The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), originally the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe (FEEE), was established in 1981. In the early years of FEE, the organisation was mostly active through internal meetings, external seminars and conferences, and in a number of publications.
FEE's first programme, Blue Flag, was a French idea launched in 1985. In 1987, the idea of the award scheme was presented to FEEE. This year was also the European Year for the Environment initiated by the European Union, so Blue Flag was launched on the European level (in 10 countries) through a partnership between FEEE and the European Commission.
In 1987, there were only four national FEEE member organisations (Spain, France, Germany and Denmark). After the launch of Blue Flag in six other European countries, FEEE required organisations to become members in order to run Blue Flag. In the late 1980s and early 90s, big constitutional changes were made in FEEE.
In 1994, the Eco-Schools and Young Reporters for the Environment programmes were implemented as the second and third programmes of FEEE. The Learning about Forests and Green Key programmes, already in existence, would later became FEE(E) programmes in 2000 and 2003 respectively.
In the mid-90s there was a growing interest in FEEE programmes from outside of Europe. In cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a manual for coastal zone management with the example of the Blue Flag was produced. With further support from UNEP, workshops were held in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
In response to international interest, FEEE become a global organisation in 2000, reflected the following name by shortening its name to the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). From 2001, a number of non-European organisations became members.
In 2003, FEE signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MoU) with UNEP that "formalises long-standing relationship between UNEP and FEE and provides a framework for long term co-operation on areas of common interest relating to education, training and public awareness for sustainable development globally". This MoU provides a solid basis for furthering the work already undertaken by FEE and UNEP, in particular with regard to the introduction of FEE programmes and associated activities in developing countries and those with economies in transition.
Another MoU was signed in 2007 with the UN World Tourism Organization, in which FEE's tourism related programmes were recognised.