Using Watershed Stewardship Academy's (WSA) adaptation of Doug McKenzie Mohr's Community Based Social Marketing, this project worked with a group of Certified Master Watershed Stewards to develop and pilot a program to foster leaf and trash removal from storm drains, curbs and sidewalks. Informed by baseline survey data and focus groups, WSA developed and distributed 3-5 social marketing tools to foster behavior change. Through follow up surveys and observation, WSA measured the change in awareness, knowledge, and behavior within a pilot community.


Behaviors: Leaf collection, Picking up litter and disposing of trash properly

Behavior Pattern: Continous

Why was this behavior selected?

Disposing of leaves and trash that collect on curbs, sidewalks and in front of storm drain inlets. Leaves and debris which collect around storm drain inlets, and consequently block pipes and contribute nitrogen to streams, are identified by Ron Bowen, Director of Public Works, as a significant pollution source in Anne Arundel County. Studies currently in progress by the Center for Watershed Protection in Talbot County support this conclusion. Our own preliminary surveys on this topic have revealed that most people are simply not aware that leaves and trash that collect in front of storm drain inlets and curbs are detrimental to water quality. They also consider street and storm drain inlets the maintenance responsibility of the County and many have simply never considered engaging in this behavior. We are selecting this behavior because it has both high impact (engaging in this behavior will keep a significant nitrogen and toxin source from reaching our waterways), and high probability of adoption (this behavior is simple and free so the chances of it being widely adopted are great). In our work with under-represented communities, we understand cost and time to be the two greatest limiting factors to adoption of stewardship practices. This behavior is both no-cost and requires relatively small time investment from citizens. Additionally, a simple behavior with concrete and visible results will be a gateway to engage citizens in more complex or costly stewardship behaviors.

Target Audiences

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

Primary Audience: Litterers

Secondary Audience: Detached single family homeowners/renters

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

Ages: N/A

Description of Target Audience

WSA, in collaboration with 5 Steward Candidates, identified residents who make decisions about the care of their properties in Ward One, Annapolis Maryland as our target audience for this behavior. Selection of this geographic area was based on three factors: (1)personal connection Stewards have within that community, (2) High canopy cover, coupled with high percentage of impervious surface, and (3) proximity of the waterway, Spa Creek. An initial Neighborhood Source Assessment of this area identified leaf and debris as a major pollution source. In preliminary conversations with the City of Annapolis about their leaf collection program, we discovered that the city ceased use of leaf vacuums two years ago, after consistent use for several years. It was theorized that community members may be used to raking their leaves to the street for collection, contributing to the large amount of leaf matter on the sidewalks and curbs. The specific audience selection was based on the observational assessment that a majority of residents are NOT clearing leaves that fall on the curbs and sidewalks, coupled with the high probability that they WOULD be willing to engage in this behavior based on the way community’s focus on aesthetics and community pride.

One of the distinctive aspects of WSA is that Stewards live within the communities they serve, so they are uniquely qualified to understand and communicate with their target audience. Unlike professionals who may work on a project within a community, Stewards are a LONG TERM presence in their community. They not only have a history with the community, but will be there for the long term to foster and sustain change. Stewards work in collaboration with their local HOA, civic groups, watershed groups and a variety of environmental professionals. All Master Watershed Stewards complete a neighborhood assessment before they begin working in their community. The assessment includes not only the identification of pollution sources and opportunities for restoration but also the social climate of the community. This assessment, along with any wider assessments encompassing their community (i.e. County watershed assessments or those performed by HOAs or watershed organizations), informs their targeted community work. Stewards target pollution sources that are most prevalent and restoration techniques that fit their communities. This tool kit would be available for Stewards for whom leaves and trash in the storm drain is an identified problem.


How did you research your audiences: Electronic surveys


Leaves are natural, and they have been falling in the Bay for eons. How can they possibly be causing pollution? Other barriers include (1) A self-assurance that I am already doing the right thing with organic matter, (2) The feeling that other people/neighbors are the real cause of the problem, (3) Don’t insult/embarrass me by telling me I am not taking proper care of my property, (4) Lack of time (Ben Oaks), (5) There are many other sources of organic matter; my own little contribution will not make a difference with the big problem in the Bay, (6) I never see organic matter on my street/sidewalk, (7) (Ward One only): The street sweeper comes often and takes care of the problem, Caveat: Some people are aware that the sweeper misses some items, (8) Bagging, especially in plastic bags, does not seem environmentally-friendly.


(1)Sense of personal responsibility, (2) Remove a slipping hazard/legal liability, (3) Sense of pride and good taste in property (especially in Ward One), (4)Step up and lead the way; lead by example, (4) Wanting to keep things neat and clean, (5) Understanding the nutrient impact in waterways, (6) Learning how much of the neighborhood/county is impervious; would work especially well in the highly impervious Historic District.

Gaining insight into your target audience

Based on the survey results, Julie Larson of Communication Visual was contracted to create a 3 sets of tools that could be used this with this audience. Messages were collaboratively developed which reflect the key barriers and benefits expressed in the survey by the target audience. She created a magnet prompt, a door hanger communication tool with commitment pledge and a graphic e-mail header with three different messages: (1) Increase Your Curb Appeal, which we hoped would appeal to the sense of aesthetics, cleanliness and community responsibility, (2) Don’t Let Your Leaves Go to Waste, which we hoped would appeal to the older generation which values thrift and usefulness, and (2) Bag It, Mulch It, Compost It, a simple, clear message. To test the messages and fine tune tools to be used in the mini pilot, we conducted two focus groups with 8 participants each. Our first focus group was comprised of 8 individuals from Ward One Annapolis. The second focus group was comprised of 8 individuals from Ben Oaks, a community on the Severn River in which there are several Watershed Stewards. Ben Oaks is a heavily canopied community situated directly on the Severn River, but is demographically (comprised primarily of families with children) and environmentally (1/4 acre residential lots with much smaller percentage of impervious surface) very different than Ward One. Because one goal of our behavior change tool and campaign creation is to develop tools that may be customized and used by Stewards in communities across the County, we felt that it was important to test these tools in two different contexts. Focus group tests were created by Steve Raabe of OpinionWorks in collaboration and Julie Lawson of Communication Visual and Suzanne Etgen of WSA. Focus group participants were solicited via Stewards and the Ward One community list serve and were screened and approved by OpinionWorks. Focus


Outreach Tactics: Extrinsic rewards, Prompts, Public commitment statements, Social diffusion

What media/communication channels did you use? Direct mail, Events, Face to face, Small group or public meetings

Products and services

The clear winner seemed to be the “Bag it, Mulch it, Compost it” treatment. It is clear, concise and tells them what to do. Most people felt that this test did not Focus group participants in both groups wanted to add a “why” statement to it. There was some discussion about making it clear these are alternative actions, as some people got stuck on the bagging idea conflicting with the others. “Don’t let your leaves go to waste” had a lukewarm reception.

“Curb appeal” fell completely flat. People said they don’t care about their curb appeal, or do not need someone else to affirm that their property has good curb appeal, so it is possible that this motivation is not personal enough for them, or that they don’t believe bagging leaves will increase curb appeal. Regardless, it doesn’t work. In light of the findings of the focus groups, the graphic materials were revised and a “factoid” was added to the communication tool. The most compelling seemed to be a statistic from Strynchuk, J., Royal, J., and England, G. (2001) "Grass and Leaf Decomposition and Nutrient Release Study Under Wet Conditions." Watershed Management and Operations Management 2000: pp. 1-10. This study suggests that wet leaf matter initially uses 200% more oxygen when decomposing in water than on land. After 9 days in the water, leaf matter decomposition can use up to 700% more oxygen than leaves decomposing on land. Most people in the focus group were well aware of the need of aquatic organisms for oxygen and seemed to be aware that oxygen debt was a major concern in the health of their

local waterway. We included the reference to this study on the back of the door hanger, along with a brief

description of WSA and contact information for the individual Stewards who were involved in this project. (*note that the PDF uploaded includes Suzanne Etgen’s contact information, but materials printed for the Ben Oaks and Ward One pilots were personalized with stickers which included contact information for the local Stewards.)

To emphasize the fact that leaves in the water are the problem (as opposed to those composted no land), we revised the photo on the materials to be a picture of wet, decomposing leaves, although it was difficult to convey the slimy and decaying look of leaves in the water with such a small picture. For Ward One, we chose the phrase “Your leaves in the water aren’t natural”, to further emphasize this point and respond to the skeptics’ view that leaves are natural part of the system and have been for many years. The Ben Oaks group decided to use “Your leaves in the water are harmful” to emphasize leaves as a pollution source.

We also added the phrase “Did you know?” to the door hanger to alert people to a potentially new pollutant that they may not be aware of and to make the information more palatable to people who think they already know everything there is to know about water pollution. In addition to the door hanger with commitment card, and magnet, several other tools were developed:

1. Communication: Building on the key barriers that were identified in the focus group and the indication that the community e-mail list serve was a popular source of information, four e-mail messages were created and distributed via the Ward One community list serve. The first message introduced the Ward One Stewards and gave residents an overview of the leaf campaign. The second message built on the barrier of people not recognizing leaves as a pollutions source by offering specific scientific studies that link leaf material to pollution. The third e-mail message focused on the barrier that the City of Annapolis is responsible for picking up leaves and the misperception that the city uses a vacuum or street sweeper to suck up leaves. This message gave correct information about the City of Annapolis’ treatment of leaves and confirmed that there is no longer leave vacuuming service from the City. Concurrent with this program the City of Annapolis adopted an ordinance prohibiting leaves to be discarded (swept or blown) into the street. Annapolis Stewards sent leaf materials to the City for their use in outreach on this topic. The final e-mail included a top 10 list with reasons to keep leaves off of hard surfaces and included leaf removal tips. All messages included an online pledge, Steward contact information, upcoming events where Stewards would be present and a link to a coupon for leaf bags.

2. Commitment: An online pledge was created to increase the number of pledges that could be obtained through the e-mail list serve.

3. Incentive: 200 biodegradable paper leaf bags were donated by KB True Value and a coupon for additional bags was obtained and distributed (see Pilot info below for details). This tool addressed the barrier of concern for plastic non bio degradable bags and those who said they did not have supplies. Two free biodegradable bags were given to anyone who took the pledge to pick up their leaves.

4. Article in the Annapolis Capital increased exposure and targeted the preferred media source. There was some discussion about whether or not to have a Capital Article since the readership would include residents from the “control” streets in Eastport, but in the end, the group decided to recruit some Capital media exposure since that paper was listed as the most preferred media publication. http://m.capitalgazette.com/news/arundel_digest/annapolis-no-longer-picks-up-leaves-grassclippings- blown-onto/article_e2cdd055-cd21-5a2e-8d1d-c2d81cdbbd6d.html?mode=jqm


Mini Pilot Ward One Mini Pilot

Four Stewards in the Ward One group performed a mini pilot which included a combination of 4 weekly e-mail messages timed for leaf fall, and several events to reach people with face to face communication and distribution of tools. The first event was a community canvassing day in which 10 volunteers canvassed homes in Ward One Annapolis to talk about leaf collection and to distribute their tools. On this day, approximately 67 pledges to keep leaves off of hard surfaces were obtained. Door hangers were left on residences where no one was home. Those who took the pledge received a magnet, 2 leaf bags and a coupon for additional leaf bags. On October 22, the group presented in front of the Ward One residents meeting and obtained additional pledges for leaf removal and distributed tools. On November 3, the group held their first annual “All Hallows Leaves” event at St. Anne’s Church in Church Circle. This event included educational displays, many personal conversations and distribution of tools. As of this event, the total pledges exceeded 100. Ben Oaks Mini Pilot Tools were also distributed in Ben Oaks, Severna Park including targeted e-mail messages. A Capital article also promoted their efforts. No formal evaluation was done of this pilot. http://www.capitalgazette.com/news/local/around_the_park/around-the-park-severn-steps-production-celebratessevern-school-centennial/article_9dae281d-6d96-509e-b465-f7c72bcbd304.html

Community Involvement

The tool creation and piloting was done in collaboration with 4 Master Watershed Steward Candidates, and 3 Certified Master Watershed Stewards. Focus groups were conducted with 8 individuals from Ward One, Annapolis, and 8 individuals from Ben Oaks, Severna Park. Public Involvement: Outreach and Education See Mini Pilot, above. Approximately 200 people were reached with either face to face outreach or communication tools, and 117 pledged to remove leaves from hard surfaces in Ward One. In Severna Park, approximately 60-70 tools were distributed and one community education day was held.


How did you measure impact? Survey

Most significant lessons learned

Evaluation of the Ward One Mini-Pilot

To create an effective evaluation program, the locations of pledges received in Ward One were mapped to determine streets where there was concentration of intention to engage in the target behavior. Four test streets with high concentrations of leaf pledges were selected for evaluation, along with four control streets from a different Annapolis community with similar leaf cover and impervious surface. For four consecutive weeks, Stewards evaluated the leaf cover on these streets. In teams of 2, they rated two locations on each street for leaf cover on a 1-5 rating scale, in which 1 indicated sidewalk and road pavement that was fully visible and 5 indicated sidewalk and pavement that was invisible/covered with leaves. Observations were made on Tuesday afternoons from November 5-26, because leaf pick up in the area was scheduled for Wednesday. The number of bags filled with leaf debris set out on the curb for collection as also noted. While a slight percentage increase in leaf coverage was observed in the control streets verses in Ward One, the difference was not statistically significant (37% leave coverage vs 30%). One possible explanation of this is that there were major wind events on each of the four Tuesdays on which observations were made. Another possible conclusion is that the length of time of the campaign was too brief to measure a behavior change.

During the outreach events, we were able to anecdotally evaluate the response to some of the tools. Overall, the more affluent residents of Ward One did not respond as favorably to free leaf bag, coupon or magnet as did those in less affluent areas of Ward One. It was also unclear how many people actually read the e-mails that were distributed via the community list serve, but during the canvass event, greater than 50% of the people canvassed knew something about the project, indicating that they probably read it in the e-mail. The most effective tool seemed to be the face to face conversations of Stewards with residents. Many of these residents seemed to indicate that they already pick up their leaf debris, but many wanted to explore the water pollution aspects. Many did not realize that the city no longer vacuumed up their leaves. In a few areas, organic debris was being dumped in ravines leading to the waterway. Although Stewards tried to discourage this behavior, these few residents did not seem to be inclined to alter their behavior based on this conversation. The same occurrence was noted by the Ben Oaks group, leading us to conclude that there is a need for a separate campaign to target this behavior specifically.

Evaluation of Stewards’ use of Behavior Change Tools

The Stewards who participated in this project were very creative, energetic and thoughtful in their collaboration to create and implement this community based social marketing program. The time involved for the four Stewards who piloted the program in Ward One was almost 450 hours (over 100 hours per person). Much of the time invested by the Ward One group was in the development of the program. Since this project was a requirement of their Master Watershed Steward certification, there was a great deal of dedication and follow through exhibited by the Stewards, however, they were very discouraged and disappointed that they did not have better results for all of their hard work. By contrast, the Certified Stewards’ pilot in Severna Park was much less involved and much less successful, due in part to the lack of direct leadership from our staff (due primarily to lack capacity). It is clear that in order for Certified Stewards to successfully implement behavior change campaigns, greater technical assistance (potentially from the WSA staff) is necessary. The WSA Board of Directors recently completed its first five year strategic plan, in which it identified support of Stewards to implement behavior change campaigns as a key initiative and an increase in staffing to adequately address key initiatives as key components of growth in the next 5 years. The WSA Board will be looking for ways to increase the support of Stewards to implement behavior change more successfully. As a next step, we will be exploring various incentives for Stewards to commit the time for a more extensive pilot of this program across the County.

Our greatest success was a new iteration of our “Train the Trainer” model. Each year, Stewards reach over 8,000 people with direct personal outreach. The opportunity to develop this very specific and targeted outreach program means that the messages carried forth by Stewards to their community have a greater capacity to actually result in pollution reduction. There is such tremendous power in the one on one communication provided by Stewards that Our biggest challenge was to harness the creative ideas and energy of volunteer Stewards, who are not social science experts, but who DO have a unique knowledge and perspective of their communities, to create a program that effectively adheres to the principles of Community Based Social Marketing. Several times during the development and implementation of the campaign, our staff would have preferred to implement the program a bit differently, but due to the nature of the Steward project, we did not interfere other than to offer advice and guidance. Another challenge was the tension between the amount time it took to develop and pilot the program and the time Stewards have available for volunteer efforts. As we move forward with behavior change campaigns implemented by Certified Stewards, it is incredibly important that these campaigns be well designed by WSA, to minimize the time and effort Stewards spend on DESIGNING the campaigns, leaving more time for Stewards to IMPLEMENT the campaigns.

Advice Or Suggestions

My advice to those who embarking on a similar project: When working with volunteers to implement a behavior change campaign, it is important to have as many aspects of the program developed and ready to use as possible, while allowing for both the adaptation to the target audience and the creative ownership of the program by the volunteers. One of the Stewards who had a difficult time contributing positively to the group’s efforts, ended up creating one of the most successful and fun outreach events (“All Hallows Leaves”) of the campaign when she was allowed to run with her own idea. Another important piece is to estimate and communicate the time commitment needed from volunteers on a project, so that burn out and fatigue does not set in. Lastly, volunteers can be extremely effective in broadcasting a message via personal communications with community members. If organizational staff is able to produce tools and handle some of the more logistical, but time consuming pieces of the campaign, volunteer time can be reserved for direct communication and outreach to communities.