In The NewsRSS

Recyclebank: A Case Study in Motivating Positive Behavioral Change

Written by Rahim Kanani, Forbes
Published: September 9, 2011


In a recent joint interview with Ian Yolles, Chief Sustainability Officer for Recyclebank, and Kevin Wall, Co-founder of Live Earth and member of Recyclebank’s Sustainability Advisory Council, we discussed how to generate awareness, spark action, and shift consumer behavior, the use of online platforms to build and engage communities, and the challenges and opportunities to the broader movement of recycling.

Recyclebank helps create a more sustainable future by rewarding people for taking everyday green actions with discounts and deals from local and national businesses. Recyclebank’s mission is to motivate individuals and communities to realize a world in which nothing is wasted—changing how people view their role in creating a sustainable future. In February 2011, Recyclebank established its Sustainability Advisory Council to advise the company regarding its mission to realize a world where nothing is wasted. The Council includes Aron Cramer, president and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility; John Elkington, founding partner and executive chairman of Volans, and co-founder and non-executive chairman at SustainAbility; Wendy Gordon, consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Kevin Wall, co-founder of Live Earth and managing partner of Craton Equity Partners.

Rahim Kanani: Describe a little bit about the launch of Recyclebank’s sustainability platform in the context of shifting consumer behavior.

Ian Yolles: Effective and meaningful solutions to many of the environmental challenges that we face will inevitably involve changes in the way we think, individually and collectively, and changes in the way we behave. In order to catalyze these changes Recyclebank created a “currency” in the form of a rewards program that motivates, incentives and rewards people to engage in “green” behaviors, like recycling and reducing energy usage, in a household setting. We’re building an engaged community online but with the specific intention of mobilizing and affecting real-world, positive change offline in local communities. We like to think that we’re gently “nudging” and rewarding individuals and communities to do the right thing.

Rahim Kanani: What did Live Earth’s “Concerts for Climate Crisis” teach you about mainstreaming sustainability more broadly?

Kevin Wall: Live Earth was a success because we did a very good job at creating awareness. On 7.7.07 more than one billion people in 191 countries attended an event or watched it live over 24 hours to support one cause – solving the global climate crisis. While generating awareness was great, we are discovering that engagement is just as important for a long-term lasting effect. When people become engaged with a cause, acting in a sustainable way becomes top of mind every day and their actions set examples for others to follow. When I was asked to sit on the Sustainability Advisory board for Recyclebank, I realized that their platform helps motivate positive behavioral change; it’s scalable and it results in lasting change.  Recyclebank has created a method to engage millions of people by encouraging them to take daily, individual small actions that collectively contribute to bringing about a more sustainable world.

Rahim Kanani: How far have we come in the world of recycling?

Ian Yolles: Frankly, not far enough; which is surprising given that the act of recycling is one of the simplest opportunities to actually make a positive contribution from an environmental point of view. On average only about 30% of the waste stream in the U.S. actually gets recycled. There is huge upside potential, from the perspective of both product design and consumer engagement, given that recycling not only reduces waste but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves energy. At Recyclebank, we’ve been able to generate interest and adoption of our program with a variety of municipalities across the U.S., and more recently in the U.K. Recycling is where we initially built our relationship with our members, but we’ve bridged to rewarding individuals for other positive green actions. From curbing energy and water consumption to encouraging smarter transportation, we think that environmental solutions provide economic opportunities for families and help to strengthen local communities.

Rahim Kanani: What are some of the key challenges to both awareness and action with regard to recycling?

Ian Yolles: You could start by saying that recycling suffers from a branding problem. There is a lack of awareness regarding its effectiveness coupled with misinformation, inertia, forgetfulness, inconvenience and, in some cases, lack of accessibility.  The good news is that the benefits of recycling are multifaceted. Recycling is one of the, if not the, simplest step we can take to reduce our carbon footprint, save energy and preserve our natural resources. Through collaboration and innovation, Recyclebank has developed a solution, creating a culture that encourages people to take simple steps towards greener lifestyles, tying together sustainability, social networking and real-world actions.

Kevin Wall: Part of my reason for joining Craton Equity Partners as a managing partner was to have the ability to invest in companies focused on new ways of creating sustainability. For example, Craton invests in a company that encourages consumers to recycle their old electronics by offering cash rewards as incentives to recycle. We are finding that an increasing number of companies have figured out how to incentivize people to do the right thing. All of these companies are causing actions to be taken but there is still a place, I believe, for future Live Earth events to continue to create broader awareness. By combining events that create tremendous awareness with companies that are causing individuals and communities to take action, we can really effect change over the long-term.

Rahim Kanani: If the work of Recyclebank rests upon one core philosophy about the way in which the world works, what is that philosophy?

Ian Yolles: We can make a difference—to the quality of our lives, the quality of our communities and the quality of our relationship to natural ecosystems. Here at Recyclebank, we have what could be thought of as an audacious mission—to motivate individuals and communities to realize a world in which nothing is wasted. Our “theory of change” can be summed up by the idea that small, individual actions, multiplied by many, can lead to substantive positive change—both systemically and locally.


You can also read this article over at Forbes.


Media Contacts

Interested in learning a little more about us? 
We're glad to share our story!

For inquiries:

Please note, if you are not a member of the press, you will not receive a response.

TwitterLatest Tweets



Recyclebank At A Glance

New York

New York, Philadelphia and Houston

Javier Flaim


The Coca-Cola Company, Craton Equity Partners, Generation Investment Management, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Paul Capital Investments, Physic Ventures, RRE Ventures LLC, Sigma Partners, Waste Management Inc., and Westly Group

4 Million+

300+ in all 50 states

Reward Partners

In The NewsRSS Press ReleaseRSS