Alumnus applies communication strategies to support environmental change
Over the course of a 40-year career in environmental education and communication, Brian Day has come to be recognized as a leading authority on environmental social marketing, bringing the tools of commercial marketing to bear on sustainability. This strategy uses information technologies to more effectively and widely disseminate environmental information and messages, with the ultimate goal of getting the masses on board with sustainability initiatives. Messaging identifies and targets the most relevant aspect of basic human interest – such as pride in the landscape or increased efficiency – to motivate people to adopt behaviors that ameliorate specific conservation threats. “Every conservation problem we face is caused by human behavior, says Day. “If we don’t focus on changing human behavior, we’re not going to facilitate the long-term change we envision.” Between 1995 and 2002, Day oversaw the $50 million USAID Environmental Education and Communication initiative, nicknamed GreenCOM, which explored whether measurable results could be achieved through environmental social marketing. The answer was a resounding “yes.” Research in over 30 countries revealed the definite impact of social marketing campaigns, from guiding El Salvadoran teachers to incorporate environmental content into their curriculum to encouraging the use of more fuel-efficient stoves in the Congo. Day directed one such campaign in Egypt, where intensive irrigation by farmers led to low water levels in the Nile River. As a result, the Mediterranean Sea was backing up into the Nile and salinating the river delta, posing serious challenges to agriculture and the delta’s ecosystems. Day helped facilitate water awareness and conservation campaigns for farmers to mitigate this problem. GreenCOM’s success inspired Day to launch the pioneering international journal Applied Environmental Education and Communication in 2001, the first-ever peer-reviewed journal dedicated to sharing environmental communication research. The journal showcases the latest fieldwork in environmental social marketing, journalism, and education, ranging from how to get people to understand that they’re a part of a watershed to tweaking communication campaigns for various cultural contexts. As editor-in-chief, Day focuses the publication on real project results, not theory and rhetoric, to help practitioners understand what they can do in the field that actually works. With his characteristic humility, Day outsources credit for his success. “I have had the honor and pleasure of working with enormously bright and dedicated people around the world that have inspired and taught me,” he says. “Their passion is what has made my career so exciting.” For his work with GreenCOM, Day was awarded NAAEE’s Outstanding Service to Environmental Education Award in 2000.