Abstract

The goal of the Izaak Walton League’s Lands Green Waters Clean Phase II project was to increase the number of homeowners in the Muddy Branch watershed who install conservation landscaping to treat stormwater and improve water quality. In Phase I of the project, the League conducted behavior change research focusing on understanding the messages that encourage installation and use of rain gardens, conservation landscapes and rain barrels and the barriers that prevent their installation. Phase I included audience segmentation and assessment, message development, and a pilot communications campaign. Based on the results of that project, Phase II was developed to include a more heavily targeted outreach campaign focused on conservation landscaping and addressing one of the most significant barriers to installation discovered during Phase I: lack of technical knowledge and understanding about how to get started.

Behavior

Behaviors: Conservation landscaping

Behavior Pattern: Continous

Why was this behavior selected?

In Phase II, based on the results of our research, we will focus on conservation landscaping as the practice we want homeowners to adopt. Conservation landscaping is a widely accepted bioretention practice that can be used in urban and suburban areas to slow and/or filter rain runoff and reduce loadings of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment to the Chesapeake Bay. We will focus on conservation landscapes first because they are easier and less expensive for homeowners to implement than rain gardens, and provide greater water quality benefits than rain barrels with lower maintenance needs. Our research also indicated a need to further refine our target audience. The literature review showed that homeowners with an interest in gardening are more likely to implement rainscapes on their property. The focus groups, however, showed that homeowners association (HOA) rules often prevent individuals from implementing rainscapes on their property. Therefore, we propose to target outreach to gardeners with less prohibitive HOAs. Phase II includes the following elements:

Target Audiences

Audiences: Detached single family homeowners/renters

Primary Audience: Detached single family homeowners/renters

Secondary Audience: N/A

Demographics: Asia/pacificislander, Black or african american, Hispanic or latino, White

Ages: 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65+

Description of Target Audience

The Muddy Branch watershed includes portions of the City of Gaithersburg and Montgomery County, both of which have majority non-white populations. Gaithersburg’s population is 39.7% Caucasian, 16.9% Asian, and 15.5% African American, with 24.4% Hispanic or Latino of any race. Similarly, Montgomery County’s population is 49% Caucasian, 17% Hispanic or Latino, 16.6% African American and 14% Asian. The target audience is all homeowners with an interest in gardening who live within communities built prior to adoption of current storm water management regulations. From this group, we randomly selected 500 homeowners for phone and mailing outreach, regardless of race or ethnicity

Research

How did you research your audiences: Interviews

Gaining insight into your target audience

In Phase I of the project, the League conducted behavior change research focusing on understanding the messages that encourage installation and use of rain gardens, conservation landscapes and rain barrels and the barriers that prevent their installation. Phase I included audience segmentation and assessment, message development, and a pilot communications campaign. Based on the results of that project, Phase II was developed to include a more heavily targeted outreach campaign focused on conservation landscaping and addressing one of the most significant barriers to installation discovered during Phase I: lack of technical knowledge and understanding about how to get started.

For Phase II, the Izaak Walton League first conducted a telephone campaign to measure the effectiveness of two offers of technical assistance: a one-hour on-site consultation with a landscape design expert at a cost of $30 or a 15-minute telephone conversation with an environmental consultant for free. Both are designed to help solve the issue determined in our focus group research during Phase I of this project: homeowners are interested in making their yards more wildlife and water quality friendly but need help getting started.

The one hour on-site consultation was offered in partnership with a local landscape designer, Toni Bailey, who provided in-kind services by offering the consultation at a reduced rate of $60 each. A similar, but less comprehensive, service is offered by other landscape designers in Montgomery County, Maryland for a cost of $150. The Izaak Walton League provided $30 per on-site consult through a grant from Walmart Foundation. The homeowners provided the remaining $30 for the on-site consultation. The consultant walked the property with the landowner and took measurements of paved areas, lawn areas and native plants. The consultant mapped the property and identified potential locations for rain barrels, rain gardens and conservation landscapes. The consultant asked a series of questions to the landowner about their property, including wildlife that use the property, drainage issues, homeowner land use patterns and more. Homeowners were then provided with a sketch of the property, a completed property evaluation and explanation, recommendations for next steps, recommendations for landscape designers if needed, and information about Montgomery County and City of Gaithersburg rebate programs. The 15-minute phone consultation was provided by Izaak Walton League staff. Using the landowners address, League staff viewed the property using Google Earth and asked the landowner questions about the amount of lawn, native plants, and paved areas on the property, the landowner’s current and planned future uses for the property, the feasibility of rain barrels and conservation landscapes, and landowner interests in wildlife and water quality. League staff also provided landowners an opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns about their property. League staff followed up with an email to provide links to resources such as rebate programs from Montgomery County and the City of Gaithersburg as well as information on sources of native plants and suggestions for follow-up such as on-site consultations or additional work with a native plant nursery or landscape designer.

We developed phone scripts and follow up brochures for each offer based on lessons learned from Phase I of this project. Brochures were field tested with an email focus group and with project partners. Project partners also reviewed phone scripts.

From the list of 5,000 homes in the Muddy Branch watershed that are single family homes built prior to 2000 and with homeowners that have an interest in gardening, we randomly selected 500 homes and split that list randomly into two groups of 250. Our call center made calls to the first 250 homeowners with the offer of $30 on-site consultations. The center also made calls to the second group of 250 homeowners with the offer of free 15-minute phone consultations. The call center staff scheduled appointments and contacted League staff with the information. League staff followed up with each homeowner to confirm appointments and to conduct the telephone consultations. Toni Bailey provided the on-site consultations.

After calling each homeowner on two occasions, we mailed follow up brochures to homeowners we did not reach. Homeowners who were reached on the phone received follow up emails. Out of 250 homeowners that we reached out to by mail and phone with the offer of on-site consultations, 10 homeowners signed up and completed the consultation with our expert consultant. Of those, four sought additional information, including requesting design proposals from our consultant. In addition, four homeowners wrote letters of support agreeing to participate in the League’s Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns project. These homeowners are willing to conduct active outreach to other homeowners in their communities by sharing their stories in community association newsletters, providing tours of their completed landscapes to the community, and initiating one-on-one conversations with neighbors in exchange for additional help with design and installation of projects on their properties. The League plans to reach out again to the remaining homeowners to gage their interest in participating in the Green Streets project in 2014-2015.

The offer of phone call consultations was not as successful as the on-site consultations. Out of 250 homeowners contacted by phone and mail with this offer, approximately six signed up for calls. However, when League staff placed those calls at the agreed-upon time, only three of those homeowners answered the phone. League staff followed up with the other three homeowners by phone and email several times to reschedule appointments without success. Of the three who received phone consults, only one was interested in pursuing further action, including an on-site consultation.

Due to some problems with the original vendor selected to conduct telephone outreach, our contractor offered the League an additional outreach method free of charge. In order to test the success of yet another potential outreach method, the League chose to conduct an additional A-B test using the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct option. The service allowed us to target specific postal carrier routes. This is a very cost-effective way to target mailings geographically, as you pay a flat rate to the postal service and do not need to label the piece with addresses or pay for individual postage for each piece. The materials are delivered to each address on the carrier route, and are placed in the mailbox along with the regular mail. We chose two carrier routes, based on proximity of the houses to Muddy Branch and to maximize the number of residential, rather than business, addresses. However, we were unable to target gardeners, the target audience identified by our initial research, because this type of outreach is based on location rather than on purchase histories or other measurements of hobbies and interests. We decided to target houses with property along Muddy Branch or its tributaries as a substitute, with the idea that people with stream-front property would be more likely to know and care about Muddy Branch than those who live further away from the stream. We were unable to test this theory as we used our split sample to again test the two offers of assistance – a brief, free phone call or a $30, one-hour on-site consultation. We did not get any requests for technical assistance as a result of the Every Door Direct campaign.

In the final phase of the project, League staff, our consultant, and Muddy Branch Alliance volunteers conducted follow up outreach to homeowners who participated in on-site and phone consultations several times over the course of the project period. While several homeowners had made some steps toward pursuing conservation landscape installation on their own, including requesting design proposals and planning to install projects in 2014, none of the homeowners had completed conservation landscape installation within the project period. When asked what was holding them back, the majority stated that they needed additional help, from financial and technical assistance through help with actual planting and maintenance.

Strategy

Outreach Tactics: Extrinsic rewards, Feedback, Intrinsic rewards, Social diffusion

What media/communication channels did you use? Face to face, Direct mail, Telephone contacts

Lessons

How did you measure impact? Tracking

Total People Reached

Through this project, 13 people changed their behavior from ‘taking no action toward installing conservation landscaping on their property’ to ‘seeking technical assistance through phone or on-site consultations’ as a first step toward future conservation landscape installations. 2 people took the additional step of requesting estimates for design work from a professional.

During the project period, no one took the final step of installing a conservation landscape on their property. This demonstrates that the project reached the intended audience of homeowners who are not early adopters of a practice like conservation landscaping but who could be persuaded to install such practices on their property with some outreach, assistance and support. In addition, we gained valuable information about additional assistance and support needed to move these very interested homeowners into making the ultimate desired behavior change. While early adopters seem more willing to conduct their own research, design and install projects, and apply for rebates from local government agencies on their own, these second tier adopters have indicated that they need more support including additional technical assistance and help with design, installation, and rebate applications. These additional needs expressed by participating homeowners led the Izaak Walton League to apply for funds to further assist these homeowners with installation in exchange for their assistance with outreach to neighbors.

Most significant lessons learned

The greatest success of this project was the use of on-site consultations. These were more popular than other forms of assistance offered, in spite of requiring both time and money invested on the part of the homeowner. Not only were on-site consults more popular than telephone consults, the hour-long meetings with homeowners yielded a lot of valuable information. Homeowners themselves learned about options for wildlife habitat enhancement and solutions to flooding issues through conservation landscaping and other rainscaping techniques, tailored to their properties, interests and needs. They also learned about other resources for technical and financial assistance available to them. The Izaak Walton League learned very valuable anecdotal information from these homeowners about barriers preventing them from taking the next step of installing these practices in their yards. This information has been used to develop additional projects to help address these barriers and to maximize the potential for storytelling and other behavior change tools by conducting future outreach and installations on a concentrated basis within targeted neighborhoods.

Advice Or Suggestions

We do feel it would be beneficial to conduct similar outreach campaigns to provide information and seek behavior change among second tier adopters in other watersheds. We would be happy to provide the messaging and outreach materials that worked well in the Muddy Branch watershed to other communities interested in running similar campaigns. We would caution other groups against the use of telephone calls or Every Door Direct campaigns for outreach. We also found that telephone consultations were not considered a valuable resource by our target audience. Instead, we would suggest that similar campaigns use mailings that direct homeowners to a website for additional information. These mailings should be targeted to homeowners with an expressed interest in gardening through their magazine subscriptions and purchase histories. We also suggest that on-site consultations be offered at a low cost to interested homeowners.