Sustainability, Local Government and Volunteers
06/30/2014 § 1 Comment
Emily Hughes, Hoosier to Hoosier Community Sale
In class we have been discussing the e-book, Community Based Social Marketing which describes how to build effective programs that lead people to adopt sustainable behaviors. After identifying the behavior that needs to be adopted and crafting a relevant message to a specifically defined target audience, the most interesting and challenging part of the social marketing strategy is harnessing social norms to instigate behavior change. According to the book, people are unlikely to change how they behave based on information they have, but they will change their behavior if they feel social pressure to act in a certain way. Our classroom discussions prompted me to think more deeply about how it might be possible to implement effective behavior changing strategies on larger scales.
While there seems to be little consensus about climate action at the national level, state and city governments seem better able to respond to the environmental concerns raised by their citizens and frequently find it politically and economically feasible to undertake interesting initiatives. For instance, Indianapolis Mayor Ballard has pledged to convert the City’s fleet to electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. Local government also has a broader reach and better access to local media than smaller advocacy organization might have. Would this make them an effective foundation for programs aimed at adopting sustainable behaviors?
The Cities of Service initiative calls on Mayors to implement measurable citywide volunteer programs that use citizen’s donated time to drive progress towards critical goals like increasing graduation rates or improving neighborhood parks. There are a couple of existing Cities of Service guidebooks for developing volunteer projects that address climate change, including one where volunteers are trained to conduct home energy assessments and make simple installations to improve efficiency. You can check out that plan and others at their website.
The Cities of Service model offers compelling possibilities for creating behavior change because the work is driven by ordinary people. Volunteers are a diverse and friendly bunch with great leadership and people skills. I think there may be a lot of potential to leverage existing volunteer programs to model and spread environmentally sustainable habits to diverse communities. Even better if those programs can be organized or championed by local government.
The Hoosier to Hoosier Community Sale is an example of a volunteer program, supported by the City of Bloomington, that provides an opportunity for residents and Indiana University students to reduce their consumption by purchasing used clothing and household items. Volunteers are a key component of the success of the project not just because they provide the manual labor to collect and organize donations. Our volunteer leadership wears used clothing, donates their usable unwanted possessions, and reworks abandoned t-shirts or other items into useful craft projects. I wonder if there is a way for us to showcase our volunteer’s behaviors to transform Bloomington by inspiring even more students and community members to shop at the sale, or reuse things they would not have previously considered reusable.