CityStudio Zero Waste Strategies






Project Description

  • This is an ongoing project with a focus on waste reduction and diversion at community centers.
  • Students’ research each semester builds on the recommendations of previous cohorts.

  • The research when the partnership started in 2013 centered on students conducting behavioural observations at community centers and interviews with users.

  • Based on the student's research, modifications were made to the communication elements used to message to the public to sort their waste properly.

  • The following year research moved from print messaging to video presentations: four videos were developed that the City could use once the video equipment was set up at each facility.

  • Another cohort focused on messaging to children, elementary school age, to sort their waste properly. This research was awarded first place the CityStudio Hubbub Project Showcase event at City Hall in April 2016.
  • In 2016-17, LFS 350 students worked to assess the effect of new waste station decals on diversion rates. These decals were placed on the front of the zero waste stations at community centres. Their findings suggested more research was needed, and that decals on top of the bins are needed if the city removes the top placards (the current placard systems is challenging due to cost of replacing and maintaining placards)
  • During the academic year of 2017-18 (Sept – Apr) students observed the current use of the sorting stations and established a baseline at their chosen locations, then prototyped two possible social media campaigns addressing the overuse of single-use items. People feel that if they recycle single-use items that they are doing the right thing. We wanted to make people aware of the Prius effect or Rebound Theory and normalize the behavior of using reusable items instead of single-use items.
  • We hoped the project would provide data and anecdotal feedback on the success of the social media campaign and recommendations for City Staff looking at reducing the amount of single-use waste items going into the zero waste stations.


  • The focus for the 2018-19 terms will continue to be the reduction of single-use, disposable items such as coffee cups at two sites: Killarney Community Centre and the Roundhouse.
  • Students will do observations of the sorting stations at each site; based on their behavioral observation and research, they will create 2-3 taglines/slogans to remind people to bring their own mug and gather feedback from patrons at their site on the effectiveness of the taglines. Based on their findings, they will make recommendations to the City about how to effectively remind/incentivize patrons to bring their own mugs.
  • The research scope and approach will be collaboratively defined with Paul Gagnon from the City of Vancouver.

Project Goals

  • To engage students and residents with the City’s efforts to reduce waste and encourage re-use.
  • To learn more about effective communication strategies (specifically catchy messaging) to remind/motivate residents to use re-usable mugs.

Skills Preferred + To Be Developed

  • Collaboration
  • Basic behavioural research skills
  • An interest in communications/outreach/engagement
  • Market analysis of individual and consumer behaviour

Preferred Days of Week and Hours

  • Flexible with students’ schedules.
  • HUBBUB, final project showcase at City Hall November 30, 9:00-12:30.

Organization Information


CityStudio Vancouver & City of Vancouver

Mission + Vision

Cities need to experiment on the ground with innovative solutions to the complex sustainability challenges that they are facing. Cities also need strategies to engage young people as both leaders and decision makers. Our aim at CityStudio is to work directly with the underserved, disillusioned and talented students who want to change the world and cannot find programs that help them do so.

CityStudio helps City Hall find ways to include student passion and ideas in the co-creation of the city. We imagine a future where City Hall is more permeable and accessible and an energetic hub of urban innovation. The Greenest City Action Plan is a strategy for staying on the leading edge of urban sustainability.

We are working with Council, residents, businesses, other organizations, and all levels of government to implement this plan.

Our vision is to create opportunities today, while building:

  • A strong local economy
  • Vibrant and inclusive neighbourhoods
  • Internationally recognized city that meets the needs of generations to come

Through a set of measurable and attainable targets, we are putting Vancouver on the path to becoming the greenest city in the world.

Additional Resources

Primary Contact

  • Contact Person(s): Ileana Costrut & Paul Gagnon
  • Email:,
  • Address: 1800 Spyglass Place, Vancouver BC
  • Phone: 604-874-6401
  • Website:
  • Best time(s) method(s) to contact: Email

Project/Partner Orientation

  • Access to past cohort project reports and materials (CityStudio can provide)
  • Waste Audit from Urban Impact (City can provide)

Student Zero Waste Station Sorting Videos:

  • Meet the Zero Waste Station

  • Zero Waste is Simple

  • Recycle Evolve

  • How to Sort Waste Properly - Quiz Style

  • The Field Guide on Human-Centered Design

Investigate best practices for Waste Diversion campaigns and activities. What seems to be working well in other communities? 
This is a good place to start:

Expected Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

  • I hope students will learn about the City’s vision, goals and targets toward Zero Waste.
  • I think students will come to appreciate the complexity of an issue that involves the perspective of many stakeholders.
  • Students will develop organizational, collaborative and interpersonal skills.

Organizational Outcomes

  • Student engagement with patrons at City of Vancouver community centres with a focus on zero waste
  • Students will be able to model the zero waste behavior that they learn about through this research project
  • Residents will see students making an effort to improve/promote zero waste and hopefully make positive behavioral changes