This presentation was designed for attendees at the Oakland NewCo Festival and gives an overview of the theory and practice of environmental outreach to the public and the framework for behavior change.
Good morning! Thanks for choosing to visit Gigantic Idea Studio. Before I launch into talking a lot about us and what we do, I’d like to learn more about you all. It helps me connect to you as fellow humans—and as we’ll see as we share more about our work, it’s this connection that fosters meaningful change. I’d like to know your first name and what your favorite movie is. I’ll go first. Well, I’m Lisa, and my favorite movie of all time (and I define this as a comfort movie, one that I’ve watched over and over) is Star Wars. Ok. How about you start us off….(point to someone in the room)
Thanks! Now let me tell you more about Gigantic Idea Studio, and the practice of behavior change for the environment.
Gigantic Idea Studio is a firm specializing in the promotion of environmental programs and behaviors. We pride ourselves on connecting creativity and strategy to design outreach for a healthy planet.
Gigantic is a mission driven company, and I’d like to share what inspired our founding. My first job after moving here in the mid-90s was a freelance assignment to visit a landfill, write an article, interview staff, and take some photos (my background is in design, photography and writing). Before this I’d never given a second thought to garbage or where it goes. What I saw shocked me a bit. The system our advanced society has created for handling waste (basically dig a hole, line the hole…fill it up and let it sit)—seemed well, wasteful! There were so many recognizable, usable items in the pile of discards, not to mention the raw materials with economic value, things like—metals and paper— that our products are made from. When I did give a thought to landfills, I always believed, like so many others, that waste in landfills eventually dissolved away. But it turns out, even biodegradeable items, like the lettuce shown here, don’t fully biodegrade in landfills. In the 1970s & 80s, a Garbologist named William Rathje began excavating landfills and found food items like 40-50 years old hot dogs!. This lettuce had been in the Fresh Kills landfill in New York, for 25 years!
It seemed to me there must be a better way. I and realized I could use my skills to support efforts to keep our air, water and land healthy with effective communications and outreach.
But I haven’t done this alone—there is a stellar team here at Gigantic—[Introduce Team] NYT 1992 article: But the hands-down winner, the one that still makes him shake his head in disbelief, is an order of guacamole he recently unearthed. Almost as good as new, it sat next to a newspaper apparently thrown out the same day. The date was 1967.
I’ll begin sharing what we do here with something for Throwback Thursday: We helped promote some of the very first curbside recycling programs in California, in the mid-90s—fostering a major societal behavior change in terms of how the Bay Area residents handled their trash, requiring separation and sorting. This is from Albany CA, just north of Berkeley. These were also the days of 2-color printing, hand-drawn art!
Recycling turned out to be a 1990s “gateway drug”…not only for me, but for our culture as well. As recycling became a household word, “Green” and “Sustainability” became mainstream concepts in the 2000s, and a serious part of doing business for many forward-thinking enterprises. Environmental consciousness was higher than any point since the movement’s beginnings in the 1960s.
Since the start of recycling programs, environmental research grew and began to tell an urgent story---that human emissions have altered the climate—there is a big swirling plastic garbage patch in the ocean the size of Texas. And the fields of social psychology and behavioral science began to do some serious research on how to apply their knowledge specifically on how to foster sustainable behavior.
Fast forward to today, and we’ve changed and grown, Gigantically, with both our by utilizing the latest research on behavior change in our work, and by working on other pressing environmental topics—such as water pollution, litter, used oil recycling.
These are some of our clients…Most are public agencies and non-profits whose missions include reducing waste and preventing water pollution.
Here is a a current project for a Bay Area agency called the Clean Water Program Alameda County. This is digital photo mosaic, where each of these little squares is an idividual photo of someone making a pledge to stop litter, and always use the garbage and recycling cans. If you zoom in you can see the photo in detail. This project combined social media and advertising with behavior change strategies such as gathering pledges, known as commitments in behavioral science, and person-to-person outreach. We’ll learn more about commitments and how they work to change behavior a little later in the presentation.
What is social marketing? No, it isn’t Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest….
Social Marketing is the original name for marketing designed to change behavior.
Let’s take an example, using kid’s toothpaste.
Now this Dora the Explorer toothpaste is cleverly designed to appeal to its target market. Pretty easy to catch the eye of a 3-5 year and make them beg their Mom to buy it!
Contrast that with getting them to brush their teeth—much harder, and as I can attest it’s a daily battle, even with older kids. My son, Jackson is 9, and brushing his teeth is the only thing he does fast, because he doesn’t want to do it. So every day I’m confronted with the decision to make it a battle or not.
Changing behavior can be more challenging than selling a product. Rewards are often intangible. It’s the difference between fostering one-time switch vs. recurring actions.
Commercial Marketing: Trying to persuade people to change brands. Behavior already exists. Mass media, branding are often enough.
Social Marketing: Trying to persuade people to change their behavior. Usually many more barriers than with commercial marketing. Mass media almost never enough.
Now back to my daily brushing battles with Jackson. One day, after I told him for the umpteenth time to go back and brush longer he said, “Mom, I how do I know it’s two minutes?! Dustin has a toothbrush that plays a song and when it’s over he knows he can stop brushing.”
So this is a nice example of business offering a product that addresses a health behavior, and gains a marketing edge in the process. By offering a toothbrush that plays a two minute tune, it offers kids and stressed out parents an easy way to get to the two minute mark without the daily argument about brushing teeth. Maybe not the most sustainable solution, but it illustrates how business can use behavior change strategies.
In behavioral science, this is called a prompt. Something that reminds you –at the time of action—to do what you need to do.
Although behavior change for the environment is a specialized field, on it’s basic level, it also has much in common with the how new product innovations are adopted by consumers.
In the next section, we’ll discuss some tools and frameworks of behavior change marketing that works for environmental outreach – and applies to you, as well.
Truly making an impact whether reducing emissions, increasing recycling, or introducing a new product that saves energy—takes a combination of program or product design, as well as marketing and messaging. Like any product innovation, your success depends on the design of a good solution---whether you’ve got a new app or device or are starting a recycling program. Your solution must be human-centered, and use behavioral insights. All the best marketing or communication in the world can’t get over what we in behavior change call “structural barriers” For instance, don’t expect littering to decrease if there are no garbage cans, or a product to succeed if users can’t figure out how to use it.
Such was the case with the first generation of programmable thermostats.
Touted as the answer to energy savings, evaluations revealed that actual energy savings for these devices often fell short of promises. ENERGY STAR® to suspended labeling programmable thermostats in 2009, citing that the device itself does not save energy, but instead, actual energy savings depend on user behaviors.
According to “How People Actually Use Thermostats”, (2012) 89% of survey respondents reported that they rarely or never adjusted the thermostat to set a weekend or weekday program. 54% of respondents report using the on/off within the last week, suggesting that many users treat programmable thermostats like manual thermostats.
From ACEEE study
Does anyone know where these photos were taken?
These photos show the same event – the election of the Catholic Pope – 8 years apart. During that time, a new innovation came to be widely adopted. This process of behavior adoption can be predicted by a few key behavior change strategic tools.
One of the models we use to design campaign strategies is from a theory called “Diffusion of Innovations.” This theory was developed by communications professor Everett Rogers and goes back to the 60s. It seeks to explain how an innovation – a new idea, technology or simply a behavior – spreads and gets adopted.
In his theory, Rogers proposes that there are stages through which people move when adopting a new idea, technology, or in this case, behavior. They are awareness, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation.
In our work, we find the use of persuasion strategies get the least attention, or is done in a way that doesn’t support what we know about why and how people change.
How do you persuade?
Decisions are based on Attitudes, Values, past Behaviors, and Priorities – we know that facts are not enough to change behavior.
Especially in environmental outreach too many facts—especially facts about seemingly insurmountable changes such melting icebergs or disappearing coral reefs for example—can overwhelm people and lead to inaction.
It doesn’t work in commercial marketing either, you know that Coke or Pepsi, don’t sell their product by listing the ingredients. They sell perception of experience and use branding to persuade.
Best practices in communication includes an appeal to the whole person – the head, the heart, and the need to act. Facts are important, but they need support. Emotional appeals—used by product marketing and storytelling, a common tool in our multi-media world, are some of the ways we try to persuade people to act.
It’s great to understand how an individual moves through adoption of a behavior, but how do innovations move through our society?
You may recognize this from marketing 101 This is another insight by Everett Rogers who brought us the Diffusion of Innovations stages. The bell curve in this chart represents how all groups roughly break down in regards to the adoption of an innovation, i.e. a new product or behavior
To make change on a large enough scale to matter, whether your looking to affect Carbon PPM or increasing revenues, we need to move the majority after bringing on board the innovators and early adopters—because change starts there—but it shouldn’t stop there. How do we do this?
In green behavior change, we are frequently concerned with “re-framing” a behavior that seems weird, such as separating your trash or composting food waste. This ad from Renault showcases how reframing makes a new, eco-friendly product feel “safe” and “normal”
RENAULT ad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q24UxF-6ns&list=PLn1xiSWksiiYiCPy4FUAR1HCADBuiPRVb&index=24
Another way of looking at reframing is norming. It can be helpful to move the majority—that large portion of our society---or your target market—that are not risk takers, they don’t want to stick out. In general, people are more likely to do what others around them are doing. In seeing that your neighbors have adopted a behavior, you are more likely to adopt it, too.
Apple is a good example. My uncles and aunts from suburban Chicago used to roll their eyes at me for owning a Mac because they saw it as weird and a little bit snobby. Now they all have ipads, iphones and some macbooks or ilmacs.
This is where our practice uses some additional techniques and tactics specific to behavior change. But again, many of these can be applied to business, especially in when designing new products, developing branding, and creating customer loyalty.
CBSM introduction, cite McKenzie-Mohr
CBSM takes a social science approach to behavior change. So, we need to begin by isolating the behavior. We see in the Bay Area many pleas to “Recycle Food Scraps” in the green cart. But Dr. McKenzie-Mohr says each different food item may have a different challenge to overcome. Our team developed this video to use in a multi-touch campaign in the City of Livermore, that focuses on just one item: Pizza boxes. Surveys of recycling and organics carts found this to be a commonly misunderstood item, and gave a concise clear cut call to action.
The next step is to use research to identify why someone might change their behavior—what’s a benefit? And what might prevent them from doing so—a barrier.
Let’s take Food Scrap recycling as an example—what are benefits? Whar are barriers?
Once you understand the barriers and benefits, you can start identifying tactics to promote benefits and address barriers. Dr. Wesley Shultz quantified various tactics in terms of the amount of actual, measurable change observed.
This chart shows the level of effectiveness in terms of reach and behavior change of various tactics. In person outreach has the highest rate of change, but lowest reach. Alternatively, mass media has a high reach but low effectiveness of behavior change.
Still good to support the message with mass media, especially in the awareness phase of the diffusion of innovations..
From research done by Wes Schultz.
Since it was determined to be so effective, we’re going to close out the presentation with some examples of how behavior change uses personal contact. Although specific to our work, these might apply in your work too.
Supporting the decision making stage: Public commitments work because after agreeing to do something in public, a person is more likely to want to be seen as acting consistently with that commitment. Commitments induce a positive self-perception that helps solidify an individual’s decision to act.
Another —behavior change specific strategy that uses personal contact, which is also used by political organizers, is door to door outreach.
Reference Evaluation by Lisa Schumatz, another behavior change researcher, quantified results from a Colorado recycling program that used Block Leader volunteers to visit neighbors. The block leaders went door to door to explain the program in person. These test areas also received a direct mail brochure. When compared to blocks that only received a brochure in the mail, the door-to-door outreach yielded 33% more recyclables collected, and a participation rate 3x higher.
For businesses looking to engage employees on sustainability initiatives, having green teams talk to co-workers can be a great way to foster change in the workplace.
Another in-person tactic is event outreach.
Event outreach can leverage person to person with educational games run by trained outreach staff.
Our team created a three cart game for Oakland Recycles to promote composting and recycling behaviors.
The game works with our senses. It begins with a noisy and attention getting prize wheel. The prize wheel lands on a photo of a common discard and the player must find that game piece and walk over and determine which is the proper cart to use. We coach players as needed and encourage them to look for clues under the lids. The player is engaged kinetically by taking the item, recognizing what it is and physically placing it in the right cart. This aids recall when they are back at home and encounter the same item.
Players constantly leave the game and say “I learned something today!”
So where does this leave us 20 years later? In the waste sector, California has increased diversion from 28% to 65%...but there are still pressing issues, including overall consumption/disposal increasing, and other environmental issues—pollution and climate change being the most pressing. If we can use insights from human psychology, not just data…and work smartly to change behavior and promote innovations that make a difference, we can make progress. Hopefully more of us will use these practices to help support the health of our environment. After all, it supports us!
Here’s how you can reach us if you’d like to connect. Sign up for our blog on our website, for more tips and stories. Also, follow us on Twitter, like our Facebook page, and see our videos on Youtube.
Next we’ll dedicate some time for questions, or share a challenge you may be facing in your work that these techniques might address, and we can brainstorm some solutions for you.
Gigantic idea Studio - Intro to Environmental Outreach