Stewardship refers to the responsible management, care, and protection of something with inherent value.
Generally, stewardship implies that you are in possession of something that you do not consider yours to exploit. Rather, your mentality is that you will deliver it in better a condition to future stewards.
A steward has a duty to look after something and to ensure its well-being, preservation, and sustainability.
Stewardship can be applied to various contexts, including:
- Environmental Stewardship: This refers to the responsible maintenance of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices (Merenlender & Buhler, 2021; Palmer, 2006).
- Financial Stewardship: In this context, stewardship refers to the management and allocation of financial resources in an ethical, responsible, and efficient manner (Lamprecht, 2016; Peck et al., 2021).
- Cultural Stewardship: This concerns the preservation and care for cultural heritage so it is passed onto future generations (Clavir, 2012; De Costa, 2021; McIvor & Anisman, 2018).
1. Afforestation and Reforestation
Afforestation refers to the process of planting trees on land that has never been forested, while reforestation refers to replanting trees on land that once held forests but has been deforested or degraded (Doelman et al., 2020).
Both practices are essential for improving air quality, enhancing biodiversity, combating climate change, and restoring habitats. Trees act as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus helping to mitigate the effects of global warming.
Afforestation and reforestation also play a significant role in water conservation, soil preservation, and providing livelihoods to local communities (Doelman et al., 2020).
2. Community-Based Wildlife Conservation
Community-based wildlife conservation refers to wildlife conservation efforts that are led and managed by local communities.
Instead of external organizations imposing rules, local communities are empowered to take the lead in protecting and managing their natural resources.
This approach recognizes the intrinsic knowledge and vested interest locals have in their environment. It often results in more sustainable and successful conservation outcomes, as the community understands the nuances of their ecosystem and has a direct stake in its well-being.
Such initiatives can also provide economic benefits to the community through eco-tourism and sustainable resource utilization.
3. Sustainable Agriculture Practices
Sustainable agriculture is a way of farming that focuses on producing long-term crops and livestock without harming the environment, public health, communities, or animal welfare.
It incorporates techniques that conserve water, reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and prevent soil degradation. Examples include crop rotation, agroforestry, and the use of natural predators for pest control.
Sustainable agriculture not only ensures that the land remains productive for future generations but also reduces the negative environmental impacts of conventional farming, promotes biodiversity, and can lead to healthier food products.
4. Cultural Preservation of Indigenous and Historic Languages
As globalization advances, many indigenous languages are at risk of extinction. Stewardship in this context means taking active steps to document, teach, and revitalize these languages.(Clavir, 2012; De Costa, 2021).
This could involve creating educational programs, documenting oral histories, or promoting the use of these languages in daily life and media.
It could also simply be parents and local elders continuing to speak in their native tongue in the home and community public spaces (McIvor & Anisman, 2018).
Preserving indigenous languages is crucial for maintaining cultural diversity, transmitting traditional knowledge, and ensuring that future generations can connect with their ancestral roots.
5. Leave No Trace (LNT)
“Leave No Trace” is a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. It is built around seven core principles designed to educate people on how to minimize their impact when visiting natural areas (Marion, 2014).
The principles include planning ahead and preparing, traveling and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly, leaving what you find, minimizing campfire impact, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. LNT emphasizes the importance of responsible outdoor recreation, ensuring that natural habitats remain pristine and undisturbed for future generations (Marion, 2014).
By practicing LNT, individuals can enjoy the beauty of nature while ensuring its preservation and minimizing their ecological footprint.
The philosophy is particularly popular among hikers, campers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, advocating for a harmonious relationship between humans and the environment.
Full List of Stewardship Practices
- Afforestation: Planting trees in areas where forests have been depleted aids in carbon sequestration and restores natural habitats for various species.
- Water Conservation: Implementing water-saving techniques, such as rainwater harvesting and using efficient irrigation systems, reduces the strain on freshwater resources and helps maintain water balance in ecosystems.
- Recycling and Waste Reduction: Properly sorting and recycling materials reduces landfill waste, conserves resources, and diminishes the environmental footprint of consumer products.
- Green Building: Constructing buildings with sustainable materials and energy-efficient designs reduces energy consumption and minimizes environmental degradation.
- Sustainable Agriculture: Employing farming practices like crop rotation and organic cultivation reduces the use of harmful chemicals and enhances soil health, ensuring long-term agricultural productivity (Merenlender & Buhler, 2021).
- Wildlife Corridors: Establishing pathways that connect fragmented habitats aids in the safe movement of wildlife and enhances biodiversity.
- Marine Conservation: Implementing measures like sustainable fishing practices and establishing marine protected areas ensures the health of marine ecosystems.
- Clean Energy Adoption: Transitioning to renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and decreases reliance on fossil fuels.
- Reduced Use of Single-Use Plastics: Choosing reusable products over single-use plastics reduces ocean pollution and the environmental impact of plastic production.
- Public Transportation and Carpooling: Opting for public transportation or carpooling reduces individual carbon footprints, alleviates road congestion, and minimizes vehicular emissions.
- Reduced Meat Consumption: Adopting plant-based diets or reducing meat intake lowers the demand for industrial livestock farming, which has significant environmental impacts.
- Promotion of Sustainable Tourism: Encouraging eco-tourism and responsible travel ensures that natural habitats and local cultures are respected and preserved for future generations (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2018).
- Preservation of Historical Sites: Maintaining and restoring cultural artifacts, ancient monuments and buildings ensures that future generations can appreciate the architectural and historical significance of these landmarks.
- Documenting Oral Histories: Recording the spoken narratives of elder community members captures valuable cultural insights and preserves traditions that might otherwise be lost (Clavir, 2012).
- Promotion of Traditional Arts: Supporting local artisans and their crafts ensures the survival and recognition of time-honored artistic practices and expressions.
- Language Preservation: Creating platforms for the teaching and use of indigenous or endangered languages ensures their continuity and prevents linguistic extinction (Clavir, 2012; De Costa, 2021; McIvor & Anisman, 2018).
- Cultural Festivals and Celebrations: Organizing and participating in traditional festivals promotes cultural pride, unity, and awareness of a community’s unique heritage.
- Protection of Sacred Sites: Respecting and conserving areas of spiritual significance ensures that religious practices and beliefs remain undisturbed and honored.
- Support for Cultural Institutions: Funding and promoting museums, libraries, and cultural centers ensures the conservation and dissemination of cultural knowledge and artifacts (McIvor & Anisman, 2018).
- Culinary Heritage Preservation: Documenting and promoting traditional recipes and culinary techniques celebrates the rich gastronomic legacy of a culture and introduces it to wider audiences.
- Living Within Your Means: Practicing disciplined spending by only purchasing what you can afford ensures long-term financial stability and prevents unnecessary debt accumulation (Lamprecht, 2016; Peck et al., 2021).
- Setting Up a Trust Fund: Establishing a trust fund safeguards assets for specific purposes, such as supporting a family member’s education or future needs, ensuring that the funds are used as intended.
- Reinvesting for the Future: Plowing back profits or returns into a business or investment portfolio promotes growth and enhances potential future earnings (Lamprecht, 2016; Peck et al., 2021).
- Eliminating Debt: Actively working to pay off outstanding loans and credit balances prevents excessive interest costs and strengthens one’s financial position.
- Diversifying Investments: Spreading investments across various asset classes mitigates risk and provides multiple avenues for potential returns.
Clavir, M. (2012). Preserving What Is Valued: Museums, Conservation, and First Nations. University of British Columbia Press.
De Costa, P. I. (2021). Indigenous Language Revitalization: How Education Can Help Reclaim “Sleeping” Languages. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 20(5), 355-361. (Source)
Doelman, J. C., Stehfest, E., van Vuuren, D. P., Tabeau, A., Hof, A. F., Braakhekke, M. C., … & Lucas, P. L. (2020). Afforestation for climate change mitigation: Potentials, risks and trade‐offs. Global Change Biology, 26(3), 1576-1591. (Source)
Higgins-Desbiolles, F. (2018). Sustainable tourism: Sustaining tourism or something more?. Tourism management perspectives, 25, 157-160. (Source)
Lamprecht, I. (2016). Are you in control of your finances?: your money. Personal Finance, 2016(430), 6-7. (Source)
Marion, J. (2014). Leave No Trace in the outdoors. Stackpole Books.
McIvor, O., & Anisman, A. (2018). Keeping our languages alive: Strategies for Indigenous language revitalization. Handbook of cultural security, 90-109.
Merenlender, A., & Buhler, B. (2021). Climate Stewardship: Taking Collective Action to Protect California. University of California Press.
Palmer, C. (2006). Stewardship: a case study in environmental ethics. IN Berry, R. J. (ed.). Environmental Stewardship. Bloomsbury Academic.
Peck, J., Kirk, C. P., Luangrath, A. W., & Shu, S. B. (2021). Caring for the commons: Using psychological ownership to enhance stewardship behavior for public goods. Journal of Marketing, 85(2), 33-49. (Source)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]