Taking the Stress out of Camp Sustainability


One hundred fifty-eight million, that’s the number of results I get when searching google for “composting.”  The basics of composting aren’t that complicated.  All you need is time, air (O2), water (H2O), and the FBI (Fungus, Bacteria, Insects) to break down and recycle organic matter.  However, if you run a camp that serves 60 – 1000 youth and adults each day, it requires a much more complex system.

Photo: Catalina Island Camps (Garden Classroom)

While there are a plethora of resources out there, we need better systems to help sort through all the noise. Camps are a great vessel to demonstrate sustainable solutions like composting, but it requires time, money, and the knowledge and skills to design the right system for each camp. One of the ways Green Camps is working to accomplish this strategic goal is through our outreach education efforts and the development of resources specifically designed for camps.  

Green Camps is seeking financial support and applying for grants to raise $3,500 for an outreach education program to support green action in the camp community which is outlined below.  The program will provide step-by-step guidance to plan, implement and manage practical and engaging educational opportunities around three green actions.

If you’d like to support programs like the one below, we invite you to make a tax-deductible donation by visiting www.greencamps.org/donate.  If you’re considering making a major gift we would love to talk with you so we can better understand what kind of impact you’d like your donation to make.

Want to learn more about Green Camps?  Contact us to schedule a call with our Executive Director or one of our board members. 

Your Funding at Work

Green Camps will invite hundreds of camp leaders from around the country to participate in a three-part webinar series. Our goal is to provide environmental educational opportunities around waste reduction, solar energy, and sustainable land management to support camp staff in building real-time learning environments for campers to experience green practices in action. The webinars will be recorded and disseminated as resources on Green Camps’ online community sites.

To increase the appeal of participation in the webinars, $1,500 of the funding will be used for honorariums to bring in subject matter experts.  We also plan to use $500 to market each webinar in addition to sharing the events through our network of camp associations and influencers.

Anyone can search online to find resources to take green action but doing that at an organizational level demands a committed team, robust planning, and a spirit of collaboration and problem-solving.  The remaining $1,500 will be used to develop green action guides to accompany each webinar.  Green action guides will contain step-by-step instructions for how to plan, implement, manage and provide education to implement each green action highlighted in this webinar series. 

For example, the guide for solar energy will contain a short survey that will ask questions to determine what kind of solar solutions would best suit a camp, an outline for how to seek funding, and educational activities and curriculum that any camp leader can pick up and lead with their guests. 

This webinar series is designed not only to impact camp facilities but also to engage campers, their families, and communities through practical, at-home actions. We will accomplish this by including engaging hands-on and virtual activities in the green action guides that can easily be led by camp staff or shared directly with campers to inspire green behaviors at home.

To help share the impact of the actions camps take as a result of the webinars we will collect case studies to highlight the successes, challenges, and solutions to further inspire and educate other camp professionals to take green action. 

Green Camps aim for our webinars and educational efforts is to not only impact camp facilities but inspire change throughout communities with far-reaching, practical solutions. We believe passionately in our cause, and that environmental education is critically important to change the direction of the climate crisis. The camp industry is comprised of 12,000 camps that impact six million youth and adult learners every year. Your support will be assisting Green Camps in providing tools that will inform behavior change with practical solutions that can be easily scaled across the country.

What Drives Us

People. Green Camps is driven by the interactions we have with camp professionals who are working to address the nuanced challenges associated with greening their camp programs and facilities.  The barriers to implementing sustainable solutions are vast: skills and knowledge; lack of access to financial resources; camp infrastructure; dismissive organizational attitudes toward sustainability.  Much of Green Camps programming is based around team building principles that celebrate collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving.  By framing sustainable development in the context of a teambuilding initiative, Green Camps is facilitating camp staff and campers to work together as a team to discover innovative solutions while building a culture of sustainability within their organization.

Research. To further understand the barriers and motivators influencing camps, we conduct research to analyze the aforementioned challenges.  This research heavily influences the type of resources, programming, and support we provide to the camp community.

In spring 2021, Green Camps worked with Dr. Lincoln Larson, Associate Professor at NC State University to conduct research on green solutions for camps. Of the 139 camps that responded to a survey about “going green,” 85% shared that they want to increase participation in sustainability solutions.  Green Camps is dedicated to leading the research efforts in this field to understand barriers and deliver solutions to help camps accomplish their sustainability goals. 

Learn more about the research project at www.greencamps.org/research

Stories. We are inspired by the success stories that resulted from outreach education and the development of resources that are providing engaging examples of how green behavior change can play a significant role in combating the climate crisis. 

Green Camps amplifies and celebrates the success stories of camps overcoming sustainability challenges. One of our member camps, Catalina Island Camps, purchased two 40-gallon solar water heaters on eBay for $200.  They were installed on the boy’s shower house and highlighted a robust education station that could be used by instructors or passively with educational signage to teach camp visitors about natural resources, energy, water conservation, and most importantly, using critical thinking and problem solving to address environmental issues.

The stories we collect demonstrate innovative solutions that inform and motivate the camp sustainability movement. They cultivate ongoing dialogue and sharing among camp professionals and contribute to a library of resources to explore and discover effective, tested solutions that meet their goals.

Solutions. We believe that modeling practical and engaging solutions that address the climate crisis can inspire green behavior change in the youth and adults that are impacted by the camp experience.  Most camps are in natural settings, which provides an easy connection to the lessons we can learn from the natural world and can facilitate a translation of that knowledge back to the camp facility and the camper’s home community. 

Take for example the Laurel Sumac, or Taco Tree whose leaves are shaped like…yup, you guessed it, tacos.  They can close their taco-shaped leaves which will cast a shadow and protect the leaves from collecting too much energy.  On an overcast day, the leaves can open to more efficiently capture the sun’s energy.  This can be demonstrated with a group of campers by having them cup their hands together like a taco and open/close them to see the shadows.  Herein lies the opportunity to open a dialogue about green actions back at the camp facility that reflects the lessons nature can teach us about sustainability.  By helping camps implement green solutions, we are creating educational opportunities to inspire green behavior change through understanding and appreciation of our natural resources.

Who is Green Camps

Green Camps, founded in 2014 by Danny Sudman, believes in the camp community’s extraordinary ability to inspire and develop the next generation of environmental leaders.  This is accomplished through engaging outreach education, research, and the creation of the camp industry’s first green certification program.  Camp environments are uniquely positioned to model what sustainable living can look like at home while helping young people build an appreciation for nature and reimagine sustainable lifestyles.

Yet, youth camps have struggled with making sustainability a priority, and its effects have been amplified by inexpensive access to single-use products, limited budgets, and lack of knowledge or resources to implement system-wide changes. Heavily reliant on the natural environment and reducing operating costs, camps have a vested interest in sustainability and are well-positioned to adopt environmentally conscious practices in their operations, across their built ecosystem, and in their educational and recreational activities. 

Danny Sudman, Founder and Executive Director, brings more than 20 years of experience in the camp industry as a camp director, educator, challenge course professional, conference presenter and camp consultant.  These experiences have greatly influenced the educational focus that shaped the development of Green Camps to use experiential and outdoor education to help learners draw connections from the natural world back to their home communities to inspire green behavior change and address the environmental crisis. 

Green Camps is a fiscally sponsored project of Community Partners, a tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.