Greening the City through Civic Engagement
The City of Huntington Park, California recognized that low usage of recycling resources was a sign of the need for more robust resident engagement. So, the city brought together its residential waste hauler, local organizations, and residents to determine the best way to address the problems of lack of civic engagement and lack of environmental responsibility – as gauged by very low rates of residential recycling and very high rates of contamination (residents putting things in both the recycling and green waste containers that didn’t belong there).
Project Summary & Engagement Strategies:
The campaign “In Huntington Park, Recycling is Natural” was developed as a way to create civic responsibility in the community through environmental stewardship. The campaign began with focus groups of residents (conducted in Spanish) with topics ranging from the environment to schools to trust in their city government. These residents knew about recycling but it was not a part of their daily life. They did talk about their concern that one day their children would ask about what they had done to protect the planet and that they would have little to say.
Input from these Spanish speaking residents shaped the design of what became the En Huntington Park, Reciclar Es Natural campaign, which included direct mail, a press conference at city hall, a presentation at city council and two contests: a poster contest for children and a pledge contest for adults.
The campaign was very successful. In Huntington Park, there has been a 14% increase in recycling, a 5.6% decrease in contamination of recycling, and a 29.1% decrease in contamination of green waste. By designing an approach that first started by engaging residents and seeking to understand their concerns, their reality and their aspirations for the community and themselves, the effort was far more successful than it would have otherwise been.