Monday, July 25, 2016

Shut it Off

By Anna Barker

Photo credit: Anna Barker

What motivates people to change?

That was my take-away question after participating alongside my fellow Master Water Steward from Woodbury and summer staff who put on the Puppet Wagon shows about smart water usage in our city parks during the week of July 11, 2016.   

How DO you change people’s behavior?

The answer is CBSM…
“The cornerstone of both sustainability and health is behavior change. If we are to move toward a sustainable and healthy future, we must encourage the adoption of a multitude of actions (e.g., waste reduction, water and energy efficiency, active lifestyles, hand washing, vaccinations, etc.). To date, most programs to encourage such activities have relied upon disseminating information. Research demonstrates, however, that simply providing information has little or no effect on what people do. But if not ads, brochures or booklets, then what?" (

Over the last decade a new approach ... community-based social marketing ... (CBSM) has emerged as an effective alternative for delivering programs to foster sustainable behavior. Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr is the founder of community-based social marketing. Recommended by Time magazine, his book "Fostering Sustainable Behavior” has become requisite reading for those working to deliver environmental program to promote water efficiency, waste reduction, energy efficiency, conservation, modal transportation changes, watershed protection and other sustainable behavior changes.

Community-based social marketing is a unique approach to fostering both environment and health related behavioral changes and is now being utilized in thousands of programs across the globe. It has become the foundation for the trainings and programs of the Freshwater Society and Master Water Stewards in the effort to develop Community Leadership for Clean Water.

Master Water Stewards Stephanie Wang (left), Anna Barker (rear), David Rittenhouse and Idelle Peterson (right) work on a rain garden design at a spring rainscaping workshop.

Since January, my fellow Master Water Stewards-in-Training and I have been attending classes, participating in online instructional modules and doing the “brain work” to develop a set of skills that will enable us to use CBSM (see for more resource access) for both education and outreach and to facilitate and implement infiltration projects with the goal to “Stop it Where it Drops!” and keep rain where it belongs: nurturing and nourishing all the plants in our ecosystem and keeping stormwater runoff, with its accompanying possible pollutants out of our amazing freshwater streams, ponds, wetlands, lakes and rivers in Minnesota. 

Master Water Stewards Anna Barker and Brian Bohman visit a test site to compare how different types of engineered soil clean stormwater run-off from Mississippi Watershed Management Organization’s parking lot.

For the past seven months, we learned about the Big Picture issues facing our fresh water resources; about the Problem as it affects our daily lives; that there are no “silver bullet” answers but that a Treatment Train of Solutions exists that can be customized for effective local projects with community involvement and partnerships. We learned that we CAN contribute to behavior change that has positive impacts on water conservation and water quality. Then Stephanie and I aligned our needs here in Woodbury with the Mission and Vision of the Master Water Stewards and put a plan of action into place for our educational capstone project. 

Please go to the Woodbury’s city website and check out their June 16 newsletter to access their latest water quality report and the City Council Strategic Initiatives update. We used the new parks and trails map and navigated a route that aligned with the Woodbury Puppet Wagon during the week of July 11th, which was designated as Water Week, with the puppets engaging the audience in reasons why they wanted humans to become more “Water Wise”. Then the audiences were directed to where Stephanie and I had set up an interactive display borrowed from the Washington Conservation District and had bubbles floating in the air to draw the attention of our young audience and their caregivers! 

Anna Barker and Stephanie Wang incorporated Washington Conservation District’s new interactive water conservation displays during the Puppet Wagon week.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Owens, City of Woodbury

By our count, we had 467 in attendance during the eight shows that we were involved with and had teaching props set up like toothbrushes (up to one gallon of water a minute can go down the drain if left running while you brush your teeth!) and empty tuna cans that CAN be set out under sprinklers for children to play in and then SHUT IT OFF when the cans are full up to their one-inch level, (one inch is the weekly limit that Woodbury wants residents and businesses to comply with for irrigation water efficiency). We also passed out native flower bouquets and free wildflower seed packets from the Washington County Master Gardeners to encourage pollinator/butterfly-friendly low-irrigation lawns and rain gardens.


Woodbury children explore ways to cut down use of water in their homes and yards with hands on activities in the kit.
Please see the fun water conservation music video with a parody of Taylor Swift’s song “Shake it off” to hear the catchy tune that the children and I had ringing in our heads as we left our lovely parks, happy and ready to make our water use footprints child-sized!

Here’s to a Water Wise August!

You can become a Master Water Steward and work in your community to address water issues. Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District is seeking eight new volunteers to join the next round of training session which start in October. For an application and more information go HERE or contact Sage Passi at Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District by email or phone at 651-792-7958.

 Baby Josephine, Anna Barker's first grandchild
Photo credit: Kate Barker

1 comment: