Introducing the Green Camps Blog

The Green Camps Blog will share stories, videos, resources and more about the work Green Camps is doing to create more awareness around the impact the camp community can have in modeling sustainability. We can all agree that sustainability is important, but we don’t always know what it means or looks like. Green Camps wants to help any camp create their own definition of sustainability that fits within the uniqueness of each organization.

How do you define sustainability?

Green Camps was conceived after a presentation at an American Camp Association Conference in 2011 to share the opportunities the camp community has to inspire green behavior change in campers and staff. When I walk around a camp I see opportunities to model and teach sustainability everywhere. So for this first presentation I put together a resource that would highlight some of these. (View the Green Camps Resource) The response from this presentation showed me there was a desire and need to help the camp community become a model for sustainability.

After considering the many options for forming an organization Green Camps became a fiscally sponsored project of Community Partners in 2014. Ever since, we’ve been learning how to overcome the unique challenges each camp faces in modeling sustainability. We’ve done this through outreach education, developing educational resources and connecting with camp and sustainability professionals to better understand their challenges to support and inspire green actions in the camp community.

The camp community already brings youth and adults into the natural world which is the first step in building an appreciation for the natural environment. The natural world provides many lessons to define and understand the principles of sustainability, but when we return to the camp facility there are often inefficiencies in the consumption energy, water and waste produced at camp facilities. So how can we leverage the lessons nature teaches so that our camps can make better decisions about the environmental, economic and social impact of their programs and facilities?

Source: https://sustain.wisconsin.edu

As I walk around camps I use a “sustainability lens” to view these challenges as opportunities to create practical and engaging education for the campers and staff that are impacted by the camp experience each year. Of course we have to be practical when making decisions about how to model sustainability to balance the environmental impact, economic cost and the people impacted by these decisions. However, just by considering these three factors (Triple Bottom Line) we can make more informed decisions that will create huge benefits for our organizations.

At the end of the summer, camps receive emails, phone calls and social media posts sharing stories of the behavior changes they see in their children. Such as saying please and thank you, being nicer to their siblings or having more confidence. With some simple modeling of green behaviors, camps have the opportunity to expand these outcomes to include green behaviors such as turning the water off when brushing their teeth, turning the lights off when they leave a room or even starting a small compost pile in their backyard. Consider the impact of campers returning home to model these behaviors for their families, at their schools, churches and other communities they are apart of.

Each year more than 14 million children and adults attend camp in the U.S.

(2013 ACA Camp Compensation and Benefits Report)

Green Camps is excited to be leading the Sustainable Camps Movement because the time for change is now. Our planet needs us to accept and take on the challenge to reduce our impact by changing our behaviors. We believe that the camp community provides a great vessel to teach and model the skills and knowledge needed to accomplish this.

We know this task can be overwhelming for camps on top of the work they are already doing which is why much of our work up to this point has been to develop systems to make this process more attainable for camps. Our online community was launched to empower and facilitate camp staff in helping their camps define sustainability and model it through practical and engaging green actions.

With these systems in place and our 5 step approach to creating a framework for ANY camp to model sustainability, we want to focus on spreading more awareness. The camp community is positioned to model sustainability and inspire green behavior change in the 14 million youth and adults impacted by the camp experience each year.

Follow Green Camps on social media @gogreencamps to stay up to date on the Sustainable Camps Movement.