What would it take you to change your shower to a low-flow shower head?

Do you love a long, hot and powerful shower? What would it take you to change your shower to a low-flow shower head? Be honest.

  • A. I understood the environmental impact that it would have
  • B. I have knowledge of and compassion for the watershed
  • C. Someone came to my house and put in a free low-flow shower head for me
  • D. I would be publicly recognized
  • E. I verbally committed to doing it
  • F. Everyone else on my block is doing it
  • G. President Obama and Jane Goodall are doing it (not together!)
  • H. All of the above.

Canadian environmental psychologist Doug McKenzie-Mohr believes that the last five reasons inspire more behavior change than the first two. I recently took a workshop with McKenzie, who coined the phrase “Community Based Social Marketing”, and was amazed to learn that studies indicate that “information intensive” campaigns are not very effective. Uh-oh – time to recycle the brochures. This is the method that we have been using to influence behavior change for years.

An earlier blog of mine explored what makes a person care about nature. Now I’m compelled to explore what makes a person change a behavior for the good of nature – the outcome I ultimately desire. Perhaps Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) is the answer.

CBSM believes that people do not change behavior or do an activity because:

• They do not know about it
• They have many perceived barriers to the activity
• They believe it is easier to continue to do their current behavior than to change

Once the targeted audience knows about the issue, and the barriers are identified with research, it is time to convince them that the benefits outweigh those barriers.

There are many tools for inspiring the change of behavior: making a commitment, copying a well-respected community leader, being reminded with prompts, realizing that the behavior is the current social norm, clear and vivid messages, incentives, ease or a combination of these concepts. CBSM also believes that requests to change behavior are the most effective when they are at the community level and involve direct contact with humans. At the end of the program, outcomes are measured, not outputs. This makes sense!

So, with this in mind, what if President Obama and Dr. Jane Goodall arrived at your door with a lovely, low-flow shower head and installed it while they told you all about the watershed and how you are helping. They then planned to install an identical shower-head in all your friend’s bathrooms followed by thanking you all in the local newspaper. Would you change your showering behavior then? I think I would – a victim to the new concept of Community Based Social Marketing.

I can’t wait to try to get influence our zoo public to compost, our staff to recycle, and my supervisor to send me to more of Doug McKenzie’s workshops. And I will await that knock on my door.

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Fostering Sustainable Behavior – A Powerful, New Perspective 11 November,2009Amy Gotliffe

  • Suzy Karasik

    Wow, I was seraching another KQED great, “With a Perspective” and I found your blog post. We need to partner, you are speaking our language hereat East Bay Green Tours. Please be my guest on our upcoming Green Collar Jobs Tour with Berkeley High’s School of Social Justice and Ecology. We are educating youth to everything you care about..we all care about it. Thanks for your info, I’ll be following you from now on!

  • Thanks for your response and your good, green work, Suzy. You can reach me about the tours at amy@oaklandzoo.org. 🙂


Amy Gotliffe

Amy Gotliffe is Conservation Manager at the Oakland Zoo. She is a Detroit transplant, enjoying the good Bay Area life for 17 years. She has a degree in communications, holds several teaching credentials and has a Masters Degree in Environmental Education. She has worked at various Bay Area educational and environmental institutions, teaching second grade, working on campaigns, planting pollinator gardens, producing earth day events and generally spreading the word about wildlife and green living. She currently works at The Oakland Zoo where she serves as the Conservation Manager. There, she coordinates support for international, national and local conservation efforts, produces a Conservation Speaker Series, produces the zoo's Earth Day event, leads eco-trips, teaches the various educational programs and heads up an on-site Green Team. On her list of other passions are travel, photography, music and the lindy hop. :-)

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