Why does Etsy’s CEO get involved in petty details, like trash collection in the office?

From small gestures culture is grown

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Christian Bisbo Johnsen

I was reading a few pieces about Etsy (getting some background for a chat with CEO Chad Dickerson re: the C2 Montreal conference where I’m a guest curator), and I stumbled across this by Jillian D’Onfro about why Etsy got rid of individual, one-under-every-desk trash cans:

Jillian D’Onfro, How Getting Rid Of Individual Trash Cans Changed E-Commerce Company Etsy’s Culture

By getting rid of individual garbage cans and instead creating communal trash stations with individual recycling, compost, and landfill sections, Etsy’s waste dropped 18%, while its compost rate jumped 300% and its recycling rate went up 20%.

Besides those obvious environmental benefits, employees now have more spontaneous interactions, too.

“I have more random conversations while sorting waste than anywhere else,” Dickerson told Business Insider. “The waste stations are like Etsy’s water-coolers.”

This story — despite its obvious eco-savings thread — reminds me of the Ed Catmull anecdote of deciding to make the folks cooking food at Pixar full-time employees, because it sends signals about what the company is all about to everyone who eats there.

So these small details — which however may actually have tangible and positive benefits — could have been overlooked on a financial basis because in the end they’re immaterial to the company’s bottom line. But these CEOs know — and act on the knowledge — that from small gestures culture is grown.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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