Gavin Ellis co-founded Hubbub to communicate sustainability issues in a simple way to communities across the country. Here he explains how Hubbub, with the help of Coca-Cola, has worked to reach the ‘mildly concerned audience' and clean up Great Britain, one street at a time…

For the past 2 years I’ve worked with the brilliant team here at Hubbub to raise awareness of environmental issues around litter and find real solutions that any community can embrace. Not an easy task, but one I love doing.

When we asked people what they thought of littering, 86% said they thought it was a disgusting habit, but only 15% of us would confront someone about it. My goal has always been to reach the ‘mildly concerned’ audience; people who care about the issues facing the environment and their community, but don’t quite have the will or resources to act on it.

So, I wanted to turn that mild concern into everyday action.

A local look at litter

Understandably, people often treat environmental issues as a global problem. While this is completely true, it doesn’t mean we have to always think so big when it comes to finding solutions. At Hubbub, we wanted to think smaller. Focus on one street, find the litter problems that street faced and create simple solutions to those problems. Then, we could take that project and expand it to more streets, more communities and more people.

Starting small and focussing on one community at a time allowed us to find manageable solutions to global issues. Here’s an example of what we did.

Neat Streets: A playful case study

Step 1: Observe

Our first Neat Streets project was in Villiers Street, Westminster. The first thing we did was take a good look at what was happening.

Who was littering? What were they littering? When were they littering?

It turned out that it was a whole lot of people, with a whole lot of litter, littering all the time! The street was being cleaned over 8 times a day, and there was still waste left over by the end of the day.

After observing and learning about all the local litter habits, we acted.

Step 2: Act   

We introduced a lot of changes to the street to try and cut down the amount of waste. These were 4 of the stand-out changes we made:

  • The ballot bin – Cigarette butts covered the floor like confetti at a strange wedding. We saw the vast majority of cigarette litterers were men, so we introduced ballot bins tailored to appeal to them. These bins posed a question, and the public could vote for their answer by disposing their cigarette butt. Ronaldo or Messi? The cigarettes decided…

  • The colourful bin – Sometimes, a lick of paint can do wonders. We brightened up bins on the street to make them stand out amongst the busy commuter crowd, and to tackle that pesky littering habit of chewing gum on the floor.

Hubbub Bin
One of our stand-out, hard to miss bins.

  • The talking bin – even pink and yellow bins aren’t always enough to grab a commuter’s attention. So, we made a bin talk. And belch…

  • “My street is your street” – Along with the bins, we chatted to hundreds of people, from buskers to window cleaners, to build a gallery of photos of the people who used this street every day. With the message “my street is your street”, we instilled a sense of civic pride into the community.

Every street belongs to everyone, so everybody has to work to keep it clean.

The community gallery being put up in London.

Step 3: Expand

The London project was a huge success. Over 6 months, the campaign lowered litter levels by 26%. From this, and thanks to the support of Coke's botter, Coca-Cola European Partners, we’ve been able to take this model across the country. Manchester and Edinburgh have embraced the Neat Streets project with wonderful success. Our project in Edinburgh was so successful that the council have taken the model across other communities around the city, creating the #OurEdinburgh project.

Our work in Edinburgh is a proud chapter in the Hubbub story, and achieved exactly what we wanted. We brought in an idea, made a local difference and inspired the city as a whole to embrace a change.  

Our projects have shown us that positivity always trumps a ‘telling off’ approach. People have become numb to the negative messaging around litter, so we’re always going to put a more positive spin on tackling environmental issues.

Encouraging simple actions and solutions has had a much better impact than just shouting about the problems.

Inspire change

Through my work, I’ve realised just how powerful small changes can be. We’re going to continue to work with Coca-Cola GB to inspire change across Great Britain, and I hope that anyone reading this will do their bit to keep their street neat. Because it’s not just up to the council, it’s up to everybody to do their part.

Gavin Ellis Co-Founder of Hubbub

About the author
Gavin Ellis is a founder of Hubbub. Previously he was Senior Client Manager at Global Action Plan, one of the UK’s leading environmental charities. Before that, he was Marketing Manager at Global Action Plan. He also set up the UK’s first online carbon calculator and the UK’s first environmental lifestyle magazine, Ergo.

Find out more about Hubbub’s work.