How Do We Decide?
Adapted from Recycling Study Guide, by Hallowell et. al, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
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social studies
language arts
home economics
environmental education
CONCEPT: Advertisements are used to make products appeal to consumers. Sometimes we buy products because of this appeal, even if the products are not environmentally responsible choices.
OBJECTIVE: To have students quantify the number of times television and radio ads try to sell products for reasons not related to product quality, and list some of the techniques advertisers use to promote products.
- copies of advertisements for various products
- handout: Survey on Use of Disposable Products
KEYWORDS: advertising, packaging
1. Find samples of different advertisements for the same type of item (soda, detergent, potato chips). Select ads for different name-brands and types of packaging. Discuss:
- Which product would you buy? Why?
- What is advertising? What is the purpose of advertising?
- Does advertising influence what you buy? How?
- Which advertisement do you like best? Why?
- Do your reasons have anything to do with the quality or function of the product?
- Do you purchase name-brand items instead of generic items? Why?
2. Discuss ways in which products are promoted on television, radio and in print. Analyze at least 25 ads. Note the following:
- Does the advertisement mention the packaging?
- Is the packaging recyclable or reusable?
- Does the ad suggest what you should do with the packaging?
3. Design a chart to help analyze characteristics of these ads. A sample follows (feel free to add other categories):
Name of Name of
Product #1 Product #2 .......
Print (magazines, newspapers) _______________________________________
New and Improved__________________________________________________
Sex Appeal_________________________________________________________
Flashy Packaging____________________________________________________
Band Wagon________________________________________________________
Vague Pronouns_____________________________________________________
Keeping up with the Joneses__________________________________________
4. Show the results of the surveys done by the students. Discuss:
- Which marketing strategies were used most often to promote packaged product?
- What strategies were used that were not listed on the sample form?
- What usually happens to the packaging?
- Do you think the manufacturer of the product should be responsible for what happens to the packaging once it is bought?
Name three reasons you buy one type of packaged product instead of another.
How often are your reasons based on the quality or function of the product?
Discuss ways in which advertisements may influence what you choose to purchase.
Complete the Survey on Use of Disposable Products

Survey on Use of Disposable Products
1. What types of products do you buy?
Durable products: (example: cassette tapes, pens, mechanical pencils, combs, appliances, etc.)
Disposable products: (examples: shampoo bottles, fast food containers, toothpaste pumps, plastic packaging, juice boxes, razors, plastic bags, etc.)
2. How much of these types of products do you buy? (be specific)
How often?

3. Do you consider buying alternatives to disposable products? (examples: reusable canvas bags rather than plastic or paper ones, unpackaged products versus packaged ones, washable dishes rather than disposable ones)
4. What do you do with disposable products when you are finished with them?
5. Are you aware of opportunities for plastic recycling in your community?
Yes ____ No _____
Do you save plastics for recycling?
Yes ____ No _____
6. How often do you buy clothes? (number of items per week, month or year)
How do you decide what to buy? (Are you conscious of fashion, etc.? Be specific.)
What do you do with clothes you don't want anymore?
7. What types of things do you recycle and why? (example: to claim deposit, for environmental reasons)
Survey written by Ann Gouldin, High School Senior 1990
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