Marie Curatolo University of Washington | Program on the Environment

March 2011 Succession Planning Piece

Succession Planning Piece: Individual Research on Consumption for West Coast Climate and Materials Management Consumption Workgroup Clearinghouse

The purpose of this document is to provide a methodological approach to taking on the challenging, yet rewarding, task of independent consumption research for the Consumption Workgroup of the West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum. It is the hope of this paper’s author that this approach provides an organized framework for effectively creating a quality deliverable. … What sets this experience apart from other internships is the proximity in which you work with broad concepts and definitions. From the very beginning, you are challenged to think about what materials management and consumption mean. According to a foundational paper by the EPA, “Materials management is a term that describes how materials are managed as they flow through the economy—from resource extraction to product design and manufacture, transport, use, reuse, recycling, and end of life” (EPA Foundation Paper 2009). From this definition alone, it is not only apparent that this project will be extensive in scope and depth, but it also becomes clear that the implications of work in this field are far-reaching and have the potential to be profound. This purpose of this project is to collect, analyze, organize, and make available a clearninghouse of the best available information on consumption. The Consumption Workgroup exists within the West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum. This workgroup will be the recipient of your final deliverable, so before you begin your research, it is valuable to get to know the workgroup and identify who they are and what they hope to accomplish and how your project could fit into their vision. Ways to do this include referring to Consumption Workgroup Work Plan, Retreat Notes, and Scoping Paper (all available on the forum website to which you will be granted access) and utilize in-person communications with workgroup leads. Workgroup objectives listed in the scoping paper that seem to be most related to this project’s research are to: 1. Develop a white paper (policy prescriptive document) that describes the issue and [the workgroup’s] tasks, and 2. To create a system to get educated and literate on the topic of consumption. There follows a list of long term objectives (2-5 years) (Scoping paper 2010). These objectives can help you identify the nature of the workgroup’s work and the direction they want to go in the future. To evaluate the information currently available to workgroup members, you may consult existing information in the mediography. It may be valuable to take note of which subcategories have the most information, which sources/types of information (ex. Journal article, website, etc.) are frequently used, any recurring “themes” or directions exemplified by the research selected for the mediography, as well as the overall formatting of the entries.

Information about source types and current prioritization criteria can be found on the tabs at the bottom of the sheet. It may also be valuable to examine the column headings to become aware of what information you will be expected to extract from your sources. Keep in mind that while the sources have been thoroughly analyzed before their addition to the mediography and they may be good examples in terms of quality sources, emulating the content of the sources may lead to redundancy. Development of criteria for inclusion in and prioritization within the mediography is one of the most challenging parts of this project. Use information identified from workgroup plans to deduce what is most useful, what is most needed, and what will be the most helpful for future plans. A good amount of time can be saved by consulting workgroup leads and other employees to ask for help in developing criteria, since they have a strong working familiarity with the actions of the workgroup. Consider a numerical ranking system similar to the one presented in the current mediography. Within the difficult duty of developing criteria comes the question of identifying scope: Is global or national information relevant to this project or is information specific to state, county, and city governments preferred? Consumption is relevant on any number of different “levels”. It is a global phenomenon whose effects are as threatening as they are far-reaching. As one author states, “Overpopulation is not driving environmental destruction at the global level; overconsumption is” (Pearce 2010). This is a chilling and overwhelming thought, given the scope of this project. Consumption is also addressed on the national and international level and can affect international relations, politics, and economies, such as was the case with the U.S. embargo on trade imports of tuna caught using fishing methods that were unsafe to dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (Black 1992). Consumption can be examined at a smaller scale, such as that of a state, as illustrated by study devoted to the proscription of plastic grocery bags throughout the Australian state of South Australia (Sharp et al. 2002). Furthermore, consumption can even be based on the psychological and neurological processed that occur on an individual scale whenever a person makes a behavioral choice related to consumption: Activation of reward circuitry in the brain and priming stimuli, such as information presented at the entrance of a store, have a demonstrated effect on consumer behavior (Lin et al. 2010, Mast and Zaltman 2005). Clearly, the scope of the issue is broad and given the timeframe of this project, it would be greatly beneficial to those involved to either decide to focus on one level, or to divide the various levels amongst group members perhaps based on which mediography subcategories will be the focus of each member. Addressing scope may help satisfy the specific needs of the workgroup by focusing on only the levels that are of the greatest use to them. This will also streamline the research process. When consultation of the literature begins, it is important to refer back to the background information gathered when learning about the workgroup and its direction and during the criteria development process. Research within the literature will be the most time-consuming part of this project. Begin by doing as many searches as possible in multiple databases. Consult the mediography for ideas on where to begin and what source types to look for. While some popular sources are listed, journal articles tend to hold more credibility. Spend a great deal of time reading and keep track of trends in the

literature, recurring concepts, and information that is particularly interesting or criteriaspecific. Throughout your research, think about identifying “gaps” in the mediography. As you gain a more thorough knowledge of the most up-to-date consumption information, it may be useful to consider how this information will fit into the mediography. For example, consider how subcategories might be added, altered, or removed. It is part of your directive to make sure the mediography format is such that it adequately displays the best research you find. The final, yet substantial, task is preparing sources and adding them to the accessible and user-friendly mediography. Source summaries are best done after reading an article in its entirety: You will not need to summarize everything you read, but keep track of those that, according to the criteria, are good candidates for inclusion in the mediography. These will be the sources you summarize and add. While summarizing, be sure to pay attention to information presented as facts versus author-made claims. In your summaries, specify if and when it is the author who is making a value judgment. As you identify the most salient sources, try to apply the conclusions from the individual studies in a more specific way that may be useful for the workgroup. Make suggestions or recommendations that could be backed by the source and consider including links to similar ideas, programs, or initiatives. These extracted ideas may be used as inspiration for the future actions of the workgroup. The methodology presented by this planning piece purports to address one of the largest conclusions drawn from previous experience with this project: Consumption itself is a broad topic with multiple dimensions spanning nearly every discipline. To address this adequately would require a much more extensive study. Consumption is paradoxically saturated with information and data while still lacking direction, definition, and clear goals at this time. With this in mind, the objective for this paper has been to provide a methodology for undertaking a daunting and seemingly overwhelming topic. This methodology is arguably reasonable and appropriate for the time and resources allotted in that helps narrow down the focus by identifying scope and criteria, streamlines research to focus on the most useful sources, and avoids redundancy. Taking the steps outlined in this paper will also make sure that your work is compatible with the needs and anticipated directions of the workgroup. This will hopefully help propel your work to the front of this cutting edge field of consumption research and its application in policy, society, and science. Please enjoy your time in this position and know that the approach you take to your work may be a deciding factor in how relevant and powerful your work will be.

References Black, Dorothy J., "International trade v. environmental protection: the case of the U.S. embargo on Mexican tuna." Law and Policy in International Business 24.1 (1992): 123156. LegalTrac. Lin, Ching-Hung, Hsu-Ping Tuan and Yao-Chu Chiu. “Medial Frontal Activity in BrandLoyal Consumers: A Behavior and Near-Infrared Ray Study” Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics 3(2) 59-73. 2010. Mast, Fred W. Mast and Gerald Zaltman. “A behavioral window on the mind of the market: An application of the response time paradigm” Brain Research Bulletin 67, 422427. July 5, 2005. Pearce, F. (April 13, 2009). Consumption dwarfs population as main environmental threat. Environment 360: Opinion, Analysis, Reporting, and Debate, Retrieved from United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Foundation Paper: “Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices” (September 2009). West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum, (2010). Consumption workgroup scoping paper. Unpublished manuscript.

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