Rewarding People for Helping the Planet

by Kevin Roberts

If guilt is the gift that keeps on giving, here’s an easy way to break its grip. We’re all aware of the things that we can be doing to improve society, the community, the environment – but frequently we don’t get around to activating this desire, usually because it involves sacrifice or getting around some inconvenience.

Recycling is one thing that’s easiest enough to do, yet we don’t recycle as much or as often as we could. Eighty percent of all garbage is recyclable, yet the average residential recycling rate is less than 20 percent. Recycling saves cities millions of dollars in landfill and disposal fees, saves trees from the paper mill, and even millions of gallons of oil from use.

Some point this as a result of problems in the infrastructure of cities or simply that it’s not convenient enough to do. Some of our cities are better placed with bins and programs, while other cities leave it entirely up to your own persistence.

Maybe we need more incentive to do so? That’s the approach from the people at RecycleBank. They have introduced the element of rewards into how and when you recycle for both curbside pickup and electronic waste recycling.

RecycleBank’s slogan is “Rewards for people and planet”. So what do people get? Similar to an airline rewards system, you earn points that are redeemable for goods or discounts from retailers. Some pretty big names have signed on – Target, Kraft, Sears, Evian, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Headquartered in New York City – about three blocks from the Saatchi & Saatchi office – and co-founded in 2005 by Ron Gonen, RecycleBank now serves over 20 million people in America. Last week, Mayor Daley in Chicago instigated the RecycleBank program in 10,000 households. This summer they launch in Europe. They’re also expanding the program to include additional Blue actions, e.g. using solar and wind power, efficient use of water, riding public transportation, or buying products that are manufactured from recycled content.

I think the idea is a very good one, as do some of the savviest venture capitalists in America – Kleiner Perkins are among the investors. For what it’s worth, the United Nations and World Economic Forum agree. Incentives can be a smart strategy for any product or service, especially when those coincide with rewards for the planet. Now that’s Blue Thinking.

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Kevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to To see this blog at its original source, please go to

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