When I think water conservation, this is what comes to mind:
- Taking shorter showers
- Waiting for a full load before using my washing machine
- Watering my lawn less
In reality, only about 10% of our overall water use comes from home activities such as washing, cleaning, drinking and cooking. Crazy huh!?
The majority of water is used to produce the food we eat, power our lives and create the products we use every day.
Here’s a few things to consider:
When you sit down for dinner and eat 1 pound of beef, consider that it takes approximately 6,810 litres of water to produce that scrumptious burger.
When you use buy that sleek new t-shirt to wear to that concert you’re going to on Friday, consider that it takes approximately 2,700 litres of water to farm the cotton that went into producing your new look for the show.
Cue the super awesome campaign I found: Change the Course
Change the Course is an excellent water conservation campaign that not only uses a number of the 10 Rules of Social Marketing, but also takes a look at how businesses can work together with local organizations and international not-for-profit organizations to engage individuals on conservation efforts, change behaviours and make a difference to the natural environment.
Based out of the United States, Change the Course educates individuals on the true sources of water consumption and offers people the opportunity to calculate their water footprint to see which facets of their life consume the most water.
It tackles the problem in three parts. Education. Behaviour Change. Restoration.
First, it educates individuals on the real sources of water consumption, as talked about above. It was a real eye-opener for me to learn how much water it took to produce all of the things I use on a daily basis. Shopping for a new t-shirt will take on a new meaning in my eyes, and make me think twice as to whether or not I really need a new outfit for that wedding coming up in the fall.
A cool feature that I found very engaging was their water footprint calculator. It asks you a series of questions from where you live, to your diet and how you get around town. All of these factors are tallied at the bottom so you can see your gallon per day scored compared to the average American.
Next, it brings into play what we’re all really here for – the social marketing aspect. It gives individuals 4 easy, doable options to incorporate into their life as behaviour changes before pledging to conserve water. The options are as follows:
- Eat meat once a day
- Buy fewer clothes
- Plant native vegetation instead of thirsty grasses
- Turn off lights and TV when not in use
Although these may not follow social marketing rules to a tee, there is a clear intention here for people to take charge of their water use and pledge to make a change. This pledge can then be shared with friends, family and the general public through various social media channels.
Lastly, the campaign utilizes big business and promises to conserve 1,000 gallons of water as a result of every pledge made. These conservation efforts are a result of businesses who have joined the campaign hoping to reduce their own water footprint through funding organizations on the ground, currently implementing water conservation projects. These projects, such as working with farmers to help irrigate their crops more efficiently, will return more water to depleted rivers, such as the well known Colorado river.
At this point in time, in addition to National Geographic, there are 3 major partners involved in the Change the Course campaign. The first, Participant Media, is a media company focused on entertainment that inspires social change. The second, Take Part, is a “a digital news & lifestyle magazine and social action platform for the conscious consumer,” and a division of Participant Media. Lastly, BEF is an innovative environmental consulting firm that works with businesses to meet and exceed their sustainability needs. Additional companies are involved in the support and sponsorship of the campaign. A full list can be found if you click right here if you scroll allll the way to to bottom.
Social Marketing & Business
In my eyes, this campaign is a good example of how businesses can work together with not-for-profit organizations to increase sustainability efforts within their firm, educate the public on a specific environmental topic (in this case water), and begin to change perceptions and behaviours toward the topic.
Although the social marketing aspect of this campaign may be weaker than other examples presented on the blog, it is a framework for other social marketers to consider moving forward. Not only does involving businesses in your campaign increase your budget, but may also add more weight to the message your campaign is sending out. Below I will go through which of the 10 Rules I believe the campaign was successful in, and comment on what they may be able to do moving forward.
There are 4 main actions that the campaign is suggesting individuals pledge to change moving forward. This is a great start. Moving forward campaign managers may want to consider the barriers to these actions and provide solutions to individuals upfront. For example, one of the suggestions is to buy fewer clothes. This is very open-ended, hard to track, and at the end of the day, very subjective from person to person. Moving forward they may suggest buying certain types of clothes that take less water to produce. For example, does cotton take less water to produce than silk? Does acrylic/synthetic materials take less than cotton? Tangible information like this would be more useful for behaviour change purposes. Additionally, if their goal is for people to use their purchasing power to make a difference in buying products that produce less water, than more information on which products should be purchased would be useful.
It is very clear that each and every organization and business involved in the campaign is focused on environmental or social change, which makes for an authentic foundation for a water conservation campaign. National Geographic as a main partner lends huge credibility to the campaign, as they are a big player in the realm of environmental conservation and awareness. The organizations involved play a big role in how the campaign will be perceived, and whether or not it’s authentic or just a marketing ploy.
The use of pledges in this campaign is relatively weak in its relation to social marketing. It seems as though the use of pledges are used more as a way to track participation, and gallons of water saved as a result of the campaign. Additionally, the website pressures individuals to pledge in order for the 1,000 gallons of water to be saved. Before you leave the website, a pop up asks you to consider pledging before you leave. I expect many of the pledges they received were individuals looking to help out before they went on their way, not actual pledges to change their behaviours. In order to pledge, all you need to do is enter your phone number or email address and press okay. Moving forward, a suggestion would be to ask participants to write down what they’re pledging to do and share that on social media, as personalization will make the pledge more meaningful in the long run.
The water footprint tracker is a great feature built into the campaign. It’s a fun and educational way to learn about water consumption in our everyday lives, as it applies to each and every one of us individually. Seeing how we compare to the “Average American” is a good baseline, and can either inspire us to do better than our neighbour, or can have some negative spillover when individuals learn they are doing better than average and thus take a more lax approach to water conservation. It would be interesting to note how many people are above or below average that have taken the survey so far, and how many who were above average pledged to change their behaviour.
Moving forward through our month on water I hope you take the pledge to conserve water and learn more about your everyday water use through the Change the Course Campaign.
As always, thanks for reading and please leave a comment below!