EENC emerged out of the need and desire of individuals to meet, confer and share their experiences, aspirations, and tools so as to bring the most excellent environmental education experiences to the citizens of North Carolina and beyond.
Beginning in late 1987, Triangle area environmental and teaching professionals met often and regularly at various venues to engage in discussions around the environmental education movement in our state. Members of the focus group included UNC and NCSU professors, school teachers of diverse disciplines, museum curators and interpreters, County and State Parks rangers and naturalists, federal, state and county government agency officials, environmental researchers, electric utility professionals, and environmental policymakers.
Meetings were held "after school" and rooms were sometimes packed with professionals determined to spin a common thread in their efforts to increase environmental awareness and knowledge among the people of North Carolina. In time, interest grew beyond the Triangle, resulting in the creation of a state-wide, membership-driven, 501(c)3 education non-profit organization called Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC). The first board meeting was held at Museum of Life and Science in Durham in October 1990. It was then, and continues to be, the premier environmental education professional organization in our state which connects diverse professionals and organizations to each other through directories, news, regional events, an annual state conference and a coveted awards program.
Early in its history, EENC affiliated with North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE). Through an NAAEE affiliates study program and by developing strong relationships with other North Carolina organizations and agencies, EENC was instrumental in engineering the NC Environmental Education Certification Program in partnership with the NC Office of Environmental Education of what was then the NC Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources. In November 1995, the combined environmental education community celebrated the first recipients of the state certification program. Since its inception, the certification program has been administered by the state and is heralded internationally. EENC was chosen as "Affiliate of the Year" in 1998 by NAAEE, largely for its crucial role in developing the certification program.
In the fall of 2008, EENC won a bid to host NAAEE’s 40th annual conference. The conference was held October 12-15th, 2011 at the convention center in Raleigh, NC. Close to 1000 environmental educators from around the world attended the conference.
EENC joined forces with other states in the Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, SC, and TN) to create a regional NAAEE Affiliate, the Southeastern EE Alliance (SEEA). The first SEEA conference was held in Kentucky in 2012. In 2013, SEEA became the newest NAAEE affiliate.
In October 2014, EENC was once again awarded NAAEE’s Affiliate of the Year. The award was presented during the NAAEE conference in Ottawa, Canada.
In January 2018, EENC hired its first staff, a part-time executive director. After nearly 30 years as an exclusively volunteer-led organization, this was a critical step in growing EENC’s operations. In 2019, that staff position grew to be full-time and in 2021, we hired a part-time program coordinator to continue this expansion. With this shift, EENC has been expanding our professional development opportunities, resources, and support programs for environmental educators across North Carolina.