Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By
  • Nancy Gallant and Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr, St. Thomas University
  • Vivian De Giovanni, City of Waterloo
  • District Branch for Zehr's stores

No change in purchasing behaviour was achieved.


A campaign at a Zehr's store in Kitchener, Ontario, reminded customers to buy products which used less packaging, were more concentrated and safer for the environment. Some customers were asked to make a commitment to purchase "green" alternatives and to watch an in-store information video showing other people making their decision to buy "green."


In 1995, Gallant, McKenzie-Mohr, and De Giovanni initiated this campaign to encourage waste reduction, arising from a concern about diminishing landfill capacity and the environmental impact of solid waste.

Getting Informed

Previous studies had suggested that people were unlikely to purchase greener products because they were difficult to identify and hard to find. Research also showed that prompts such as shelf talkers could be very effective in overcoming these barriers. Other strategies suggested by the research included norm appeals and requesting a commitment from participants.

Delivering the Program

The campaign was implemented in a Zehr's store in Kitchener over a two-week period in early 1995. Before the campaign began, 168 products were selected for having the least-waste packaging, being concentrated, and/or being otherwise safer for the environment. These products were identified in the store by brightly coloured shelf talkers placed directly beneath the products and carrying brief explanations of each product's green attributes (Prompts). The prompts were promoted in the store through three dual-sided posters and several thousand fliers handed out at the store entrance.

One hundred and ten grocery shoppers were selected at random and asked to:

  • Sign a commitment form stating that they would consider purchasing the products identified by the shelf talkers (Obtaining a Commitment); and/or
  • View a video which showed people choosing to purchase products identified by the shelf talkers.

Measuring Achievements

A second Zehr's store in Kitchener, which did not participate in this campaign, was selected to serve as a control. The sales from both stores were monitored using the stores' existing electronic inventory systems. Sales data were collected for a period of two weeks prior to the beginning of the campaign to provide baseline sales figures for each of the 168 products. Sales of these items were then tracked for both stores during the campaign period and compared.

Forty-one shoppers were randomly selected upon entering the store to sign commitment forms only, 35 to view the video only, and 34 to both view the video and sign the commitment form. The 67 shoppers who formed the control group were randomly selected once they had paid for their groceries; they did not view the video nor sign a commitment form. All of these shoppers were asked for their grocery receipts, which were used to compare the four groups' purchases.

Of the 168 products selected, 77 were excluded from analysis because their price had changed over the course of the campaign, electronic data on price and quantity were not available, or the products were not carried by both stores during the four-week period. As a result, the sales of only 91 items were analyzed.


In contrast to the dramatic results achieved by Get in the Loop - Buy Recycled, no difference was found in comparing the purchases of the four groups. Several lessons were learned from these results.

First, there was a lack of awareness of the campaign. A stronger promotional campaign, as used by Get in the Loop, would likely have improved the impact of the program.

Second, about one third of the shelf talkers were knocked off the shelves during the two-week period, making it impossible for shoppers to identify and locate the targeted items. Smaller shelf talkers fastened more securely to the shelves would have been less likely to be removed by passing shopping carts.

Third, shoppers were offered too few products to allow them to consistently choose waste-reducing alternatives. It appears to be important that more items be identified.

Finally, the video and commitment portions of the campaign were held on a Saturday, because organizers thought they would gain maximum exposure on a busy day. However, it turned out that it was difficult to recruit participants in the overcrowded entrance to the store.


Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr
St. Thomas University
Fredericton, New Brunswick
E3B 5G3
(506) 452-0634
Fax: (506) 450-9615


Last updated: July 2004

This case study was originally published in 1998 in "Tools of Change: Proven Methods for Promoting Environmental Citizneship" by Jay Kassirer and Doug McKenzie-Mohr (Published by Canada's National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy)

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