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Connecting people to places in order to inspire behavior changes

Political campaign operatives have known it for years: all politics is local. In most elections, people make voting decisions based not on national issues or philosophies, but on their personal situations.

Similarly, people adopt environmentally-friendly behaviors because the choice affects them personally—around their home or in their pocketbook. We can generally believe in climate change and worry about the polar bears, but we chose to lower the thermostat because of the gas bill.

Biodiversity Project considers this proclivity toward local, real world concerns whenever we research, write and implement communications campaigns. We are better able to inspire people to adopt behavior changes when we connect the changes to local concerns. We’ve been working this local angle since we were first formed in 1995.

Thankfully, the rest of the environmental movement is catching on.

Many environmentally-minded planning organizations, for example, are promoting placemaking instead of just building or designing. As Project for Public Spaces defines it:

While the majority of the world’s citizens would probably not label themselves as environmentalists, most people do care about having a safe and enjoyable world to live in into the future—in the near term, for themselves, but in the long term for their children and grandchildren, as well.

Like these planning groups, other environmental organizations can adopt the principles behind placemaking to reach their programmatic goals. By framing environmental issues like air pollution, water conservation, climate change and even biodiversity in local, place-based contexts, environmental coalitions and organizations can connect people to the behaviors they need to change.

One of the reasons place-based stories work is that people often feel a great sense of pride in their homes, communities, cities and states. When decisions threaten the lives we’ve built or cities we live in, people can be motivated to change their behaviors, like installing rain gardens instead of turf grass to limit flooding in the basement.

Place-centric stories can enhance a communications campaign by drawing on the values we already hold dear. To learn more about how Biodiversity Project uses values to inspire behavior changes, contact our staff.

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Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. They’ve written several articles on their blog about placemaking, people and the environment.