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I do research at the UQAM science campus and sometimes I see candy wrappers, party-invitation fliers, or pieces of paper on the floor in the halls inside the buildings. This is explained by the large amount of students walking those halls every day, and by the presence of vending machines. This doesn't bother me a lot and I normally just pick them up and put them in the garbage. As you probably know, however, they are extremely dangerous, and the probability of someone slipping is much higher than you would imagine (the chance of someone actually falling is probably not very high but that's another subject, since it has already became a safety issue). A few days ago I saw a sign by the door of an office that read "SAFETY FIRST: NO LITTERING IN THIS AREA." The sign is still there. I found it interesting for various reasons:

 

1) It was in English (besides the occasional ironic science-related comic strip on the wall by the doors of some professors, I never see anything in English at UQAM).

 

2) It tackled littering in a complete different manner than the usual "it looks bad."

 

3) It is the first time I see a sign tackling littering in Montreal, and I think Quebec in general, and it was not official in any way! It was not even in French! (wait, now that I remember there are some signs that look like they haven't been changed since the 60s behind some alleys, and there is those posters that didn't seem to have worked).

 

4) This sign seemed to have worked.

 

Now I don't know about (4) because it might be that the person who put up the sign had been picking up candy wrappers out of safety concern. But it would have definitely worked for me (if I were among the ones who litter), since the consequence on my actions suddenly goes from annoying some people to possibly killing a person.

 

Anyway I just realized I don't really have a conclusion for this post so I'm gonna try to wrap it up... A while ago I saw a TED lecture by an advertising man on changing the approach to give new value to existing products. I wonder if something similar could be done regarding littering. Would there be less littering if people saw it by default as a safety issue? It seems to me like changing the approach would work. Well I don't think there is any approach here anyway. Most people in Montreal would see me as a redneck for even worrying about littering.

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