Encouraging environmentally responsible lawn care behavior in New England: utilizing social science to develop successful outreach and education

Thumbnail Image
Stevenson, Nicholas
Nutrient losses from common lawn care practices have been identified as significant contributors to nonpoint source (NPS) pollution in New England's watersheds. Lawn care practices that potentially contribute to NPS pollution have been a target for university Extension programs for some time; however little research exists that explores either the social dynamics involved or the means of achieving behavioral changes with lawn care practices. Following the principles of Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM), this thesis first conducted an initial study to examine New England lawn care behavior and the results from this study were used to guide the development of region specific outreach and education. This thesis then used the empirical results of the initial study to develop and implement a successful educational outreach campaign that was then implemented in the Bangor area of Maine collaborating with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. After the implementation of the campaign this thesis conducted an evaluation study to test the effectiveness of the campaign at encouraging desired behavioral change and also to test the effectiveness of using normatively framed campaign messages. To ensure that the results from the initial study were theoretically sound and useful for Extension staff, the theory of planned behavior (TPB), a proven social/psychological theoretical framework, was employed. The TPB helped to structure the initial study, aid with analysis, and produce more meaningful results. The thesis produced meaningful empirical data that were analyzed and the results used to develop outreach and education that changed behavior thereby helping to protect regional water quality.