#8: An Idea for Change (Part 1)

Hello dear readers!

A few weeks ago, my survey data showed that packing food in reusable containers ranked in the bottom half of the list of respondents’ environmentally-friendly practices.

Hence, in today’s post, I will attempt to apply the three-part method proposed by the book I keep talking about – Switch (C. Heath & D. Heath, 2010) – to change people’s habit of using disposable packaging for takeaways. Specifically, I’ll be targeting students from my house – Ianthe – at my residential college. My ideas will be split across two posts!

Part 1: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. Motivate the Elephant.

Switch uses the Elephant as an analogy for our emotional self. It’s a huge force within you, driving your impulses. To spark change, we must appeal to our Elephants. One way is to “Find the Feeling” (p. 101-123), exemplified by the story of the “Glove Shrine” (p. 12-15). Similarly, I think we can start by collecting a month’s worth of disposable food containers used by my housemates. These can be displayed in the dining hall, during a particular dinnertime. How would you feel when you could see just how much waste was being generated? How would you feel if you were a contributor?

Switch also suggests to “Grow Your People” (p. 149-178). In Ianthe, many of us purchase the informal house t-shirts designed by fellow Ianthians. How about doing that with reusable lunch boxes too? (Unicorn-tainers, anyone?)

Stickers from my house committee! Ianthe’s mascot is a unicorn! ^-^ Wouldn’t these designs look cool on lunch boxes too?

Having a container with a pretty, uniquely-Ianthe design could motivate us to use the container when packing food. It taps into our inclination towards and appreciation for our house identity.

Part 2: What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. Direct the Rider.

In Switch, the Rider is an analogy for our rational self. It sits atop the Elephant, calculating your best options forward and trying to get the Elephant to follow. But without guidance, it overthinks, and you end up not going anywhere (or where your Elephant takes you).

This may explain why telling people to “be more environmentally-friendly” is ineffective. It’s too vague. If we consider what we discussed about environmental ethics last week, it’s even harder for people to know what they should do. Hence, we need to “Script the Critical Moves” (p. 49-72). Choosing to focus on the usage of reusable containers is a step in that direction. I then propose a circulation of two instructions:

  1. Grab your unicorn-tainer when you head out for classes.
  2. Wash your unicorn-tainer when you come down for dinner.

Some of my friends explained that they didn’t know they were going to pack food that day, so they didn’t bring their reusable containers with them. I intend to remove this dilemma with the two steps laid out above. Regardless of whether you use it, just bring it along when you leave your room.

In the next post, I’ll cover the third part to the Switch approach. Stay tuned!

Until the next post, thanks for reading!

Tasha (^-^)/

Bonus content!
I’ve managed to find the first chapter of Switch online. It covers the three often overlooked characteristics of change-demanding situations and an introduction to their change-making framework. If you’re interested, please have a read!


Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

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