Abstract

Over the course of FY12-13, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) implemented the Regional Litter Prevention Campaign in the Town of Forest Heights-Oxon Hill and surrounding communities in order to change littering behavior. AFF conducted this implementation by working closely with community organizations to develop action plans that included distributing community-specific campaign material. AFF collaborated with community organizations to collect and integrate community feedback into Campaign materials and conduct trash and litter related activities, such as cleanups and presentations to engage citizens.

Behavior

Behaviors: Picking up litter and disposing of trash properly

Behavior Pattern: Continous

Why was this behavior selected?

AFF initially began working in the town of Forest Heights and neighboring communities of Oxon Hill in 2011. The focus of this work has been on schools, businesses, community organizations, faith-based institutions, and town government. While limited successes have been made within the schools, outreach efforts have been challenged by a lack of central engagement within the community. Additionally, the area is highly transitory with people utilizing the surrounding business corridors and communities for a variety of daily activities. While identifying community organizations to collaborate with, AFF began working with several neighboring community organizations including Branch Ave in Bloom and Hillcrest Heights Civic Association. Both of these organizations have been eager to address the litter and illegal dumping problem in their communities.

In addition to outreach activities, a door-to-door public opinion pre-survey was conducted with OpinionWorks in Forest Heights. While a door-to-door survey seemed the ideal way to gather information in a small area, it did prove challenging. The survey was time consuming; residents rarely opened the door and were frequently unengaged and annoyed. As a result of this, door-to-door outreach in these communities is not recommended as an effective tool for distributing or collecting information.

Although a challenge to conduct, the survey helped gather interesting and valuable information about the community. First, of the 126 people that were interviewed, 19% admitted to often or occasionally littering a food wrapper and 16% admitted to often or occasionally littering a bottle or can. These figures are actually slightly higher than the 2010 phone survey of DC residents, also conducted by OpinionWorks. This indicates that residents were likely answering honestly even with the in-person interview, which was one concern related to the door-to-door interview technique. The Forest Heights survey also asked participants to name places they commonly engage with in order to assist with targeting outreach activities. Overwhelmingly, 60 of the 126 residents responded that the community institution of which they most commonly engage with is church; confirming that this will be a critical institution to engage. However, many also stated that they attend churches in other nearby communities, indicating that the scope of outreach will be ineffective if kept to too small an area.

Target Audiences

Audiences: Litterers, Businesses

Primary Audience: Businesses

Secondary Audience: Litterers

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

Ages: N/A

Description of Target Audience

Outreach efforts with the regional litter prevention campaign have attempted to reach a wide range of community institutions in order to reach litterers through the institutions that they engage with. Businesses, schools, civic associations, recreation centers, sports teams, and churches have all been engaged in past pilots. Through these past efforts, AFF has identified community leaders and members of civic associations, community development associations, and faith-based institutions as the most likely to be equipped with the ability to engage community members and collaborate on litter prevention activities. These community organizations are in many cases not traditionally engaged in environmental issues and must be trained in litter prevention activities, messaging, and the connection to the community in order to be effective conveyors of the message. Thus, our primary audience is these organizations which we will enlist to engage litterers, our secondary audience.

This project will impact all residents of Forest Heights, Oxon Hill-Glassmanor, and neighboring communities which are located Prince George's County, Maryland.

Prince George's County: Pop:863,420. 14.9% White, 64.5% African American, 14.9% Hispanic/Latino, 4.1% Asian, 1.6% Other.

Forest Heights: Pop:2,585. 13.38% White, 79.11% African American, 2.9% Hispanic/Latino, 3.37% Asian, 1.24% Other.

Oxon Hill-Glassmanor: Pop:35,355. 7.64% White, 86.68% African American, 1.68% Hispanic/Latino, 2.78% Asian, 2.89% Other.

Research

How did you research your audiences: A combination of in-person interviews or focus groups and then broader surveys

Barriers

This extensive research showed there are deep-rooted barriers to changing littering behavior. For most litterers, littering is merely an impulsive behavior and defenses for this run high, including: repression -- “I don’t think I litter;” denial -- “It’s not litter, it’s just a gum wrapper;” rationalization -- “There isn’t a convenient trash can;” and externalization -- “People are paid to clean up litter!” Focus group participants also stated that they were less concerned about the water and more concerned about their immediate home, family, and space. Focus group participants also indicated that linking litter and trash to their health and their families’ health was a motivator for changing littering behavior. Hearing campaign messages from entities they trust within their own community will help ensure the message is driven home.

Gaining insight into your target audience

Research and message development: AFF and our partners invested two years in conducting comprehensive social marketing research on citizen’s attitudes towards littering in the Potomac River watershed. OpinionWorks conducted a series of focus groups, one-on-one interviews with admitted litterers, a DC-wide public opinion poll and interviews with 50 businesses to get to the root of littering behavior and examine existing attitudes. Included in this effort were two focus groups in Western Maryland, funded by CBT, for the evaluation of developed materials. Noral Group International combined and translated understandings from all of the research within the target audiences, including in-depth psychological analysis by Dr. Sam Cohen, to create an overarching campaign brand. From this researched brand position, AFF’s communications firm, Ruder Finn created a Campaign Toolkit of communications items. The Toolkit is available online for use by partnering jurisdictions, agencies, non-profit organizations, and citizens. Communications Visuals prepared the final campaign brand, final images, and simplified tagline. (See attachment for complete opinion poll and focus groups results; analysis report for creative direction; and toolkit materials)

Research results: This extensive research showed there are deep-rooted barriers to changing littering behavior. For most litterers, littering is merely an impulsive behavior and defenses for this run high, including: repression -- “I don’t think I litter;” denial -- “It’s not litter, it’s just a gum wrapper;” rationalization -- “There isn’t a convenient trash can;” and externalization -- “People are paid to clean up litter!” Focus group participants also stated that they were less concerned about the water and more concerned about their immediate home, family, and space. Focus group participants also indicated that linking litter and trash to their health and their families’ health was a motivator for changing littering behavior. Hearing campaign messages from entities they trust within their own community will help ensure the message is driven home.

Message Creation: The litter prevention campaign aims to raise concern about littering and offer a higher level reward for properly disposing of litter through the key message - “Piece by piece litter adds up and makes the places we go to unsafe and unhealthy” with the empowering action message, “Take control. Take care of your trash.” An additional message line, “Your litter hits close to home” impacts the issue most important to litterers – their home. The images that complement this message are of children playing in everyday areas—sandbox, playground, soccer field, and wooded park—and they are surrounded with typically littered items. The focus groups of admitted litterers found realistic images, particularly those with children, more impactful than abstract or exaggerated images.

Campaign materials: For a complete list please see the Technical Information section. The goal is to present a consistent, repetitive message that will permanently change littering behavior. The message and images have been used to develop a jurisdictional Campaign Toolkit, which include billboards, posters, radio PSAs, newsletter samples, e-blasts, decals, and school flyers. A critical element of the litter prevention campaign’s success is an extensive network of partnering jurisdictions and agencies who will work collaboratively with AFF to implement the watershed-wide message through a comprehensive array of outreach channels. However, in order to reach litterers, AFF seeks to develop local partners through grassroots outreach within a community’s existing channels of communication, to reach the broadest spectrum of citizens and increase message redundancy and retention.

Pilot Communications Campaign: Campaign messages and materials were originally piloted in the District of Columbia's community of Deanwood in 2010-11 and are currently being piloted in the community of Forest Heights-Oxon Hill, Maryland. Lessons learned in these communities continue to be adopted and inform future modifications to outreach strategies.

Community Outreach Pilot – Lessons Learned: AFF’s goal of affecting significant change in littering behavior for the benefit of the watershed encountered challenges in engaging key constituencies within the pilot communities of Deanwood and Forest Heights. AFF has learned to develop relationships with existing community institutions, meeting people where they would normally congregate. With this idea, the initial outreach included engaging civic associations, local elected officials, businesses, schools, recreation centers, law enforcement officers, and churches, as well as displaying the Campaign materials. Many of these approaches were not successful; however community organizations such as civic associations, community development organizations, and faith-based institutions have proven to be ideal partners. These organizations have a vested interest in a clean and healthy community. Trash is a visible and tangible problem, giving organizations the opportunity to engage community members in personal actions that directly affect community pride, and ultimately the health of the watershed.

Broad Implementation of Communications Campaign: The goal of the regional litter prevention campaign is to deploy refined and effective materials throughout the Potomac River watershed in order to positively and substantially reduce the amount of trash impacting water quality. The Campaign Toolkit has been successfully utilized in selected jurisdictions including: the District of Columbia; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Arlington and Fairfax Counties, Virginia. Feedback has been used to revise messaging, images, and materials. The community outreach strategies that are being piloted in Deanwood and now in Forest Heights have been incorporated into a Community Toolkit that is available for other jurisdictions or organizations. The efforts in the Forest Heights/Oxon Hill area will continue to provide critical feedback for long term implementation throughout the region. The staged approach allows testing and revisions in a cost-effective manner to ensure success with a wide variety of audiences.

Strategy

Outreach Tactics: Intrinsic rewards, Public commitment statements, Social diffusion

What media/communication channels did you use? Briefings, Direct mail, Face to face, Organization methods (through constituents of influential community organizations), Small group or public meetings

Products and services

A variety of materials were developed and modified for targeted organizations including:

  • Yard signs
  • 2 ft x 5ft vinyl Banners
  • 11x18” posters
  • Reusable bags
  • Motorist Litter Prevention Fact Sheet
  • Cleanup Kits
  • Community Trash Information Flyer

Place

AFF worked to organize and partner on a variety of activities which included:

  • 28 workshops and presentations with 671 attendees total.
  • 9 community cleanups, resulting in 3,550 lbs of trash picked up with the help of 775 volunteers.
  • 9 articles in community newsletters
  • 2,134 printed publications, including posters, educational flyers, community trash information sheets, youth worksheets, car littering fact sheet, and others

Primary Messages

The mission of AFF is to connect people to the natural world, sustainable agriculture practices and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship and advocacy. The Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative (Trash Initiative) works to accomplish this mission by working with leaders, businesses, organizations, and citizens to solve the problem of litter and trash in the Potomac Watershed. The Trash Initiative includes the annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup and Potomac Watershed Trash Summit, as well as a strategic framework with five core components including public education, policy, regulation, enforcement, and market-based approaches. As a highly visible portion of the Trash Initiative and AFF, the regional litter prevention campaign is an opportunity to communicate with stakeholders and encourage participation in other aspects of the Trash Initiative.

Lessons

How did you measure impact? Survey, Other

Most significant lessons learned

To fully evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the Litter Campaign, AFF conducted behavioral observation of pedestrians at four locations in Forest Heights. By conducting behavioral observations instead of questionnaires, a community’s behavior change is observed as opposed to potentially biased by individuals’ reflection upon their littering habits2. Two pre-survey observations were done prior to posting Litter Campaign materials within a block of the sites and two observations were done every two months at each site for the remainder of the grant. Each observation session lasted three hours and surveyed a 50x10m length of sidewalk. Photo Monitoring was conducted during each observation session. See attached documents for full methodology and explanation.

From January to October 2013, AFF completed 34 observation sessions at six sites, with two sites being disqualified because of the inability to post campaign materials. During the 102 hours of observations completed primarily by two staff members, with a third joining for the final set due to staffing changes, 4,959 pedestrians were observed, 4,686 of which were used to evaluate the campaign to exclude results from the disqualified sites. AFF recorded all littered items from the observation sessions, but removed tobacco products and pieces of food from our evaluation report, as AFF believes there are additional barriers to properly disposing of the items. In evaluations, AFF defines tobacco products as cigarettes, cigars, loose tobacco, and matches. Items counted in the following evaluation include take-out containers, beverage containers (cans, bottles, and boxes), paper, and wrappers (chip bags, cellophane from cigarette cartons, candy wrappers, et al.).

After the deployment of the Campaign’s banners, yard signs, and other visuals, targeted areas experienced a nearly 45% decrease in littering incidents observed (Of all people observed: 1.32% pre-survey; .73% post-survey). When examining the age of the observed litterers, a clear trend emerges; those 30 years old and younger contribute most to littering and appear to be the least affected by the Litter Campaign (see Figure 1). This is consistent with the results from our 2008 survey of 1,000 residents in the Potomac Watershed.3 People aged 31 to 40 were most affected by the Litter Campaign, experiencing a 66% reduction in littering incidents observed (23% pre-survey; 8% post-survey). The 11 to 20 age group reduced their littering rate from 45% to 31%, a 32% reduction in littering incidents observed (45% pre-survey; 31% post-survey).

What worked?

Although recruiting partners to adopt AFF’s Litter Prevention Campaign has proved challenging, the partnerships we have developed are strong and successful, and have led to fruitful community relationships. AFF encourages partners capitalize on their interest in litter by addressing their organizational needs with environmental solutions. For example, Sam’s Car Wash initially sought partnership with AFF to utilize pre-developed creative ideas from AFF’s Trash Free Facilities Guidebook to develop a recycling program among various businesses. Although the owners of Sam’s Car Wash were originally pessimistic about the effectiveness of the campaign to influence the behavior of passersby, they utilized AFF’s support to install Litter Campaign stickers on trash cans at their multiple properties and surrounding bus stops. Since the implementation of AFF’s Litter Campaign, Sam’s Car Wash has witnessed an immediate and sustained drop in litter levels. Sam’s Car Wash is now involved with other community issues, including beautification projects with their neighboring businesses and co-supporting an urban garden in the community. Although developing committed partners like Sam’s Car Wash can be challenging, AFF’s continued involvement in Forest Heights-Oxon Hill has leveraged social capital and increased community responsiveness to AFF initiatives, and has enabled AFF to expand into neighboring communities. AFF is readily identified as a partner that works directly with the community to provide residents and volunteers with the services that they want in their neighborhoods.

By evolving and diversifying the campaign materials to better align with community needs, AFF makes the Campaign more accessible to, and consequently more successful in, the communities we work with. Our partners are interested and excited about the new community-specific campaign materials, including the banners, yard signs and activities with summer camp groups, and our updated pamphlets and materials, such as reusable bags, have made us more relevant at outreach events. AFF has worked to table and participated in community day events held in the spring. Our table has become increasingly popular by utilizing newly created games, such as the Trash Toss and Pachinko, that both reinforce positive waste behavior and also challenge gamers to answer litter related trivia questions for prizes. AFF has also evolved materials that highlight the needs of residents based upon results from our post-evaluations surveys and behavioral observations. AFF has worked with Sam’s Car Wash to impact motorist by passing reusable bags that contain a fact sheet that helps motorist control their trash. AFF now also passes out cleanup kits to residents, outfitted with bags, gloves, and white papers. All of these initiatives have led to increased use of the Litter Campaign, and has made our materials relevant to needs identified by the community.

Conducting behavioral observations as evaluation enabled AFF to directly observe littering behavior, going above-and-beyond the questionnaires and other forms of evaluation. Nearly 5,000 people were observed in these targeted areas. Some difficulties in conducting these behavior observations include high traffic levels, large crowds, and other physical obstructions blocking observations sites. Additionally, this method of evaluation is time-intensive, both in execution and analyzation. Because of the complexity of the data collected, in-depth statistical analysis into social context, demographics, and how other trash disposal behavior changed as a result of the Litter Campaign has not been evaluated. In future projects, AFF would like to invest in a statistical consultant to thoroughly analyze all aspects of the data collected.

Moving forward, the Alice Ferguson Foundation would like to continue to grow our social capital by making new connections, particularly into faith based organizations who have reached out to us, and expanding the program into new communities. With continuing support, AFF seeks to focus our efforts on those most prone to littering behavior, including young adults. This year, AFF’s involvement in Forest Heights-Oxon Hill has branded the Litter Campaign as both prominent and recognizable in the community, proving its effectiveness through measurable reduction in littering rates.

What were the most significant limiting factors to greater success?

Although recruiting partners to adopt AFF’s Litter Prevention Campaign has proved challenging, the partnerships we have developed are strong and successful, and have led to fruitful community relationships. AFF encourages partners capitalize on their interest in litter by addressing their organizational needs with environmental solutions. For example, Sam’s Car Wash initially sought partnership with AFF to utilize pre-developed creative ideas from AFF’s Trash Free Facilities Guidebook to develop a recycling program among various businesses. Although the owners of Sam’s Car Wash were originally pessimistic about the effectiveness of the campaign to influence the behavior of passersby, they utilized AFF’s support to install Litter Campaign stickers on trash cans at their multiple properties and surrounding bus stops. Since the implementation of AFF’s Litter Campaign, Sam’s Car Wash has witnessed an immediate and sustained drop in litter levels. Sam’s Car Wash is now involved with other community issues, including beautification projects with their neighboring businesses and co-supporting an urban garden in the community. Although developing committed partners like Sam’s Car Wash can be challenging, AFF’s continued involvement in Forest Heights-Oxon Hill has leveraged social capital and increased community responsiveness to AFF initiatives, and has enabled AFF to expand into neighboring communities. AFF is readily identified as a partner that works directly with the community to provide residents and volunteers with the services that they want in their neighborhoods.

By evolving and diversifying the campaign materials to better align with community needs, AFF makes the Campaign more accessible to, and consequently more successful in, the communities we work with. Our partners are interested and excited about the new community-specific campaign materials, including the banners, yard signs and activities with summer camp groups, and our updated pamphlets and materials, such as reusable bags, have made us more relevant at outreach events. AFF has worked to table and participated in community day events held in the spring. Our table has become increasingly popular by utilizing newly created games, such as the Trash Toss and Pachinko, that both reinforce positive waste behavior and also challenge gamers to answer litter related trivia questions for prizes. AFF has also evolved materials that highlight the needs of residents based upon results from our post-evaluations surveys and behavioral observations. AFF has worked with Sam’s Car Wash to impact motorist by passing reusable bags that contain a fact sheet that helps motorist control their trash. AFF now also passes out cleanup kits to residents, outfitted with bags, gloves, and white papers. All of these initiatives have led to increased use of the Litter Campaign, and has made our materials relevant to needs identified by the community.

Conducting behavioral observations as evaluation enabled AFF to directly observe littering behavior, going above-and-beyond the questionnaires and other forms of evaluation. Nearly 5,000 people were observed in these targeted areas. Some difficulties in conducting these behavior observations include high traffic levels, large crowds, and other physical obstructions blocking observations sites. Additionally, this method of evaluation is time-intensive, both in execution and analyzation. Because of the complexity of the data collected, in-depth statistical analysis into social context, demographics, and how other trash disposal behavior changed as a result of the Litter Campaign has not been evaluated. In future projects, AFF would like to invest in a statistical consultant to thoroughly analyze all aspects of the data collected.

Moving forward, the Alice Ferguson Foundation would like to continue to grow our social capital by making new connections, particularly into faith based organizations who have reached out to us, and expanding the program into new communities. With continuing support, AFF seeks to focus our efforts on those most prone to littering behavior, including young adults. This year, AFF’s involvement in Forest Heights-Oxon Hill has branded the Litter Campaign as both prominent and recognizable in the community, proving its effectiveness through measurable reduction in littering rates.