Teaming Up to Reach the Moveable Middle

    May 30, 2017
    by Sara Espinoza

    The National Environmental Education Foundation’s (NEEF) vision is that by 2022, 300 million Americans actively use environmental knowledge to ensure the wellbeing of the earth and its people. Our research has identified the “moveable middle” – 129 million Americans who, when given the right information and opportunities through people they trust, want to do the right thing for the environment. People in the moveable middle care, but feel that acting for the environment is too time-consuming, too costly, or means they have to compromise their core identities.

    In exploring how to reach people in the moveable middle, NEEF has learned that many do not feel welcome in environmental conversations and, as a result, are often not part of developing and implementing solutions to the environmental challenges we face nationally and globally. We are committed to changing this.

    To help members of the moveable middle feel they are part of the environmental conversation, and to engage them in taking action for the environment, NEEF looks to partnerships with affinity groups Americans trust. Through our partnership with NBA Cares, NEEF is reaching loyal basketball fans with environmental information through the players and teams they listen to and value.

    The NBA Green Energy All-Star campaign engages fans in “learning by doing,” reminding them of simple, everyday actions we can all take to save energy, save money, and have a positive impact on the environment. The campaign launched on April 22, 2017 with a video animation featuring Hall of Famers Bill Walton and Dikembe Mutombo, NBA legends Jason Collins and Felipe Lopez, and WNBA legends Swin Cash and Ruth Riley coming to life as animated bobbleheads to share energy-saving tips during a timeout in a pick-up game. NBA fans were encouraged to opt-in on their mobile phones by texting TIMEOUT to 49767 to receive a week of daily energy-saving tips, reminders, and promotional incentives. (The contest to win NBA prizes, including NBA or WNBA tickets, ended on May 22, 2017, but fans can still opt-in to receive energy-saving tips!)

    The NBA Green Energy All-Star campaign aims to translate good intentions into measurable action-taking. Fans who opt-in to receive text message tips and reminders move along a ladder of engagement. They start with simple, low-barrier, no-cost actions and ladder up to more involved actions that may require an investment of time or money. The energy-saving tips fans receive include:

    • Unplugging electronics when not in use;
    • Setting your computer to sleep mode when not in use;
    • Switching your washing machine from hot to cold water wash;
    • Replacing the five most-used light bulbs in your home with ENERGY STAR labeled LED light bulbs;
    • Sealing air leaks and adding insulation to your home; and
    • Purchasing and properly setting a programmable thermostat.

    A key goal of the campaign is to demonstrate that individual actions can create large-scale, positive impact when taken together as a team. When a person confirms they are taking an action, they receive positive feedback and information about the impact of their action – for example, unplugging electronics can save as much as 10% on your electricity bill – and a link to learn more. Now that the promotional period for the campaign has ended, NEEF is calculating the impact of all of the actions taken and will communicate back to fans the collective impact they are having in terms of money saved, energy saved, and greenhouse gas emissions prevented.

    The NBA Green Energy All-Star campaign has had tremendous social media exposure – preliminary data show more than 150,000 engagements, 7.7 million impressions, and 1.7 million video views. This is not the complete picture, as the reach of NBA and WNBA players, individual teams, and other key partners is still being tallied. People visiting the NEEF campaign web page are spending an average of 8 minutes and 42 seconds, suggesting they are engaging with the content to learn more about the energy-saving actions. NEEF is in the process of analyzing the text messaging component of the campaign to learn more about how campaign exposure translates to engagement, which messages and calls-to-action best prompt engagement, and which energy-saving actions resonate most. NEEF and NBA are also identifying ways to keep this campaign evergreen, so that the collective impact continues to grow.

    Most people have good intentions to do what’s right when it comes to the environment, but often don’t know where to start, feel it’s too difficult or costly, or simply forget to act. The NEEF-NBA partnership is putting energy efficiency front-and-center for fans, and demonstrating that all Americans can play a role in saving energy, saving money, and protecting the environment. We think that’s a slam dunk!

    Sara Espinoza oversees NEEF’s Research and Best Practices unit. She is responsible for leading and coordinating evaluation activities, tracking research and emerging trends in fields related to environmental education, incubating NEEF’s exploration of new themes and concepts, and identifying and disseminating best practices and promising strategies in lifelong environmental learning. Sara is a senior fellow and board member of the Environmental Leadership Program. Before joining NEEF, she worked with the education programs at World Wildlife Fund and the Jane Goodall Institute.


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