“An Innovative Approach: Certification Aimed at Greening the Camp Community”

Today, Green Camps is excited to announce that the first phase of development to facilitate the certification process through our online community is complete and ready for testing. In this blog entry, we’ll be sharing a little more about what we’ve developed and how you can support Green Camps to further this process.

There are still a lot of questions to be answered and decisions to be made about the certification process. Green Camps is now accepting applications to build a certification committee. This committee will conduct research, review feedback, and collaborate to develop a credible and reputable Green Certification to recognize a camp’s efforts to model sustainability and inspire green behavior change.

If you’re interested in applying to join the certification committee please fill out the volunteer application and mark your interest in the “certification committee” at this link or in the embedded form at the end of this post.

Last year Green Camps published a blog using a favorite childhood toy, legos, as a metaphor for building a framework for sustainability. The concept of building a framework is at the core of how Green Camps Certification was developed. A solid framework will help build an intentional and long-lasting structure to support any organization in accessing the environmental, educational, and economic benefits of sustainability.


When Green Camps was launched, we wanted to outline the actions that would reflect what a model sustainable camp looks like. The intention was to have a set of benchmarks that camps could use as metrics to measure the impact of their sustainable efforts. This process was greatly influenced by the standards set by the American Camp Association which outline best practices for youth camps. Also greatly influential were the processes and guidelines for acquiring Leed Certification of buildings. Additional influences included the Green Business Bureau, Eco-Schools, Living Building Challenge, and of course the hundreds of camp and sustainability professionals who have provided advice and feedback to Green Camps.

Since the camp community is so unique, Green Camps decided to develop a set of standards to meet the diverse needs of camps by leveraging the educational value of modeling practical and engaging sustainable solutions to sustainability. Below is the result of that research and the feedback of a panel of camp and sustainability professionals.

Each of the standards has a point value that is awarded when the action is completed. The point value is based on the environmental impact of the action and for how the action is shared with campers and staff to inspire green behavior change.

The response from our review process was generally positive, but there was also a sense of being overwhelmed at the prospect of the work that would go along with pursuing accreditation. What was accomplished through developing these standards was very valuable and is ready to be implemented when the time is right, but we realized accreditation might not be a great starting point. In fact, this led to doubling down on our outreach education efforts to bring awareness of the many benefits that result from taking sustainable action.

We also realized that we needed a much simpler entry point to get started on the process of “greening” a camp. Taking a step back, we considered how Green Camps could support the great diversity of challenges and opportunities associated with greening youth organizations. If one of our staff were working one on one with a camp to get them started or to build upon their existing efforts, what would that look like?

Green Camps founder Danny Sudman is a challenge course professional and the first step was very clear to him…form a team. A green team is crucial to establish a culture of sustainability and build buy-in from key stakeholders. To this end, Green Camps created and is distributing resources to help camps get started with this step right now! Please share this resource with anyone in an organization that would like to make sustainability a priority.


With a team formed to guide sustainable efforts we would next help implement conservation policies, conduct a green survey, create proposals and launch a green initiative, and then share the successes and challenges of pursuing sustainability.

The Green Camps Online Community makes the certification process digital which reduces paperwork and keeps your information organized and accessible. It is also meant to feel like someone is guiding you through the process without having to pay someone. Although, Green Camps does offer that service.

Future development phases will allow us to leverage the innovative technology we are using to provide even more features and resources to support sustainable efforts. Currently, the focus of the community is to share resources and collect the required documentation for each of the certification steps.

When it comes to taking action, there are a lot of opportunities to model sustainability at your camp, which can be overwhelming. Thus, the green survey is meant to accomplish the three following objectives.

  1. Ask questions to help camps highlight actions that they are already doing, might be interested in implementing, or that aren’t a good fit for their organization.
  2. Inform Green Camps about what resources and support we can provide that will most direct support each unique camp.
  3. Collect data that can be used in research to clarify the challenges, opportunities, and solutions associated with “greening” a camp. Green Camps will also leverage this research to access funding to support camps in their sustainability efforts.

Consider composting…The survey asks, “Do you compost at your facility?”

  • Yes
  • Yes and we’d like to do more
  • No
  • No, but we’d like to

While this is a simple question with simple response options it gives a good sense of your organization’s attitude towards composting and we now know what advice and composting resources to share with you.

In the short term, after a camp completes the survey, a Green Camps volunteer will review the results to share the appropriate resources and provide suggestions for which green actions they should get started with along with supportive resources. As our capacity grows to develop more features, after completing the certification process your responses will generate a strategic plan tailored to meet the unique and specific needs/challenges of your organization.

So there’s a framework…now what?

With the basic functionality of the online community ready to collect data we are looking for camps to pilot the certification process in order to provide feedback to continue to refine and build upon the certification process. Once a camp is certified, they would continue to implement green actions to earn points towards accreditation (or higher levels of certification).

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, there are still a lot of questions to be answered and decisions to be made about the certification process. Green Camps is now accepting applications to build a certification committee. This committee will conduct research, review feedback, and collaborate to develop a credible and reputable Green Certification to recognize a camp’s efforts to model sustainability and inspire green behavior change.

We’ve built the framework and want to invite folks interested in this work to be apart of growing the sustainable camps movement. Below are just a few ways you can support Green Camps or get involved directly.

  • Join the Certification Committee – Fill out the application and select “Certification Committee”
  • Pilot your camp through the Certification process – email danny@greencamps.org to learn what is entailed.
  • Become a Green Camps Volunteer – Fill out the volunteer application and select the areas you’re interested in.
  • Make a donation to Green CampsMake a Donation Here

Have other questions? Contact us!

Thanks for reading,