Environmental Communication For Behavior Change

This course provides environmental professionals with a practical introduction to the strategies, methods, and tools of environmental communication that effectively lead to changes in behavior, primarily using social marketing. The field-based skills gained through this course will benefit all practicing environmental professionals faced with the challenge of changing behaviors.

January 18 – March 5, 2021

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  • Early Bird Registration (on or before January 3rd) – $1,150
  • Standard Registration (on or after January 4th) – $1,225
  • Duke University Alumni Registration Rate (10% discount)

A limited number of discounts are available for eligible registrants. For eligibility and application requirements, please see our Application page HERE

Program Description

Community Clean-up

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This course provides environmental professionals with a practical introduction to the strategies, methods, and tools of environmental communication that effectively lead to changes in behavior, primarily using social marketing.  The field-based skills gained through this course will benefit all practicing environmental professionals faced with the challenge of changing behaviors.

Most often environmental professionals face problems and apply well-developed planning, management, engineering, and scientific principles to address their problems.  The premise of this course is that most environmental problems are caused by human behavior and have long-term implications.  To address and create long-term solutions to these problems, behavior needs to change.  The newly emerging field of environmental communication brings together a set of behavior change tools that can help with environmental enforcement, compliance with regulations, and desired changes in behavior when no policy or law exists to force that behavior.  Students will be exposed to the very fast growing set of resources – papers, publications, case studies, people, and programs that offer assistance in addressing behavior change questions. Students will develop a plan targeted to one specific audience and aimed at changing one behavior.

The course is seven weeks in length and is taught in an entirely online, distance learning format, with both asynchronous and synchronous portions. No campus visits are required.  Depending upon enrollment, we anticipate offering 1-2 times each week that you can interact with instructors and classmates via Zoom. 

Note: Zoom dates and times are determined by student and instructor availability. Student availability will be assessed by a poll 3-6 weeks prior to the course. For more information on Zoom dates, please email us at execed@nicholas.duke.edu

A different theme within the topic of environmental communication will be addressed each week:

Week One: Technology Orientation and Materials Overview
This week Duke staff will hold a practice session using the Webconference technology and walk-through the course material platform.  It will also be a good time to test out all the technology and ask any logistical questions for the course.  Instructor Brian Day will not be present.

Week Two: What is Behavior Change and Social Marketing?
This week is meant to help us all get our heads around what we mean by behavior change and social marketing.  It is also about taking the time to identify one specific project to focus on in this course.  It will be a time to get to know each other as well.

Week Three: Introduction to Environmental Communication, Behavior Change and Social Marketing
What is it?  How can we use it?  Can you really change behavior?  How does social marketing work at the community level?  How can planners use it to address specific local problems?

Week Four: Behavior Change on Environmental Issues
Environmental social marketing differs from communication in that is is extremely audience focused and deeply rooted in research. What are the main theories of behavior change and how do they apply to our work as environmental professionals?  This week is dedicated to starting the serious process of understanding the steps of developing a campaign to change behavior.. 

Week Five: Designing a Campaign and the Importance of Research 
This week focuses on completing your marketing plan and integrating the creative elements that make your campaign successful.

Week Six: Policy Change & Advocacy
Often as environmental professionals, we are trying to enact or implement new policy. How do we effectively apply these behavior change ideas to policy? How do we get our messages to the right audiences?  How do we get otherwise disinterested policy-makers to pay attention?  How do we create a sense of urgency?

Week Seven: Students take this week to work on their Final Paper
In lieu of a formal class, instructor Brian Day will host an online “office hours” session.  Students may log in to ask questions or receive feedback on their final projects

Course Details

Weekly webinars for this course will meet: TBD

Tech Check: TBD

First session with course content: TBD

This course will require 40 hours over the 7-week class period.  Time will include:

  • Five synchronous web-conference sessions (one each week) where students and instructor will address the week’s theme and materials.
    Please note: Meeting times will not be determined until registration is closed. Times depend on registrant availability, which will be elicited via email to registrants.
  • Discussion via online conferencing tools, including discussion.  Participation will be encouraged through the posing of various questions based on readings, previous discussion, and future directions of the class.  In addition to exploring general course topics, web discussion tools will also allow students to work through issues related to their paper topic – exploring opportunities and selecting the correct strategies with help from others in the class and instructor’s guidance.
  • Reading of assigned materials.
  • Creation of, and response to, final paper assignment actually designing a social marketing program for an issue and target audience of the student’s choosing.

Please note: While specific components of outlined class structure may change, it will be expected that students commit to 40 hours over the 7-week class period. 


Class Participation
One of the most critical elements of this class will be your personal contribution to the course through consistent postings to discussion board, as well as participation during web-conference meetings.  You will receive specific instructions for this requirement before the course commences.

Paper:  An Environmental Communication/Behavior Change Strategy Addressing a Real Issue
This paper is a practical application of lessons from this course, translating what you learn into a usable strategy for yourself and/or other professionals in the field.  The paper must address a real problem and real barriers and be able to be implemented within the reasonable set of resources of the players for whom you propose the strategy.  Assignment details will be given at the beginning of the class.

Brian A. Day is a well-recognized environmental educator and communicator with over 35 years experience in more than 30 countries. He is a leading authority and practitioner in environmental social marketing and communications training. He served most recently as Director of Social Marketing for Rare, an international NGO that uses social marketing as its primary tool for conservation, primarily in the tropics. He also served as project director of the USAID global project for environmental education and communication known to most as GreenCOM.  He is the former Executive Director of NAAEE – the North American Association for Environmental Education, and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal, Applied Environmental Education and Communication: An International Journal. Brian has taught graduate and undergraduate courses for the University of Michigan, and undergraduate courses for American University, Wayne State University, and the Washington Center.  Brian holds a degree in economics and urban regional planning from Oakland University in Michigan and a master’s degree in environmental education and communication from the University of Michigan.

Technical Requirements:

We understand that participants have different comfort levels with online learning coming into this course.  We are happy to answer any questions you have about online learning in general and our online learning software.

Internet Access
Course participants need to arrange to have reliable internet access through their local internet service provider (ISP).  We encourage participants to arrange for broadband access to the internet via a cable modem, DSL, or a satellite connection.  Dial-up connections will not work as effectively for this course.  We cannot provide support for your network connection, nor can we help you with any home networking equipment such as firewalls, routers, or switches.  For any of those issues, you will want to contact your ISP directly.

Distance Learning Software
The course will be facilitated using the online platform, Canvas and Zoom.  A Duke staff member will be available during the course to assist you with any Canvas related course issues.  

Pre-Course Packet

Prior to the course start date, you will need to purchase the course textbook and USB head-set for webinar participation (note: this is not included in the course tuition). The course text book is Fostering Sustainable Behavior by Dr. McKenzie-Mohr, New Society Publishers; Third Edition (March 15, 2011) ISBN-10: 0865716420. The textbook is available in a Kindle version or hardcopy, either is acceptable. If you have any questions regarding the textbook email execed@nicholas.duke.edu. Also, because this course will be held via online virtual classroom, we recommend that you use a USB headset with microphone so that you can participate in real time with voice over internet. We recommend purchasing the Logitech H330 USB Headset for the webinar participation.

General Course Policies

Course Completion

Upon successful course completion, participants receive a Letter of Completion. Please note: Course does not offer Duke academic credit – All Certificate courses are non-credit professional development offerings.

Payment is due upon receipt of invoice or no less than 15 days before the start of the course. If special arrangements must be made for payment due to agency requirements, you must contact our office no less than 15 days prior to the start of the course at execed@nicholas.duke.edu to complete and submit a payment due notice form.

Failure to make payment arrangements 15 days prior to the start of the course may result in the forfeit of your seat and you will be held responsible for the full tuition of the course. Future registrations will not be accepted from individuals with unpaid invoices.

Course certificates will not be provided until payment is received.

Cancellation & Transfer Policy
All speakers and companies listed have confirmed their participation. If for unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances a speaker cannot attend, instructional time will be filled with comparable instructors. If a course is canceled due to insufficient registrations, tuition will be refunded. Duke cannot be held responsible for travel costs or arrangements made by participants.

Cancellation of registration requires 15 days written notice prior to course start date in order to receive a refund (please submit notification to execed@nicholas.duke.edu). Individuals who do not attend and fail to send written notice prior to the deadline will be charged the full tuition. You may send a substitute to attend the course in your place, however, a $100.00 administrative fee will be assessed for this change, regardless of when written notice is submitted.Any cancellation or substitute request must be received in writing.

  • 15 or more days prior to the course start date – Full tuition refund, minus a $100.00 administrative fee.
  • Less than 15 days prior to the course start date – Full tuition is assessed and a refund is forfeited.
  • Substitute within your organization can attend in your place for an additional $100.00 administrative fee.

In order to receive a refund, you must cancel your registration (in writing to execed@nicholas.duke.edu) by 5:00 p.m. on the refund deadline date for the course.