Winter 1992 // Volume 30 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW6

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Calendar Delivers Environmental Issues Information

An Extension calendar can provide timely information and repeated exposure to reinforce the importance of this educational message.

Diane Relf
Associate Professor and Extension Specialist
Consumer Horticulture
Department of Horticulture
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University-Blacksburg

Increasing concern over environmental issues in the residential landscape includes addressing the impact of pesticides and fertilizers on water quality and the reduction of yard waste in landfills. An Extension calendar can provide timely information and repeated exposure to reinforce the importance of this educational message.

In 1989 and 1990, grants provided funds for the production and distribution of Virginia gardener calendars addressing water quality. The text of the calendars alerted homeowners to the connection between improper management of pesticides or fertilizers and water pollution and recommended good gardening practices (such as mulching, cover-cropping, and soil-testing) to minimize the need for chemicals in the residential landscape. The calendars were advertised to the public through local Extension offices, Master Gardeners, radio, and various Extension publications. The public responded enthusiastically, and over 14,000 were distributed to home gardeners each year.

In 1991, a recycling calendar was developed addressing management of yard waste and use of household wastes in the landscape. Lacking a grant to fund this project, the calendars were offered for sale at $6 initially and reduced to $4 later in the year. Sufficient calendars were sold to cover the cost of printing, handling, and shipping. Additionally, sales covered the cost of 3,000 extra calendars used in school garden programs and Master Gardener activities.

A random survey of the recipients indicated that 91% changed their gardening practices in some way because of the information contained in the calendar, and 93% indicated they found the information practical or useful. In addition, 87% said they shared the calendar information with others.

The calendar format is well-known and suitable for presenting information in short, concise passages. A calendar is used by clients all year. It's looked at every day by some clients, making it ideal for transmitting information most relevant to certain times of the year. In addition, portions of the calendar text can later be used to create other publications at little additional cost. Given these characteristics, calendars should prove useful as formats for transmitting information and changing behavior in other areas considered important by Extension. Future plans are to produce residential landscape calendars addressing environmental issues as a fund-raising activity for the Master Gardeners.