Anastasia Thyroff doesn’t believe in wasting an opportunity to teach young marketing minds about consumer behavior.

MKT-302 students made use of reusable containers to minimize waste.

MKT-302 students made use of reusable containers to minimize waste.

So, the assignment her MKT-302 Consumer Behavior class endeavored in the spring semester was to become “waste-free” consumers for a week. The experience turned out to be an eye-opening lesson in consumption, and the impact consumers have on society.

“The assignment’s purpose was two-fold,” said Thyroff, assistant professor in the department of marketing. “First, by creating an awareness of the waste consumers generate, they gain a better understanding of consumption’s impact. Second, the exercise challenged their creativity by identifying ways marketers can use the consumption issue to their advantage in business.”

The “waste-free-for-a-week” exercise was a reality-check for most of the sophomores and juniors in the class.

Students chronicled their experiences as part of the assignment, and Thyroff provided a few of their anecdotal accounts:

“I’ve done a lot of difficult tasks in my life, but trying to go trash free for merely a week was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Until last week, I really didn’t know how much I throw away. …”

“The assignment honestly made me feel really bad because I had never noticed how much trash I produce. What was easier than expected was not using plastic water bottles. I simply used a re-usable water bottle. …”

“I noticed there are few water fountains around campus that include bottle-filling stations. If these water fountains were more widespread and marketed around campuses, students would eagerly make the change from bottled water. …”

Thyroff said students laughed when she showed them a video of a girl who was able to contain the trash she accumulated over several years in a small glass jar.

“For the most part, they found it wasn’t possible to go trash free, especially if you lived on campus, because there aren’t many green options. But that revelation got them thinking about marketing sustainability opportunities.”

Some of the marketing ideas students generated included:

-Campus recycling kiosks, sponsored by local businesses, that award Paw Points based on the volume of recycled materials one generates.

-Home craft parties where participants make deodorants and skin lotions and leave with a mason jar that could be refilled with the product.

-Cosmetic companies that sell refills of their product, versus having to purchase the packaged product again and again.

By attempting to go waste-free, Thyroff said students came across some simple lifestyle changes that contributed to them consuming less. “Ideas like purchasing reusable grocery bags versus plastic or using rags instead of paper towels for cleaning up, were just a few of the ideas,” she said.

Beyond the College of Business students gaining knowledge about consumer behavior and consumption, Thyroff said the exercise was also a lesson in social responsibility.

“It got them thinking about innovative ideas in marketing sustainability by inserting themselves into the consumer role to understand consumption’s impacts. Our culture is very short-term oriented. By educating this generation about being more long-term oriented, we’re teaching more than business applications. It becomes just as much of a life lesson.”

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