Center for American Progress

It’s Easy Being Green: Volunteering with a Purpose
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It’s Easy Being Green: Volunteering with a Purpose

Martin Luther King Day is an opportunity to serve your community and the environment.

Volunteers paint a mural of Dr. Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama as part of a National Day of Service on January 19, 2009 in Houston, TX. Volunteering projects that help communities and the climate are available across the country. (AP/Eric Kayne)
Volunteers paint a mural of Dr. Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama as part of a National Day of Service on January 19, 2009 in Houston, TX. Volunteering projects that help communities and the climate are available across the country. (AP/Eric Kayne)

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

Last year almost a million Americans answered President Barack Obama’s call to serve their local communities during Martin Luther King Day. It’s that time of year again, and the occasion offers an opportunity to do something for your community and the environment. Below are some tips to help you get involved and show your green colors.

Getting started: The Corporation for National and Community Service manages serve.gov, a website that helps prospective volunteers find a project, offers tips to build partnerships and fundraising, and compiles a list of greener initiatives across the nation such as collecting fluorescent light bulbs for low-income families or developing materials to teach environmental education programs. Other helpful sites include The Sierra Club, which offers a list of MLK events in the country, and VolunteerMatch, a site that keeps track of latest activities in the United States.

Outdoor activities: Join organizations such as sustainable farming cooperatives or community gardens. Many of these organizations need volunteers to help clean up area parks, gardens, roadsides, or streams.

Start from home: Encourage your neighbors or friends to pick up litter in your neighborhood or surrounding community, which doesn’t require traveling long distances. Other local alternatives include Community Supported Agriculture, which is a popular way to establish relationships between farmers and families, or Clean Up the World, a project by the United Nations Environment Program that seeks to inspire and empower local communities to “clean up, fix up and conserve their local environment.”

..or start away from home: You can check green volunteer activities across the country and overseas, but always consider walking, cycling, or taking the bus or train to travel long distances, and if possible, encourage carpooling among your peers. Before you consider traveling to volunteer and champion your cause, always ask for references or visit blogs where people share their travel experiences.

Start your own project or sponsor one: It’s easier to start your own cause nowadays. TogetherGreen funds and supports conservation projects, engages local communities to conserve water, energy, and land, and provides fellowships and innovation grants. And serve.gov helps you register your project and gives you instructions on how to make your event more noticeable. If you don’t have time to volunteer, you can also donate money to an organization whose work you support.

Spread the word: Encourage others to volunteer during the holiday and share your experience. You never know if you’ll awaken the green advocate within someone else.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

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