Credit: Foundation for Environmental Education
A comprehensive, student-led, international campus greening program
EcoCampus USA is a no-cost, student-led, project-driven campus greening, environmental education and sustainability award program designed to transform Higher Education Institutions to work in alignment with the United National Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to educate and prepare students to become thought leaders, active citizens, and green professionals for change.
EcoCampus was created by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 2003 as a natural extension of their globally successful Eco-Schools framework. Eco-Schools – developed in 1994 – is the largest global sustainable schools program, spanning 77 FEE member countries that together reach more than 50,000 primary and secondary schools worldwide. Currently, 21 of the 77 FEE member countries have also launched FEE EcoCampus.
The National Wildlife Federation was granted host status by FEE in 2008 and, as the dedicated national operator organization in the United States, launched Eco-Schools USA in 2009 and EcoCampus USA in 2021. Campuses participating in EcoCampus USA join a collaborative network including FEE, United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and hundreds of colleges and universities across the 21 active EcoCampus countries.
EcoCampus USA aims to center student voices and leadership development in campus greening efforts while supporting career preparation and development through NWF’s EcoLeaders and EcoCareers programs. This means engaging the entire campus community: students, faculty, staff, as well as media, local businesses, contractors and visitors.
EcoCampus USA’s resources, action plans, and curricular linkages are organized through four cross-cutting themes: ‘Climate Change’, ‘Health and Wellbeing’, ‘Equity & Justice’, and ‘Global Citizenship’ and six sustainability pathways: ‘Biodiversity’, ‘Pollution’, ‘Waste & Resources’, ‘Water and Sanitation’, ‘Energy’, ‘Food’, and ‘Transport’.
EcoCampus USA offers institutions opportunities to:
• Contribute to the development and dissemination of sustainable solutions and climate change resilience through research and outreach.
• Improve the campus environmental performance, reduce environmental risks and impacts, and achieve financial savings.
• Enhance learning on campus through the development of students’ project-based leadership and sense of citizenship through participation, research and transferrable skills.
• Support student career exploration and planning with real-life project implementation and access to a variety of sustainability professionals
• Provide fresh ideas for research topics, capstone projects, student organizations, and events at the institution.
• Gain access to a wider network of support agencies, nonprofit organizations, and colleges and universities across the globe.
• Provide positive publicity for the campus, including a prestigious, internationally recognized award.
Credit: Alfred State College
The Seven-Step process is integral to the EcoCampus experience across the globe, and in the U.S., this process is enhanced with the National Wildlife Federation’s and Affiliates’ successful student leadership and career exploration programs.
The nature of the Seven Steps allows for the program to be integrated into existing campus structures and processes and is continually updated as the environmental status and the requirements of the campus change. Many of these steps may have already been started or completed on campus, so entry points for different institutions may vary.
• Step 1: Form an Eco-Committee: The Eco-Committee directs and addresses all phases of the EcoCampus USA program. This committee is designed to be student-led, multidisciplinary, and include stakeholders from faculty, staff, facilities, and administration.
• Step 2: Carry out a Sustainability Audit: The Sustainability Audit identifies the current situation of sustainability on campus and is used to derive thematic Action Plans.
• Step 3: Link to Learning on Campus: Higher education institutions should be ‘living laboratories’ - places to find solutions to sustainability issues within the campus community through research and education. Teaching should be grounded in investigative, problem-led learning with real results and outcomes.
• Step 4: Create Action Plan(s): Action plans are built off of the results of the Sustainability Audit and involve improving environmental performance by setting realistic targets, identifying relevant metrics, listing planned activities and stakeholder responsibilities, and setting timelines and deadlines.
• Step 5: Monitoring & Evaluation: Monitoring and Evaluation are used to assess progress made towards achieving targets identified in the Action Plan and to guide any necessary modifications to the Action Plan during implementation.
• Step 6: Informing and Involving the Wider Community: One of the key roles of colleges and universities is leading society with new information, knowledge and solutions. The aim of the sixth step is to spread the EcoCampus USA message throughout the campus and the wider community through ongoing publicity and engagement.
• Step 7: Eco-Charter: Many institutions have substantial policies related to waste, energy, water and other environmental issues, but these are often large documents not as accessible or easily remembered by staff and students. The Eco-Charter is a student-authored ‘How We Do Things Here…’ guide to environmental management.
Credit: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
To request to join our email list for program updates, or learn more about getting involved with the program, please contact:
National Wildlife Federation EcoLeaders Program
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