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Julie Cook Kitchener Apr 29, 2024 12:54 pm
Hi all, 
Municipalities and NGOs that are working towards thriving urban forests face many challenges, including providing maintenance care for trees that have been recently planted in the city. According to a study by Guzman et al (2018), tree maintenance after planting is not usually covered in municipal budgets. The study aimed to address this need by launching a CBSM program that would engage urban residents in the maintenance and care of young trees. 
The CBSM program was managed through partnerships between NGOs Tree People and Communities for a Better Environment as well as the City of Huntington, California, and focused on fostering social norms around tree stewardship. The program followed the five steps of CBSM, starting with behavioural selection. Since “caring for a tree” is a divisible behaviour, non-divisible behaviours were selected and studied, including practices like watering, mulching, pruning, and weeding. Through a combination of a literature review, focus groups, and a survey, organizers found three common barriers to citizens maintaining urban trees after planting. They were the following: 
-       The attitude that it is the city's responsibility to care for trees
-       The belief that carrying a bucket is too difficult
-       The cost associated with watering trees
To address the first barrier, the organizers fostered social norms by asking residents to place a sticker in their front window when they agreed to care for trees in their neighbourhood. This visible commitment helped to change attitudes that it is the city’s responsibility alone to care for urban trees. To address the second and third barriers, vivid communications were applied to counter misconceptions. Alternative ideas were given for using a bucket such as using a water hose, and an instructional magnet was distributed that clarified the cost of watering a tree for one year: only $5! 
It is critically important to collect data on barriers and benefits (CBSM step #2), as it is precisely that information that informs the strategies used to influence behaviours, as you can see from this study. In addition to the above strategies, organizers also built a team of student volunteers that regularly cared for trees in Huntington Park. They also helped actively engaged residents to remember to care for trees by suggesting to them that they align their watering practices with street cleaning that was done by the city on a weekly basis. I thought this was a great prompt idea. 
There is quite a bit more to this study, including detailed results from the surveys. If you’d like to learn more, the open access article is available here