In 1979 the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts sponsored the Envirothon program under the name of Environmental Olympics. A year later the program’s name was shortened to Enviro-Olympics. The program was designed to be a hands-on outdoor competition for high school students that would encourage them to become interested in natural resource conservation and environmental issues. To accomplish this, the program tests the students’ knowledge of aquatic ecology, forestry, soils, wildlife, and current environmental issues.
Each year, A different environmental issue is selected. (View the issues from previous years).
In 1984 Pennsylvania hosted its first state competition with six teams. In 1985 fifteen teams participated in the second Pennsylvania State Enviro-Olympics. The state competition provided more visibility for the program and sparked the interest of other states.
The name Enviro-Olympics was changed to Envirothon in 1988. Also in 1988, Pennsylvania held the first National Envirothon. Participating were the states of Massachusetts, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The second National Envirothon was held in Massachusetts in 1989 with teams from Maine, Ohio, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania participating.
In 1990 a National Envirothon steering committee was created and a working relationship with the National Association of Conservation Districts was established. The third National Envirothon was held that year in Ohio. Maryland and New York participated for the first time.
In 1991 the National Envirothon Committee adopted By-Laws and Articles of Association. Nine states participated at the fourth National Envirothon in Maine. First timers were Connecticut, Indiana, North Carolina, and Nova Scotia.
The program continued to gain popularity and grow. Fourteen teams participated at the fifth National Envirothon, hosted by Maryland in 1992. Twenty-one teams attended the sixth National Envirothon hosted by New York. North Carolina, host of the seventh National Envirothon had participation by twenty-three teams.
In 1997, the tenth anniversary of the National Envirothon was hosted by Pennsylvania where the program originated. Thirty-four states and three Canadian Provinces attended. Winning the 10th Anniversary National Envirothon was the team from Pennsylvania. This same year Canon U.S.A. began supporting the program. Canon National Envirothon scholarships for the 1st place through 3rd place teams were awarded for the first time.
In 1998, Michigan hosted the eleventh national Envirothon using an eco-station approach that included energy and sustainable agriculture. Forty-three teams participated. During the competition in Michigan, the National Envirothon Committee accepted a three-year proposal from Canon U.S.A. that provided the program an average of $270,000 per year. As the major sponsor the name National Envirothon was changed to Canon Envirothon.
Since 1998, California, Nova Scotia, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Maryland, West Virginia, and Missouri have hosted the Canon Envirothon. Participation has increased to forty-four states and seven Canadian Provinces. Scholarships are awarded to the 1st through 5th place teams.
With the support of Canon U.S.A., the US Forest Service, the Canadian Forestry Association, and the National Association of Conservation Districts the program continues to accomplish its mission of instilling the skills of team work, critical thinking, decision making, and other competencies needed to maintain a natural balance between the quality of life and the quality of the environment.