The Wonderful Powers of Community Based Social Marketing!

by Daniella Mostow

Have you ever wondered how we are going to reach carbon neutrality by 2025? The answer involves a lot of technical changes, but EVERYONE on campus also makes a difference! I have been working with the Office of Environmental Sustainability since January 2013 on Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) Research. This work promotes sustainable behavior change on campus.

Are you interested in:

  • The CBSM Project
  • From Coal to Carbon Neutrality
  • Cool is Clean Laundry Campaign
  • Our Beautiful AASHE Award

Community Based Social Marketing

The Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) method of sustainable community development was created to effectively institute behavior change programs. Historically, organizations have implemented behavior change programs — committing significant amounts of time and money — into campaigns that were ultimately ineffective. Many costly and time-intensive programs fail to drive behavior change due to only addressing economic incentives or attitude change through increased information. Some campaigns have too broad a scope (like promoting 20 different behaviors through the same campaign) with mixed results. Doug McKenzie-Mohr, the author of Fostering Sustainable Behavior-An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing, created the CBSM method to address the psychological motivations and barriers that influence people to behave differently. CBSM encourages program administrators to take a systematic, empirical approach to behavior change, thereby maximizing the effectiveness of their program dollars.

The method involves five steps: behavior selection, identification of barriers and benefits, strategy development, program testing, and broad-scale implementation.  Effective use of CBSM techniques ensures that administrators target high-impact behaviors, look at the broad array of factors that influence behavior (for example, social cues, self-image, local values and identities) and use state of the art influence tactics to design their interventions.

From Coal to Carbon Neutrality 

Office of Environmental Sustainability has spent considerable time cultivating a larger circle of campus advocates. It recently held the From Coal to Carbon Neutrality workshop, a well-attended workshop that brought together faculty, staff, administrators, and a variety of students representing diverse interests and organizations to brainstorm, problem-solve, and further mobilize towards carbon neutrality. The event included the Afrikan dance troupe Dance Diaspora, a jazz trio, two student improv comedy groups, and local, sustainable snacks. This successful series will continue by bringing leaders from other campuses to Oberlin to collaborate and share energy solutions. In addition, a website will be created to increase transparency and accessibility of these issues.

Cool is Clean Laundry Campaign 

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Did you know that washing clothes in cold water actually makes clothes last longer while they get just as clean? It also saves 90% of the electricity that would have been used on heating the water. WOW! Through the CBSM work, we have found that most people seem pretty willing to change their behavior. Most people do their laundry in the same way their parents do it. We also found that most people did not know how much better cold water is for laundry. We are moving towards turning the hot water off in each laundry machine except one per building. This way, everyone will still be able to use hot water if they really want to, but they do not have to make as many choices if they don’t want to think about it. It makes everything easier!



We wrote a detailed report of everything that we have done relating to CBSM so far, and we won an award! We were able to present everything that we learned at AASHE’s National conference in Nashville, TN. It was awesome! We were the first people to receive an award in front of over 1,000 people! After the award ceremony, we presented to a packed room of over 70 students, faculty, and staff who were interested in copying our research. Oberlin, once again, is right at the forefront of exciting new work!


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