JCU says new thinking needed on environmental campaigns

James Cook University researchers are fine-tuning better ways to motivate people to look after the environment.

They say that current social marketing techniques have little impact on changing people’s behaviour towards the environment.

JCU says new thinking needed on environmental campaigns
JCU says new thinking needed on environmental campaigns (Photo credit: Tangaroa Blue)

The JCU research team ran surveys of visitors to Reef HQ in Townsville measuring people’s intentions—and then six months later surveyed them on how environmentally friendly their actions actually were.

The researchers identified waste plastics as a major threat to marine life and focused their questions on whether and how people were going to reduce their use of plastic bags.

“People had good intentions, but six months later we found that life had often gotten in the way and they had not followed up with effective action,” said JCU marketing expert, Professor Lynne Eagle.

Professor Eagle said the research showed that just providing information was not effective and that people both needed and wanted to be regularly reminded that rubbish that goes into drains or landfills often ends up in rivers and oceans.

They also identified the need for businesses to provide environmentally friendly alternatives and communication at the point of sale to encourage positive behaviours.

Professor Eagle said marketing theory had more sophisticated techniques available to encourage people to care for the environment.

“There have been very successful social marketing campaigns with clear theoretical underpinnings—the 2007 campaign to reduce water use in drought-struck southeast Queensland and ended up reducing the region’s water use by more than 22 per cent,” she said.

Professor Eagle said fishers in Victoria were also reached with the successful ‘seal the loop’ campaign that encouraged the disposal of old fishing gear in an environmentally friendly way.

The researchers are currently designing a new test campaign for ferry passengers travelling to Townsville’s Magnetic Island, with the aim of convincing the island’s more than 2,000 permanent residents, as well as visitors, to become plastic bag free.

  • Plastic waste makes up 80 percent of marine and coastal waste.
  • Ten percent of that is whole or fragmented plastic bags.
  • 4–5 trillion plastic bags are produced each year.


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