Who says you can’t have a whole lot of fun while working to achieve the City of Edmonton’s dead-serious goal of recycling, reusing or composting 90% of our waste stream.
Wearing big grins, Myles Curry and Laura Henderson radiate excitement as they describe the very sophisticated door-to-door ‘social marketing’ campaign the City’s Waste Management Branch is conducting to convince citizens to mow their lawns in a more environmentally responsible way.
It’s all about leaving clippings on the lawn – going bagless – and it involves mowing your lawn a little higher and a little more frequently than usual, letting the clippings remain in the lawn instead of going to the landfill in plastic bags.
Myles and Laura are social marketing coordinators who very obviously love their work.
Over the past two years, they’ve used formal and informal research techniques to develop a fair degree of insight into the barriers that prevent people from ‘going bagless’.
“We did surveys. We talked to people. We wanted to know what people thought of the barriers to, and the benefits of going bagless,” says Myles.
“Some people think of mowing their lawn as a chore they’d rather not do,” says Laura. “Some never think much about mowing their lawn, and others are very concerned about lawn quality and health.
“Some think going bagless is unhealthy for their lawn, and others are simply waiting for someone else to say going bagless is OK.”
Myles and Laura used their understanding of citizen attitudes toward going bagless to design a program that sends summer employees door-to-door to engage citizens in a friendly discussion about the benefits of going bagless.
They’re trained to listen for specific attitudes about the subject, then to respond with the appropriate information.
Depending on the number of staff – they have eight this year – the program connects with as many as 30,000 citizens each summer.
“Our staff each have tablets on which they log information about each citizen interview, so every evening we add 500 data points to our database,” says Myles. “That way, we can make almost-real-time improvements in how the staff respond to people’s perceptions at the door.
“Our success rate is really gratifying,” he says. “About 80% of the people who talk to us are favourable to going bagless once they know it doesn’t produce thatch, and in fact feeds your lawn.
“Many of them take a small lawn sign that declares their bagless-ness. That shows their neighbours that they’re participating in reducing our waste stream, making it more socially acceptable for others to join in.”
Laura says the goal of the program is to make the more environmentally way of mowing lawns the new norm.
“We’re confident we can tip the scales.”
Other ways you can help the City achieve the 90% waste stream diversion goal: 90waysto90.com