How the BYOC initiative made responsible consumption a hot social media trend
Green is in right now: businesses all over the world have been changing their practices to promote more eco-friendly options.
From city-wide bans on plastic bags and straws, to discounts on reusable containers, to an increased availability of bulk product options and adoption of compostable materials, there are more options than ever to reduce waste. One of the most popular trends is BYOC, or Bring Your Own Cup (or Container, depending on the way businesses choose to interpret the acronym). This initiative helps businesses around the world to reduce waste and present more affordable and eco-conscious options for their customers.
BYOC initiatives help brands in other ways, too: Research suggests that consumers are more willing to pay extra for products that support a cause important to them, which means a transition to sustainable materials or a waste reduction initiative doesn't have to hurt the businesses' bottom line. In fact, adoption of a more eco-conscious perspective by brands has been linked to more favorable brand images among consumers and reduced cost to the consumer.
In anticipation of Earth Hour on March 28, we are highlighting some of the trends in responsible consumption.
Using a new topic in YouScan, we set up a search query for BYOC and "Bring Your Own Cup" to track how businesses and individuals around the world are discussing this sustainable trend.
Visual Insights confirmed that a lot of the conversation centers specifically on reusable cups and beverages. It also revealed that BYOC is a popular trend in outdoor settings and social outings.
Taking a look at people and activities most commonly associated with the BYOC trend, we can see that the habit of reusable containers is popular among athletic, outdoorsy individuals, as well as office workers feeding their java habit.
Next, we analyzed which countries are embracing the BYOC trend the most in the first couple of months of 2020.
Most active BYOC promoters, by # of mentions (Jan. 1 - Feb. 29)
Diving further into the mentions, we have distinguished several contexts in which the topic of BYOC and sustainable consumption is often discussed online: discounts/giveaways to endorse waste reduction; eco-conscious lifestyle options; zero-waste and bulk businesses; and lifestyle blogs.
Let's take a look at each of these mention groups for BYOC in greater detail.
Discount offers and giveaways
One of the most common ways of introducing sustainable consumption habits into the mainstream is through existing global brands like Starbucks. In most countries, Starbucks offers a small discount for customers who bring in their own reusable cup. This kind of campaign rewards a waste-conscious habit while retaining customer loyalty and improving the brand's image as an eco-friendly industry leader.
That said, there are plenty of local businesses all over the world that use discount offers to attract customers and boost their own eco-conscious image. The perks range from small monetary discounts, credit toward future free beverages, BOGO (buy one, get one free or cheaper) options and free giveaways.
Others use a BYOC discount as a way to promote their own reusable container merchandise.
Businesses can also employ a point-based reward system to allow customers to earn extra BYOC points.
Some businesses build a service exchange network of reusable containers that can be exchanged for a refund or used for a discount in several locations, such as the Recup initiative in Germany.
The option for discounts helps boost the overall positive sentiment around the discussion of BYOC. People enjoy feeling that their actions, however small, are making a difference in waste reduction efforts. It also feels great to be able to pay less for your favorite products!
Sustainable materials/eco-conscious products
Another trend that often goes alongside BYOC initiatives to reduce waste is the use of compostable and/or recycled materials, as well as campaigns to reduce single-use plastic items such as lids, bags and straws.
To continue with our Starbucks example, the company rolled out a line of strawless lids for their cold beverages last year.
While not strictly a part of the BYOC trend, these product modifications are a part of a bigger trend toward waste reduction in consumer goods.
You will often see brands promote BYOC discounts and campaigns alongside with awareness of their biodegradable containers.
Some of these initiatives originate from necessity - for example, when a municipality or regional government imposes bans on single-use plastic items, like New York State did recently with plastic grocery bags. Others come with a change of mindset: for example, like this Canadian initiative to allow restaurant patrons to bring their own reusable containers for leftovers. Which leads us to the next BYOC-related trend...
Refill and bulk stores
BYOC in the context of "bring your own container" has really taken off in the "zero-waste" market, with the proliferation of businesses that sell various products in bulk and encourage customers to go shopping with their own jars, boxes, cloth totes and reusable cups.
These shops offer anything from soap and toothpaste to cereal and milk to pasta and grains in bulk. Customers weigh their empty containers before filling it up with desired goods and only pay for the products, not the packaging.
Some specialty shops encourage patrons to reduce their use of plastic wrap and packaging by bringing their own eco-friendly options, such as cheesecloth, paper or beeswax-soaked clothes.
It's a great deal, it's sustainable - plus, these types of #pantrygoals posts are all the rage on Instagram! Speaking of social media wins…
Zero-waste lifestyle blogs
Sustainable living is a hot topic for social media influencers. Many BYOC posts in our YouScan topic page came from bloggers and social media personalities that promote a zero-waste or eco-friendly lifestyle.
Some blogs are dedicated exclusively to the topics of "green" or eco-conscious living, which includes BYOC and waste reduction initiatives.
But BYOC isn't limited to green blogs: Many influencers that post about BYOC discuss a variety of topics like travel, crafts/DIY and beauty, and mention waste reduction in context of local habits, culture and life hacks.
Not to mention the ultimate crossover between BYOC, discounts and bloggers: Businesses encouraging customers to tag photos of their reusable container or cup purchase with #BYOC and geo-tag the business to receive extra discounts.
BYOC and the evolving current public health situation
We would be remiss not to mention the state of the BYOC practice in today's unusual global circumstances. As expected, BYOC mentions have taken on a slightly different tone in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Businesses in nations affected by COVID-19 have been actively messaging a brief halt on the use of reusable mugs and other containers to prevent the risk of contamination.
The change can be observed on a large scale in the popular words in this topic, as shown by YouScan's word cloud function, before the beginning of March vs. Jan. 1 to Feb. 29 of this year.
Word cloud for March 1-18, 2020
Word cloud for Jan. 1 - Feb. 29, 2020
However, it's worth noting that as public gatherings around the world are paused, people in quarantine are still finding a sense of community - and using BYOC in their invitations to spend time together while practicing social distancing!
As you can see, the BYOC campaigns take many forms in online public discussions, used by major brands and social media influencers alike to promote an eco-conscious lifestyle and encourage responsible consumption habits among their audience.
The public's willingness to adapt BYOC habits and their positive response to brands that offer this as an option supports the existing research that says sustainable practices are favorable to the brand's perception and bottom line.
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