Using Social Media to Promote Recycling

Social Media Logos
"Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology."
~  Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks


An important aspect of any recycling program includes developing directed information for your particular audience in targeted approaches.  While printed materials – including flyers, brochures and newspapers as well as web pages are important, how we reach our audiences with information on how, what and why to recycle is expanding. 


Federal, state and local government agencies are discovering that social media is increasingly becoming an important method to connect with new audiences and can be worthwhile for sharing information for specific programs.  At DEEP, we are engaging in different forms of social media with several Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to reach out to residents, businesses and visitors.  Our Recycling Facebook page was launched to celebrate Connecticut Recycles Day 2011.


What Is Social Media?

The term "Social Media" refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue.  It is a form of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content such as photos and videos.


Why Use Social Media?

Social media, often nicknamed “Web 2.0,” is quickly becoming the best way to contact not only younger generations, as they spend more of their time online for social or academic reasons, but also their parents (and even grandparents!), who are beginning to utilize social media as well. Most of these types of websites provide easy and free ways for organizations, agencies, and governments to interact directly with individuals in a two-way form of communication. Because of the increase in mobile internet and smart phone usage, social media involvement has become a necessity for those organizations and agencies wishing to fully connect with their audience.


Social Media Categories

Social Media Sites by Category
Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Delicious
Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Ustream
widgets,  podcasts, applications, RSS feeds, buttons/badges, mobile websites
There are countless social media sites, each of which can be grouped by their primary uses and type of sharing. Communication sites, such as social networks, microblogs, and blogs, can connect directly with your target audience. Collaboration sites, also known as social news and bookmarking sites, allow your audience to collaborate and save your information. Multimedia sites provide visual resources, and everything else is used to supplement the other categories or increase mobile access to information.


Social Media & Social Marketing

Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are being increasingly utilized by federal, state, and local governments around the country in an effort to spread environmental awareness to the largest audience possible. These agencies participate in social media to expand their standard social marketing campaigns to larger audiences via the internet. Social media comes into play as a way of “talking” with your target audience in order to influence and change public behavior. Municipalities have the ability to localize information and make it truly relevant to their audience’s needs, thus increasing its effectiveness.


Social Media Tools

In addition to creating social media profiles, it is a good idea to track activity to your sites. Google applications are extremely useful for doing anything from recording metrics (Google Analytics) to tracking specific keywords across the internet (Google Alerts) to organizing news feeds from various sources in one location (Google Reader). There are also websites that allow you to update any or all of your social media pages at the same time such as HootSuite and TweetDeck. Finally, you can provide your readers with the opportunity to share any of your pages on any of their own social profiles by embedding a “share” button on your website from AddThis or ShareThis.


“We’re still in the process of picking ourselves up off the floor after witnessing firsthand the fact that a 16-year-old YouTuber can deliver us 3 times the traffic in a couple of days that some excellent traditional media coverage has over 5 months.
– Michael Fox, founder of Shoes of Prey

State Government Social Media Pages

Social Media at DEEP  Provides links and short descriptions for DEEP’s own Facebook and Twitter pages. Profiles include general information, boating, state parks, state park lifeguards, and air quality forecasts and alerts.
List of Official State of Connecticut Social Media Sites  Provides links to social media pages run by various state agencies, such as Office of the Governor, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Public Health, and the Secretary of the State’s Office.


Municipal Facebook Pages

New Haven Office of Sustainability Example of a local municipality that uses social media to promote environmental sustainability, with links to its profiles provided on the homepage.


Municipal Twitter Pages


University of Connecticut

Although not a true example of government social media usage, UConn has an extremely strong social media presence across Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Blogs, LinkedIn, and RSS feeds that cover many different aspects of the university and are relevant to municipalities.


“Engaging in an authentic, meaningful conversation with consumers will be the key to marketing success and growth, even if that means acknowledging negative feedback; transparency is paramount.”
– Ron Blake, president and CEO of Rewards Network

Keep America Beautiful – Advertising campaign developed in partnership with the Ad Council to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling - uses various social media channels including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to promote the message of making recycling a daily social norm.  Visit the "I Want to be Recycled" campaign website to see how you can get involved and promote recycling.  
I Could be a Stadium (15-Second TV PSA, You Tube Version)
EPA - Provides links to all EPA social media profiles on existing networks, as well as other social media resources such as RSS feeds and widgets.
NASA - Indexes all of the many NASA social media accounts across nine different sites, and links to more information about ways to connect and collaborate with NASA.
CDC   - Contains detailed information about a large variety of social media websites, as well as links to CDC’s own pages and other resources for smaller websites. Content is written for health communications, but is relevant to other campaigns.
North Carolina - One of North Carolina’s recycling campaigns, targeted at young adults ages 18-34, links to all of their social media profiles and other recycling campaigns, and provides resources and information for recycling coordinators.
California CalRecycle  - Homepage for the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), which includes links to their social media pages.


Additional Social Media Resources
Articles/Presentations A Case Study of Using New Media to Promote Recycling in North Carolina  (2008) – Describes the process of creating’s social media pages, addresses challenges, types of media, and monitoring tools. Provides a useful table describing each of their social media profiles and their uses, audience, and impact, and ends with lessons learned and advice.
Friending Recycling, (Resource Recycling December 2009) – Provides another description of North Carolina’s social media pages, analyzing the success and impact of each over time.
NC Recycling Campaigns and Use of Social Marketing/Social Media (October 2010) – Presentation summarizing all of the North Carolina recycling campaigns and how they use social media specifically in relation to social marketing, listing a few important strategies and in an attempt to answer whether or not social media can change behavior. Also discusses the benefits of mobile use and linking multiple accounts together.
Enhancing Promotional Strategies Within Social Marketing Programs: Use of Web 2.0 Social Media (October 2008) – Article addressing the general use of social media in promotional campaigns by using social marketing techniques. Describes different types of social media and the ways by which they can be incorporated into a social marketing promotional plan.
Introduction to Social Media and Its Uses in Government Agency Recycling Campaigns  (Summer 2011) - PowerPoint created and presented by Amy DeGenaro, CT College student interning with CT DEEP to help Source Reduction and Recycling staff better understand social media and its implications for promoting waste management issues in CT.


Resources Social Media Guide - Best social media guide for governments. Provides good detailed descriptions of the types of sites as well as anything that government agencies should take note of when making an account.
CDC Social Media Toolkit  - Another very good guide to social media that provides detailed descriptions about the different types and context in which they can be used. Elaborates on how best to use social media in your campaign, and includes worksheets to help plan a strategy and evaluate your performance.
EPA Social Media Guide - Gives brief descriptions of different types of social media tools, and links to other pages that offer more information about the sites; good resource center. Webinars - Two webinars featured at the top of the “For Coordinators” resources page that discuss “Using Social Media and Mobile Phones for Recycling” and “Social Media Video: A How To.”
Government URL Shortener - Officially owned by the government, shrinks long URLs into manageable shorter ones while retaining the trustworthy .gov extension (requires .gov email address to register).
Mashable - One of the most popular social news and blog websites that reports on current information related to social media and other popular topics. Searching “social media business” and “social media government” will bring up many articles about how small businesses and governments use and benefit from social media.
Social Media Today - Another social news and blog website that reports on current events related to social media and technology; not as comprehensive as Mashable. 
Facebook’s Government Page - General information and resources for governments creating pages, provided by Facebook.
Government Social Media Wiki - Extremely thorough index of all government agencies and branches and their social media profiles, provided in table format with links to every existing page.
Social Media on Wikipedia - Basic definition of social media and classification by type and category, grouping similar websites together and linking to other Wikipedia pages for more information.



Disclaimer: The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) maintains the content on this web site to enhance public access to information and facilitate understanding of waste reduction, reuse and recycling. The DEEP is not recommending these resources over any others and recognizes these represent only a partial listing of resources on this subject.

Content Last Updated February 2020