Abstract

Stormwater solutions start at home. Better homeowner choices related to building, maintenance, lawns, and landscaping can have a positive impact on local creeks and streams...and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay beyond. The objective of the proposed project is to reach homeowners and service providers at a behavior "choice point" as they contemplate changes to their property, to inform and encourage best practices for managing stormwater runoff. Through targeted outreach efforts to homeowners and service providers, this project aims to turn a "choice point" into a behavior "change point." Through a partnership with Angie's List, an online consumer review service (www.angieslist.com), and focused on-the ground efforts in Montgomery County and Queen Anne's County, this project will have a reach that is both national and local in scale, focusing on both an urban and rural sub-watershed of Chesapeake Bay.

Behavior

Behaviors: Reduce fertilizer use, Install a rain garden, Rain barrel installation and use, Conservation landscaping

Behavior Pattern: One-time

Why was this behavior selected?

Recent satellite maps of the land surrounding the Chesapeake Bay show significantly increased urbanization, with greater areas covered by concrete and asphalt. More buildings and pavement mean more stormwater runoff into creeks, rivers, and the Bay every time it rains.

Stormwater is a thorny issue. While larger municipalities work to meet their MS4 permits (municipal separate storm sewer systems), communities of all sizes struggle to keep stormwater at its source; otherwise they must try to contain it or pipe it downstream. Homeowners are key in the effort to reduce the quantity of stormwater and the pollutants it carries--small choices add up to big impacts in nearby creeks and streams. In Maryland, new laws require builders to improve the runoff characteristics of their developments, but for hundreds of thousands of existing homes reductions in stormwater runoff and the nutrients, toxic compounds, and sediment it carries will depend on choices made by homeowners.

In the recent past, numerous efforts have attempted to educate homeowners about techniques and methods for reducing nutrient runoff (most notably using less lawn fertilizer), but there is often a gap between the delivery of that information and the point of actually making a decision. We need new ways to reach individuals at the time they are making key decisions. We call this the "choice point." We believe that the "choice point" can become a "change point" for behavior.

The project focused on reaching homeowners just when they were poised to make a decision about their property. here exists a unique window of opportunity to affect the interaction between the homeowner and a potential service provider in a way that could hlep the environment. In particular, effective outreach to homeowners at this "choice point" could inform choices that reduce the amount of stormwater runoff, water thay carries sedimet and other contaminantts into nearby creeks and streams...and ultimately beyond.

Target Audiences

Audiences: Businesses, Rowhome/town home/condo owners/renters, Detached single family homeowners/renters

Primary Audience: Businesses

Secondary Audience: Detached single family homeowners/renters

Demographics: N/A

Ages: N/A

Description of Target Audience

The target audience for this project includes both homeowners and service providers. By building a demand from consumers for more "stormwater-friendly" property modifications, we hope to create an incentive for service providers and to encourage those already using eco-friendly practices to market their services more effectively. Through a partnership with Angie's List, an online consumer review service, and focused on-the ground efforts in Montgomery County and Centreville, Maryland, this project will have a reach that is both national and local in scale.

Angie's List is a national online organization that serves a wide-scale, diverse audience. The focus groups were comprised of active watershed professionals and citizens from two geographic locales (Montgomery County and the Eastern Shore) that differ significantly in terms of stormwater regulation, demographics and communication techniques. the Montgomery County focus group included individuals from such organizations such as Friends of Sligo Creek, the Watershed Stewards Academy, and who all live in very urban/suburban watersheds. The second focus group consisted of individuals from the Corsica Implementer's group, whom live in a much more rural/agricultural watershed. The two groups are very different in their use of Angie's List (which more traditionally serves a suburban/urban region) and were tasked to determine the outreach mechanisms that were appropriate for their two different communities as well as how their constituents chose and secured "green" contractors. The information from the focus groups will by used by MDSG to fill current gaps in services and to develop and tailor resources in the future. The focus group information was aso shared with Angie's List team, in order to assist them with developing the language, resources and materials to assist clients in choosing "green" contractors, ideally leading to client behavior change through education and behavior choice points.

Research

How did you research your audiences: Intercept surveys

Strategy

Outreach Tactics: N/A

What media/communication channels did you use? N/A

Place

Wer used an approach that merged national reach with targeted local impacts. Angie's List offers a platform for disseminating information to homeowners when theya re actively looking for contractors to work on their property. AN internet-based, consumer-driven service, Angie's List provides a mechanism for consumers to locate service providers in a particular geographic area in hundreds of different categories. Angie's ist provides consumer-written reviews of service providers and allows users to search for contractors who emphasize eco-friendly practices. Angie's List has a membership base of over one million homeowners stretched across the UNite States, with nearly 35,000 in the Washington, DC Metro area.

Angie's List expressed interest in working with the University of Maryland to act as platform of distribution for tips to homeowners about environmentally sensitive practives and to encourage homeowners to see the value achieved when making landscape decisions that help improvve water quality. Tips to service providers will also help them market their pro-environmental methods to homeowners looking for "green" services. Working with Angie's List, we prepared these tips for homeowners and services companies to be shared online and in Angie's List magazine, which reaches all members and is available onlie, but can also be tailored to suit more regional audiences.

On the Eastern Shore in the Corsica River watershed, Centreville is a logical choice. The Corsica, a watershed plagued by agricultural runoff and residential development leading to increased stormwater runoff, has been the focus on a targeted watershed restoration initiative since 2005 and is a high priority for the state of Maryland. Citizens and conservation groups in the Corsica have already engaged to develop best management practices to reduce the impact of stormwater runoff on local waterways. This unique partnership has helped place over 300 rain gardens, operates a green business certification program, and has conducted large-scale efforts to put in new wetlands and forest buffers.

In the Washington urban./suburban area, Montgomery County offers a clear fit for these outreach efforts. Montgomery County, which wrestles with every-increasing impervious surface cover and dynamic growth, is charting a new course for the region with stringent requirements for its new stormwater permit (MS4). The county also has a specific position within the Department of Environmental Planning dedicated to stormwater outreach. As a region, the DC Metro area uses Angie's List heavily and demonstrates a consistent demand for "eco-friendly" service providers. Within the county, the Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch sub-watersheds for the Anacostia River are candidates under consideration for direct engagement.

Primary Messages

Stormwater solutions start at home. Better homeowner choices related to building, maintenance, alwns and landscaping can have a positive imapct on local creeks and streams...and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

Lessons

How did you measure impact? Web Hits

Total People Reached

Behavior change is hard to track. It is important that the project partnership continue to monitor the website tracking and if possible follow up with individual Angie's List clients to see if they actually made an informed decision/choice to hire a more "green" contractor as a result of watching the videos or reading the written tips. The focus group work was very informative in giving valuable insight into what our communities need in terms of resources, communications, web support and other tools for effective outreach. One of the largest needs indicated by the Montgomery County focus group was the need for Spanish language translation of storm water materials for residents and contractors alike. The focus groups also indicated that their constituents were interested in small scale residential practices that were inexpensive and required little maintenance. The focus group indicated that to install most residential practices that they preferred to hire a contractor to install the practices, if the cost was relative to the practice. MDSG intends to follow up on this economic component of what a pricing/incentive structure may look like for installing small residential BMPs. The MDSG extension educators intend to do a series of follow up meetings with the focus groups to create the most effective resources for influencing behavior change. As part of this project, MDSG extension educators used the video materials and written tips for residential education on their blogs, website, facebook and at rain garden workshops. The videos are a great way to direct traffic to various sites, as well as to get residents basic stormwater information.

Most significant lessons learned

By utilizing the Angie's List tracking system, we were able to track behavior choice points as people viewed the videos and navigated the Angie's List website. Unfortunately, as this is a public/private partnership, we have struggled with maintaining continued upport from the Angie's List team. Initially the project started with the Communications Director at Angie's List who was true champion of the idea but after she was reassigned and videos and the the written tips were submitted, MDSG had a hard time sustaining the support and communication from Angie's List, making tracking the "choice points" a challenge. To alleviate this issue in future partnerships MDSG will identify partner obligaions and craft a mroe detailed scope of work for all partners involved. MDSG is continuing to get information from Angie's List tracking systems and to date there has not been any direct correlations between the video vies and their clients preference/decision to chooce a "green" contractor. MDSG has gained some invaluable insight from the focus groups on how they utilize current resources, how they make decisions about what resources to use, how they utilize "green" contractors and feedback on the "how to" materials. The focus group information will help tailor future MDSG program to meet gaps in services.