Leveraging the power of surveys to save the sea

According to a report by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation[1],“by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

Take 3 for the Sea exists to tackle the behaviours that are drowning our planet in plastic.

Through 2021, ARTD has been supporting Take 3 to develop The First Wave survey, designed to understand the plastic footprint of the NSW-based tourism industry.

Take 3 has successfully used surveys before (more than 1,100 from across the world filled out their Home Plastic Snapshot Survey) and we wanted to check in with them on the value of surveys for non-government organisations.

What is the First Wave survey and what did you want it to achieve?

Our First Wave Pilot project will introduce litter awareness strategies and provide resources and tools to tourism operators to encourage behaviour change within our parks and public spaces. The first stage of this project was to gather data from relevant stakeholders so that we could better understand the types of litter issues these operators face. As a part of a wider strategy to collect this data, ARTD worked with us to create a specifically designed survey that could reach a high number of operators across NSW.

Why did you reach out to ARTD to develop your survey?

Take 3 approached ARTD to ensure our survey was structured in a statistically valid way. ARTD massaged the questions we proposed into a more functional and engaging experience by ARTD, giving this survey functionality that Take 3 could only otherwise dream about.

ARTD also helped us implement the survey and report on its findings.

What have you learned about the best ways to encourage people to respond to your surveys?

Keeping our First Wave survey simple (but engaging) and short (but capturing the right data) was key for our target audience. ARTD gave us useful advice about reaching the highest survey sample. For example, our survey was ready to be launched on a Friday, but ARTD suggested holding off until early the following Monday, which helped achieve a strong early response rate.

How have you used the information from your survey?

We used the results of the First Wave Project survey to determine three ‘hotspot’ locations across NSW. These were the areas we engaged with first in our strategic response. We’ve also used the survey data to give local operators a snapshot view of key issues across the state and how they compare. The survey results will also help us to develop a toolkit for tourism operators to help them reduce their plastic footprint.

How will you use surveys in the future?

Take 3 will definitely run more surveys, particularly to understand behaviour change as the result of interacting with our educational programs. Targeting surveys to specific groups/ programs would allow Take 3 to refine our programs. For example, we could use a survey to understand how tourism operators engage with our Take 3 Tourism Business Toolkit, so we know what tools (or range of tools) these businesses require to affect change in terms of tourism related litter.

Thinking of using a survey for your own organisation?

Consider some of these points to help decide whether an online survey tool is right for your project.

  • You need to engage your audience. Online surveys are versatile and can be visually appealing. (Take 3’s surveys were dynamic and included strong visual components. Learn how to do that here.)
  • You need to reach a lot of people, within a limited budget. Surveys can be quite cost effective: you can increase the sample size without much increase to your overheads.
  • You want to crunch some numbers. Surveys are generally conducive to statistical analysis, including different patterns of results for different groups within the survey sample (Take 3’s Home Plastic Footprint survey examined participants’ attitudes and behaviours within and between age groups)
  • You’re interested in capturing trends. Surveys can provide a snapshot of a specific point in time. You can repeat the same, or a similar, survey and compare how attitudes and behaviours have changed over time.


[1] World Economic Forum, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey & Company, The New Plastics Economy — Rethinking the future of plastics (2016, http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications).

Join us for a free webinar on good survey design

Join us for a deep dive into good survey design, with guests from Take 3 for the Sea.

Critical Foundations of Survey Design Webinar – Free (Beginner Level)
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM AEST, Tue, 24 August 2021

Register online

In this hour-long webinar, ARTD Partner Andrew Hawkins will take you through the basic building blocks of good survey design. We’ll follow this up with a Q&A with Tourism Manager Rebecca Dawes from environmental non-profit Take 3 For the Sea, to discuss some of their learnings from implementing and analysing surveys, with ARTD’s support.


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