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A newsletter from Biodiversity Project Summer 2012


Reaching a Broader Audience: American Values, Not Environmentalist Values

here are a million ways to put Americans into categories. We can sort people by gender, age, class or race. We can divide people as urban vs. rural, white collar vs. blue collar or believer vs. atheist. Politicians, advertisers and public opinion pollsters like to group people together into categories in order to draw conclusions and guess future behaviors. This is how businesses know where to place ads and politicians can predict who will vote for them.


But in 2012, perhaps the most predictive way to classify Americans is Democrat vs. Republican. According to the Pew Research Center’s June 2012 report on trends in American values, political party affiliation provides the greatest values gap in Americans today— more than gender, age, class or race. According to the report, Americans’ “values and basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years.” A value is an unchanging part of who we are. It is how we define ourselves and a big part of how we make decisions. Values are formed from experiences, parents, teachers, friends, habits and religious beliefs. They are formed over time and are not easily shaken or changed. Because our behaviors and choices stem from our values, politicians, advertisers and environmentalists must understand an audience’s values and connect to those values in order to influence the audience. The Pew report shows that the gap between Democratic and Republican views on the need to do more to protect our environment is the largest it has ever been. In 1987, the gap between the two parties was just five points. Now it is 39 points. As this gap widens, we have to be smarter about how we talk about the environment and encourage environmental action. We can’t just appeal to environmentalists. Nor can we just give information about the problem and assume that people will change because of it. Just because

A value is an unchanging part of who we are. While Americans are deeply divided over many issues, parents from across the political spectrum value caring for their kids, spending time together and giving their kids the best education possible. That’s what environmentalists should focus on.

environmental advocates see an innate benefit to natural space and biodiversity, that doesn’t mean other people do. Their values are just different. But just because their values are different, that doesn’t mean they won’t adopt the environmentally-friendly behaviors that we want them to. Instead of talking about the sacredness of nature or animal rights, we must instead connect environmental actions with values like concern for family and regional pride. For example, instead of trying to inspire families to visit local nature preserves by talking about the diversity of plant life or the rareness of the habitat, emphasize the chance to spend time with your kids away from the computer screen or iPod. Talk about the chance to play and explore and get dirty, just like the parents used to when they were young. Or talk about the educational opportunities at the nature center. If the parents aren’t Continued on page 4


Results! Personal Pledges Change Wasteful Behaviors he Great Lakes are a vast—but not limitless—resource. Thirty million people in the region rely on the Lakes for drinking water, and the demand is growing. That is why water conservation is critical to the health of the Great Lakes and our communities.


To reduce water use and promote conservation in Chicago, Budweiser and Biodiversity Project’s Great Lakes Forever campaign designed a pilot pledge station project to capture visitors’ attention as they attend or participate in recreation, sporting and restoration activities near Chicago’s Lake Michigan beaches. To test the Great Lakes pledge station and the commitment rate, Biodiversity Project staffed a booth at the May 5-6 Chicago Green Fest. Set on Navy Pier, surrounded on three sides by Lake Michigan, Green Fest was a perfect opportunity to test the concept of a water conservation pledge station. To conserve water, we asked participants to pledge to change their shower habits by shortening showers cumulatively by 20 minutes over a two week period. Because the average showerhead uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute, cutting a total of 20 minutes of shower time over two weeks could save more than 50 gallons of water.

The pledge station connected water conservation issues to the Great Lakes that they love using values-based language and specific behaviors, for example:


Your shower affects our Lakes. Long, hot showers are an alluring way to wake-up and prep for the day. Until you realize that 20 minutes have passed, you’ve missed the express bus and you’ll be late for work. Again. While you daydreamed under the shower, gallons of water went straight down the drain. Standard showerheads use 2.5 gallons of water per minute—or 25 gallons in one 10 minute shower. The choices we make in our daily lives directly impact the future of the Great Lakes. Pledge to do your part today.

Biodiversity Project Connections

To help people fulfill their pledge, everyone who promised to cut time off their showers received a five minute shower timer that can suction cup to bathroom walls. We followed-up with those who pledged after the two-week period to gauge how well they stuck to their pledge. Here are the results:

• 69% of survey responders said they use their shower timers either every day or almost every time they shower • 17% of survey responders said that before they got their shower timers their average shower lasted 15 minutes or more; since they got their shower timers, 0% of survey responders take showers that average more than 15 minutes long • 42% of survey responders report learning a great deal about the Great Lakes and water conservation from the pledge station By connecting water-use behaviors to the Great Lakes that they love, we were able to inspire people to change their showering behavior. And because we provided them with a shower timer, people were able to overcome the number one barrier to taking shorter showers, which is simply not knowing how long you’ve been in there. The Pledge Station content draws upon what we have learned about regional attitudes and opinions of the Great Lakes from the results of our three Great Lakes public opinion research projects and social marketing strategies. In future years, the Budweiser Great Lakes Forever Pledge Station can be used at established events, like beach clean-ups, to spread the word about the simple actions we can all take to keep our Great Lakes healthy for future generations.


Surveying the Field: Researching Farmer Attitudes Toward the Farm Bill

he farming community is the backbone of the United States, providing food and products to the entire country, as well as the rest of the world. Yet, while few Americans are as closely tied to the land, weather and water cycle, farmers of small-medium sized farms are seldom heard in conservation conversations.


Environmentalists and farmers often talk past each other on issues of environmental conservation. At worst, especially around items as controversial as the Farm Bill, environmentalists and farmers act like enemies, fighting against each other for limited resources. At best, though, these two groups can rally together in support of mutually beneficial programs and funding.

organizations can improve their relationships with the farming community and become better advocates for conservation programs in the Farm Bill. Biodiversity Project manages the Mississippi River Network, a coalition of 40 organizations dedicated to restoring and protecting the entire basin for the people, animals and economies of the region. The results of this public opinion research will help the Network develop sound strategies and build better relationships. If you would like to be kept up to date on this research, send Laura Brown ( an email with “Farm Bill Research” in the title.

As the 2013 Farm Bill and the hundreds of billions in tax-payer dollars are debated this summer, we have a great opportunity to study the type of language that could help these two powerful lobbying groups reach common ground on issues like the health of the Mississippi River, conservation programs and wetland protection. Biodiversity Project is working with a graduate student at the University of Michigan who will travel throughout the Mississippi River basin to talk with large scale agricultural farmers. Betsy Riley, a Master’s student in Environmental Communications and Public Policy, will talk with farmers in river towns to find out how they view conservation and the Mississippi River. She’ll explore: • What inspires farmers to implement conservation measures? • What expectations do farmers have concerning the new Farm Bill? • How do farmers describe their connection to the Mississippi River and other waterways? • What conservation or environmentalist organizations do they trust?

So much more than farms The 2008 Farm Bill included over 1,700 pages of laws, programs and funding directives. It will cost an estimated $403 billion by the time it is replaced with the 2013 version. The Farm Bill is about much more than agriculture. It also addresses energy policy, food stamp programs, water pollution and school nutrition programs. For more on communicating about this very complicated bill, check out

With the final report from these conversations, surveys and focus groups, Betsy and Biodiversity Project will produce recommendations for how environmental

Biodiversity Project Connections


inherently interested in conservation, then the plant life or rare habitat won’t appeal to them. But, parents from across the political spectrum value caring for their kids, spending time together and giving kids the best education possible. And nostalgia for our own childhoods is common all around the country. The widening gap between Democrats and

Continued from page 1

What’s New at Biodiversity Project?

Biodiversity Project staff members Rebeca Bell and Meg Kelly participated in the Ohio Stormwater Association Conference in June. This collection of municipal employees, engineers and stormwater educators shared research and experience from the field. Rebeca presented a training on how to incorporate values-based communications into stormwater education and outreach campaigns. Cities often have to implement education and outreach campaigns as requirements of their stormwater permits, yet many of these campaigns are ineffective because they don’t focus on the audience and real-world behavior changes. The presentation focused on two case studies of successful stormwater education campaigns that Biodiversity Project has developed for the Rock River basin in Wisconsin and the City of Dublin, Ohio. Meg will present a similar presentation at the Kentucky Stormwater Association conference in August.

Biodiversity Project


Jennifer Browning Executive Director Rebeca Bell Communications Manager

ersity Pro j






Protect Your Local Endangered Species



Hine’s Emerald Dragonf ly

Biodiversity Project Connections is published by Biodiversity Project. Inquiries should be sent to project@


4507 N. Ravenswood, Suite 106 Chicago, IL 60640 773-754-8900


Communications to INSPIRE Environmental ACTION

Biodiversity Project is working with Chicago Wilderness, an alliance of 260 organizations who work together to restore local nature and improve the quality of life for all, to develop a long-term communications strategy. This strategy will outline goals and activities for reaching the alliance’s primary audiences. Through these communications, Chicago Wilderness hopes to inspire residents to visit local natural areas, volunteer in restoration projects and take simple actions to protect nature in our communities. Chicago Wilderness joins a growing list of coalitions that we’ve worked with over the past year to refine internal communications procedures, establish unified messages and implement broad communications campaigns. We’ve also worked with the Mississippi River Network, Rock River Stormwater Group, Great Waters Coalition, Illinois Lake Michigan Implementation Planning Group, and Delavan Lake WIN, among others. Helping coalitions work together and achieve objectives through strong communications remains an integral part of our organizational mission.




Republicans on environmental issues simply means that we can’t just talk in the typical environmentalist way. We will not achieve lasting behavior changes, pass laws or secure funding unless we appeal to people in both parties. Therefore, we must relate all environmental issues to true American values, not just environmentalist values.




Laura Brown Amy Sauer Office Manager Mississippi River Program Manager Megan Kelly Program Manager

Chair: Gary Wilson Grimard Wilson Consulting, Inc. Oak Park, IL Vice Chair: Sara Race Commonwealth Edison Evanston, IL Todd Cywinski Imagination Publishing Chicago, IL Kari Lydersen Freelance Journalist and Author Chicago, IL Rey Phillips Santos City of Chicago, Department of Law Chicago, IL John Sentell Lake Forest Open Lands Association Lake County, IL

Biodiversity Project 2012 Summer Newsletter  

Biodiversity Project 2012 Summer Newsletter

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