How to go green and influence people

As the Green Museums begin to make improvements to reduce energy use, getting the workforce on board will be crucial to their success. Becky Harvey, Flying Collections Assistant for the West Midlands Museum Development Officers shares some of the tips gleaned from a workshop focussed on communication and motivating people to get involved .…

As Flying Collections Assistant I work to support the MDOs on a variety of projects including the Greener Museums programme. I’m also based at Staffordshire County Museum on the Shugborough Estate, which is one of the Green Museums so I’m keen to learn more about how to run a successful awareness programme which gets staff and volunteers involved.

This week’s Green Impact workshop was organised by Staffordshire County Council’s Climate Change Team and led by NUS’s Green Impact Project Officer, Jen Strong. The Green Impact project began at universities and Jen is taking the lessons learnt by students out to colleges, businesses and public organisations. These workplaces even benefit from a student audit of their efforts!

Staffordshire County Council is one of 4 councils taking part, with 23 teams across the Council participating, including the Museum Service. Green Impact is about making our efforts bigger and better than before and Jen had lots of tips on how to implement environmental behavioural change initiatives.

Top tips for getting staff and volunteers involved

 1. Shout about what you are doing and stay positive. If possible use the data you have to give people a compelling reason to change. It can be tempting to do little things quietly but you will need everyone to take part to have a real impact and share your workload.

2. Make it a team effort. Consider creating a competitive element and feedback how you are doing.

3. Work with existing networks and culture. Don’t re-invent the wheel, use existing channels of communication to get everyone familiar with what you are doing.

4. Have fun! Aim to raise general awareness in light-hearted ways. Once people are on board you will have support to tackle some of the more difficult issues. Get people involved through the backdoor by organising activities like Fair Trade Fridays, competitions and quizzes.

At Nottingham Trent University students organised a team lunch and challenged everyone to bring food without packaging.


5. Know your audience and communicate clearly to those groups. Be strategic and target how you engage different people.

Who is my audience?

Responses to your green campaign can probably be grouped into 4 different personality categories and you need to appeal to these groups in different ways. Do you recognise any of these characters?

A. Cautious Participants: These people aren’t against the green agenda but might be embarrassed to be forthright with their support. Their green activities are focussed on the home rather than the workplace and they might struggle to change habits.

 How can you engage them?

  • They are highly influenced by group norms so emphasise that there is wide involvement across your museum.
  • Include ‘Going green’ on your meeting agendas.
  • Normalise what you are trying to do.

B. Stalled supporters: They refer to your ideas and climate change as ‘eco-rubbish’. They may lack knowledge and aren’t clear about your goals. Stalled supporters struggle to fit the green agenda with their own values and think your ideas are all very inconvenient.

How can you engage them?

  •  Avoid the environmental message. Think of other ways you can persuade them, for example make a business case for change.
  • Give them direct instructions rather than the bigger picture. Focus on day-to-day activities rather than long term aims.

C. Concerned consumers: They want to do their bit and are keen to do more to help the environment. They like to be identified by the eco-label and their commitment is mainly through buying rather than ‘doing’ green.

 How can you engage them?

  • Through moral persuasion. Remind them of their impact by focussing on a single issue and making it personal to them. Perhaps focus on waste and break down the total volume of waste to illustrate their personal impact.
  • Encourage positive actions; tell them what they can do to help.

D. Positive greens: Most of Green Champions fall into this category. If you are reading this blog, it is probably you! They are highly concerned, pro-active and knowledgeable about how they can make a difference. They also aim to influence others.

 How can you help them to do more?

  • Give them practical actions and achievable goals.
  • Delegate small projects to them and encourage them to be mini-leaders.

And if it’s still not easy being green…

  • Focus on a single issue and set a small but achievable target, for example “to reduce waste to landfill by 5 rubbish bins in 1 week”. Your quick win can be used to get people involved and interested. You can then move on to something bigger.
  • Make the link between home and the workplace. If people are doing something at home, make it easy for them to continue the behaviour at work.
  • Give them compelling statistics to challenge misconceptions.

For example, the optimal office temperature is 18-21c. Each extra degree you heat or cool outside of these limits adds 10% to your bill. Every extra layer you wear increases your thermal comfort by 3c.

  • Make your communications visual. If you are focussing on paper, why not pile up all the boxes of paper you use in a year to show people exactly how much is being used.
  • Have a focal point for your message. Use a bulletin board or website to share information about your progress.
  • Communication is vital. Explain why you are making the changes you make. Remember it should be two-way; give people the opportunity to feedback ideas.
  • Look at job functions; what is most damaging to the environment? Organise a competition based around that issue.
  • Encourage pro-active behaviour whenever possible, even if it has little impact on your carbon footprint or bills. Make people feel involved, get the message out and re-enforce positive behaviour.

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