Brian Eisenhauer, associate director of the Center for the Environment and assistant professor of sociology, along with a team of other researchers from universities throughout New England, participated in a two year project called “Changing Homeowner’s Lawn Care Behavior to Reduce Nutrient Runoff in New England’s Urbanizing Watersheds.” This project was funded from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.
Homeowners often unknowingly contribute to environmental problems in their own backyards through their lawn care practices. Lawn fertilizers add nutrients to the environment, which sometimes run off site and have unintended consequences for the local environment. Increasing urbanization causes an increase in nutrients in surface and ground water, which, in part, come from yard fertilizers.
The project applied environmental and behavioral research to educational efforts by Cooperative Extension offices to reduce the application of excess nutrients by homeowners in targeted, urbanizing neighborhoods throughout New England. The ultimate goal was to protect surface and groundwater quality. This innovative project merged social science, environmental science and outreach to educate people about their behavior in their own yards, while teaching future scientists and outreach professionals about the confluence of social and environmental sciences.
The project involved researchers at the Universities of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The Center for the Environment led the social research effort. Two graduate students in the Center for the Environment’s M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy program, along with several undergraduate students, assisted with the research.
The following reports and documents were issued as part of the project:
- Changing Homeowner’s Lawn Care Behavior to Reduce Nutrient Losses in New England’s Urbanizing Watersheds: Social Science Results Summary
- Poster: Changing Homeowner’s Lawn Care Behavior to Reduce Nutrient Losses in New England’s Urbanizing Watersheds: The Role of Social Science. This poster won first place in the 2009 Student Poster Competition at the National Water Conference sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture.