The present study proposed an Environmental Literacy Components Model to explain how environmental attitudes, environmental responsibility, environmental concern, and environmental knowledge as well as outdoor activities related to each other. A total of 1,345 university students responded to an environmental literacy survey (Kaplowitz and Levine in Environ Educ Res 11:143-160, 2005). The structural equation model revealed that high levels of environmental knowledge stimulate a university student's concern, attitudes, and personal responsibility toward environmental protection. More specifically, environmental knowledge was reported to be a significant predictor of environmental concern, attitudes, and responsibility. Environmental knowledge had significant indirect relationships with environmental attitudes and responsibility. Moreover, while attitudes toward the environment were found to be a significant determinant of environmental responsibility, environmental concern held significant association with attitudes toward the environment and outdoor activities. Findings promise to give clues for finding an answer to the question "how education for sustainability can be improved in higher education curricula?".