Outdoor Economy

Environmental Education: Benefits to the Economy & Human Health

outdoor environmental educationWhat do Ben Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci, Beethoven, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Mozart, John Frost, Henry David Thoroeu, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Isaac Newton, Galileo, Albert Einstien, Carl Linnaeus, Copernicus, The Wright Brothers, Charles Darwin, Vincent Van Gough, and many other great men and women of art and science have in common?

They were all influenced by nature and created some of their greatest accomplishments by observing it and learning from it.

As our plugged-in lifestyles cause us to spend less and less time outdoors, what is being lost as we become more and more disconnected with the outside world?

The sedentary lifestyle spent in front of screens has led to a dramatic increase in obesity and other health related issues.

The resources below show how Environmental Education can help both children and the economy.

Why Environmental Education is Important

Today we are seeing a drastic change as people spend more time indoors in-front of screens and less time exploring the world around them. This generation has been growing up indoors and disconnected.

According a worldwide study in 2005, %53 of children expressed feelings of fear about natural processes such as rain, wind and snow.

This movement indoors is not benign; there are costs to the health of our children: attention difficulties, hyperactivity, childhood obesity, diminished use of senses, disconnect from things that are real.

Additionally, if children are detached from nature, how will they learn about, understand, and value nature? How will the next generation care about the land and be stewards of its resources?

What is the cost to society?

Cost of Obesity:

According to a study of national costs attributed to both overweight
(BMI 25–29.9) and obesity (BMI greater than 30), medical expenses
accounted for 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenditures in 1998
and may have reached as high as $78.5 billion ($92.6 billion in 2002 dollars)(Finkelstein, Fiebelkorn, and Wang, 2003).

Approximately half of these costs were paid by Medicaid and Medicare.

Cost of ADHD
[Center for Disease Control & Prevention]

Rising hyperactivity and and attention deficit causes significant burden on the medical and healthcare system. The cost of ADHD is estimated to be between $36 and $52 billion, and is estimated to be between $12,005 and $17,458 annually per individual.

This does not mention the stress on parents, teachers, and the students own self esteem and achievement

Cost of Disconnection to Nature
[Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching]

53% of children in a worldwide study expressed feelings of fear about natural processes such as rain, wind and snow. Schoolyard design also reflects a lack of understanding of how quality outdoor play environments can provide children rich educational opportunities, particularly in the area of social skills and environmental learning (Evan 1997)

Environmental Education can be a solution to these issues.
[Campaign for Environmental Literacy]

Environmental education increases student engagement, improves academic achievement in core areas, reduces discipline and classroom management problems, increases enthusiasm for learning, creates greater student pride and ownership in accomplishments, and provides critical tools for 21st century workforce.

This has been proven to be true for students with and without learning disabilities.

Children and families with opportunities to play outside in natural areas and explore their environment have been found to develop a deeper sense of place and understanding of who and what they are.

Families that understand the benefits of outdoor play are looking for ways to allow their children time outside in a safe learning environment.

Now that we know environmental education can directly and indirectly add social and economical value, how do we go about implementing strategies to ensure that our communities have access?

Do Budget Cuts to Parks, Nature Reserves and Wildlife Refuges Really Save Money?

Outdoor Recreation and Tourism and the Real Value of Parks and Natural Resources

As sequestration goes into effect, deep budget cuts are being felt by parks, nature reserves and wildlife refuges.  The staffs at these facilities are considering whether to close down their nature centers, lay off personnel, and shut down certain programs for the year in order to save money.

Are they really saving money?

In the summer of 2012, I went to a seminar and heard a presentation by Michael Kirschman who was making the economic case for parks and natural areas.

The argument for keeping parks and natural areas funded have often been made mainly on visitation numbers and “quality of life” issues without real quantifiable data to show their economic value in other areas.

Mecklenburg County Staff spent time compiling real data to show the economic and health benefits of parks and natural areas in real numbers.

Their report findings covered several areas including water quality, air quality, real estate value, tourism, direct revenue, and health.

Some of what they found was that the nature preserves in their county:

  • filters and helps to reduce 27000 gallons of run-off per year to save potential $58+ million dollar infrastructure costs,
  • removes $2.2 million worth of pollution from the air
  • is responsible for 20% increase in property values leading to $1.2 million in additonal tax revenue
  • creates $8.8 million in direct and indirect tourism revenue
  • significantly reduced the $300 billion businesses spent on stress related health issues

This adds up to a combined $69million/year benefit and 350% return on investment of what is being spent on the nature preserves.

The article goes on to quote studies that have produced similar results in Philadelphia and New York that are responsible for billions in revenue and thousands of jobs. [see attached article: ParksValueMorethanJustAesthetic]

The real value of natural resources is not always obvious.

Adventure Travel 2010 Industry Report: Passport to Adventure



This is a 2010 Adventure Travel Industry report done by the Adventure Travel companies of TUI Travel PLC called  “A Passport to Adventure”  that showed great growth potential in outdoor adventures and adventure travel.


Some of the report findings were

181% growth in Nature and Wildlife Holidays

190% growth in Adventure Holidays

303% growth in environmentally friendly holidays
There will be an increase in the number of single professionals (especially females) and active families with a significant rise in the number of over 50 male and females.

61% of Adventure travelers will continue to take additional holidays because they enjoy meeting like minded people to share in their experiences.

Many of the travelers network on social media before making a travel decision.

Adventure travelers are increasingly taking environmentally friendly and ethical travel into consideration when booking a trip.

This finding were also echoed in other industry reports such as 2010 “Adventure Tourism Market Report” by George Washington University, ATTA, and XOLA Consulting.

Adventure travel industry report 2010

What is Environmental Education?

image of environmental educationThere are various opinions on how to define environmental education.

The following are a few examples:

“Environmental education is aimed at producing a citizenry that is knowledgeable concerning the biophysical environment and its associated problems, aware of how to help solve the problems, and motivated to work toward their solution” – (NAAEE)

“… the process of recognizing values and clarifying concepts in order to develop skills and attitudes necessary to understand and appreciate the interrelatedness among men, his culture and his biophysical surroundings. EE also entails practice in decision-making and self-formulation of a code of behaviour about issues concerning environmental quality. – International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN; 1971)

Environmental education increases public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues or problems. In doing so, it provides the public with the necessary skills to make informed decisions and take responsible action.

Environmental education teaches students about how the planet’s physical and biological systems work, and how we can create a more sustainable future. Ontario Ministry of Education

Environmental education is a process by which people develop awareness, concern and knowledge of the environment… and learn to use this understanding to preserve, conserve and utilize the environment in a sustainable manner for the benefit of present and future generations.
Environmental Management Bureau-DENR

It’s how we help people – of all ages – learn about environmental issues, either as part of their general curriculum based learning, or through specific activities.
Manchester City Council Environmental Services

Environmental education is the study of the relationships and interactions between dynamic natural and human systems.

What is your definition for environmental education?