Tag Archives: Environment

A&W Canada: No more plastic straws

Look at the photo above. What do you notice about? Yes, it states that “Change is good.” That’s a good thing of course. But, notice what the entire sculpture is made out of – plastic straws! These are the last of A&W Canada’s stock of plastic straws. The Canadian chain has been moving to paper straws over the last few months, and to celebrate the transition, it used its last 140,000 plastic straws to make the 35-foot sculpture.

Last summer, A&W Food Services of Canada promised to reduce landfill by eliminating the plastic straws. It was the first quick-service restaurant chain in North America to make such a bold promise to improve the environment.  The company estimates that the change will keep 82 million plastic straws from littering the oceans and land.

The ban on the plastic straws is one part of the company’s environmental initiatives which include food sources, packaging, energy, water usage, and waste.

Indeed, change IS good.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the impact of environmental concerns on companies.
  2. What are companies doing about these concerns?
  3. View A&W Canada’s Web site values section: https://web.aw.ca/en/our-values
  4. What does this move do for the company’s brand?
  5. Divide students into teams. Have each team research the environmental values of a competing fast-food restaurants (e.g., McDonalds’, Wendy’s, etc.)
  6. How does A&W’s commitment impact its positioning in the marketplace?

Source:  Griner, D. (11 January, 2019). A&W Canada used the last of its plastic straws to make a sculpture announcing the change. AdWeek.

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The World Needs a Better Toilet

In the United States we seldom think about the importance of toilets. Good hygiene and working sewage is just something that the average citizen assumes will always be there, and always work. However, this is not true for the rest of the world where hygiene is a critical health and wellness issue.

More than half of the world’s population – roughly 4.5 billion people – live without access to toilets and the safe sanitation they provide. Estimates are that globally, unsafe sanitation costs the world’s population $223 billion (yes, billion) a year in higher health care costs, lost productivity, and lost wages. It is an issue that The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is taking very seriously, pledging $200 million over the past seven years to help reinvent toilets, and pledging another $200 million more to get companies to understand the problem – and business –  of human waste.

At the Reinvented Toilet Expo, held last fall in Beijing, companies showcased new toilets that could recycle water, separate urine from other waste, and even with solar roofs. Mr. Gates told the audience that human waste contains 200 trillion rotavirus particles, 100,000 parasitic worm eggs, and other harmful organisms.

This might not be an easy subject to discuss, and a lot of bad jokes will undoubtable be told in class, but it is an issue that affects the world, and one that product innovation can help to solve.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the business of waste, sanitation, and fixtures.
  2. What happens when sanitation is poor? What are the impacts?
  3. Show Bill Gates video: https://youtu.be/M9nRsJinHhM
  4. View Gates Foundation site: https://www.gatesfoundation.org/
  5. View Toilets for People for an example of a business: https://www.toiletsforpeople.com/
  6. Have students research other companies with a similar mission and objective.
  7. What social issues matter to the students?

Source: Wee, Sui-Lee (6 Nov. 2018). In China, Bill Gates encourages the world to build a better toilet. New York Times.

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“Bear Resistant.” A Label that is Rigorously Tested.

Truth in advertising is important. Consumers today have a built-in detection system to weed out unrealistic and over-hyped claims that aren’t true. If a product makes a promise, then it should live up to it. We question claims such as organic, natural and others. These labels and promises are important, especially when it comes to the backcountry and using gear labeled ‘bear resistant.’ A broken promise for ‘bear resistant’ products means that both bears and people are in danger! (A saying in the mountains is that “a fed beer is a dead bear” – meaning that bears habituated to human foods are in danger from the humans.)

How does a product earn a ‘bear resistant’ badge? It’s simple. The bears are the actual product testers. Yes, 600-pound, hungry grizzle bears are the product testers at non-profit organization The Grizzle and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. In order to keep bears and people safe, containers are put through rigorous testing by bears at the rescue center.

Picture it: Seven grizzles. Smart, large, and the ultimate sniff machines. Products are baited with the bears’ favorite foods. Coolers are padlocked (bears can open handles and latches), then placed in the bears’ enclosure. Bears go at it in their habitats, trying to break in and gain a food reward!

Once the bears start their “testing” process, the timer counts an hour to see if the bears can get into the coolers. Biting, smashing, bouncing, basically anything goes by these diligent product testers. If it passes – it gets certified as “bear resistant.” And if the bear gets in, then manufacturers review the video footage to see how the product fares with the grizzles. Some of the products that earned bear resistant badges are Bare Boxer, Bear Keg, Wise Backpack, Big Daddy, and more food canisters.

This has to be the ultimate in product testing.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Put students into groups. Have each group come up with common product labels and claims (e.g., organic, all natural, etc.). What is their opinion about how the claims are verified?
  2. Show the bear testing video: https://player.vimeo.com/video/296016960
  3. View the Web site for product testing: https://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/research/product-testing/
  4. List of bear resistant products: http://igbconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/181026_Certified_Products_List.pdf
  5. Have students develop positioning maps for outdoor products.
  6. How should the certification be used in marketing the products?

Source: Housman, J. (20 November 2018). This is how bears decide if gear deserves the ‘bear resistant’ tag. Adventure Journal; Outside magazine.

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