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Virginia CZM Program: 2011 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo



Northern Virginia Planning District Commission

Project Title:

Northern Virginia Native Plant Social Marketing Campaign

Project Description as Proposed:

Virginia CZM Program partners are reporting that throughout Virginia’s coastal zone an increasing number of gardeners are aware of the water quality and wildlife habitat benefits of native plants and indicate they would be interested in using natives, but real and perceived barriers clearly exist that are preventing people from buying and planting native plants. For example, in Northern Virginia a fall 2009 survey of participants of Rain Garden Workshops hosted by Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), with funding through a PDC Coastal Technical Assistance grant from Virginia CZM, revealed that many residents are interested in purchasing native plants. However, they identified that it is difficult for them to select native varieties once they are at the store since native plants are often not clearly marked and can be difficult to distinguish among the large amount of plant stock at local retail establishments.  To capitalize on the growing interest in native plants and the growing number of projects and programs focused on natives, the Virginia CZM initiated the Virginia Native Plant Marketing Partnership in August if this year. The partnership’s goal is to identify opportunities to collaborate and partner on Virginia native plant communication and marketing efforts and form a cohesive and coordinated strategy to encourage the use of plants native to Virginia for their many water quality and wildlife habitat benefits. The partnership is considering how current and future informational and marketing materials can be transferable across regions and coast-wide. Market research conducted at the Northern Virginia scale will help tailor messages and products to the region’s audience as well as provide an understanding of the current attitudes, perceptions, knowledge and behavioral barriers of Northern Virginia residents. With this information, NVRC staff will work with local partners to launch a regional pilot that will develop messaging and a multi-media mix that should be most effective at reaching this audience and bringing about the desired behavior – an increase in the use of native plants. The Plant ES Natives campaign on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is serving as a model, and it is possible that marketing materials developed for this campaign might be as effective for the Northern Virginia audience, for example the point of sale items – plant tags.      Through this grant, NVRC will conduct research in the Northern Virginia area and will then develop a regional social marketing campaign.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Corey Miles, (703) 642-4625;

Project Status:

10/1/2011 - 9/30/2014; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Northern Virginia Native Plant Campaign (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

In 2011, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) received funding from the VA CZM Program to develop a regional social marketing campaign to promote the use of native plants in the urban and suburban landscape of Northern Virginia.   The campaign was modeled after the Plant ES Natives Campaign and is one of four regional native plant campaigns being carried out in the coastal zone.

A multi-partner campaign steering committee was formed to help plan a campaign strategy and implement a pilot launch of the campaign.  To inform elements of the campaign strategy, a survey of 500 northern VA homeowners was conducted to identify the target audience and their plant shopping behavior, identify the barriers that were inhibiting their planting of natives, and the outlets through which they receive information.

The campaign’s steering committee then selected campaign messaging, educational objectives, and promotional materials that would resonate with the target audience and help to overcome some of the barriers to planting natives.  The Steering Team and NVRC staff worked in partnership with CZM to create a 52-page photographic guide book titled “Native Plants for Northern Virginia”.  The guide is available in print and can be downloaded on-line at  NVRC released a Press Release announcing the publication of the guide at  Demand for printed copies of the guide has been high and almost all of the 3,500 copies that were printed have been distributed. 

A “Community Leader” is a community resident who already engages in the behavior that is being promoted and agrees to speak to other people in their immediate community to help them get started engaging in the behavior as well.  To build capacity at the community level and capitalize on the impact of direct personal contact, a Plant NoVA Natives Campaign Community Leader Program was developed for Northern Virginia.  A training module was developed to educate volunteers and presented through four training workshops across the region.  The workshops developed a corps of almost 200 volunteer community leaders who can teach others about the benefits of native plants in the residential landscape and assist homeowners, garden clubs and the public at large with the identification of native plant species and help guide plant selection at retail establishments and community plant sales.

A Community Leader Toolkit was developed for their use that includes a website, a tabletop display, two brochures, a 30 minute powerpoint presentation, answers to frequently asked questions, labels, banners and name tags. All of the materials in the toolkit are available for download via the Plant NoVA Natives website at

A pilot launch of the campaign was conducted in Fall of 2014.  Plant NoVA Natives Community Leaders actively promoted the campaign at many events across the region.  Volunteers set up the tabletop display, engaged with the public and handed out campaign materials.  Pending additional funding, the effectiveness of the pilot program will be formally evaluated and refined and the campaign will be officially launched in 2015.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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