Partners in Sustainability: National Environmental Education Foundation
Many of the sustainability challenges that we prioritize at Samsung – whether it be realizing a circular economy or optimizing energy efficiency – are enhanced through partnerships and collaborative initiatives with credible, knowledgeable, and innovative brands, environmental organizations, and industry groups. Together with these like-minded eco-friendly allies, we are putting our scale, global presence, and pioneering spirit to work on building a more sustainable and equitable future. As part of our “Partners in Sustainability” series, Samsung’s esteemed partners are sharing their views on how tackling environmental challenges requires unparalleled cooperation.
|Title||Vice President of Marketing & Communications|
|Partner||National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF)|
|Years working together||Over a decade|
|Relationship focus||Environmental education for K-12 students; Inspiring future climate problem solvers and stewards of the environment|
1. What does sustainability mean to NEEF?
Leaning on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) definition, sustainability means creating and maintaining the conditions in which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations. Learning how to protect biodiversity and ecosystems is essential as we depend on them for survival. At NEEF, our vision is that people’s everyday actions are guided by an understanding and concern for the well-being of people and the planet. Our organization works through K-12 education, health, and conservation to offer the public information and opportunities to make this a reality.
2. What are some of the many ways that the nonprofit is cultivating lifelong environmental learning among Americans?
Since NEEF’s work covers K-12 education, health, and conservation, we strive to reach people throughout their lives in ways that are relevant to them. For example, if you have a child in school, there is a chance they may be part of a Greening STEM project that ignites an interest in science and, more specifically, the water quality in their community. Let’s say you start planting more native species in your yard after volunteering and learning about them at one of NEEF’s National Public Lands Day events. Maybe your child has asthma, and their school nurse has taken NEEF’s pediatric asthma course that helps identify and mitigate environmental asthma triggers. These touchpoints are important in helping the public understand how the environment affects them and how they affect the environment.
3. How do you work with companies like Samsung who are “walking the talk” on corporate sustainability and climate action?
Working with companies who are committed to sustainability and improving their communities is inspiring. NEEF has partnered with Samsung for over 10 years on environmental education and Greening STEM projects. I’ve personally worked with Mark Newton since 2019 on the Climate Superstars Challenge and every year he brings a genuine care and excitement to working on the online tasks, considering which prizes would be helpful for educators, and thinking about how students will benefit and learn from the material.
This is our fourth year working on the Climate Superstars Challenge, our environmental literacy challenge – produced with our partners, the EPA and Samsung. Middle school classrooms (grades 6-8) compete by completing climate-focused tasks, which equips them with the knowledge to take direct action to protect the planet. We have increased the number of participating classrooms every year. We work to keep things fresh and interesting. For example, last year’s grand prize winner received a $5k voucher for Samsung products but also got a private concert from AY Young, a singer, songwriter, clean energy advocate, UN Youth Ambassador, and a Samsung and UNDP Generation17 leader. It was incredible to see how excited the kids were (and funny to see most of them recording the event on their phones)! It was the first live concert for many of them.
4. Can NEEF share its views on the importance of E-STEM, i.e., incorporating environmental literacy into STEM education?
We believe the key to solving the climate issues we are facing depends on everyone having the knowledge, skills, and motivation to make responsible decisions around sustainability. Our Greening STEM initiative is based on the belief that today’s students must be able to examine real-world issues and think critically about the relationship between humans and the environment to be able to develop real-world solutions. Using the environment as context for STEM education provides students with hands-on, minds-on learning activities. Therefore, NEEF funds educational projects that extend classroom learning by engaging students in the real-world work of collecting and analyzing data just as scientists and researchers do. The students who participate in Greening STEM projects recognize the authenticity of their work to make sense of the world and climate change.
5. Why do you think collaboration is one of the keys to unlocking solutions to the climate crisis?
NEEF was congressionally chartered in 1990 with many goals, one of which was to bring together public and private entities to leverage public dollars and government expertise, with private resources, entrepreneurial spirit, and creativity to produce a higher level of environmental literacy. This charge still holds true, and it stands to reason that finding effective solutions for the climate crisis will require all of us working together.
6. Lastly, we know that environmental access is not equal across communities. What are the ways NEEF is working in collaboration with institutions, organizations, and other partners to help address equity related to this matter?
NEEF’s mission is to make the environment more accessible, relatable, relevant, and connected to the daily lives of all Americans. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) is at the core of this mission and how we approach our work.
For example, NEEF’s Greening STEM initiative engages underserved and underrepresented students in hands-on, minds-on environmental investigations in their communities—making STEM relevant and connected to students’ daily lives. Our Greening STEM partners share NEEF’s goal of exposing all students to environmental challenges, STEM trained professionals, and environmental career pathways so that the next generation of workers, business leaders, and elected officials reflect the demographics of our nation.
We have also been working to increase the participation of Title I schools in the Climate Superstars program, and the number has been increasing year over year. We also expanded the eligibility of the program to include after-school programs to offer science-based climate education to students in a fun and easily accessible format for educators during and out-of-school time.