Bringing a sense of humor and fun seems to come naturally to Marty Doll, communications coordinator for the City of Burnsville, Minnesota, who doubles as the city's superhero and video star. It turns out that "Sustainability Man" has a very practical super power – he makes conversations about sustainability approachable, engaging, and fun for Burnsville residents. After the City Council approved its sustainability plan, the city began shooting at least four educational videos a year with their local hero, each about five minutes long and shared on its website, cable TV and YouTube channels. They typically involve an interview with a local expert on topics like recycling or lawn watering, or stories about how a community member or local family has taken steps to act more sustainably. Not surprisingly, the videos have received great response from the community, including invitations for school and county fair appearances and requests from teachers for video subscriptions to use in their classrooms.
The City of Burnsville shows us that humor and creativity is a great way to make topics like climate change and sustainability more approachable for people. The idea is that by injecting laughter and a sense of adventure into these conversations, we will raise awareness and engage people of all stripes to start taking action on sustainability and climate solutions. Check out Path to Positive for more resources and tools to help you connect with and engage your own communities.
What’s “faster than compost … more powerful than an LED light bulb” and able to teach residents and schoolchildren about recycling, lawn watering and native gardens?
It’s Sustainability Man, of course!
Sustainability Man is the city of Burnsville’s superhero, video star and alter-alter-ego of communications coordinator Marty Doll.
The character came into being a couple of years after the Burnsville City Council approved a sustainability plan in 2009.
“We do have a sustainability webpage, but sometimes if you take certain issues like greenhouse gas emissions or other kinds of issues, it’s hard to explain that or when it does get explained it’s not very engaging,” said Sue Bast, the city’s sustainability coordinator.
Cue campy sound effects and an even campier costume, enlist Doll, 32, a broadcast journalism major in college, and Sustainabililty Man was born.
Sustainability Man appeared at the Dakota County Fair at the county’s recycling booth and can be seen on YouTube, too.
“I’m always the guy who gets to make a fool of himself, so I volunteered,” Doll said with a laugh.
Sustainability Man has starred in 12 videos so far; the 13th is being edited and should be online in about two weeks. All are on YouTube and Burnsville’s cable TV channel. Each starts with the back story:
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