Saturday, June 28, 2008

Creating Pause Points

One thing that was interesting in my recent read, "Mindless Eating" was a discussion of creating pause points for ourselves as a strategy to be more mindful of what we eat. One example is taking a large bag of chips and, rather than eating straight from the bag, portioning them out into individual containers - creating a point at which we'll be forced to pause before eating more (the pause point here is the opening of a second container).

I didn't feel super psyched about this book because it was more of a diet than an eco book, but nevermind - our brains are amazing things, and I guess mine was working without my knowledge, because today I realized that we can create pause points for the other parts of our lives too. We've probably all heard the advice that if you want to stop charging things, put your credit card in a bowl of ice and freeze it. You're creating a pause point (a pause iceberg, more than a point, actually).

I realized I've done some similar things for myself in respect to my "green goals" - I made a rule that I only buy an item after I've placed it on a written list for a minimum of two weeks. I finally put the paper towels in a cabinet high above the refrigerator - I need to really want to use those before I haul out the stool and climb up to pull them out. I close, unplug, and move my laptop into another room when I'm done working so that it has to be worth the effort of retrieving it, plugging it in, and waiting for it to boot up.

My fellow Silicon Valley resident Pete Kazanjy had an "ah ha!" moment while dining out at one of my favorite spots, In N Out Burger, and noticed that virtually everyone there would grab a pile of napkins, not use most of them, and toss them in the trash when cleaning up their tables. He designed a simple sticker reading "Remember, these come from trees" to be affixed to paper towel and napkin dispensers, which, in effect, creates a pause point for us. Check out Pete's blog for lots more info about the project.

We all know that paper napkins and towels come from trees, just like we know we shouldn't eat an entire bag of potato chips. But not all of us are mindful all the time, and these stickers create a pause point for us - they provide a physical, visual cue which remind us to stop and think before proceeding with our intended action. These stickers have the potential to be incredibly effective - it is estimated that each sticker placed on a dispenser will save up to 100 pounds of paper each year!

I like the way the message is phrased; it's not saying "Hey, I can't believe you didn't bring your own cloth napkins, jerk, why are you destroying the environment by using these disposables?" Instead, it's just a gentle reminder to consider the resources consumed in the item about to be used.

There is a small fee for the stickers, to cover the cost of producing them, with any overages donated to the Sierra Club. I'm going to order some - I'll be asking permission before slapping them up, but I'm thinking about the libraries, grocery stores, and coffee shops in my area. Schools are actually offered the stickers free of charge!

I'd also like to encourage all of you to decorate your world, so if you'd like some stickers, I'd love to provide them! I'll place my order next Friday, so sometime between now and then, send me an email letting me know how many you'd like and your mailing address (my email is on the sidebar there). I'd also love to hear about your plans for where you'll be stickering - a lot of you are much more creative than I am, so you'll probably come up with all sorts of ideas I'd never think of.


Heather @ SGF said...

That's awesome! I'll buy some and let you know where I stick them. It's definitely a good idea to ask first, but I think I know some places that won't mind!

Hausfrau said...

Hi Melissa, thanks for visiting my blog - I think I may order some of these stickers! I love guerilla stuff!!

Melissa said...

yay, I'm so glad you're both into this idea! this is definitely a fun kind of activism!

Kathryn B. said...

I like "These Come From Trees", thanks for sharing it.

Speaking of activism through stickers...a few years back, there was a much more controversial campaign where some activists were sticking bumper stickers on SUVs.

Melissa said...

kathryn, I bet that did generate some controversy!!