Change Conversations blog

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Marketing Spin in Suburbia (or “How I learned to Love My Lawn”)

By Amy Riley on 7/8/13 10:00 AM

reframing my lawn_rotary_morguefile

I lead a hectic life—by choice, mind you. I’m not looking for sympathy here. It’s just a fact. With three young daughters and my husband, my job, finding time to exercise, family, friends, the dog (oh, the poor neglected dog!) etc., etc. I feel lucky/blessed. My point is that in the midst of this joyous cacophony, things get overlooked. Namely our yard. Any free moment we aren’t practicing lacrosse with one daughter or jumping rope or painting with another, my husband and I try squeeze in time for ourselves. After biking or running and family time, we are happy to sit on our deck and actually have a conversation (and maybe a glass of wine!). No one wants to do yard work.

Suburban Social Norms

We moved into our current home four years ago and the most we have managed to do from a landscaping perspective is cut down a bunch of trees and mow the lawn. We’ve planted a few things and added some potted flowers just to make it look like someone lives there, but to put it bluntly, the lawn ain’t pretty. Truthfully, it’s a stretch to call it lawn since most of it is a cornucopia of vines, moss or weeds peppered with a wide variety of grass-like growth and a few expanses of dirt. Trouble is, this is far from the case with our other neighbors in suburbia. Somehow they manage to achieve perfectly manicured lawns and stunning gardens (both plants and veggies). I understand things may change as our children grow but it’s not only the empty nesters with luscious lawns. Families with kids still manage to pull it off. I suppose it’s about priorities—and lots of chemicals.

The Power of Reframing

Thanks to a slight shift in framing, we’re feeling pretty good about our lawn. As my husband and I were commiserating about our miserable excuse for a lawn at a birthday party, a friend informed us that instead of besmirching our yard we should have it certified as a national wildlife habitat. What’s that you say? Clover, dandelion and whatever that reddish vine that has all but taken over the front yard provides just the right habitat for bees and rabbits and cardinals… Brilliant! So we applied. The National Wildlife Federation will certify your lawn or garden as a national wildlife habitat if it meets certain qualifications. We met all the requirements (with flying colors) and within a week were certified. They even sent us a beautiful lawn sign to display. Our daughters were thrilled that our wild, overgrown (yet chemical free) yard was actually a safe haven for wildlife to breed and thrive. Now our crazy lawn serves a purpose.  It makes a statement: We care not for our own vanity but for the Earth and her environment. In essence, we went from lawn slobs to environmental activists overnight. And all it took was a sign.

Reframing with NWF habitat sign-223x300

Marketing Partners has referred to message framing in previous blog posts. Think of it as creating a frame of reference or a shortcut in your brain. Creating a persuasive or positive frame will help level the playing field on an issue. When done effectively, true change can occur. For example, certifying our wild yard as a habitat might just change suburbia’s frame on overgrown, weed-filled yards from a symbol of laziness to an act of super-heroism.

Until that issue is reframed, however, we are happy to post our beautiful sign and sip wine on the deck. Weeds be damned!



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The Change Conversations blog is where changemakers find inspiration and insights on the power of mission-driven communication to create the change you want to see.


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