Project: Recycle at Work, for Metro Regional Government

Metro Regional Government
Recycle at Work

A campaign to help businesses recycle

We provided the design arm of a professional collective retained by Metro, the Portland, Oregon regional government to develop a campaign to encourage area businesses to increase their recycling of paper and to raise awareness of a suite of free resources available from the government to help them in the effort.

Previous campaigns had deployed a generic “do the right thing” message using busboards and radio spots. Now, this was government work; budget was tight, and we felt that the actual audience – businesses and property managers – could be targeted more precisely using a combination of aggressive public relations (including a very successful effort to publicly enlist businesses as campaign partners) and very direct mail, followed by personal contact from Metro representatives armed with a useful toolkit.

Our guiding principle was convenience: research showed that while most businessfolks supported the idea of recycling, they were unaware that you don’t have to remove staples, paper clips and tape before recycling, and so were tossing most of their potential recycling into the garbage. We made the campaign about getting that information out.



The primary tool for recycling paper in the office is the humble deskside box, an open cube of brown corrugated cardboard that sits next to the waste basket, and hopefully interecepts all recyclable material that would otherwise be thrown away. These boxes are produced by Metro and distributed free for the asking. We made the box the center of the campaign logo, and adopted a bright blue as the signature color, to leverage a relationship with BlueWorks, Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development’s business recycling program.



Campaign identity

The 2006 campaign was nicknamed “Re:” (a reference to the abbreviation for “regarding” found on most business correspondence and all email cliients); we assembled a bouquet of positive, action-oriented words that shared the re prefix and used them as superheadlines on most applications to suggest the importance of recycling in the context of other aspects of life: renew, react, reuse, etc., without having to get out the two-by-four and beat up the reader to “do the right thing.”



Recycling box

We redesigned the deskside box and used it as a platform to communicate – in plain, declarative language – what could and could not be recycled in it. Copy on the back wall gives a list of materials, and provides a handy benchmark to indicate when you need to dump the contents of the box and start over. No preaching.




It seems counter-intuitive that a printed piece would be the centerpiece of a recycling campaign, but we determined that a targeted direct-mail approach would get our information in front of more decisionmakers than radio or busboards or other mass marketing techniques. We had to reach 40,000 businesses in the context of the business day: the poster, designed to be hung in a break room or high-visibility area, carries the core messages of the campaign in very personal terms, down to how much paper needlessly enters the waste stream from area businesses every thirty minutes. It also removes the ban from paperclips, staples, colored paper, post-it notes, and so on; the poster is illustrated by those very items, shown at actual size.



Web properties

Top: Simple microsite designed as a clearinghouse for recycling information. Main navigation worked according to a simple scheme of either direct question-and-answer or discover mode, using an interrelated pop-up list of issues and a wheel-of-fortune populated with the campaign’s core words.



Viral activity

Throughout the week before campaign launch, shadowy operatives chalked the city streets with the campaign’s core words. We prepared a list of words and a template for the re: component.



Campaign media kit and letterhead

Campaign media kit and letterhead. You might notice that the downward arrow is shown on the letterhead outside of the context of the deskside box. We see the arrow as a stand-in for the tenet “reduce”, and have it in mind to apply it to recycling contexts other than paper, if and when we do the next campaign (city job, you know – goes out to bid every year).



Lobby sign

Lobby sign used to indicate when a Metro representative would be visiting a particular building. As with the rest of the campaign, here is the deployment of strong typography in the service of simple, direct language. The four columns of text at the bottom are businesses who signed on as sponsors of the campaign. We had hoped, at the beginning, for a hundred or so; we ended up with more than twice that.

Pyramid Communications
Creative directors
Adam McIsaac
Eric Hillerns
Adam McIsaac
Mark Conahan