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University of Reading Case Study, With Ruth Harris

We welcome Ruth Harris, Sustainability Officer at the University of Reading.

Ruth has been supporting various sustainability projects and their development within the educational organisation for 4 years, and has been the Warp It lead since they joined in early 2015.


What was the problem?

“Initially we had quite a lot of interest in Warp It from staff, however over time this stabilised. The University has set itself a target to increase re-use through Warp It by 10% by 2021, against a baseline of the re-use achieved in academic year 2015/16. So we needed to look for ways to re-engage staff with Warp It, as well as to raise awareness and encourage other staff to participate.”


What did you do?

“Over the past year we decided to run a “re-use challenge” where we set a target for staff to try and beat over a short period of time. ”


“The first reuse challenge took place in April 2018, when we used Cadbury’s Creme Eggs as an incentive for our users to claim or offer something on Warp It. We also offered a sugar-free alternative, which was a plastic pen-pot shaped like a wheelie-bin.”


April results: A big thank-you to everyone who took part – you did it! The target has been achieved and you re-used a whopping 740kg of items through the University’s Warp It portal. That’s nearly three quarters of a tonne, and it has saved staff an estimated £4,488 by avoiding buying new.


“From the success of the April Re-use Challenge, we thought it would be a great idea to run a second reuse challenge at the start of the new academic year in August. This time, you only got a chocolate reward (KitKats) if you claimed an item, and we ran it for two weeks. We had a great response at first, but then we experienced a bit of a tail-off in people claiming items.”


“So during the second week we decided to hide some chocolate bars within our listings on Warp It. So if you claimed an item that was hiding a KitKat, you’d get a bonus one.


“This generated some very interesting results - the treasure hunt vibe really got people going, and immediately after we introduced this feature, we saw a massive increase in the number of internal hits to the challenge and Warp It information pages on our website. There was also an increase in the number of claims made and it proved to us that hiding rewards within Warp It could have a really big impact on reuse.”



What happened at the end of the challenges?

“We decided that it would be nice to recognise 7 users who had been very active throughout the challenge. We looked at the number of claims, the number of items uploaded, and whether they had contacted us and asked questions. Those 7 people who had the most success were offered a reusable cup or a set of bike lights. We congratulated them and asked them about their experience using Warp It and taking part in the Reuse challenge. Some of them provided quotes for our newsletter or webpage.”


Creme-Egg-desktop-tidy-169x300Quote from UoR employee in Programme Administration:

The challenge prompted me to revisit the Warp It site. It was free and fun to take part, good for the environment and excellent for obtaining lots of useful (free) stationery items for the office!


What was the impact?

“During both reuse challenges, in April and August, we noticed a big spike in engagement, reflected in the activity shown on the Warp It reports. I even saw that after the April Reuse Challenge, the elevated engagement had continued into the next month. In turn, this helped to improve the quantity of financial savings made, and items being reused.”




Quantity of items reuse during the challenge


What went wrong, or what would you do differently?

“We didn’t really face any massive challenges in implementing the re-use challenge, but it certainly kept our Portering Team busy - they did a great job!”


“If we were to do this again, the treasure hunt element would probably be run throughout the whole challenge. This time it was an experimental approach that ended up being surprisingly successful - it’s all worked very well.”


What’s the next step?

“We’ve already done some work reviewing our stock management and storage space, which has been the logical next step to improving re-use. We want to keep things running as smoothly as possible, and I think we need to look at reuse outside of the organisation.”


Thank you Ruth!


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Joseph Kennedy

Joseph Kennedy

My journey is education, communication and innovation. My destination is a world free from environmental collapse, ecological ruin and unbreathable air.


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