The first step is to choose the right behavior to influence. The behavior you choose should be both a single and end-state behavior:
A single behavior is one that cannot be divided into further behaviors. For example, you might want to minimize waste by changing your coworker’s waste disposal behaviors. This is a broad behavior that is divisible, meaning it can be divided into smaller, more specific behaviors, such as “properly recycling”, “properly disposing of landfill trash”, or “properly composting”.
An end-state behavior is one that results in the desired environmental outcome. For example, picking up pet waste is not an end-state behavior. A volunteer who was asking her community to pick up their pets’ waste was happy to observe a neighbor who had not picked up before do so – only to see him toss the dog’s waste in the woods by his property! Picking up pet waste and disposing of it properly in the trash is an end-state behavior.
Once you identify several single, end-state behaviors that you would like to influence, evaluate the behaviors to determine which one is the most effective. Your campaign will have more impact if you choose just one behavior to influence, as offering the public a menu of possibilities can be immobilizing. If you have a suite of behaviors you want to influence, you can roll them out individually, over time, for the greatest impact.
Consider the following factors when choosing the highest-priority behavior for your campaign:
What is the current rate of adoption of the behavior? A higher-priority behavior is one that is not widely adopted. That means there is a large opportunity group that you can influence. Conversely, if a large percentage of people have already adopted the behavior, your opportunity to effect change is small.
Among those who have not yet adopted the behavior, how likely are they to adopt the behavior? The larger the percentage who are likely to adopt this behavior, the greater the chance you will be successful in changing the behavior.
How would scientists or technical experts evaluate this behavior’s impact on water quality? The characteristics of your community such as land use, proximity to a water body, or housing patterns may also influence the impact. Modelers in the Chesapeake Bay Program are working to development guidance on the value of behaviors from a pollutant reduction perspective and will be shared that data when it is available.