Greening the Blue Helmets: the UN Goes Green

The United Nations might be the body long responsible for hosting the forum for international agreement on climate change, so it’s about time it gets its own climate house in order.

Imogen Martineau of Martineau & Co. is responsible for this task and she’s using web 2.0 tools to do it.  Though when I asked her how she was using social media to catalyze behavioural change, she wanted to be clear,  “a website can’t turn down the heating or turn down the air conditioning or shut the window, you need people to do that. The way we use it is what’s important– it’s the messaging and how you present information.”

Greening the Blue website presents information about how the UN can green itself in several different formats, “All the evidence shows that the doomsday scenario stuff doesn’t work,” says Martineau, “People like aspirational engaging positive messages. It’s what advertisers have been using for decades but the green movement has been slow to pick up on.”

People divide into three groups, explains Martineau (citing research by WWF and Cultural Dynamics): about 2%, will be swayed with a moral and intellectual argument. “Most greenies,” she says, “fall into this group.”

The majority of other people fall into two other categories: one group’s sense of well-being comes from how they are esteemed in society. This group is about 50% of the population and this group is the group that all the green lifestyle messaging has been directed at (titles, status, lifestyle). The other group is security driven and don’t like change, they tend to be inner directed and like what’s familiar but are therefore well networked locally.

To be clear, says Martineau, we have all of these types within ourselves, it’s which one is dominant that determines how we do things.

The approach she’s taking to green the UN focuses on the later two types:

A short animation she commissioned for the UN’s website appeals to the security driven people by showing them that green behaviour is common sense, things they do anyway like turning off an appliance when it’s not being used, while poking fun at the types we typically think of as green: those constantly on a soapbox, that go to seemingly great lengths to avoid everyday things like using electricity– it’s a fun caricature.

The animation is posted on the website, which also supports a community of green champions– the strategy used to engage folks who are swayed by status.  Green champions get their name on the website, carry out awareness campaigns within their departments (like recycling, using water filters, monitoring the use of plastics).  Martineau & Co’s Project Manager Vineetha Anne George, who is responsible for coordinating with the green champions mentioned one champion was even leading a inter-departmental online video competition.

The website also acts as a support for a green focal point within each UN agency– someone that’s charged with carrying out green programs, monitoring greenhouse gas emissions levels, and networking with climate interested UN employees within their department. The website offers posters and logos to download to raise awareness, as well as badges and banners that the UN employees themselves can use to raise awareness through their own websites.

The Greening the Blue website also appeals to the moral and intellectual crowd: it contains information on the greenhouse gas emissions of all the branches of the UN.  There are also case studies so that departments can share their problems and solutions to reducing carbon emissions.

The strategy seems to be paying off, if for no other reason, says George, than then massive uptake and passion apparent in green champions.

Ann Danylkiw is a freelance writer and digital media producer. Her background is Finance and Development Economics.While writing for Triple Pundit, she is currently producing her first social experiment / digital documentary, the lives in London but visits 'home' in Wisconsin during the summer.

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