Nature’s Value

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In our world, we standardize worth with money. We determine a market price for everything we care about–objects, services, experiences, information, time–and can compare worth between seemingly incomparable concepts. Anything that doesn’t have a market value is very difficult to count or weigh; and nature is one such concept. Ecosystem Services Valuation (ESV) is a way of attaching a market value to ecosystems in order to give them weight in policy decisions, to justify investments in environmental stewardship, and to reduce costs long-term. By assessing the monetary values of the goods and services ecosystems provide to humans, we can attempt to determine nature’s contribution to the economy and begin to give nature stake in larger issues. ESV has great potential for both businesses and government organizations that are trying to reduce their environmental footprints while increasing their economic well being. While the concept of ESV dates back to the late 1950s and early ‘60s and is used worldwide, ESV is not a ubiquitous practice. By creating a booklet with design inspired by popular educational video series, I seek to introduce the general public to the concept of ESV in the hope that they will be inspired to want to learn more, to engage in conversation about it, and to normalize the practice of accounting for the environment. In the booklet I establish credibility by explaining the history of ESV. Then, I outline ESV methodology and discuss applications of ESV through several case studies. The booklet concludes with actions the general public, businesses and government organizations alike can take in order to account for nature’s contributions to the economy and promote environmental sustainability.