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Virginia CZM Program: 2016 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo



Northern Virginia Regional Commission

Project Title:

Northern Virginia Native Plant Social Marketing Campaign (“Plant NoVA Natives”)

Project Description:

Increasing the amount of native vegetative cover in Virginia’s coastal zone is relevant to many Virginia CZM Program goals (eg. restoring, enhancing coastal habitats; protecting water quality; providing resilience to storm events and climate change; and improving aesthetics and quality of life. In FY 2011, NVRC was awarded a grant to conduct research, identify partner organizations, design a strategy, and launch a pilot version of the Plant NOVA Natives campaign.  The campaign is using proven social marketing tools and techniques focused on making planting natives fun, easy and popular. The campaign goal is to move beyond education and awareness and change individual behavior; and in the long run establish a social norm for use of native plants in the suburban and urban landscape. Social research has revealed that it takes about 10-12% of the population to regularly conduct an activity before it is considered socially normal.  Therefore, one of the goals of the Plant NOVA Natives campaign is to reach at least 100,000 landowners with the campaign over the next few years.  To undertake this task, approximately 250 volunteer Community Leaders were recruited and trained.  In FY 15, NVRC received a grant from CZM to implement the campaign, develop partnerships with the retail sector, and also develop enforceable policy that focuses on revisions to local weed ordinances and county parks policies to protect and increase native vegetation.

The Plant NoVA Natives campaign has built on success and is widely recognized throughout the region.  Major accomplishments to date include:
• Development of a Steering Committee and various subcommittees that meet monthly
• Development of multi-media promotional materials: highly acclaimed guide “Native Plants for Northern Virginia” , website, Facebook page (over 600 followers), Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, garden signs, banners, and an on-line pledge map
• Coordination of over 250 Community Leaders trained with the message and strategy who are divided into several teams
• Invitations to speak at events including; The Capital Remodel and Garden Show
• Partnerships with plant businesses with 10 locations across Northern Virginia.  These businesses stock and sell the guide, have agreed to display Plant NOVA Natives banners and handouts as well as identify and group their native plants together under the banner. 
• Over 7,000 guides printed and distributed without grant funding

The campaign partnership continues to be strong with entering new partners. Community leaders play a central role in the campaign and amplify the message wherever they go. The long term vision of the campaign is to continue to build upon previous efforts until there is sufficient demand from consumers and an increased supply from growers and retailers.  The results of this campaign are astonishing with only two years of investment from CZM.  The funding sought under this proposal will leverage and build upon that investment in a significant way.

The investment requested under this proposal would allow NVRC to implement elements of the strategy that was developed with the FY 11 grant funding including: (See,Initiatives,Projects/2011Projects/2011VirginiaCZMGrantProjectTask5411.aspx for final report and strategy)
1) Continue to implement campaign and host steering committee meetings for two more growing seasons
2) Continue to coordinate Community Leader volunteer activities
3) Assess the Plant NOVA Natives strategy so that it continues to be effective and measurable
4) Host one regional summit on native plants and water quality
5) Develop model language for Comprehensive Plans that integrates native plant policies in interagency planning for land use, schools, public facilities, and parks and recreation.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Corey Miles, 703.642.4625,

Project Status:

10/1/16 - 9/30/17; Project Completed

Final Product:

FY16 Final Report of Northern Virginia Native Plant Social Marketing Campaign "Plant NoVA Natives" (PDF) 

Project Summary:

Product #1 Campaign Implementation and Community Leader Coordination

Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) staff in cooperation with volunteer Community Leaders coordinated and implemented the campaign.  The outcomes include:

  • Coordination of a Steering Committee that meets monthly to plan activities and coordinate efforts
  • Implementation of multi-media promotional materials including: highly acclaimed guide “Native Plants for Northern Virginia”, website, Facebook page (over 1200 followers), Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, garden signs, banners, and an on-line pledge form
  • Partnerships with several plant businesses with 12 locations across Northern Virginia.  These businesses stock and sell the guide, put up Plant NOVA Natives banners and handouts as well as identify their native plants with pot stickers
  • Over 8,000 guides printed and distributed without grant funding

In addition, NVRC staff along with CZM staff were interviewed about the campaign on Delegate Ken Plum’s TV show.

Product #2 Native Plants and Water Quality Workshop

NVRC coordinated a workshop which brought together storm water engineering staff from the City of Alexandria and a locally renowned landscape design professional who specializes in native plants to provide information on how to design landscapes that minimize the pollution from urban stormwater runoff. The workshop was called “Beautiful Solutions to Stormwater Pollution: How To Design Attractive Landscapes That Manage Runoff”.  The outcome was approximately 50 participants were trained on how they can reduce stormwater pollution around their property while using native plants in the landscape.

Product #3 Mid-Campaign Evaluation

The mid-campaign evaluation showed that the best outcomes were achieved when a variety of social marketing tools were used in combination with each other such as commitments, reminders/prompts, social norms, and communication. Social media is most effective at generating views however it is difficult to know if those views resulted in purchases of native plants. Therefore, three plant retailers were asked if they could provide information on whether their sales of natives had increased.  All three retailers reported that in fact, their sales had increased. 

Product #4 Model Native Plant Comprehensive Plan Language

Model language that builds upon the resolution passed by NVRC a year ago was developed for use in comprehensive plans. The language encourages or requires the use of native vegetation on landscaped areas, discourages the use of invasive plant species, and encourages the protection of existing indigenous vegetation. 

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 or


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

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