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Natural area stewardship as part of campus sustainability

Krasny, Marianne E., Delia, Jesse
Journal of cleaner production 2015 v.106 pp. 87-96
energy use and consumption, higher education, humans, interviews, open space, planting, students, trees
Despite a growing body of evidence that spending time in nature through leisure, stewardship, and related activities is critical to the healthy development of humans and can lead to pro-environmental behaviors, higher education sustainability initiatives pay scant attention to the human–nature relationship. This relationship can be explored through constructs such as sense of place, as well as scales such as nature relatedness. Based on a literature review and interviews with members of a student organization focused on voluntary stewardship of campus open space and natural areas, we argue for a greater emphasis on student involvement in nature-based activities in university sustainability efforts. In particular, our exploratory study of a university student organization reveals that nature-based stewardship not only provides direct benefits to the campus environment (e.g., through tree planting), but also can enhance students' sense of place and play a role in students' mental well-being. Further, the literature and our results suggest that whereas sense of place and related well-being may foster conservation behaviors, the relationship between stewardship and unrelated environmental behaviors is less clear. Nature-based stewardship provides a complement to other aspects of sustainability, such as those focused on reducing consumption and energy use, and supports a holistic approach to university sustainability initiatives.