Identifying Effective Communication to Promote Composting

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $11,558

Letter of Intent:

Define the campus environmental problem that you are attempting to solve:

The University’s Climate Action Plan identifies the importance of waste reduction in order to reduce green house gases. One area of interest is promoting food composting. In recent years, the availability of composting bins has increased on campus; yet, it you look inside a bin it is obvious that there is confusion about composting. Many items that are not compostable end up in the compost bin and many items that are compostable end up in the garbage. The main problem is that people are not using compost bins appropriately.

Describe your proposed solution to this problem:

We are interested in using signs as a communication method to promote the appropriate use of compost bins – this requires changing an individual’s behavior. Changing an individual’s behavior is essential to achieving a sustainable future. UW’s Climate Action Plan reflects the importance of behavior change, stating that about 20% of the necessary green house gas reductions are planned to be achieved through behavior change. Changing an individual’s behavior can influence the desired goal of increasing the appropriate use of compost bins and reducing waste.

We propose to work on engaging students, faculty, and staff to foster composting by using community-based social marketing. Community-based social marketing has been shown to be effective at bringing about behavior change. This approach involves: identifying barriers to a sustainable behavior, designing a strategy that utilizes behavior change tools, piloting the strategy with a small segment of a community, and finally, evaluating the impact of the program once it has been implemented across a community. We are interested specifically in testing the effectiveness of various sign messages at influencing composting behavior. After identifying the audience’s motivations and barriers to composting, we will design three communication messages on signs using three different approaches. These signs will then be placed in areas with compost bins. By monitoring the levels of composting before and after the signs are installed, we can begin to identify which message is fostering composting behavior. Furthermore, after a period we will remove the signs and continue monitoring. This will provide information on which of the messages promoted long-term composting behavior that lasts even without the signs presence. At the end of this approach, we will be able to provide the University with an effective communication approach for fostering appropriate composting campus wide.

What form and amount of student leadership will your project involve?

This project will be led by three students: two graduate students and one undergraduate. Professor Stanley Asah, from the School of Forest Resources, will act as an advisor and provide support about the methodology behind fostering behavior change. We also plan on working closely with other stakeholders in increasing the appropriate use of composting such as ESS, Facilities, HSF, and SEED.

What type and amount of outreach and education will your project involve?

This project will look to gain input from campus organizations that are currently interested in promoting the use of composting. These organizations include: ESS, Facilities, and SEED. The greatest strength of using a community-based social marketing approach with behavior change is the emphasis on understanding the target audience of the resulting communication method. We will gain understanding of the University’s community attitudes and reasons for composting and use these to inform the communication methods we devise. This will engage a wide variety of people on campus and will ensure that communications are designed based on their perceptions of composting. This will ultimately ensure a more effective communication strategy.

What amount of funds do you anticipate your project will require from the CSF?

We anticipate our project will require about $5,000 dollars from CSF. This funding will go towards a small stipend for the three students implementing the project (about $4,500 or $1,500 per student over two quarters), and the cost of producing a survey and developing the signs (about $500).

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Daniel Brody