The current mode of teaching children and adults about the environment isn’t working.
In developed nations around the world, roughly 60 to 90 percent of the population is aware and at least somewhat knowledgeable about climate change. However, in less developed nations, this number can be as low as 35% or less. And this environmental education inequality doesn’t stop there.
In America, only two out of fifty U.S. states have earth science or environmental science as a required course for high school graduation. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Physics showed that 80% of high schoolers tested on environmental education literacy had an inadequate knowledge of the subject. In fact, researchers found that most students didn’t have a solid understanding of environmental conservation, environmental ethics, the use and management of natural resources, or how to properly explain the causes of modern-day environmental issues.
What has led to this lack of proper education about the environment and humankind’s relationship with it?
In many ways, it’s a lack of open communication and study. For example, in researching for this article, we found that a large majority of sources speaking about environmental education relied on research data published in the early 2000s – ten to fifteen years ago. Outdated statistics and recommendations are only hindering the progress of environmental education. Pair that with the traditionally dry, theory-heavy mode of communicating key environmental concepts without teaching proper application, and it’s no wonder we’ve had limited success.
So, what do we do now?
We start with the basics.
What is Environmental Education?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes environmental education like this, “Environmental education is a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action to improve the environment.”
Not regulated to children or adult-specific education, you can partake in environmental education at any age and at any experience level. Whether you’re new to environmental studies or you’re an experienced pro, there’s always something new to expand your understanding of the natural world.
Growing a Green Workforce
And what about how education about the environment affects people at work? What role, if any, should companies play when it comes to environmental education and best practices?
More than ever, applicants want to see that the company they’re applying to and considering working for has sustainability goals and initiatives. This includes (but is not limited to) education about the environment. For many companies, this education focuses on interconnectedness and exactly how everyday products and behaviors are affecting our planet.
At the end of the day, sustainability initiatives = employee buy-in. Employee buy-in = increased brand loyalty from the inside out.
How can a company get started? Form a Green Team or, at the very least, start the conversation. Brainstorm simple ways your company can begin to adopt environmentally conscious practices such as recycling, limiting paper usage (having a company-wide policy can make this MUCH more efficient), and updating thermostats throughout the office for better efficiency and thus less energy usage.
What You Can Do
Ready to get started with your environmental education journey? Prioritize educating yourself—that’s step one. When seeking out information, make sure you’re going to reliable, science-based sources.
If you’re the parent or guardian of a child, talk to their teachers (and/or school) about environmental education and environmental educators in the classroom—is it part of the curriculum where you live? If it’s not, consider what you can do at home. The following are all great ways to incorporate nature into your child’s daily life:
- Spend more time playing outdoors (this is where it all starts). If you don’t have a safe space for your child to play outdoors at home, consider going to a local park or green space a few times a week.
- Learn a new environmental fact every week (maybe your child can do research and teach you a fact.
- Begin implementing planet-friendly practices and behaviors regularly such as recycling, reducing waste, conserving water, etc.
- Did you know you can save 2-3 gallons of water per day by simply turning off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth?
Embracing the role of an environmental advocate—something we can and should all be—starts with knowledge. To learn more about the environment, nonprofits working to save it, and tips for making your daily life eco-friendly, keep following EarthShare’s channels (our blog and socials are updated regularly!) for new content.