Given the nature of my work against violence and for peace, I often feel that I shouldn’t write about prevention and health promotion unless I have data and concrete theories to back it up. But tonight, while doing laundry in my apartment complex’s laundry room, I realized some things are just simpler than logic models, theories of change, and data analysis (though I will never forsake you, my loves).
Those of us who work in prevention want to change behaviors. We want people to choose healthy, peaceful behaviors. It’s no different than environmental health advocates trying to get people to recycle. And that’s what I noticed while doing laundry – a behavior that needs to change.
No one recycles in my part of the apartment complex! I’m constantly pulling plastic bottles out of the trash can in the laundry room and I always see recyclables in the trash bins that are only 3 doors down from my apartment. “Why don’t my neighbors recycle? The recycle bin is just a 2 minute walk away! “ And that’s when it hit me – recycling takes a 2 minute walk up a hill. Throwing recyclables away takes about 10 seconds, if that. It’s easier to simply throw everything away, whether or not it’s recyclable.
I’d venture to guess that it would be more effective for me to lobby my apartment management to put a recycle bin on my side of the complex than to continue to pull recyclables out of the trash. Of course it would be easier on me, but it would also cut down on that 2 minute, uphill walk that is a barrier to recycling, the behavior I want to promote. I’ve thought about putting up signs asking my neighbors to recycle, but I’m pretty sure that having a bin outside their doors is what’s really going to work. It’s just easier.
Interestingly, there are no trash bins by that recycle bin up the hill from me. I wonder if a lot of trash makes its way into that bin? I bet it does.
This is the lesson that my laundry experience taught me tonight. If we want to promote positive, healthy sexual and relational behaviors, positive bystander behaviors, and the like, we have to figure out how to make them easy to do. Let’s find out the best location for our recycle bins…or, well, something like that.