Tiny Pause

In 2009 Toronto started charging five cents for plastic bags at retail stores. The reduction in plastic bags was significant, exceeding the prediction. I learned this while collaborating with the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) to implement a number of “green” initiatives at the condo tower I lived in.

The TEA representative explained by forcing people to take an extra step, i.e., pay five cents per bag, required people to think about what they were doing. It forced them to take a tiny little pause. Ultimately, this had a big impact. She mentioned this strategy as something we could use in the building. Or even how this strategy could be used to eliminate single-use plastics. For example, if somebody had to ask for a straw instead of including it automatically. Or if people had to request plasticware for take-out and delivery orders. Requiring people to take this little extra step could result in reductions, similar to the plastic bags.

I love this idea of changing something small, but big enough that it makes people think. And even more importantly, change their behavior in a positive way. I’m always looking for ways to implement this strategy at work and in my personal life.

Last week I finally had my car repaired from the fender bender. They also repaired a chip in the windshield. The chip was a new claim. When I arrived at the autobody shop, the admin had a blank paper form ready on her desk. I watched as she kept leafing back and forth between multiple pages in my (paper) claim file to fill it out! The information on the claim form was very basic. It included things like name, address, make/model of the vehicle, insurer, policy number, etc. In my mind, it was all the information that should have been kept in one central location. Even better, if she could have auto-populated the form based on my electronic file. Or at the very least printed out a label with the details. But no, she hand wrote everything.

Watching this process, I felt challenged to come up with a tiny pause for this diligent worker, so habituated to her routine. For me, using the paper form would be a tiny pause. However, maybe in this scenario, the tiny pause would be to eliminate paper forms. Or place them somewhere inconvenient to make the electronic option seem more appealing.

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