Abstract

While residents of Bowie appreciate the beauty, privacy and shade provided by trees, the City’s tree rebate program yielded only 50 trees planted during the inaugural year (FY14). That number dropped to 27 in FY15 and just 9 in FY16. Similarly, after a 2010 tree pruning and clearing project by the local utility, replacement tree vouchers provided by the company were redeemed for only 20% of the approximately 3,000 eligible trees (greater than 8” dbh). We conducted a barriers and benefits analysis (Phase I), and took that information to create outreach materials aimed at increasing the number of tree rebates redeemed. Our Positioning Statement was: We want Bowie homeowners in areas of low-to-medium UTC to see planting trees on their property as an easy, low-time commitment, valuable action they can take for themselves and for their community, and be moticated to and take the action of planting trees on their property.

Behavior

Behaviors: Tree planting

Behavior Pattern: One-time

Why was this behavior selected?

Knowing the many benefits of trees, Bowie City Council adopted a 45% tree canopy goal (2012). The previously known percentage was 42%, and because the City has exhausted opportunities on City-owned land, we identified private tree planting as a way to reach this goal. Because residents find trees beautiful and an important part of their neighborhoods, we felt that this was a logical choice.

Are there component behaviors to the target behavior?

Component behaviors include wanting a tree, selection and purchase of a tree, identifying an appropriate place in the yard and planting the tree.

This may require smaller steps such as researching trees, making a trip to a local nursery, and having a vehicle capable of transporting the tree, to name a few.

What are the competing behaviors to the target behavior?

The primary competing behavior of tree removal was discovered during two focus groups (during a previous phase of this campaign in 2013).

Target Audiences

Audiences: Detached single family homeowners/renters

Primary Audience: Detached single family homeowners/renters

Secondary Audience: N/A

Demographics: Black or african american, Hispanic or latino, White

Ages: 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65+

Description of Target Audience

Because of differences across neighborhoods, we identified two distinct subgroups of our homeowner audience. About 35% of the homes in Bowie were constructed in the mid-60s/70s, and another 35% after 1990. We opted to target these older areas that have trees dying out and the newer areas where fewer, smaller (ornamental) trees were required.

Research

How did you research your audiences: A combination of in-person interviews or focus groups and then broader surveys

Barriers

A previous phase of the project identified a number of barriers, and in this phase we attempted to address them. The one barrier that I'm not sure we can address (or at least not affect) is that residents in the focus groups and phone survey felt that there are enough trees in their yards and neighborhoods.

External factors

We didn't identify any external factors.

Benefits

Residents primarily identified beauty, shade and privacy as the major benefits of trees.

Gaining insight into your target audience

This was the main focus of this phase of the project. We took the messages and materials out for a test drive in two neighborhoods before launching them across the city.

Strategy

Outreach Tactics: Extrinsic rewards, Intrinsic rewards, Public commitment statements, Social norms

What media/communication channels did you use? Face to face, Direct mail

Products and services

We provided residents with a flyer showing the steps of getting a tree and a rebate. The reverse side provided a table with important characteristics of the trees eligible for a rebate such as average height, root depth and growth rate. This was intended to address one of the problems identified in a previous study - the potential for property damage due to roots (sewer intrusion).

Cost or Trade Off

The monetary cost included the tree and, if desired, delivery and planting. This was partially offset with a rebate of $50 of $100 depending on the type of tree.

The non-monetary cost was an investment of time to go to the nursery and plant/water/maintain the tree.

Place

Residents were free to use any retailer (including online) to make their purchase, but at the one nursery in the city that accepts the Marylanders Plant Trees coupon, we provided the same flyer to help in tree selection. We also provided links to a few online resources.

Primary Messages

Plant One Tree for a Beautiful Bowie was the slogan developed for this phase of the project. One of the barriers to this behavior was the perception of those interviewed that their neighborhoods/yards/city have sufficient trees. The intent was to show that just one tree in a yard can make a difference (when enough people participate).

We sent a postcard alerting residents to either a visit or a mailing about the program and during the door-to-door work, when asked about receiving the postcard, folks would occasionally mention the slogan (e.g., "oh, yes, the Plant One Tree thing"). It seemed to be catchy, but it's unclear if it was sufficient in addressing the apathy with respect to planting trees. We are sending a survey to the residents that returned committment cards and will ask this question.

Attached Files

Lessons

How did you measure impact? Survey, Tracking, Web Hits

Total People Reached

We sent direct mail of the program materials to 400 homes, and we visited the other 400 homes. We are developing a follow-up survey now that will go to all 800 target homes.

We had about 200 more hits on our tree rebate webpage during the 3 months of the campaign than the previous 3 months. The campaign timeline included the month before we sent/took information to residents, the month we did the visits, and a month after (waiting for commitment cards). While there is likely some overlap in these numbers, we have anecdotal evidence of other residents hearing of the program from folks in our mini-pilot neighborhoods.

Most significant lessons learned

While we did not receive nearly as many commitment cards (22) (and even fewer tree rebates at 5) as expected, we have generated a lot of information from residents may help us improve our planting/rebate program.The labor and time it takes to plant a tree seems to be much more of an issue than was expected, and that is what we will address as we revamp the tree rebate program.

We also expected that the door-to-door campaign would show more success (tree rebates) than the mailing, yet 4 of the 5 rebates received to date from the targeted homes were from the mailing campaign, and the 5th rebate was from a house where information was left hanging on the door since the owners were not home. This was rather surprising, but on the plus side, mailing is much less resource-intensive.


What worked?

Based on the positioning statement, the door-to-door contact was less successful (fewer trees planted), but staff involved found this to be very useful. We were surprisingly well-received (only one "no thanks" and door slam), and we were able to have other conversations with residents and answer questions.

What were the most significant limiting factors to greater success?

Based on the positioning statement, the door-to-door contact was less successful (fewer trees planted), but staff involved found this to be very useful. We were surprisingly well-received (only one "no thanks" and door slam), and we were able to have other conversations with residents and answer questions.

Who helped you with this program/Campaign?

Residents participated in the first phase of this project, but this phase was just City staff and a consultant. We worked with Action Research, and they were invaluable. Their knowledge of Nancy Lee's approach to community-based social marketing was the only reason we were able to launch this program (well, of course the funding was critical, too).


Advice Or Suggestions

I'm happy to send the final consultants' report, flyer, and/or anything else from the project if you just email me.