|Education to Action|
Effective education results in perception and behavior change within the campus community. Therefore, events should generally combine both education and action. Actions can include petitions, pledges, letter writing campaigns, call-ins, flash mobs, guerilla theater, rallies, and more. Make action and education positive, even when discussing serious issues. Be honest, but empowering, open to multiple viewpoints, and flexible while staying true to the program's mission.
A campus recycling program will be involved in broader sustainability efforts in addition to waste diversion. A truly sustainable program must be integrated into a larger effort in order to create a campus and community that promotes human and environmental health and well-being. Therefore, the program should be able to offer assistance to other groups with similar visions and goals and be a leader on general campus sustainability issues.
For any action, know the audience (those decision makers or members of the public that the action is attempting to influence) as well as the volunteers who will be participating in the action. Actions may differ depending on whether the change will take place just on campus, or whether it will influence law at the local, state, or national level. When working with volunteers/participants acknowledge and respect individuals' comfort levels. Encourage, rather than pressure, members of campus and surrounding community to participate. Be considerate of individuals' differing viewpoints and right not to participate, but do attempt to create dialogue and find common ground.
Customize petitions based on what level of government official is being addressed and who is supporting or opposing the decision. For example, if the student government is considering supporting a certain policy, fashion the petition so that it reads as being from the student population to the student leaders. If a decision is being made on the city or local level, direct the petition toward a specific decision maker from members of the community, including the campus. Petitions should be short and to the point. If petitions refer to a specific policy or legislation, a copy of the proposed policy/legislation should be readily available to potential signatories so that they are well-informed before making the decision to sign or not.
Communication with representatives from local media outlets such as television, newspaper, and radio is essential to getting the word out to those who may be interested in participating, as well as ensuring that the event is reported on by the local media. List the event in local newspapers. Be sure to send all of the necessary information in before the deadline. Send a press release to reporters at least a week prior to the event. Call to remind them the day before the event as well. A press release should include background information and a purpose, the date, starting and ending time, and location of the event as well as contact information for whoever is organizing the event.
College campuses are a great place to stimulate change through education and involvement. Campus bottled water bans, global warming initiatives, educating people about using refillable containers/reusable shopping bags, and creating collegiate recycling programs, are all issues that can be brought to the attention of administrators through education to action activities.
Bottled Water Ban
We, the undersigned students of the University of ____________ wish to support a clean and healthy environment by immediately stopping the purchasing of bottled water in all campus stores/dining areas and for all campus events. We ask that the University of ___________ Purchasing Department support this change in behavior in order to uphold the University's commitment to the environment.
Pledges can be written similarly to petitions in that they should be short and to the point, but are more focused on individual actions instead of influencing decision makers. Following through on a pledge is an excellent opportunity for those participating to be able to re-evaluate their everyday choices and lower their impact through simple lifestyle changes. Pledges also create dialogue, encourage social networking, and can be fun to undertake as a group or team.
Take Back the Tap
I pledge to immediately stop purchasing and consuming bottled water. Instead, I will use a refillable container in order to promote global environmental health and encourage others to do the same. In doing so, I will reduce my carbon footprint and overall environmental impact by refusing to support unsustainable industry that wastes natural resources, privatizes the essential right to clean water, and contributes to global warming. I Pledge to Take Back the Tap!
Letter writing campaigns and call-ins are most appropriate when specific legislation or plans have been proposed that will directly affect the recycling program or other campus sustainability efforts. This type of campaign should ask for specific action on the part of the government. Be very clear about what type of impact the proposed action will have on campus and why there should be support of or opposition to the plan.
Make pre-printed post-cards that can be signed, and then sent in a mass mailing to government officials. The statement on the postcard should be short, direct, and clear. Tabling at a larger event is an effective venue for a letter-writing campaign.
Bottle Bill (Container Deposit Law)
Dear (name of legislator here),
Please vote in favor of the proposed Bottle Bill. This new legislation will divert significant amounts of waste from landfills and prevent litter, which will lead to cleaner, safer, and more attractive streets, public parks, and beaches. Recycling will increase, municipal waste management costs will decrease, and a steadier funding source for recycling, waste prevention, and other environmental programs will be created. Please do your part to protect the environmental health and safety of your constituents and vote “Yes!” for the Bottle Bill.
(Your name here)
Call-ins entail calling government officials and can serve as a non-paper alternative to letter writing campaigns. They are basically identical to writing campaigns in that they directly support or oppose specific legislation that will affect campus sustainability. Give participants a script to either base their statements on or read directly. It is very likely that callers will end up leaving a message on an answering machine, or, in rare cases, speaking with an assistant. Even though participants will not be speaking directly to decision makers, tying up the phone lines for a few hours is an effective way of ensuring that government officials are aware of their constituents' viewpoints.
Bottle bill (Container Deposit Law)
Hello my name is (your name here) and I am calling to let (name of legislator here) know that I am strongly in support of the Bottle Bill and hope that he/she will do his/her part in maintaining a healthy environment by voting in favor of this legislation. It will divert reusable and recyclable containers from landfills, reduce litter, create funding sources for recycling, waste prevention, and other environmental programs, and reduce municipal waste management costs. Thank you for your time and please vote “Yes!” for the Bottle Bill.
Sample Press Release:
Global Warming Awareness Rally
To Whom It May Concern,
Global warming is one of the greatest threats facing our world today. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report published in 2007, climate change will have a negative net overall impact on water resources across the globe.
In order to raise awareness about these crucial issues and more, (name of primary sponsoring organization here) in cooperation with (list secondary organizations here) will be holding a rally at (insert location here) on (insert day of the week/date here). The event will begin at (insert start time here) and end at (insert end time here). Speakers will include (list speakers here) and entertainment will be provided by (list local bands or other performers here). A petition will be circulated requesting that our legislators take immediate action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and will be delivered to our representatives following the rally. Similar rallies will be held in (x#) other cities worldwide in order to show solidarity and widespread support for government action in curbing and regulating runaway greenhouse gas emissions.
I hope to see you at this event and am happy to answer any questions that you may have prior to or at the event. Please feel free to contact me at (list phone number and email here.) Thank you for your time.
(Your name here)
(Title, if applicable)
Other Education and Action ideas
Flash mobs, guerilla theater, and rallies create boundless opportunities for creativity. Such actions are an opportunity to publicly make a viewpoint seen and heard and can impact both fellow community members as well as government officials. As these types of actions (especially flash mobs and rallies) involve large numbers of people, work with local law enforcement officials prior to the gathering to ensure that the group's actions will be in compliance with local ordinances and that there is a plan in place to maintain a non-violent atmosphere during the event.
Flash mobs are groups of people who congregate for a short period of time in a crowded public space with a specific intent. Often, these events are apolitical and more geared towards fun and pure performance art, but they can also be manipulated to make a more specific statement. Instead of freezing in place at the same time, clapping, or acting as a particular character, participants can organize to spell out words with their bodies, freeze holding signs with educational factoids, or sing a song together while dispersed among the rest of the crowd. In the past, flash mobs have not been publicized ahead of time and give off a spontaneous feeling. However, the flash mob model of using social networking and getting a group of people together for a brief period of time can also be used to make a clear statement.
Guerilla theater can be spontaneous and improvisational or well planned with media invited ahead of time. Like flash mobs, guerilla theater takes place in public places in order to reach a wide audience of people. This type of performance can take a wide variety of forms from one person dressing up as a recycling mascot and chatting with passerby about the program to a small acting troupe performing a skit about campus sustainability.
Rallies are much more highly organized than performance art actions, but have the same effect of drawing the attention of both fellow community members and government officials. Depending on the venue of rally, it may be necessary to reserve space or attain approval for the event from local law enforcement officials.
Speakers should be contacted and confirmed well in advance as does access to sound equipment, so that speakers may be heard by a large group of people. Publicize the event as much as possible; the success of a rally is largely dependent on the number of people who show up in support of whatever cause the rally is promoting.
As with petitions, letter writing, and call-ins, rallies should include a specific demand for change either on behalf of the government or citizens. They can also take place purely to raise awareness about an issue, but incorporating a more concrete goal is effective because it gives the rally a more specific purpose and will therefore be more likely to incite change. Rallies are also an effective community building tool because they promote solidarity. Other actions such as petitions, letter writing, and guerilla theater can all be easily incorporated into a rally as a larger event.
Tabling and Tracking Participation
At all events, make sure to have sign-in lists available. This helps the recycling program track how many people are attending educational events and helps to create more connections and alliances between the recycling program, students, faculty, staff, and community members. Leave an optional space for email on the sign-in sheet as well as a box for attendees to check if they are interested in volunteering at upcoming events or receiving more information about the campus recycling program.
Tabling is an effective way of making a sign-up sheet visible and accessible. Place informational brochures and other visuals at and around the table. If possible, make tabling interactive. For example, write up factoid/quiz questions and give participants prizes such as free water bottles, mugs, or reusable shopping bags (whether they get the answer right or not). Another interactive idea is to place a small block of compacted aluminum cans on the table and ask people to guess the weight and number of cans in order to be entered into a raffle. A prize will be awarded to the closest guesser.
The above ideas for actions represent only a few of the infinite possibilities for creating change on a college campus in order to lead to a more sustainable future. Be creative and have fun while educating the campus population and surrounding community. Build and maintain alliances to encourage both environmental and social sustainability within the campus sustainability effort.
Get Caught Green Handed
Dress up in costumes and reward people who are exhibiting eco-friendly behaviors such as using reusable shopping bags, bringing their own mugs to a café, or riding their bikes. Reward them with small prizes like stainless steel water bottles, bike lights, or raffle tickets to win prizes donated by local businesses. Take the opportunity to educate those who are not using refillable containers. Carry reusable mugs to trade with people who are using disposables. Always be friendly: the goal is to educate, not to embarrass.
Social Networking Sites and YouTube
Online resources facilitate widespread event publicity and information sharing. For more details see Chapter 22: Education and Promotion- Getting the Word Out.
Choose environmentally related films to show on campus. Table before and after the viewing to create more opportunity for discussion. Combine the movie showing with some sort of action such as a letter writing campaign, petition, or pledge as described above. Be creative and make your own film to show on campus or shorter movies to post on YouTube or submit to film contests such as the EPA's “Our Planet, Our Stuff, Our Choice” video competition. This contest invites participants to create inspirational films about how individuals can make a difference through their everyday actions. See Resources below for a link to the contest site and winning videos.
350- Action Resources
EPA Our Planet, Our Stuff, Our Choice Video Competition
Container Recycling Institute (CRI) Bottle Bill Toolkit
Sierra Club Sustainable Consumption Activist Toolkit
The Student PIRG's Activist Toolkit