It’s mid-December, and we’re on our second “big rain event” of 2021-22 rainy season in the Bay Area. It’s been four weeks since the last storm, and for the past three years, total rainfall is way below average. This is a predicted new pattern: less frequent rain, bigger storms, persistent drought cycles. And, as the storms get bigger and rain falls in a shorter period of time, our storm drain systems can get overwhelmed and much of the precious water can wash away into the bay and ocean.
This past year, our team has worked with stormwater professionals in California to research the best ways to promote stormwater management techniques—that already exist—to capture and use rain water from these storms. A great example of what’s possible is Magic Johnson Recreation Area in Los Angeles.
This beautiful park uses built-in systems that mimic nature, and sustain the park while preventing pollution, capturing water, and providing residents with a beautiful open space.
Stormwater education has been almost exclusively focused on the pollution that stormwater carries to our waterways. The good news is that “capture and use” projects also clean the water, so it can be used on site for irrigation. This leaves more of our water supply for humans and wildlife.
Green stormwater infrastructure is an elegant solution that results in many benefits to communities: green space, more water supply, less dependance on importing water. It seems like a win-win, but is lacking in public awareness, funding, and integration with statewide water supply planning.
It will take ongoing effort to rebrand stormwater as a resource, and not as a source of pollution. Our team will do our best to help the industry simplify technical terms and jargon to resonate with voters and elected officials who need to support projects in their communities, and to state officials who must fund them.
California SB 1383 looms large on many of our clients’ minds—and on ours, as we help with the outreach portion of implementing the law locally. It’s an exciting prospect to see not only downstream measures like organics recycling mandated statewide but also upstream prevention, with the requirement to recover 20 percent of currently disposed food that’s edible to feed people. In this blog, we share some of our experience creating outreach tools for food recovery.
For local jurisdictions, this means not only figuring out the nuts and bolts of a functioning food recovery system, but also how to communicate to the affected parties. And the clock is ticking—by or before February 1, 2022, jurisdictions need to provide “outreach and education” to the first wave of affected commercial edible food generators as well as food recovery organizations and services.
The law may seem overwhelming, but fortunately a lot of the basic principles of good outreach are helpful here:
Segment your audience(s)
Consider your outreach and messaging to the different audiences as separate efforts. For example, the content, timing and channel of your outreach to the first wave of large food businesses (the state calls them “Tier 1” businesses) will differ from the second wave of smaller food businesses (called “Tier 2”), and both will differ from food recovery organizations.
There will likely be only a small number of Tier 1 businesses for most counties, and they will require direct outreach—phone calls, web meetings, emails and visits. Your learnings from reaching out to Tier 1 can help streamline your efforts for Tier 2. Consider this a test run!
Put yourself in the shoes of businesses — they are not steeped in “1383” like we are. Since this is new territory for all parties, consider having interviews or web meetings with businesses to help you develop your content and/or test your messaging to see if it is clear.
Create outreach tools with clear and inclusive language.
Craft messaging with an eighth-grade reading level in mind—which is what magazines and popular literature generally use.
Avoid regulatory terminology as much as possible and translate industry jargon into everyday terms anyone can understand.
For example, define the term “recovery.” This is a term unfamiliar to businesses. Our clients have found it preferable to using the term “donation.” If that’s the case for you, help your audience understand what “recovery” is and provide context. For example, say, “Separate edible food that would otherwise be composted or landfilled so it can be “recovered” to feed people.”
Be considerate and inclusive in your language e.g., say “food insecure” rather than “hungry.”
Plan a “multi-touch” outreach effort.
Start with an official notification letter, mailed 6 months in advance. Keep your first “touch” simple, high level and focused on what’s coming. Rather than overwhelming them with details, get people’s attention first.
Create a web page or site to hold detailed information, including any legal documents such as a local ordinance or a model contract for edible food collection services.
Follow up your letter with direct outreach to affected businesses and food recovery organizations. Business outreach best practices have always relied on phone calls, emails, meetings and technical assistance to get results.
To build general awareness of 1383 in the business community, consider partners like chambers of commerce, business associations and environmental health departments, and ask to be included in announcements using their email lists and social media channels.
SB 1383 is a complex law and an exciting prospect with laudable goals. Using the basic rules of good outreach and remembering that businesses need direct outreach, you will be on your way to helping California put edible food to better use—all while fighting climate change!
We support the historic efforts by the Black Lives Matter movement, seen here at a march in Oakland, May 2020.
Photos: Thomas Hawk, CC license (left); Daniel Arauz, CC license (right).
We are living in truly historic times, a potential turning point for race relations in this country. At Gigantic, we acknowledge our place of privilege, and are working to use the learnings from environmental behavior change to make our work and our company more effective change agents. Studies show that racial injustice and climate injustice are intimately intertwined — one cannot be addressed without addressing the other. We recognize that working for environmental justice must be at the center of our efforts moving forward.
Making solutions that work for all communities starts with listening to under-heard Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) voices now and from the past. We honor and learn from the work of those who have come before in striving for environmental justice, including Van Jones and DreamCorps/Green for All, the California Environmental Justice Alliance, the Greenlining Institute, Planting Justice and so many more activist and outreach organizers in the Bay Area, from the Black Panthers to Diablo Rising Tide.
We recognize that we have much more to learn, but also that actions must accompany words in pursuit of environmental justice.
As we know from our work, commitment, especially public commitment, is a key tool for behavior change. Therefore, we are making some initial public commitments:
Gigantic will work with industry organizations (such as NCRA and CRRA) to create and support leadership pathways (e.g. scholarships and donations) for BIPOC interested in zero waste professions. Starting now, we are adopting a company policy to set a yearly goal for donated money and labor to support this important work. For 2020 we will donate up to $2,000 in financial support and $2,000 in Gigantic staff labor hours to fulfill this goal.
We pledge to actively advocate for BIPOC-centered spaces in our industry at the discretion and leadership of BIPOC professionals/community members.
We will continue to engage our clients in conversations around inclusive stakeholder engagement and true representations in all media, keeping environmental justice top of mind.
Further, we recognize that this is a process that will require ongoing, sometimes difficult, work as a company to track and incorporate racial and environmental justice values in our practices, and we will consciously dedicate time to regularly evaluate our progress and set challenging goals.
Bolstered by heroic past examples and inspired by present actions and activists, we are hopeful these contributions, however small, will help progress toward a just and sustainable future.