Tip o' the Day: Want to Green Up Your Community? Volunteer

One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways you can impact the greenness of your community is to volunteer. Wikipedia defines a volunteer as "someone who serves in a community or for the benefit of natural environment primarily because they choose to do so." Volunteering can be both informal and formal opportunities to help, and with a focus on greening your community, you can do your small part to help improve the lives of those around you. Volunteering is also a wonderful opportunity for you family to spend quality time together modeling your green values.

Finding formal volunteer opportunities is relatively easy. Typing in "volunteer" and your city's name into a search engine (you can narrow this search by adding "environment", "river", "recycling", etc.) will result in many opportunities. Also, many of these opportunities are posted in newspapers, or you can contact a local environmental agency. In my area of northern California, there are many opportunities for coastal clean up, removal of non-native species, recycling, environmental education, etc. There are also many volunteer websites and programs that can link you to local organizations based upon your interests:

Informal volunteering is an even easier way to make an impact on a daily basis. Simply find an area of interest and carry out your own action plan. For example, if headed to the recycling center, stop along the way and pick up recyclables you see on the side of the road. I once picked up five tires on one such trip. Or, you could volunteer to start a recycling program at a local school or assisted living facility. These locations may also benefit from a donation of CFLs. It is also easy to pull a non-native weed from the ground while on an enjoyable hike.

The possibilities for volunteering are endless and can take minimal time and effort on your part. The Volunteer Family lists multiple ideas such as,

  • Write letters to congress supporting legislation that helps the environment
  • Help clean up shore around lakes, beaches/coasts, river
  • Clean up litter on the street or in a park
  • Weed in a cemetery or park
  • Use more energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Work on a community garden or farm
  • Clear trails
  • Start a compost pile

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." By volunteering in your community, not only will you help your local environment of which people are a part, but you will help yourself as a living member of your ecosystem.

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