Wednesday, May 22, 2013

UCSC Slugs are Simply Committed to Sustainability

Anyone else notice how green the banana slugs at UCSC have become? As of May 2013, there are at least 145 green banana slugs in the UCSC community who are conscious of behaviors in their life that they are working to make more sustainable thanks to the efforts of the Sustainability Office's Education and Outreach Team.

Of the 550 people that the Education & Outreach Team has spoken to at tabling events throughout the year, 145 (26.4%) of them have made commitments to sustainable behaviors, ranging from biking to class instead of taking the bus to composting at their off-campus residence to taking shorter showers. 
"We pledge to unplug all appliances when not in use!" (Kresge Resource Fair, Fall 2012)

At 15 tabling events this school year since July 2012, the team has encouraged event attendees to commit to specific and attainable sustainable behaviors. Participants wrote their commitment on a whiteboard, signed their name, and team members took a picture of them with their commitment. The team then posted these photos on Facebook, allowing participants to tag themselves and share publicly the commitment they made.

The goal of the Simply Committed behavior change campaign is to encourage individuals at UCSC to think about what sustainability means to them, to thoughtfully engage them in living more environmentally conscious lives, and to broaden their knowledge of and participation in sustainability opportunities, projects, and community at UCSC.

Waste and Recycling was clearly the most popular commitment topic (36%), likely because waste is such a tangible, direct way that we can reduce our environmental impact. Click the image for a better view.

Studies on effective personal behavior change strategies for resource conservation have suggested that explicit, signed commitments are more effective in actually sustaining changed behavior and have fewer drawbacks than incentive-based conservation strategies (Source: Richard D. Katzev and Anton U. Pardini. “The Comparative Effectiveness of Reward and Commitment Approaches in Motivating Community Recycling.” Journal of Environmental Systems Volume 17.2 (1987-88): 93-113).

In order to increase the percentage of people who participate out of the total number of people we speak to at events, the team is working to make the campaign more streamlined, with ready-to-use commitments that still allow for the specificity, tangibility, and personalization for each participant. They are also working to create a better system for following up with participants right after the event and checking in with them a month later to hear how it’s going. Finally, they are also looking into ways to make the campaign more public through web platforms.

David Shaw, UCSC faculty member and alumnus, commits to sleep outdoors at least once a week. The Simply Committed behavior change campaign can be personalized to fit the kinds of sustainable lifestyle choices that are the right next step for each participant. (Brain, Mind, & Consciousness Conference, Spring 2013)

To read results and testimonial from participants, click here.
All of the commitments made and photographed this year can be found in our Facebook photo albums here.

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