How to Become a Green Volunteer and Where to Find a Match

February 9, 2011 View all articles in General

A little more than a quarter of the population volunteers in the United States. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.9 percent of those who volunteer do so for environmental causes. Green volunteers work with organizations that lessen their impact on the earth, restore damage, or promote appreciation or protection of the natural world.

Whether you're looking to show commitment to the earth, learn something or meet someone new, get an inside track on potential employers or environmental fields, share your skills, make a difference, or simply do something fun, there's a green volunteer opportunity for you.

TIPS ON VOLUNTEERING

  • Begin by considering the skills you have to offer, as well as how they might be utilized in your community. In your quest to choose the right cause, you might be surprised to learn how global and local environmental concerns coincide with your day-to-day activities.
  • Just because you're volunteering doesn't mean you can't get something out of the experience too. Ask yourself what you hope to learn or gain as a result; the time you spend on a specific project and those feelings of advocacy can manifest themselves in the way you vote, your financial decisions, and your overall lifestyle. Your time as a green volunteer might just lead you towards green activism!
  • Next, evaluate your schedule so you know what times you have available for volunteerism. Remember not to over-commit, but ask yourself how volunteering could help you obtain your personal goals, which may include continuing education, building skills, seeing the world, or strengthening your resume . T he most effective volunteers are those who best match their pace.
  • Whether you have a lot or just a little time to volunteer, there's a project that can use your help. Opportunities range from single-day events; eco-volunteer vacations that can last several weeks; virtual volunteering you do on your own time and from home; and regular fixture positions where you provide help on a full or part-time basis.
  • Think about what causes or issues you're already aware of, or simply do some online research about volunteer programs ; you'll be a better and more enthusiastic volunteer if you're donating your time to something you believe in or are passionate towards.

FINDING VOLUNTEER OPTIONS

  • The causes that interest you most may also hold the advantage of being close to home. Finding a volunteer program close by will not only be easier on your schedule, you will be respected in your own community, you'll make a difference that could benefit your family and friends, and you'll reduce the environmental impact of long-distance travel. Join Community Supported Agriculture to take part in the harvest, or help mobilize schools and local groups with the United Nations-sanctioned, community-based project Clean Up the World.
  • Regional or local environmental groups, local chapters of national groups, and the environmental office in your municipal government department are great places to start finding someone to put you to work. There are also several websites that offer searches by location, such as VolunteerMatch, Volunteer.Gov, Volunteer Solutions, and 1-800-Volunteer.
  • Utilize social network sites, such as World Volunteer Web, Volunteer Genie, and Help Exchange, to find interesting and worthwhile volunteer opportunities.
  • If you're wanting to volunteer to see the world, you won't be confronted with any shortage of causes or need. But when foreign travel is involved, be sure you go through a trusted, reputable organization like Peace Corps, UN Volunteers, Global Volunteers, and Volunteer International.
  • Once you've found the perfect volunteering match for yourself, remember to spread the word to your friends and family who might be on similar quests for volunteer positions.

What will your efforts as a green volunteer accomplish? As of 2007, volunteers in the Green Light New Orleans project replaced more than 3,700 standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs in homes across New Orleans, which saved 1,467,256 kwh of energy and cut 800,660 pounds of carbon emissions. On Earth Day of the same year, The Timberland Company engaged more than 9,000 volunteers and hosted more than 170 service events worldwide, each focusing on reforestation.

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