Life goes on

Integrated advertising campaign for Seattle Public Utilities

In 2014, the City of Seattle passed a law prohibiting food waste in the garbage. The goal? Converting 60% of all city waste to recyclables. To that end, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) set out to educate residents and businesses about the law and fines that would take effect in 2016.  

As a public utility, SPU had many different groups it needed to reach: residents in single family and multifamily dwellings, commercial businesses and restaurants. These included many diverse communities and non-English speakers. SPU was doing a good job reaching these audiences, but lacked a larger, unifying message that cut across audiences and united all communications efforts under one creative banner.

A common motivation 

In collaboration with SPU, we developed an overarching creative campaign and community outreach plan to increase awareness of the law and the fine among Seattle residents. Much of our work centered on reaching limited-English speakers from Hispanic, East African, Filipino, Russian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese communities.

Through qualitative research, we learned that the vast majority of residents supported the law because it is good for the environment and future generations.

As a result, our messages centered on this key fact: Composting is important to us all, as the most natural ending—or new beginning—for our food waste.

We compost so life goes on.

Campaign concept.
Campaign concept.
Bus advertisement.

Transcending language barriers

Second, we all know that effective stories are visual ones. This is even more true when conveying ideas to those who do not share the same language. Since one of our key audiences was limited-English speakers, we knew it would be important to not only develop campaign materials in languages other than English but also to convey the idea of composting through a readily accessible visual. 

Drawing on data from focus groups and opinion research, we implemented tactics we knew would reach our audiences: bus billboards, advertisements in non-traditional print media, direct mail flyers, radio and TV commercials, and digital displays.

The initial advertising in multiple languages.
Print ads.
Community posters.
Community posters.
Direct mail.
Direct mailer.

Seattle Public Utilities

Generating big results

Since the launch of the campaign, we’ve seen double digit increases in awareness of food waste requirements.


increase for multi-family units


increase for among families of color


increase for non-English speakers


Who was involved

See more of our clients in Conservation & Sustainability

Bonneville Environmental Foundation
Center for Large Landscape Conservation
Climate Solutions
Environmental Science Associates
Hood Canal Coordinating Council
King County Department of Natural Resources
Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board
Office of the Chehalis Basin
PCC Farmland Trust
Seattle Public Utilities
The Nature Conservancy
The Water Foundation
The Wilderness Society
Trust for Public Land
University of Washington
University of Washington EarthLab
Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board
WA Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Outdoor Recreation
WA Recreation and Conservation Office
Washington Conservation Voters
Washington Governor's Salmon Recovery Office
West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health
Wildlands Network

Want to see more?

View all our work