"Going Green": Investigating Environmental Sustainability Practices in Camp Organizations across the United States


  • Lincoln R. Larson North Carolina State University
  • Josselyn Rivera-Zuniga
  • Barry A. Garst
  • Samuel Keith
  • Danny Sudman
  • Laurie Browne




Barriers, Conservation, Education, Environmental stewardship, Green purchasing, Motivations, Summer Camps, Sustainability, Triple bottom line, Constraints, Waste management


Our study explored current environmental sustainability practices of U.S. camps as well as the motivations and barriers influencing integration of sustainable operational approaches. Using a web survey of camp organizations in Spring 2021, we identified participation in sustainable actions across five broad categories: waste management, sustainability education and communication, natural resource and wildlife conservation, energy and water consumption, and purchasing and procurement. Many camp organizations already engaged in sustainable practices – especially with respect to waste management and sustainability education – but almost all camps wanted to do more. Camp organizations placed higher priority on environmental and social motivations for sustainability than economic reasons. Inadequate financial and/or technological resources was the largest perceived barrier to sustainability, though lack of awareness and capacity-building assistance was also a constraint. Results highlight strong interest in sustainability across the camp industry and reveal multiple ways to realize that potential.

Author Biography

Lincoln R. Larson, North Carolina State University

Dr. Lincoln Larson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. He has earned degrees in Biology (B.S., Duke University), Forest Resources (M.S., University of Georgia), and Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism (Ph.D., University of Georgia). Before coming to NC State in 2017, he worked as a postdoctoral research associate in the Human Dimensions Research Unit of Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources and as an Assistant Professor in teh Dept. of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Managment at Clemson University. At NC State, Dr. Larson’s teaching and research focus on characterizing and managing interactions between humans and the natural environment. His work, which is supported by a variety of federal and state government agencies (e.g., National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service) and nongovernmental organizations, is designed to help students, scientists, land managers, and the general public understand, communicate, and collaboratively respond to emerging challenges facing parks and protected areas. Dr. Larson has worked with student advisees and colleagues from many disciplines to publish more than 100 journal articles, technical reports, and book chapters covering a range of topics including human dimensions of natural resource management, nature-based recreation and associated health benefits, and environmental education. His undergraduate and graduate courses at NC State reflect his diverse experience and interdisciplinary approach to natural resource recreation planning and management.


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Special Issue: Fostering a Culture of Sustainability through Outdoor Recreation