Benjamin Franklin: Early Environmentalist

April 22, 2019

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was an industrious and ingenious scientist who was always engaged in his surroundings and was curious about how the earth worked. While traveling back and forth to Europe on the Atlantic Ocean on missions representing the young United States, he took an interest in currents, which led to his discovery of the Gulf Stream.

Environmentally-Friendly Franklin Fun Facts:

• The Franklin Stove – designed by Franklin in 1742 – was a metal-lined fireplace created to stand in the middle of the room as an open stove, providing more heat and less smoke, using less wood and saving fuel. The stove provided heat in all directions and kept the room warm after the fire was extinguished.

• Poor Richard’s Almanack – the well-known publication that Franklin created under the pseudonym of Richard Saunders – introduced discussion and information on many topics including an amateur guide to meteorology, plus addressed subjects such as forestry, oceanography and clean air.

• In addition to studying ocean currents, Franklin had a concern for clean water and believed that the public had a right to access it. In 1739, he sought to prohibit local tanneries from dumping waste into the tributary of the Delaware River and petitioned the Philadelphia government for this purpose. He also led a commission to monitor water pollution and waste disposal in Pennsylvania.

Two reproduction 18th century printing presses much like the ones that Benjamin Franklin would have printed on are on display in the printing office at Franklin Court adjacent to the Benjamin Franklin Museum. Photo courtesy of Independence National Historical Park.

• As a productive printer, Franklin built his own paper mill in an effort to save trees and create a more efficient and cheaper supply of newsprint. He encouraged this sort of business model among his colleagues and peers.

• In addition to the environment, Benjamin Franklin felt a responsibility toward public health. With his friend, Dr. Thomas Bond, he opened a public hospital which became the first hospital in the United States of America. Pennsylvania Hospital cared for all patients, including the poor.


The Franklin Institute, the renowned science institution that bears his name, hosts programs in environmental science, climate change and astronomy with guest speakers and activities. Learn more here and take part in one of their programs.


The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) is the official tourism promotion agency for the City of Philadelphia globally and the primary sales and marketing agency for the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

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