November 29, 2023

In October, The New England Center for Children’s (NECC) Green Committee was honored at the Annual BABAT Conference in Worcester, receiving the 2023 “Behavior Change for a Sustainable World” award. This recognition reflects NECC’s dedication to using behavior analysis principles to encourage sustainable practices across the organization.

“The NECC Green Committee is honored and thrilled to be the recipient of the Behavior Change for a Sustainable World Research Award from BABAT,” shared Kim Walter, PhD, BCBA, LABA, a Green Committee member and implementation specialist for the ACE® ABA Software System. “The award will supplement funding for our committee to purchase additional specialized recycling resources (e.g., Terracycle boxes) and other materials that will benefit our research project (e.g., scale for weighing materials, reusable gloves, recycling bins, and signs).”

Walter shared that prior to winning this award and the prize money that comes with it, the committee’s research efforts have been partially funded through aluminum can and bottle redemption collected at school-organized events and through the single-stream recycling efforts at the Southborough campus. “Although we pride ourselves on this full-circle demonstration of how many small actions (five-cent redemptions) add up to having a larger impact, the additional award funding will help us enact initiatives more efficiently,” she explained.

Formed in 2017, the Green Committee works to enact NECC’s mission of helping the organization engage in more sustainable practices across all organizational activities.  This year, a research sub-committee was formed with the goal of utilizing the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to improve recycling practices at the Southborough campus and to assess the social validity of these practices in workplace culture.  

Green Committee sub-committee members (from L to R): Greg Mastrangelo, Andy Rance, Kim Walter, Amy Davis, Meghan Reidy, Julie LeBlanc, and Kelly McConnell.

Beyond research, the NECC Green Committee has led practical initiatives contributing to broader sustainability goals. These include introducing a Courtyard Garden and composting, increasing recycling bins, eliminating Styrofoam, and hosting events like the Earth Day Plant and Seed Swap. The committee’s ongoing initiatives cover battery recycling, centralized recycling for specialized materials, and event-planning consultations. The group also advocates for reducing unnecessary paper usage, implementing single-stream recycling and specialized programs like Terracycle. Initiatives such as the Caring Cabinet and providing reusable water bottles showcase NECC’s commitment to sustainable practices.

According to Walter, the Green Committee has been encouraged by the number of staff participating in activities such as office supply swaps and personal changes, like using reusable water bottles and coffee mugs and reducing single-use plasticware. They’ve also noticed an increase in outreach to the Green Committee group with questions, suggestions, and interest in joining the group.

“From our pilot research, initial social validity surveys suggest that by-and-large, improving our recycling practices and other sustainability initiatives across the agency are important,” said Walter. “However, despite these exciting observations, there is still room for improvement.”

Walter and the Green Committee are hopeful that the prestige of this award will help enhance visibility and enthusiasm across the organization for this and future efforts. “Overall, our research team is motivated by the potential impact of our research project,” Walter shared. “Our award funding will allow us to maximize our ability to seek input from the NECC community and design effective interventions based on those outcomes.”

ABOVE PHOTO (pictured left-to-right): NECC Green Committee’s research sub-committee members Dr. Kelly McConnell, Julie LeBlanc, and Dr. Kim Walter with Dr. Jill Harper, BABAT President, and Dr. Joey Reyes, BABAT Representative for Members at Large receiving the Behavior Change for a Sustainable World Research Award at the BABAT Conference, October 2023.