SURVEY SAYS! Using surveys to communicate your message October 12-15, 2011 Raleigh, NC Promoting excellence in environmental education 40th Anniversary Conference
Environmental Education and Outreach Traditional modes of communicating environmental issues often cannot overcome barriers such as apathy, fear of regulation, and distrust of science and government. Our experience shows that a simple survey can be a powerful tool for education and open, interested discourse.
What’s the problem? • Outdoor burning adds to ozone and fine particle pollution • Manmade materials can emit harmful or toxic chemicals such as dioxins when burned • Smoke from burning can seriously degrade air quality, especially in localized areas • Toxins in ash can pollute soil, surface water and ground water supplies • Health effects from smoke can be mild (coughing, throat and eye irritation) to serious (asthma attacks, heart attacks, even death) • Illegal fires can burn out of control, causing loss of life and property
Open burning rule • One of NC’s oldest air quality rules: adopted in 1971 • “If it doesn’t grow, don’t burn it!” Burning any manmade material (garbage, lumber, construction debris, etc.) is prohibited. • Specific exceptions exist for fire department training and other needs. • Burning leaves, brush, etc. is legal sometimes – usually in areas without public yard waste pick-up. • Violators can be fined up to $25,000 per violation or more in serious cases • Illegal outdoor burning remains a widespread problem
What did we do? • THE GOALS • Collect data on people’s knowledge and behavior – to guide future outreach • Educate people that burning trash is illegal and harmful to health • Encourage different behavior (proper disposal, recycling, composting) • BARRIERS • People don’t want to admit to illegal activity; fear of enforcement • Perception of being judged; feelings of fear or intimidation • Short attention span, limited time, many other attractions • WHAT WE DID • Web-based survey using Survey Monkey • Brevity of survey and incentive giveaways increased participation • Eye-catching display attracted people to our station • Paper surveys for times when internet connection was “down”
Survey Says! • THE VENUE • The North Carolina State Fair, October 14-24, 2010: over 1 million fairgoers.Green NC Tent with 15 other “green” exhibitors. • Tent attendance = 106,500+ people: 1 out of 10 fairgoers. • 11 days, 12 hours a day, 20 volunteers • RESULTS • Genuine conversation and open discourse with over 7,000 NC citizens. • Over 3,000 people – almost half of respondents – didn’t know burning was illegal but learned as a result of the survey. • Some burned materials illegally and DID know it; AND they told us why! • Survey Monkey platform allowed easy, powerful data collection and analysis
SURVEY SAYS?! USING SURVEYS TO COMMUNICATE YOUR MESSAGE. Apathy, distrust of science, resentment of being told “what to do”, and fear of being caught violating rules are just a few of the barriers to effective environmental communication. How can we talk about controversial topics like air quality and climate change in a non-threatening way that invites people to participate in solutions? Simple surveys can be a powerful tool for education, as well as for data collection. At the North Carolina State Fair in October 2010, the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) set out to educate the public about the health and legal aspects of outdoor burning, especially the fact that burning trash and other manmade materials is illegal in North Carolina. We also wanted to collect data on open burning behavior and knowledge. We knew that many attendees would be “burners” and might be hostile to our message. We designed a short, anonymous computer-based survey and offered incentive items to participants. Trained DAQ staff discussed the issue in a non-threatening way with participants who initiated conversations. We found that of the almost seven thousand participants, fifty percent were unaware that burning trash was illegal. Fifteen percent admitted that they broke this law. Many were willing to openly discuss the matter with us and allowed staff to explain the dangers of open burning. Our survey directly educated 3,500 people about the law, and elicited honest and open communication about this important environmental issue.
Get in touch! NC AIR AWARENESS TEAM Jonathan Navarro Environmental Senior Specialist (919) 707-8494 Jonathan.Navarro@ncdenr.gov Milli Hayman Environmental Specialist (919) 707-8718 Milli.Hayman@ncdenr.gov CONTACT INFO firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-RU4NCAIR www.NCAIR.org