This project will reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable behavior change at the University of Washington through community-based social marketing (CBSM) in support of Zimride, an online ridesharing system. The project is being developed and carried out by a team of graduate students through the Program on the Environment’s Environmental Management Certificate. The outcomes of the project will provide valuable information for ongoing implementation of the rideshare program, as well as insight into applying CBSM to achieve additional forms of sustainable behavior change within the UW community.
Define the campus environmental problem that you are attempting to solve:
In 2007, the UW became a founding signatory to the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment, pledging to work toward carbon neutrality and sustainability. This led to publishing a Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2009, outlining the broad goals and three strategies to achieve these commitments, including adopting better technology, purchasing carbon offsets, and changing behavior. The University has already implemented a variety of CAP recommendations, but further action is needed to achieve carbon neutrality and sustainability goals.
The UW CAP identifies transportation as the area with the greatest potential for reducing carbon emissions through behavior change. In particular, commuting contributes the equivalent of over 50,000 million grams of CO2 each year. Single occupancy vehicle (SOV) commuting is responsible for a large share of commuting emissions. Among the UW-Seattle campus community alone, 21% of all community members (11,480) commute by SOV; this breaks down to 34% of staff (4,632), 47% of faculty (2,625) and 12% of students (4,223). At UW-Tacoma and UW-Bothell, the proportion of SOV commute trips is much higher, with 59% and 67% of those campus communities traveling by SOV, respectively.
For many years, the University has made progress reducing the number of SOV commute trips at all campuses, in large part by promoting the use of public transit. However, system capacity and budget realities constrain the transit system’s potential as an alternative for all SOV commute trips. In order to make further progress, additional options for commuters are vitally needed.
Describe your proposed solution to the problem:
With only 4%-12% of all UW commuters currently utilizing ridesharing, there is considerable room for the University to encourage and expand this commute alternative. This project will launch Zimride, a new ridesharing program, on behalf of the Office of Transportation Services and will use community-based social marketing (CBSM) to promote the use of Zimride to reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable behavior change at the University of Washington. Zimride is a ridesharing system that helps organizations establish easy to use, private, social networks for ridesharing. It has been used by over 40 academic institutions, including a recent introduction at the UW Bothell campus. With an online platform that is integrated with social media, Zimride has the potential to greatly increase the number of students, faculty, and staff using ridesharing as a commuting option.
The goals of our project are:
1) Use CBSM to reduce SOV trips by influencing staff, students and faculty to participate in the Zimride rideshare program, and,
2) Provide valuable information for ongoing implementation of the rideshare program, as well as insight into applying CBSM to achieve additional forms of sustainable behavior change within the UW community.
We can achieve these goals by accomplishing the following objectives:
Identify barriers to and benefits of ridesharing among the target population;
Design and implement an innovative CBSM approach based on best practices that uses the convenience of an online interface and the normative power of social networks to foster sustainable behavior;
Increase Zimride participation (i.e. signing up, actively seeking/offering rides, and successfully ridesharing) among the target population;
Evaluate the effectiveness of CBSM and compare impacts across segments of the target population.
What form and amount of student leadership will your project involve?:
This project is being developed and carried out by a team of seven graduate students from the Evans School of Public Affairs through the Program on the Environment’s Environmental Management Certificate. The team is leading the design and implementation of all aspects of this project, from conducting focus groups with representatives of the target populations to inform social marketing campaign design, to working with Zimride to customize the user interface for the UW community.
What type and amount of outreach and education will your project involve?:
This project uses community-based social marketing (CBSM) to promote sustainable behavior. The rationale for CBSM lies within a critical analysis of alternative strategies for influencing behavior. Existing research reveals:
Information, education, and awareness strategies alone are proven to be ineffective at leading to behavior change related to sustainability. Lack of information, in other words, is not the primary barrier to behavior change, and, conversely, providing more information is not the solution.
Economic and self-interest strategies are also not always effective in changing behavior. In other words, and as we know from economics, people don’t always behave rationally.
In contrast, CBSM has been shown to be effective at bringing about behavior change for sustainability. The common “toolbox” of CBSM includes: getting participants to commit to change their behavior; developing prompts and appealing to community norms to sustain behavior change; implementing targeted, evidence-based communication strategies; and providing carefully constructed incentives.
This project will use information gathered through focus groups and surveys to develop a CBSM strategy. We anticipate preparing multiple tools, which we will implement across different segments of the target population. Because CBSM is inherently about social connections, we believe that engaging representatives from various communities within the target population will be integral for successful CBSM implementation. We will develop this approach more fully in the coming weeks.
What amount of funds do you anticipate your project will require from the CSF?:
Because we plan on developing our specific CBSM strategy in response to our findings from the focus groups, it is difficult to estimate how much our chosen CBSM approaches will cost. Given the uncertainty, however, we anticipate that project costs for any possible approaches will be less than $2,500. The bulk of this funding would go toward specific CBSM expenses, such as the use of publicity materials (posters, pins, car decals) to prompt and remind people to use Zimride, or for financial incentives and rewards. Purchasing the materials to market-test various CBSM approaches will help us identify the most effective approaches, reducing the costs of taking CBSM strategies to scale in future projects to effect lasting behavior change for sustainability at the University of Washington.