A Logan High School club aims to generate solutions for Cache Valley’s air quality by simplifying the message for post-Millennials.
These post-Millennials, members of “Generation Z,” are part of a generation inspired by newer, more keen developments in technology, and Logan High’s Logan Environmental Action Force (LEAF) wants to use these technology and pop culture developments to inspire members of their demographic.
“There’s so much to learn, but I feel like the youth can have a voice, and they should be able to feel like there is a place for them to have a say in solutions regarding the environment,” said Victoria Stafford, a member of LEAF.
As high schoolers, Stafford said she, along with other members of LEAF, are often questioned about what solutions they can provide in regard to air quality and why they care about an issue many feel cannot be immediately fixed. How high school students can help, she said, is by reaching out to their peers, because they are the newest drivers in Cache Valley.
To spark interest in air quality solutions among the high school population, LEAF, with the help of Utah State University and Logan city, launched a poster contest in January. The contest pit high school students against each other to come up with a message about air quality resonating with Generation Z. The group received about 100 submissions.
The winning posters will be displayed around the school, as well as in businesses all over Cache Valley, in the hopes of marketing messages about idling and air quality to residents. One poster will be selected for an overall grand prize of $100 from the city.
This is the second poster contest in Logan dealing with environmental issues, but the first time LEAF is running it, said Ed Stafford, a professor of marketing in the John M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. This year’s theme was keeping the air clean with driving. Stafford, along with his colleague, Roslynn Brain, launched the contest in January 2015 for college students — an effort between USU, Logan High and Logan city.
When LEAF took over the contest this year, Stafford and Brain asked college students to help mentor kids at Logan High School on how to market messages through art.
In helping students identify with air quality issues, the goal is to use savvy marketing messages that appeal to their generation, Stafford said.
“Many green messages don’t resonate with consumers,” Stafford said. “When you reframe them on values and issues they are concerned about, that motivates consumers to adopt the product or be more concerned about the issue.”
Stafford said to his delight, some of last year’s posters were displayed in Salt Lake City, spreading the message farther than expected.
Stafford and Brain conducted a study as part of an initiative between Logan, USU and Logan High to examine how well the topic of air quality and impact resonated with students.
They tested the protégé effect, the idea that children learn things when they teach other children, and found it apparent through the poster contest. The students who made the posters registered a certain degree of understanding about air quality, as noticed through a survey Brain and Stafford conducted after the contest.
“If you can integrate the green message into what’s important to people, that is going to have a greater impact,” Stafford said.
In one instance Stafford and his daughter, Victoria, noticed students identified with a Star Wars-themed poster adorned with Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and the Death Star protruding from the tail of a car. The message on the poster reads “Car Wars: Resist the dark side. Stop idling.” Stafford said this was one of his personal favorites because of the maker’s identification with his/her generation through the popular movie series and recently released first installment in the sequel trilogy, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
In addition to using marketing messages that resonate with teens, the poster contest aims to use positive action rather than condemning people for idling, LEAF adviser Andrew Semadeni said.
“I think for the kids who participated in the poster contest, it made them generally understand what the problem is to come up with message to change behavior,” Semadeni said. “It’s instilling change in behavior.”
This relates to the protégé effect, as Stafford and Brain aimed to target teens who could learn best through conveying a message to their peers. Furthermore, Stafford said he hoped targeting new drivers — teens — would encourage them to think about the choices they make for their commutes.
“We wanted them, as they were learning to drive, to learn about the implications of that privilege and how it potentially contributes to air pollution,” Stafford said.
Taking action beyond posters
Other activities LEAF has committed to, following its reinstatement, including placing aluminum recycling bins throughout the school. In April, club members will drive to Zion National Park to participate in Utah Envirothon, a natural resource competition.
LEAF president Piper Christian, who attended the 2015 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, said everyone should think about what they can do to contribute to better air quality in order to sustain Cache Valley’s natural beauty.
”We live in such a beautiful place and not only does it (air quality) kind of take away from Cache Valley’s beauty, it has major health effects on different populations, especially people with asthma, old people, young children, but also just the general public,” Christian said.
At a meeting Tuesday, Feb. 2, LEAF members talked about an opportunity to go before the Logan Municipal Council to discuss a resolution that supports policy and activities addressing air quality and climate change. According to the proposed resolution, LEAF is encouraging the city to continue projects, programs and activities in efforts to encourage individuals to make more green choices.
“We feel that especially as a high school club and as youth we have a unique power of being able to raise awareness because we can access the younger population and brand new drivers that are just coming around,” Christian said.