(Hampton Roads, Va., March 7, 2011) – Last fall, EAB Research of Richmond, working with Cahoon & Cross Marketing and Public Relations, conducted a series of focus group and online studies to determine what drives some Hampton Roads residents to be good environmental stewards—and what prevents others from recycling, reusing and finding their inner “green.”
The findings will help drive a new regional public awareness campaign, HR Green. To be launched this summer by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC), with oversight from the HR Green Executive Committee, the campaign will encourage the use of environmental practices among residents in the 16 cities and counties the Commission serves.
“Both research studies were represented equally among Southside and Peninsula residents,” explained Margaret Cahoon, a partner with Cahoon & Cross. Collectively, the results will be instrumental in developing the messaging for the HR Green campaign and providing a benchmark for tracking its effectiveness in the years to come.”
Held in October, the focus group studies consisted of two sessions each of one-hour interviews with “non-offenders” (those who are good environmental stewards) and “offenders” (those who are not.). The study revealed that:
• The “offenders” did not define themselves as such, even though their actions—not recycling, putting cooking oils down the drain, flushing medicines, etc.—implied they were. They considered themselves “reasonable” in their environment responsibility and expressed a desire to be better stewards.
• The “non-offenders” saw the connection between their personal behavior, the effect it has on the broader environment and the resulting personal experience (makes them feel good).
• Obstacles preventing good environmental practices among both “offenders” and non-offenders” included:
º Inconvenience (“If the recycling bin is full, I won’t collect any more recyclables.”)
º Ignorance, or a lack of technical understanding (“I didn’t know you shouldn’t put grease down the drain.”)
º Selfishness, or lack of connection between their behavior (littering, for instance) and the resulting personal consequences (makes my neighborhood look bad)
º Hesitancy to identify with “environmentalists” or “green movement,” which they view negatively
The online study, conducted in November via e-mail, consisted of questions regarding demographic information, behaviors associated with the environment and the types of media the participants use for gathering news and information. A total of 515 respondents participated in the study. When the data was tabulated, sub-groups of males and females were tested against each other using a 95 percent confidence level. Among the findings, it was revealed that:
• 38.1 percent of the respondents said they were “knowledgeable” about local environmental issues. 49.2 percent of the male respondents were in this category, but only 28 percent of women.
• 39.6 percent said they sought environmental information moderately to frequently, with 71 percent using the Internet and 68 percent using television as their preferred sources.
• In seeking online resources for environmental information, 78.7 percent of the respondents used local online news sites and blogs, and 62.6 percent used national/international online news sites.
“We learned some things we were happy to see, especially the general level of interest in environment issues,” said Cahoon. “We also see some opportunities for expanding positive behaviors in Hampton Roads through education and marketing.”
The HR Green Executive Committee will reveal more of the research findings as it moves forward with the campaign.
The HRPDC provides assistance on local and regional issues pertaining to economics, physical and environmental planning, emergency management and transportation. The Commission represents more than 1.6 million people who live in the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg, and the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, Surry and York. For information and updates on the HR Green campaign, visit www.HRGreenblog.com.