How companies can help more kids get outside this year
A deep dive into the importance of purpose-driven work
Nearly every parent has seen their children’s eyes glaze over while staring at a screen during this pandemic. There are few ways around it, our kids are spending more time inside, online, and away from the great outdoors.
Why should businesses care about children in nature? The more time our kids spend outside in safe and inclusive settings, the better their social and emotional well-being will be, and the more they will want to protect our land, air and water. Also, businesses who align their purpose with a cause like getting children into nature will have opportunities to foster deeper relationships with their employees and customers, build brand awareness, and tackle one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.
On top of these benefits, consumers are calling for companies to take a stand on social and environmental issues and are backing up these calls to action with their purchasing power. According to a recent study, 72% of Americans say they feel it is more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflect their values. Nearly nine-in-10 consumers (86%) say they’re likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies.
Leaning in to purpose-driven work can be intimidating. A great way to start this work is for companies to build their cause marketing capabilities. Cause marketing is the creation of partnerships between for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations. These partnerships are a great mechanism for businesses to support causes that align with their core values.
Fostering Safe and Equitable Outdoor Access
One of the biggest challenges in building children’s relationship with nature is making safe outdoor experiences more accessible for low-income and inner-city families. Families living in urban areas without access to safe and convenient outdoor parks have reported higher levels of stress and deteriorating behaviors in their children during the pandemic.
Years of evidence show that time outside can have a positive effect on mental health in children and adults. Children have shown increased resilience and well-being after participating in nurturing outdoor programs, and free play in outdoor spaces can reduce stress indicators.
Here in Colorado, environmental education organizations have adapted in a variety of ways to give kids more access to nature and to manage the social and emotional stresses of the pandemic. Get Outdoors! Leadville and the Lake County School District worked together in a herculean effort to transition learning outside the classroom and into natural spaces that meet COVID-safety standards.
Cal-Wood, an outdoor education center in the foothills of Boulder, recognizes the need for Latino families to enjoy the great outdoors together and the challenges they face in terms of access and affordability. During the pandemic Cal-Wood hosted Latino family camps for families to camp, hike, and climb together in a welcoming and inclusive outdoor environment.
Finally, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), who serves families in far northeast Denver, adapted to the pandemic by working with partners like Aurora, Commerce City and Denver parks and recreation agencies to secure free day passes to local parks for the under-resourced families they serve. ELK also provided gear from their outdoor gear inventory (sleeping bags, tents, stoves) for families to utilize when they explore Colorado’s great outdoors. Organizations like these have done incredible work to adjust to the challenges of the pandemic and help children and families where they can.
Businesses’ Role in Connecting Kids to Nature
These local environmental education organizations have had a big impact on the children and families they serve during the pandemic. However, they lack the resources they need to scale, meaning they are not able to serve everyone who needs them. Below are a few ideas for how businesses can play a role in helping more children connect with nature.
- Create a cause marketing relationship with an outdoor education organization to support their programming and help them reach more families.
- Advocate for statewide policy measures to support getting children into nature. Give feedback on the newly revised Colorado Environmental Education Plan created by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education.
- If you’re an outdoor recreation retailer, consider creating a gear library for families to use when they want to get out into nature.
- Donate shade structures, buckets and other supplies to make it easier for students to learn outside at school.
However you choose to work with environmental education organizations, know that as a business partner you are helping our children live healthier lives and learn to love the great outdoors.
Baselayer is in business to help businesses and nonprofits drive change through values-based strategies, cause marketing partnerships and creative consumer engagement platforms. Please reach out to Ashley Lovell, PhD at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in working with Baselayer or if you have questions or comments about this story.