I recently moved into a new neighborhood, and is trying to adjust to the ways things are done here. One particular problem I encountered is their recycling policy. I get really confused about what to do when I first went into the trash room, as the instructions are so vague, and some are even agitating. For example, there are only two recycling bins in the trash room next to the trash chute, which is fine for most apartment buildings, except it says "bottles and glass" on one bin and "newspaper" on the other. So I was really confused: are newspapers the only type of paper recyclable in the building? Did it mean that all magazines and unwanted mails go directly in to the trash chute? What about the paper bottles like those for milk and coconut water? Do they go into "bottles and glass" instead? What's more amazing is that there are like ten large boxes lying on the floor of the trash room, not broken down, not in the recycling bins, not anything, just lying there, one on top of the other. Then, on the wall writes the biggest turn-off for my devotion to recycling: "Please breakdown cardboard boxes and take them to the ground level trash room." (See picture below)
As a result, the trash room has been a huge mess. Some people don't know where to put their waste papers, so they just stack them on the ground; most often the boxes are not broken down, let along brought down to the ground floor; once I even found a pizza box in the recycling bins.
I believe that there must be a better way than how the recycling is done in the building currently. And below are some of the measures, once taken, can make a huge difference in people's habits of recycling.
Reduction + Reminder
One of the major problems in recycling is that the rules are so unclear and complicated that the residents are never sure whether they are doing it right. By simplifying and clarifying the instructions, the community management could make recycling easy and attractive to residents.
Below are some of the measures that can be taken:
Another approach I can think of is a simulation game. Recycling rules are complicated and confusing in general, and are not strictly enforced usually and varies from building to building. Sometimes people have the good intention to make the word a better place, but they are just unfamiliar with the procedure and are afraid to make mistakes. A simulated software or website can be a safe place for the residents to explore and make mistakes while they learn and avoid the consequences in the real word.
The simulation said above should contain the following features:
Rewards + Recognition
Perhaps recycling is good to the environment. Perhaps by recycling I am making a difference in this world or saving the earth. But I can't see the results of my actions directly, therefore less likely to make this habit sustainable. Some more direct stimulation, i.e. rewards and recognition, might be helpful to fill this gap:
By taking all the measures above, i.e. providing a simulated environment for residents to learn through trail and fail, simplifying the recycling procedures and rewarding those who are doing a good job, I believe that trash room situation can be resolved, and our garbage men's life can be made a lot easier.
Cecilia has recently graduated from college and moved to New York City. She is currently living in a three-bedroom apartment with two other female roommates. One of the is still a senior in college while the other one is working in a educational institute in Brooklyn. Every morning when Cecilia gets up, she finds herself in a difficult situation: she really needs to use the bathroom, but usually it is occupied.
The apartment the girls currently live in has only one bathroom. Furthermore, there is no walls to separate the toilet bowl with the shower. This means that even if one of her roommates is in the shower and not using the toilet, she still can not go in and release herself.
Perhaps the problem would be solved if everybody could sit down and work out a morning schedule that suits everybody’s need. But Cecilia is just not that lucky. Her roommate who works at the educational institute only works there part-time, which means her schedule is not fixed for each day. The same problem goes to the second roommate, who has to get up early for class on some of the days in a week, and prefers to sleep in for the rest.
The bathroom schedule is only one of the inconveniences for Cecilia. Another great example could be the use of kitchen. Since they don’t really know each other very well, they cook and eat separately, which means they each will have to cook herself one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner everyday, and the kitchen will have to witness 9 cooking activities in the meantime. Since their schedule are so flexible, the time they need for the kitchen often overlap, and sometimes their could be no clean dishes left for the last person.
Cecilia has thought about moving out and getting a place on her own, but right now show won't be able to afford it. She could really use some help with the schedule conflicts.
The reason why Cecilia can't afford a place of her own is, apart from the fact that this is New York City, of course, that she just graduated from college and has not landed a job yet. For the recent two month, she has been going through dozens of job-hunting websites, handing in hundreds of applications and resumes, and going to tons of interviews. She felt really frustrated because more than half of the effort is a complete waste of time. Many of the entries she looked at contains either incomplete or inaccurate information. Some are being very vague and abstract about the job title, providing no clue what specific skill this position requires or what the responsibilities will be; some even deliberately left out some important information, such as salary, working location, etc.
Without these critical information, the filters on most job-hunting websites are simply not usable. Cecilia often sees a job she likes, looks through the details, and find no info about working location at all. It is not until her second round of interview that she was told that the company is based in New York, but the position is in a remote place like Seattle or Phoenix. She is wondering if there’s an easier solution.
I think Apple Watch is a perfect example of behavioral change through the help of technology. What’s interesting about this new product of Apple is that it uses a popular and widely-adopted technique in gaming - giving badges to users to recognize their achievements (completing Move, Stand and Exercise goals daily, monthly and more). At first, I think of it as kind of childish, and refuse to believe that people will stop being lazy simply because it will earn them a few badges on a screen. But I was proved wrong by myself later, as I find myself trying like crazy to close the circles and earning those shining badges. Initially, the daily Move goal for me was 420 cals, and I had serious trouble accomplishing it. Now, 3 months later after using Apple Watch, I have turned the Move goal up to 630 cals per day, and is still able to complete it usually. I have no reason to deny that having this watch did change my daily behavior and led me to a healthier life.
I think the design rationale behind this piece of wearable technology is that people love being recognized and rewarded for their achievements, not just in the virtual world. This strategy has been proven repeatedly in games, and now once more in real life.
Do you track where your money had gone every month? Do you know how much money you spend monthly? And how many percentage are you spending on food, clothes and commute each? I know I don’t. In order to know that, I will have to keep a record on every transaction of mine, some of which as little as buying a soda on vending machine. I tried to do that once on paper in college, and gave up in a week. I tried once more after graduating from college, and this time on a mobile app, and gave up after two month. It’s just too much work.
After coming to the States, I found that most transactions of mine is mostly, if not entirely, through credit card, therefore are reflected online in my monthly statement digitally. Furthermore, I recently learned that there’s an app called Mint that can import all your transactions from your online bank account and you don’t need to lift a finger to record any of your transactions and your monthly report is there waiting for you to examine. I believe that a better knowledge on who I am spending my money, and that what I’m spending it on, could potentially change my shopping behavior in the future.
There are many other technologies that simplifying what was once a complicated task. It’s not that we don’t know they are important or potentially useful, but to get those, the cost (money, time, effort, etc.) is too high that we decided not to pursue them. Making them simple and easily accessible can mean attitude or behavior changes in the future.