NEEF Document and Resource

2015 Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

(From The National Environmental Education Advisory Council) Humans have always been dependent on the planet’s natural resources for survival. Human health is directly linked to the health of the environment on which it depends. Fertile soil, plentiful and clean water, fresh air, and the wise use of natural resources not only influence quality of life, but also contribute to economic prosperity, national security, and sustainability.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clearly recognizes this interdependency, as evidenced by its mission “To protect human health and the environment.” In addition, EPA works to ensure that “environmental protection contributes to making communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable, and economically productive.”

In a world that has grown more interconnected than ever before, there has never been a more critical moment in history to support environmental education (EE). Education and public discourse are needed to enable us to respond to the urgent alarm sounded by leading scientists on environmental challenges, such as responding to climate change, generating sustainable energy, and ensuring sufficient water resources and air quality. It is essential to build a workforce that can understand, collaborate, and take action to succeed with innovative solutions and emerging technologies.

This report provides a set of immediate and ongoing recommendations for EPA on matters related to EE. These recommendations are based on an analysis of information collected over an 18-month period. These recommendations reflect the opportunities and challenges EPA faces in supporting EE at the national level.

EPA plays an important role in EE. EPA already conducts many activities that are crucial to moving the nation forward through engagement with communities, leadership, and financial resources. However, significant opportunities exist for EPA to push beyond the status quo and drive change, innovation, and education.

It is the National Environmental Education Advisory Council’s (NEEAC’s) view that EPA has the following three key EE focus areas that are supported through the EPA Office of Environmental Education’s (OEE’s) three primary roles of championing, collaborating, and communicating about EE within the agency and beyond:

  • Engage: EPA should engage its employees by equipping them with EE tools and training. These tools and training will help employees support EPA’s mission, which will lay the foundation for OEE to facilitate collaboration within the agency to ensure efficient use of resources and increase the effectiveness of the agency’s EE outreach.
  • Lead: EPA can offer consistent leadership for the EE field at top levels of the federal government. This leadership would provide much-needed strategic inter-agency coordination. OEE can champion these efforts within the agency, across agencies, and with national leaders from across the EE field to support integration, maximize funding, and share resources and research.
  • Fund: EPA should provide funding for personnel and grant opportunities at the national and local levels to advance EE initiatives. OEE can communicate its priorities through grants, awards, and partnerships.

Several key ideas discussed throughout this report include:

  • EE is a critical tool to meet EPA’s mission.
  • EPA can leverage the good work of historical and current efforts by engaging and leading effectively.
  • EE can be strategically coordinated and embedded in EPA’s functions.
  • Scientific knowledge is communicated to the public through education.
  • EE needs additional and sustained funding to be effective.