Behavior Change Campaign for Strategic Urban Composting

Client Organization: 
Hudson River Park
Project Location : 
New York, NY
Summary of Project Idea: 

Goals & Objectives

14 million tons of waste in NYC every year, ~30% organic waste. Not feasible to having apartment pick up for everyone for a long time, so community drop off will continue to be critical. We seek to fill in the gap of existing community drop-off locations and curbside pick-up, particularly with underserved communities such as public housing.

2030—NYC goal of zero waste

As part of helping NYC achieve this goal, as well as creating significantly important positive impacts on climate change, Hudson River Park has purchased and installed an industrial composter. At the moment, the composter is primarily used for organic material from the park, the office, and a few other select groups. This alone has diverted a significant amount of waste (42,000lbs in 1 year), as well as reduced the need for garbage and organic pick up from the area.

We would like to open this program up more to the community to allow for more community drop-offs, but need a better understanding of how to design effective signage, what are the primary barriers to organics collection in an apartment environment, how to run an effective behavior campaign, how to build programs that empower NYCHA residential support, and how to evaluate the campaign’s effectiveness.

Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance

The impact of this research is to reduce the environmental and climate impacts of organic waste. Collecting organic waste is currently a growing field, as nearly all urban areas are realizing that to meet waste reduction goals, they must address collecting and recycling organic materials. However, programs are still very novel and run into a wide variety of issues. This program could serve as a model for other cities to start up successful community drop-off sites, an important piece of the puzzle, particularly as introducing a curbside collection program can require significant coordination and resources.

Specific Activities & Duration

Research methodologies could include:

  • Literature review
  • Observational research
  • Interviews with possible participants and HRP staff
  • Surveys with possible participants and HRP staff

Integrative Approach

This program integrates the skills of:

  • Program Management/Design
  • Social science research design
  • Environmental psychology
  • Environmental Justice

Overall, it reflects a real world need of non-profits, governments, and private groups to design effective behavior change programs that incorporate best practices of research and evaluation. There is also a need to incorporate environmental justice into these programs.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Justice
Sustainable Systems
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Michaela Zint
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Alexander Ho
  • Anita Lin
  • Yili Luo
Project Status: 
Past Project