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Higher Ed Is Talking Climate

By Sharon Chen
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Last week, ecoAmerica released its latest research report, Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans. Along with Lake Research Partners, ASO Communications, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, ecoAmerica has developed market-tested messages designed to engage higher education on climate solutions. The research report provides communications strategies for reaching out to millennials and young adults on college campuses across the nation.

Using qualitative and quantitative research methods, the research team tested specific words, phrases, and narratives to find what engages higher education – specifically, millennials and young adults – on climate change action. Through this process, ecoAmerica came up with four clear communication themes that link climate change to the values and concerns specific to young adults and higher education. The four messages that resonate the most among this population are:

1. Pride of the generation and confidence in the path to achieving a goal. Millennials feel ready to bring America up-to-date with sustainable solutions to our climate challenges.

2. Can-do attitude and motivation for a better life. Young adults are the group that cares the most about climate change, and they believe that they can meet the climate challenge.

3. Connection with the desire for the new, and a differentiation from the outdated and ineffective past. To college students, “business as usual” is already obsolete – young adults are passionate about innovating, new solutions, and acting on climate.

4. Gives the opportunity for the audience to set specific goals, while keeping this accessible with a practical and empowering call for collective action.

In putting these themes into action, ecoAmerica found that it helps to be specific, and positive. For example, when talking about alternatives to driving, it is better to replace “public transportation” with “better transit”; “better transit” suggests potential, positivity, and the removal of stress, while “public transportation” can suggest a shift to an unfamiliar and inconvenient system, and resentment that accompanies the sacrifice of cars.

While messaging is not the sole answer to our climate change challenge, it is the foundation for inspiring hope and action. By communicating more effectively on climate change and how we can meet this challenge, we can start a new conversation on climate, and motivate action on solutions. For more information on how to communicate more effectively, visit ecoAmerica and download the full report