Welcome to Green Gal's blog, where you'll find stories, recipes, gardening updates, and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems. This blog is written by a young woman entrepreneur who is also a beginning farmer-gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

CHESC 2012 Take-Aways - Behavior Change

A few hours ago, I returned home from the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference at UC Davis (click here to read others previous posts I've published about the conference). My notebook has 10 pages, front and back, filled with ideas, best practices, reminders, and contact information from others who attended the conference, which brings together students, staff, and faculty from higher education institutions (and others who work with higher education) throughout California. I attended the conference because I work in the Sustainability Office at UC Santa Cruz, and next year I will be leading a team focused on Education & Outreach to our campus community regarding not only the work our office does, but also the work of the sustainability community at UCSC in general. This year, I've worked on developing our monthly newsletter, our new student-written blog, and our growing Facebook page, and next year the team will continue to work on these outlets as well as use the communications plan written by this past year's team leader to learn and implement more ideas for ways to engage students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members throughout the Santa Cruz area.

That being said, it's no wonder that I chose the kinds of workshops and sessions that I did; I was striving to gain some know-how on sustainability specific marketing and outreach, but more specifically, I wanted to learn what others are doing in the arena of behavior change and what they have found to be a challenge, as well as what has worked well for them. Thus, I'm devoting this take-aways post to behavior change because it is so important to the work that I'm hoping to do next year. Here are some descriptions of what I took away from the conference regarding behavior change:

Identify What People Jive With
In my previous post about the conference, I talked about helping others identify their role in sustainable practices, both as an individual and in their job or area of study. When talking with them about the importance of sustainability, it's important to recognize that they're busy like everyone else and they want to hear how they can easily make changes that won't disrupt everything. While some of us want them to disrupt everything and make big changes, sometimes you have to start small for people to get on-board with sustainability. Finding ways that they can implement sustainability that makes sense and which seems naturally part of their job description is a good first step.

With this though, is something that a student I met today from UC Davis brought up. He asked me what got me interested in sustainability and what keeps me interested. I realized how vital that question is to understanding behavior change, and I remember my mentor asking me this question earlier this year before she gave a presentation to a class about behavior change. It's a great question because it's essentially asking "what changed your behavior?"

Everyone in the sustainability community has something that got them interested in sustainability, whether it's because they grew up with parents interested in it, or because they love the science of it, or because they have a place in their hearts that they think of and want to protect, or because it's simply the right thing to do--but for some people, it might be because they took a class, watched a video, read a book. I want to find those people who discovered the value of thinking about sustainability from really clear experiences and identify how those experiences worked to really make a difference. In other words, what really jives with people? It's certainly not the same thing for everyone, but perhaps there are patterns. Now I'm sounding like a psychology student, and that reaffirms for me how much great work could come from partnering with psychology students who study these kinds of things. Any UCSC psych majors out there looking to partner? Send me an email please! So now I have to ask my readers: why are you interested in sustainability? and if you aren't interested in sustainability, what do you love about this planet or about this life or your community, and where do the foundational values of sustainability fit into that world? Can sustainability make your life better, or make your community cleaner, or your family and friends safer? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Next steps: Start asking people questions and look for patterns. Look at what works, such as Mr. Eco from Cal Poly SLO (you have got to watch his videos if you haven't), the behavior change campaigns that have taken place in staff offices on various campuses, and making sustainability cool, which many schools seem to be good at doing through creating culture symbols (catch phrases on bags, green superhero mascots, polar bears, etc.).

Research Results from UC Berkeley Worth Sharing
I attended a session called "Change the Default: Using Social Marketing Research to Promote Behavior Change Campaigns," and aside from the Student Convergence and the "Campus ad Community-Wide Communication Strategies" sessions, this one had the most take-aways for me. Here are some of the research results they presented:
  • Telling people what not to do is more effective than telling them what to do
    • Don't walk through the landscape restoration area, for example, rather than Please stay on the trail
  • Highlight losses as a result of inaction, rather than gains as a result of action
    • You will lose this much money if you do not change your lightbulbs, for example, rather than You will save this much money if you do change your lightbulbs
  • Telling people that others are doing something, so they should too is effective. It's all about social norms and creating community action.
  • Don't rely on fear because people simply distance themselves from bad news
  • Foster internal motives, rather than create external incentives because once those incentives eventually go away, the motivation goes away, too
  • Beware of "totem behaviors," where people choose one sustainable action and do that only, thinking they are then totally sustainable and don't have to do anything else
  • Develop social norms by showing what you want to happen, not what you don't want to happen
  • Find the right place and time, including time of the year and media/location of where you're advertising your behavior change campaign
  • Change the default so that people don't even have to think about the change necessarily: double-sided printing, placing organic foods at eye-level, etc.
  • Frame your situation. This can come in many forms, such as making it fun, formatting your email or poster in particular ways, etc.
  • Give something back, such as cash rewards in contests, candy, etc., but going back to the incentives issue, it cannot be the only thing that gets them to make the changes
  • Don't be too dramatic and know your audience
Speaking of knowing your audience, the one really clear thing that stuck out to me from this was the notion that in order to truly know your audience, you have to observe them in person living their lives. Surveys are great to get a general sense of people's reactions to things, but to truly know whether they are actually making changes in their behavior, we have to go observe them. There were a lot of other things that came up during this session and I will post their powerpoint notes to my blog once they're up on the CHESC website.

Other great ideas and where they came from
  • For energy competitions, using colored indicators of how each dorm is doing (green, yellow, red) - Cal Poly SLO
  • Keeping the momentum up during contests and competitions through sub-competitions, mini-contests at the end for those who clearly will not win the big prize, and constant reminders about the contest and the prizes - Cal Poly SLO
  • Collaboration with housing to get involved during student orientation is a great way to engage freshman, but the key is planning ahead and being prepared and flexible - Cal Poly SLO
  • Collaborate with other student groups on campus to pool resources, ideas, and build on strengths - UC Santa Barbara Plastic Pollution Coalition
  • Using consistent signage, mascots, phrases, outreach times, etc. - Cal Poly SLO and UC Santa Barbara
There's so much more in my notes that it's almost overwhelming, but I think these are the main behavior change/education and outreach topics that struck me during the past week. Hopefully these are useful to you as ways to better your outreach to your campus or community.

Thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

--Green Gal

P.S. All the photos are from my backyard garden, which was planted by my sister and mom. A full album of photos can be found on the Green Gal Facebook page here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

California Higher Education Sustainability Conference 2012: Key Note and Collaboration

It's already Wednesday, and I just haven't had the time to update the blog since Monday, which fortunately means I've been busy exploring the opportunities of the conference and the campus! I've attended many workshops, learned some great take-aways, and have spent some time exploring the UC Davis campus. For now, I'll take a step back and return to Monday evening's activities, and later this week, I'll write about the workshops I've attended.

The California Higher Education Sustainability Conference kicked off Monday night with keynote speaker Dr. Mitchell Thomashow, who spoke about the Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus. Click here for a written document about the nine elements, or watch a video from a different event on the same topic, below:

One of the major take-aways that I learned from his keynote address was that "How we act is how we live," meaning that the ways in which we live day to day make up our life, not the things we think or the things we tell others or ourselves. This is a pretty obvious statement, but it's important to remember that for a university to consider itself environmentally responsible or "sustainable," the students, staff, faculty, and administrators have to understand basically why sustainability is important, and they should be living this way and encouraging others to live with sustainability in mind. This interpretation isn't necessarily what Dr. Thomashow said, but it's how I'm understanding its relevancy to my own experiences.
Catchy, awesome sign at UC Davis encouraging people to bring their own reusable bags.
Essentially, know your own individual self and how you live before you work on trying to educate others on how to live. Be conscious of how others live, how they act, how they fit into sustainability. As a university or organization, the way we act and not just what we say or teach others in a classroom is how we live and influence our ability to lead fulfilled lives. I suppose in other words, this means Be the Change You Wish to See in the World... but also help others be part of that change and find their purposeful role.
Being the Change can mean riding your bike... and encouraging others to join you!
Dr. Thomashow also spoke about how he used to ride his bike around campus when he was the President at Unity College in Maine and how he would encourage others to bike ride with him. He was able to have time outside during the middle of his busy work day, to relieve stress, and to use his time to interact with students, staff, faculty and others who were interested in spending time with him outside of an office. If he could ride his bike at lunch, so could others, especially students and those younger than him. He also made change happen at the university, and he lived what he believed in. For example, the President's house at Unity College is the only LEED certified home of a college president in the country, and it exists because Dr. Thomashow saw an opportunity to create a landmark for his campus that was not only a draw for donors and visitors to find Unity College unique, but it also was practical in that it saved energy and money and clearly aligned the role of President of the university with sustainability. Visitors to the campus would ask for tours of his home, and he and his wife would give them, even on a Sunday morning. How you act is how you live. It's also how you represent yourself and if you represent an insititution, how that institution is reflected to the watching world--because when you work in the sustainability world and for a sustainable world, many people have their eyes on you, waiting for a chance to call you a hypocrite. To combat that, be truly committed to the cause in your every day actions. As my grandfather said, "You're always being interviewed."
My friend and coworker Tan putting his leftover peach in the compost bin. Nice job on doing the right thing, Tan.
Additionally, Thomashow encouraged us to ask the hard questions that really get to the root of things in the different nine elements of a sustainable campus. Where does my food really come from? How does it get here? What is this pen we're using made of? Can we do it a better way? How do I fit into sustainability? With this question in particular is the need to integrate sustainability into everything and everyone's roles. Add it to job descriptions without it being superfluous--everyone does have a role related to sustainability, and it's all about identifying it and making it purposeful and clear so that everyone understands their role and feels valued in their contributions to sustainability, even if their job description appears far from these issues. There's a place for making sustainable choices in all of our lives. How does it fit into yours? How does it fit into your workplace? Your education?
Conversations, sharing of ideas, and presenting on Green Funding bodies at the World Cafe discussion on Wednesday afternoon. Elissa from UCSC's Carbon Fund facilitated one of the tables, and Tan and I went to support her as friends, fellow Carbon Fund members, and Sustainability Office coworkers.
Finally, I want to finish this post on a vastly important and complex topic that has been continually growing in my peripheral vision this year working with sustainability at UCSC and which has become part of my central vision at this conference: Collaboration. The last note that I wrote down in my notebook Monday night says "Art imparts understanding." To me, that means more than just the ability for art to share something that a blog post or a lecture on climate change cannot do. It also means collaboration, academic integration, bridging gaps, bringing students in from departments seemingly in another solar system from sustainability, which typically people think belongs to environmental studies.

Art imparts understanding, and artistic collaboration imparts even further understanding of the way our world works, how sustainability can work, how we as humans can work together and really make things happen. I am craving more discussion and implementation of collaboration and ideas for how to do this at UCSC and in my life as a literature major who frickin' loves this planet (ask anyone who I spent time talking to at this conference, this combination and what I am to make of it is both exciting and challenging).
Davis's Downtown Picnic in the Park Wednesday evening
As my friend and coworker Tan mentioned yesterday, "We live with people." We cannot continue to just work alone on our projects. People are the ones we interact with, not simply numbers or trees or frogs or HVAC systems (yeah, I picked up some Energy Manager lingo!). People get things done in our society, and not just the type of people you work with right now. By people, I mean people you don't know and people you know who do things you think don't relate to sustainability. You have to know how to work with people... they're always going to be there (unless we don't do our jobs right as advocates for the planet, that is), and it's time to stop working in our offices and classrooms separately, thinking only about one subject, or maybe two, but never about those subjects across campus, where different parts of our brains are used to solve problems that we think we should just let other people figure out (what's statistics?). I want to work on projects where people hold hands across campus, reaching Art, Theater, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, Marketing, Literature, all of the Ethnic Studies programs, History, and all of the other non-science departments containing students and faculty who have the skills that we need to create meaningful, informed change that isn't blindly searching for the way, but which is lighting all of the candles along the hall (beeswax sustainable candles, of course) and recognizing resources, allies, partners, and most importantly, the purpose and beautiful work of collaborating with people on your campus, in your life, wherever your sustainable ship sails.

What are you thinking about right now after reading this? Am I crazy? Are you crazy for thinking this is crazy? What are we going to do about these issues, and what are your experiences? I want to know!

Thanks for reading! Look out for more photos and discussion about the CHESC conference later this week.

--Green Gal

Monday, June 18, 2012

California Higher Education Sustainability Conference 2012: Day 1

Earlier today, I arrived at the UC Davis campus for the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference. It's a week-long conference focusing on sustainability at the university/college level, and participants include students and staff from throughout California.  According to the website,
"The California Higher Education Sustainability Conference highlights cutting-edge research, as well as case studies with proven successes in curriculum development, operational programs, and community partnerships. This unique event is jointly organized by independent/private colleges, California Community Colleges, California State Universities, and the University of California creating the opportunity for dialogue across institutions. The University of California, Davis envisions hosting a conference that deepens connections among sustainability practitioners, academic and adminitrative, across all sectors of high education, utilizing the Davis Campus as a living laboratory demonstration site for the conference."
 As a student actively involved in campus sustainability at UC Santa Cruz, I am excited to spend the week learning from other universities and building connections with other students, as well as staff, who are working on sustainability at their campuses. For those who are new to my blog (and because I haven't updated the blog in awhile), I worked a lot this year on developing the UC Santa Cruz Sustainability Office newsletter, and next year I will be leading an Education & Outreach Team to raise awareness and support for the UCSC Campus Sustainability Office and for sustainability on the campus in general. This week, I hope to meet some students working on similar projects at their schools, and I hope to learn from the case studies about not only how to reach out to students on my own campus, but also how to reach out to students at other universities and find ways to learn from each other and support the innovative projects taking place beyond this week's conference.

Here are some of the interesting sustainability related things I've seen so far today. I will continue to post photos throughout the week. Enjoy!

The landfill one is really striking... great way to remind folks where their trash goes and to consider if it can be composted or recycled.

Thoughts? Post them in the comments.
Thanks for reading!

-- Green Gal

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