Somehow, my foolhardiness has been manifested into this quick one-liner among a few close friends: “Mariah doesn’t read signs.” It has to be said in just the right way and with perfect comedic timing, but it always pokes fun at my somewhat reckless approach to life. Actually, though, I’ve found this to be true of more people than just myself.
Think about it — you probably see at least a few dozen signs each day, and I’d bet you don’t even recall seeing most of them.
Well friends, I read a sign today (please don’t be disappointed). Actually, I read this sign most days. It is a sign next to the toaster in the kitchen that reads: “Please unplug toaster when not in use.” Despite the sign, every single time I’m in the kitchen (without fail, so far) the toaster sitting on the counter right next to it and is plugged into the outlet while not in use. Of course, as the sustainability intern and just general tree-hugger that I am, I take the two seconds needed to unplug the toaster every time I’m in that kitchen.
It’s just interesting to think that a task that requires such minimal effort isn’t being done. Perhaps people don’t notice the sign and simply don’t think about it. It’s quite dull after all; the black print on white tape doesn’t exactly scream for attention. Besides, people are creatures of habit, and if a person is used to leaving the toaster plugged in, then it will actually take conscious thought to unplug the toaster after each use.
You’re probably wondering how this relates to sustainability. It doesn’t always, but there are plenty of signs, especially on a college campus, that are supposed to remind and encourage people to make earth-friendly choices. Recycling flyers, reminders to unplug or turn off, Go Green stickers, posters, the list goes on and on; there are many different signs all over the University that are constantly overlooked along with many of the others that we come across on a daily basis.
Why am I doing this marketing job anyway? Will anyone actually be reached by the posters that I make or the signs that I hang? Will anyone unplug the toaster? The answer to all of these questions is that hopefully some of these signs will be noticed by at least some people. Even better, they will actually act on the messages that they see, others around them will notice and consider adjusting their own actions, and the effect will ripple. It seems like pretty wishful thinking, but maybe if I unplug that toaster every day then eventually someone might start to wonder why it’s always unplugged and will look for a sign.
Written by Mariah Greico, Class of 2018