people in your community, team up with a local shop to offer a “Buy Local Challenge” like the one run by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission.  Help them discover how to find discounts at local stores and local coupons (maybe suggest looking on community boards or in community handouts).

TerraCycle, a socially responsible company at our core, found a way to grow to 16 countries and still maintain our focus on being a local business. In each new market we expand, we find a local office, local shippers, local processing partners and hire citizens of that country to run our operations. The waste collected in a country stay in that country or region (in Argentina and Brazil for example uses the same facilities as needed) and nevers comes back to the US. So why we are turning into a global company each of our markets are kept very locally focused.

While national and international companies are concerned with more than local activities, it’s important to remember local connections and community so

companies can remember who they’re serving and can express their company’s personality and drives. What better time to do this than the holidays? So give your employees an extra day off if they volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food bank, donate to local charities on their behalf or find other ways to spread the holiday cheer to your workers and your community.

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by Megan Yarnall

Most municipalities don’t collect all kinds of plastics. Most people don’t take the effort to sort trash or clean out bottles before tossing them to the curb. Compostable packaging is “too noisy” or “doesn’t feel right”. Most single-use packaging is non-recyclable. Products lose shelf-life and consumer safety by switching to a different type of packaging.

Brands face numerous challenges in strengthening the eco-friendly features of their products especially the packaging, and consumers often have no options for recycling or reusing the product or its packaging. Research to create eco-friendly packaging, implementation of more responsible packaging, and the packaging itself is often more expensive than the alternative.  This cost drives up the price and drives away customers regardless of the social or environmental benefits. For brands that want to stay competitive while also becoming more responsible, these problems must be solved.

The question arises – what can a brand do that has a relatively minimal cost, but is still eco-friendly and easy for consumers? The answer – a habit that is gaining increasing attention – is upcycling.

Upcycling refers to reusing a product in as close to its original form as possible when it would otherwise be sent to the landfill. Upcycling can be used to give a new, longer lifecycle to a material that can’t be recycled, thus the name “Up” – “Cycling”. Since upcycling can often be done by consumers in their own homes, it’s an economic option for brands, if they design their product or packaging with eye towards reuse or upcycling. Water bottles or soda bottles can be made into pencil holders or vases, yogurt containers can be fashioned into flower pots, coffee cans can hold everything from spare change to cooking grease.

Even common food and beverage packaging such as Capri Sun juice pouches, Bear Naked granola bags, and even Mars candy wrappers can all be made into bags, pencil cases, or even hair barrettes. A consumer need only visit http://familycrafts.about.com or www.craftzine.com/ to see a plethora of options. When this can’t be done by the consumers themselves, this packaging can be sent to recycling and upcycling companies such as TerraCycle, Inc.

But corporate commitment is not enough! If a company does decide to go the upcycling route, be it through a partnership with TerraCycle or through a thoughtful redesign of their packaging, the onus for responsible action still lands firmly in the lap of the consumer. Only the consumer can choose what happens with the product once it’s on the shelf. Here is where my opinion differs from many in the “green” space. I feel that consumers voting with their dollars, with their purchasing behaviors, with their choices in brand loyalty is the single most impactful and important ingredient to spawn change in our consumer goods addicted economy.

Companies will only continue down the long and windy road of sustainability if their consumers encourage them and encouragement at the corporate level tends to come in only one color. So then our society is faced with two challenges: will corporations be willing to take the jump, and will consumers be willing to support them, by ignoring that noisy chip bag and actually recycling or upcycling that new type of packaging? Without effort and support from both sides, neither will succeed and we will all lose.

So, how can a brand do this? Incentivize, educate and inspire. Take the TerraCycle example, when brands partner with TerraCycle to run free collection programs for their waste, they not only pay for shipping to make the program free and easy but they also contribute two cents for every item returned to a charity or your choice. Look at Recyclebank, who provides coupons and discounts for more recycling. These companies, and those with whom they partner, are successful because they incentivize the action.

Brands also need to let consumers know what options they have. As I mentioned before, the responsibility of recycling lands largely on the consumer, but since brands only leave the consumer few options for packaging – that which the brand or local waste management companies offer – it should be expected of the brand to help the consumer understand their options.. That is where the education piece comes in to play. By educating consumers, companies can help them to make the responsible choice; by then offering that responsible option they can increase brand loyalty while also becoming more eco-friendly. Not only that, but upcycling and consumer education are financially friendly for both the brand and the consumer.

It’s a win-win: eco-friendly, inexpensive, and beneficial for all.

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