History of the National Wildlife Federation's Higher Education Programs

In early 1989, the National Wildlife Federation challenged colleges to support Earth Day 1990 by starting environmental programs on campus and in the community. By summer, the Campus Ecology program had been established to work with college leaders and develop resources to help meet the challenge. More than 20 years later, National Wildlife Federation continues to grow and support colleges and universities in their sustainability efforts to protect wildlife and habitat.

students at Aquinas College

In 2014, the National Wildlife Federation launched the EcoLeaders Program with a goal to build the next generation of conservation leaders by supporting project-based leadership on campus and helping young leaders gain the leadership skills they need to be competitive in the job market. EcoLeaders also hosts a robust career center that provides tools and resources for high school and college students, and young professionals to explore sustainability careers and to map out their own career path.

In 2017, the National Wildlife Federation launched the annual, virtual EcoCareers Conference, bringing timely and interactive career exploration and planning content covering a range of green career sectors to students and young professionals across the country and globe.

In 2018, the National Wildlife Federation launched the Campus Pollinator Pledge to support colleges and universities in their efforts to create and restore habitat on campus to provide homes for pollinators, and to earn recognition for their efforts. Also in 2018, the National Wildlife Federation took over the management of the national RecycleMania college and university waste reduction competition. RecycleMania, Inc. governs all aspects of the program including the rules and structure of the competition, and the National Wildlife Federation works in partnership with RecycleMania, Inc. In 2020, RecycleMania changed its name to Campus Race to Zero Waste to better reflect the purpose of the program — to help campuses find pathways toward zero waste.

In 2022, the National Wildlife Federation, in partnership with the Campus Race to Zero Waste, launched the Plastics Reduction Partner certification program to recognize colleges and universities for their efforts to reduce the purchase and use of single-use plastics on campus.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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