When we conducted our backyard composting research in the Township of Langley, we found something that we had found 17 years earlier, but on the other side of the country, in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. The finding is a very important one for fostering backyard composting among people who do not currently compost.

When it comes to backyard composting, there is a correlation between the likelihood of someone composting and knowing someone else who composts. Whether it be a friend, neighbour or family member, people were much more likely to compost if they knew someone else that did. Those that did not know anyone else who composted, were much less likely to compost in their yards.

This is an excellent example of social norms at work. If people know someone who is engaged in a behaviour, they are likely to be more aware and comfortable with that behaviour. When that person is a peer, the likelihood of adopting that behaviour is stronger.

A Community-based Social Marketing strategy to foster increased composting behaviour should include a method of making people more aware of the composting that goes on around them. That will make people more likely to adopt the behaviour. That is what we found in the Township of Langley in 2010, just as we did in 1993 in the Annapolis Valley.