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Creating Sustainable Connections

“The more clearly we focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction”-Rachel Carson

Education is a crucial aspect of creating change. As Rachel Carson depicts in the quote above, we cannot truly appreciate something until we learn about it. That is why sustainability education is more important than ever. The goal is to create behavior change to encourage a societal shift. People respond heavily to social norms; if they see their neighbors engaging in a certain activity, they are more likely to participate in that behavior. The idea is that if enough people participate in the behavior change, a large percent of the population would follow. In this post, we will discuss two types: film screenings and a pilot citizen engagement program.

Group of people all putting their hands into a circle in a field

Being engaged and making connections is very important in sustainability.

Film Series

Sustainability Connections is a film series facilitated by Pinellas County Extension every fall hosted at a local university or institution. Each year, multiple films are viewed that cover a variety of different sustainability topics and potential solutions. Each film screening is followed by an expert-led panel discussion with the audience. This allows for guests to reflect on what they saw and ask additional questions. People respond well to visuals and the compact format of the movies allows them to be informative but not overwhelming. For example, at the University of Tampa, 76% of participants reported that they felt this was more informative than a traditional lecture and 73% responded that it was more engaging. The series also led UT to unanimously adopting a “Recycling Resolution” as a result of the film series.

This year Sustainability Connections is being hosted at University of South Florida at their St. Petersburg Campus. It kicks off Tuesday September 19th at 6 p.m. with the Secret Life of Your Clothes.

A movie poster for the film "A Fierce Green Fire"

This film was shown at the University of Tampa in Fall of 2016.

Civic Engagement Pilot Program

Another educational tool that Pinellas County Extension uses to address sustainability issues is teaching about civic engagement. This pilot program will consist of classes, each geared toward educating participants on how to be an active citizen. Some topics that will be covered include individual action (voting, public meetings, letter writing), the basics of working together (leadership, critical thinking, diversity training), and community change (Theory of Change, facilitation techniques). For more information on the pilot program, click here.

The key to behavior change is education. The challenge is getting it to the masses. That is why non-traditional mediums of education are so important. Traditional lecture, while very effective, does not always connect with everyone. By providing a variety of different opportunities for people to learn in different ways, a larger audience can be reached and we can create lasting, sustainable connections.


contributed by Trevor Ackerman, Sustainability Program Assistant