Education campaign

Local councils can educate the community about the effects of wood smoke and advise on how to reduce winter air pollution in their local area.

Local councils can educate the community about the effects of wood smoke and advise on how to reduce winter air pollution in their local area.

Some local councils have specialist communication staff. For those that do not, this guide provides some information on how to develop and implement a wood smoke community education program.

Why community education?

Education is an increasingly popular method being used by many community, industry and government organisations to address social, environmental and corporate concerns.

Community education involves more than producing a brochure. Effective community education requires:

  • a good understanding of the issue of concern
  • recognising who you are trying to reach
  • knowing what behaviour you are trying to change
  • investigating the best ways to make this behavioural change occur.

Community education is essential because most environmental and social problems arise due to people's actions. It is people's behaviour that is generally responsible for the problem, so it is people's behaviour that needs to change to find a solution to the problem.

What is community education?

Community education is a process used to:

  • create awareness of an issue
  • enhance people's knowledge, understanding and skills
  • influence people's values and attitudes
  • encourage more responsible behaviour.

How to develop a community education program

Community education programs need careful planning in design, development, implementation and evaluation.

There are eight sequential steps in developing a community education program:

  • Step 1. Analyse the issue or problem. What's the issue or problem?
  • Step 2. Identify the stakeholders. Who's involved?
  • Step 3. Know your target audience. Who do you want to reach?
  • Step 4. Determine objectives and outcomes. What do you want to achieve?
  • Step 5. Design your methods. What methods should you use?
  • Step 6. Consider funding. How much will it cost and who will pay?
  • Step 7. Make an action plan and implement it. Specify action, who, when, cost, how!
  • Step 8. Monitor and evaluate. How will you know if it's been successful?

Questions to help you develop your program

When developing a community education program, consider the following:

Step 1. Analyse the issue or problem

  • To what extent is this an issue of concern in our community?
  • Does our community realise there is a problem?
  • How can we promote community discussion about this issue?
  • What do we know about the issue? What research do we have?
  • Is education the way to deal with this problem?
  • What do we want to achieve? What can we achieve?
  • What outcome do we want from education? Are we trying to: encourage debate; influence attitudes; give or gather information; develop skills; or change behaviour?
  • Are the alternatives we wish to promote practical?

Step 2. Identify the stakeholders

  • Who has a stake (positive or negative) in this problem/issue?
  • Who is most affected by this problem?
  • In relation to the problem, who are the opinion leaders in the community?
  • Who are the key people who can help solve the problem?
  • Is there a person who could champion the program for us?
  • What are the threats, risks, costs and benefits for the stakeholders?
  • How will we involve the stakeholders?

Step 3. Know your target audience

  • Who are you trying to influence in this program?
  • Is there more than one target group?
  • What incentives are there for the target group to be involved?
  • What does the target group know about, feel about, want from and believe about the issue?
  • What are the threats, risks, costs, benefits for the target group?
  • What will motivate them to be involved?
  • What support do we need to give the target group to help achieve the program's outcomes?

Step 4. Determine objectives and outcomes

  • What are we trying to achieve as a result of this education program?
  • What are the specific educational objectives of the program in terms of knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and practices? Are these measurable?
  • Do we need to look at short-term and long-term goals for this issue?
  • What outcomes do we want from this program?
  • Will any products result from this program? What will we do with these products when the program is finished?
  • How will achieving our objectives help solve the issue or problem?
  • What barriers may hinder the achievement of our objectives?

Step 5. Design your methods

  • What is the best method of achieving the program's objectives and outcomes, given the time and money available?
  • What is the best method of achieving the program's objectives and outcomes in view of what we know about the target group?
  • Would it be useful to use more than one technique to achieve the objectives?
  • What methods reflect the educational needs of our target group?

Step 6. Consider funding

  • What is the estimated cost of our program?
  • What funds do we have available?
  • What funds do we need?
  • What 'in kind' support do we have or could we get?

Step 7. Make an action plan and implement it

  • What specific actions are needed to achieve the program's objectives?
  • What are the key tasks?
  • What's the timeframe for this program? What are the milestones?
  • What resources other than dollars are required (e.g. people and time)?
  • Who's responsible for each task?
  • Have we identified monitoring and evaluation steps in our action plan?
  • How will we market the program to the broader community? Is there value in launching the program?
  • How will we keep the broader community informed?

Step 8. Monitor and evaluate

  • Is the program reaching the target audience?
  • What have been the strengths and weaknesses of our program?
  • Who will be interested in our evaluation report?
  • What will we need to do with the information we collect as a result of monitoring and evaluating our program?
  • How could the program be improved? What worked? What didn't, and why?

Sample wood smoke community education program

Step 1. What's the issue or problem?

The problem is wood smoke from woodburning heaters. The smoke from the wood heaters can have a detrimental effect on human health.

Step 2. Who's involved?

The stakeholders are:

  • community members (the whole community, including people from non-English speaking backgrounds)
  • local government
  • wood merchants
  • manufacturers, retailers and suppliers of heating products and services
  • media outlets (print/television/radio/electronic).

Step 3. Who do you want to reach?

Those listed above, and in particular people who own wood heaters.

Step 4. What do you want to achieve?

The goal is to reduce the pollution created by wood smoke. The objectives are:

  • to reduce the level of wood smoke in the local area
  • to increase public awareness about the health hazards of wood smoke
  • to educate the community on the correct use of wood heaters.

The outcomes are:

  • increased community awareness of the effects of wood smoke on health
  • less wood smoke in the local area
  • more efficient use of wood burning heaters
  • changed attitudes and behaviour in the community about wood smoke.

Step 5. What methods should you use?

  • Meetings and discussions—steering, advisory and consultative
  • Audio visual tools such as video recordings, photos
  • Surveys
  • Launches
  • Displays and demonstrations
  • Talks, presentations, seminars
  • Individual advice, communication, instruction
  • Competitions and awards
  • Curricula through schools
  • Special environmental and community events
  • Mass media, including advertising, information and publicity
  • Printed materials such as brochures, posters, coasters, letters, books, stickers.

Step 6. How much will it cost and who will pay?

Calculate the costs of your methods. Take into account the deadline for your council's budgeting process.

Step 7. Specify action, who, when, cost, how!

Develop an action plan. Include the following:

  • form a steering committee
  • conduct a pre-benchmark survey and set measurable goals
  • meet with stakeholders
  • prepare promotional material for television, radio, press, schools, the community, retailers, wood suppliers
  • launch the program
  • commence a local radio, television and press program (information, promotion)
  • distribute educational material to television, radio, press, schools, community, retailers, wood suppliers
  • erect displays at various locations and at special events
  • organise competitions
  • meet with the steering committee
  • organise a heating expo
  • publicise positive actions (television, radio, press)
  • conduct an evaluation survey
  • monitor and evaluate the program.

Step 8. How will you know if it's been successful?

  • Compare the pre benchmark survey results with the evaluation survey results
  • Monitor the number of smoky chimneys
  • Monitor the type of wood sold by wood merchants
  • Prepare a report summarising the strengths, weaknesses and outcomes of the program.
  • Report back to the community about the success of the program

Sample wood smoke action plan

Complete the action plan below as you implement your wood smoke education program.

Action Who When How Cost Done (tick)

Form a steering committee






Conduct a pre-benchmark survey/set goals






Meet with stakeholders






Prepare promotional material for:

  • television, radio, press
  • schools
  • the community
  • retailers
  • wood suppliers.






Launch the program






Commence a local radio, television and press program (information, promotion)






Distribute educational material to:

  • television, radio, press
  • schools
  • the community
  • retailers
  • wood suppliers. 






Erect displays at appropriate locations and special events






Organise competitions






Meet with the steering committee






Organise a heating expo






Publicise positive actions (television, radio, press






Conduct an evaluation survey






Monitor and evaluate the program






Prepare a report summarising the outcomes and recommendations for future programs






Report back to the community about the success of the program






How to ensure your methods are successful


Ideas for success

Establish a steering committee

  • Invite representatives from local government, the community, industry—wood merchants and retailers, and government agencies to join the committee to set strategic directions for the program


  • Organise a well known personality to launch the program
  • Invite the media and your stakeholders to attend 
  • Ensure the launch doesn't coincide with other major events.


  • Have someone available to answer questions (one-to-one is the most effective form of education)
  • Ensure the display is interactive, e.g. the audience can stack wood or measure the water content of wood
  • Incorporate something to attract people, particularly children, e.g. a new gas heater with a hat/scarf and an explanation why it is a good form of heating    
  • Ensure posters have minimal text
  • Offer giveaways, e.g. draught stoppers
  • Locate the display in an area frequented by the target audience
  • Hold a raffle or invite people to answer simple questions about how to reduce wood smoke—offer a free chimney clean or some insulation as a prize 
  • Create a catchphrase—e.g. stay warm, breathe easy—and use it throughout the  program; introduce it at the launch
  • Display the catchphrase on coasters, bookmarks, fridge magnets, calico bags, stickers, newsletters and on correspondence sent to residents.

Media opportunities

  • Distribute media releases to your local newspapers, radio and television stations to raise awareness of wood smoke pollution. Your releases could focus on how to reduce wood smoke pollution, how to check your chimney for smoke, or milestones in the program
  • Provide photo opportunities for newspaper and television journalists(pictures can make the difference between whether a story gets covered or not, especially with television)
  • Photo opportunities for television must have movement in them, e.g. a council officer showing a resident how to operate their wood heater correctly
  • Photo opportunities for newspapers should ideally have people in them and an interesting backdrop (smoke haze over a town) or a prop that illustrates the story, e.g. an old wood heater
  • Gain the support of well known local identities (e.g. sporting figures) and feature them in your media releases and photo opportunities. Include pictures and statements by them.

School programs

  • Develop a simple resource and always include a teacher in its development. This will ensure the resource supports the school curriculum and the NSW Environmental Education Policy for Schools. The NSW Department of Education and Training District Offices generally have curriculum officers that may be able to assist.
  • Visit schools and give a talk (many children stoke the fire in wood heaters)
  • Organise a competition inviting students to make a creative draught stopper
  • Encourage schools to participate in Airwatch Snapshot days (March and August). Contact the EPA Environment Line, phone 131 555 or email

Organise a heating expo

  • Display different types of heating and insulation
  • Invite guest speakers including retailers, wood suppliers
  • Organise demonstrations
  • Provide information about the sustainable management of heat, e.g. appropriate types of curtains, pelmets, draught stoppers, renewable energy, solar passive building design       
  • Attract people by organising a BBQ and other fun events.

Participate in special events

  • Organise activities for World Environment Day (June)
  • Set up a stall at local community events.


  • Conduct a pre benchmark phone survey of the target audience representatives before the program commences. A phone poll is an appropriate way to gather information
  • Conduct an evaluation phone survey of the same representatives after the program is completed. Ask the same questions used for the pre-benchmark survey where appropriate
  • Be clear about the information you want to gather, e.g. how do people use their wood heaters? What do they know about the health effects of wood smoke? Would they consider replacing their existing wood heater with a cleaner form of heating?


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