Vermilion Public Engagement Campaign

The Town of Vermilion was rolling out a new approach to waste management, and it was time to involve the community.

The success of Vermilion’s new curbside program depended on whether community members would buy into the change. How could the town interest and educate residents, encouraging them to take part? 

The answer – public engagement.

Many materials sent to the landfill have value. We needed to explain the financial and environmental costs of throwing away material that could be used again. We also wanted to inspire residents to change their habits and take full advantage of the blue bag and black cart service. Understanding benefits and costs related to the service, as well as what materials were included, would further encourage participation. For this project, S-Cubed brought together a strong multi-disciplinary team with experience in: 

  • Waste management planning and program implementation
  • Community engagement, social marketing and education
  • Communication and design. 

This full public engagement campaign involved a number of elements.

Element 1 – Visual Identity

S-Cubed has found people are more willing to accept change when information is presented in a light-hearted way. Incorporating a friendly feel was an important part of the public engagement campaign. 

S-Cubed worked with Tilt & Tweak Creative Strategies to develop an icon and tagline to help community members to recognize Vermilion’s waste management services.  

The design of the icon incorporated colours and concepts reflecting different waste streams and a healthy environment, which also complemented Vermilion’s existing town branding.

The design process involved meeting with Vermilion representatives in person. This also gave the S-Cubed team a chance to engage with the community before the public engagement began, enabling us to better understand systems already in place and establishing a network of stakeholders who would support the change.  

Element 2 – Engagement Events

Working hand-in-hand with Vermilion staff, S-Cubed identified multiple locations and events where our Green Team could pop up to meet community members. Our travelling display helped us to discuss waste management and explain the new system in detail. 

Element 3 – Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM)

Effective public engagement does not assume that people will adopt a behaviour simply because they understand it or think that it is a good idea. Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) uses techniques based on behavioural psychology to foster change. This strategy was integrated into all public engagement activities, as it is key to the success of a program launch. Our team included Beyond Attitude, a Canadian expert in this strategy.

Element 4 – Educational Materials

Campaign materials featuring the Waste Matters colours and branding included display posters, ads on social media and in direct mailings, maps and brochures, and even temporary tattoos. 

With permission from Metro Vancouver, we bounced off their Hey Food Isn’t Garbage concept to create our ‘dreamers’ – recycled or organic materials that imagine returning in a new form.

 Along with brochures and how-to guides,  support materials included a dedicated website page and a resource guide which linked to curriculum content which could be used in classrooms.

Element 5 – A Two-Way Conversation

A key goal was to establish two-way communication with residents, and we did so in a number of ways. During Green Team pop-up sessions, we involved community members in conversations about their opinions on and experiences with the recycling program to find out how it was working for them. Once we discussed how to remove barriers, the Green Team Member would ask the resident to start recycling, and most agreed. Later in the engagement program, the Green Team began to inform residents about upcoming changes to the garbage program. Residents were encouraged to subscribe to the Waste Matters e-newsletter, and often did so as we spoke with them.

Green Team members also asked community members to complete a survey, which gave us more information about engagement results and next steps.


At the end of the engagement, S-Cubed Environmental supplied a technical memo about strategies and outcomes, as well as recommendations on which communication tools are most effective and how to implement future public consultations. We learned which events and situations were most effective in engaging residents, and reasons why people were hesitant to make changes. The most common reason for not recycling was a lack of information, either in how to do it or when. Few people were opposed.

S-Cubed Environmental’s team develops behaviour change strategies and effective educational tools to help effectively engage and involve stakeholders.

What can S-Cubed do for you?

Learn more about past sustainability strategies, waste audits and reporting, environmental education and public engagement projects.

Stacey was a pleasure to work with. She was flexible and found innovative ways to work with us and make the project a custom fit for our municipality. The audit was done diligently, quickly, thoroughly and professionally. Stacey and her team were well prepared and gave me the ease of mind that the project was in good hands and would be done well.

Andy Tchir

Environment and Sustainability Coordinator, Town of Devon