Environmental education plays a key role in the effectiveness of putting in practice the principles of sustainable development and implementing the policies promoted by public administration bodies. Education and information strongly contribute to modifying people’s behaviour and businesses’ attitudes, thus allowing the impact of sustainability policies to be amplified and ensuring long-lasting effects.
Local public administration bodies are in a prominent position to provide environmental education and information as they are both the level of public administration closest to citizens and businesses, and in charge of implementing crucial environmental policies, public services and concrete measures in fields that directly affect citizens and businesses (e.g. waste management, energy planning, air quality, mobility).
Environmental education and information to citizens and businesses encompasses a variety of areas and can be focused on different objectives such as:
- raising public awareness of environmental problems
- providing practical information on the everyday contribution that citizens and businesses can make to environmental protection and efficient use of resources
- creating new patterns of behaviour among different groups in society
- inspiring citizens to get to know and appreciate the local environment and reconnect with nature
- stimulating an understanding of the environmental interdependence between urban and surrounding rural and natural areas
- providing information on legal (and other) environment-related provisions and on incentives to go beyond legal obligations (e.g. incentives for energy efficiency).
These objectives can be met by organising educational activities adapted to each target group through seminars, conferences, workshops, site visits and so on, and with the involvement and cooperation of residents, local organisations, businesses, schools, vocational training centres and other partners that can provide knowledge and support and help reach certain audiences.
The environmental education and information schemes can be organised and run internally by public administration bodies using in-house resources, as well as relying on civil society or external companies. Another effective approach is creating environmental education centres. These can be placed in or close to natural areas and act as a link between citizens and the green space via talks, guided tours and so on. In touristic places, they can also play an important role in informing and raising awareness.