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Social scientists say that giving a commitment to something changes the way a person perceives themselves. This can be utilized in a positive way to encourage people to engage in the desired behavior. Human nature also desires consistency, so once a person commits to something they are more likely to follow through.

It is good to actively involve the person in an activity because they will have a vested interest and will more likely follow through on their commitment. Like the "I voted" sticker, an example of commitment would be to have folks wear a sticker, button or temporary tattoo that says "I compost" or "I recycle."

To influence people to continue practicing a behavior, have them commit to the behavior. Whether verbal or written, a commitment is a powerful thing.

Agreeing to a small commitment often leads to agreement of a bigger commitment.

Consider, when giving a presentation, asking if everyone there will recycle later that night, the next week, month or even year. You can simply have people raise their hands – everyone will want to feel they're a part of the group.

Written commitments are more effective than verbal commitments.

Example of a pledge to recycle

You can also have people sign a "Promise to Recycle" pledge which they can take with them to remember their commitment.

Commitment made by a group can also be effective.

College resident assistants can have their dorms commit to recycling as a group. The entire dorm or campus can become involved in a competition to see which group can recycle the most.

A block leader can encourage recycling by obtaining verbal commitments from the neighbors. This has been shown to be an effective method at increasing recycling rates.

Help people see themselves as environmentally friendly in their commitment. They will feel good about what they are doing, and it will help encourage other environmentally friendly behaviors.

Muriel, from Orange County, N.C., talks about publicly recognizing businesses that recycle. The businesses that do recycle are listed in the newspaper.