Environmental Literacy Defined

The following excerpt is taken from the Roadmap to Environmental Literacy for Vermont, and helps to explain what the term environmental literacy is all about.

Being literate in the broadest sense means to have knowledge or competence. When we consider environmental literacy, according to the North American Association of Environmental Education, knowledge and competence includes the following:

  • An understanding of the Earth as a physical system and the living environment, including humans and their societies within the landscape
  • A familiarity with some basic modes of inquiry, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and an ability to interpret and synthesize information
  • An understanding of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in order to participate in resolving issues
  • Motivation and empowerment to act, understanding that what people do as individuals and groups can make a difference

In short, understanding, problem-solving, citizenship, and action.

Fostering environmental literacy may include activities such as taking school children on a hike with a naturalist or families attending a local maple sugaring festival. It may also include neighbors cooperatively sharing resources such as lawn mowers, log splitters, roto-tillers, or even just canoes or bicycles. It could be the town road crew working with landowners to install beaver baffles to prevent washouts. Environmental literacy involves community members who are engaged in discussion at town meetings, employees who promote sustainability policies in their workplaces, and students planning community service projects. It might be employees advocating for bike racks or showers in their workplaces or students coordinating recycling programs in their school or energy audits in public buildings.