You’ve already replaced your traditional bulbs with energy-efficient CFLs. You recycle diligently. You compost your food scraps. And hey, you may even have your own backyard organic garden. Now the question remains: How can you take your everyday green habits to the next level?
Get out. Spread the word. Share the knowledge. Here are eight fabulous ways to get involved:
1. Volunteer with the National Park Service
National Parks are places of wondrous beauty for people to visit, and to keep them environmentally intact. To do so, the National Park Service (NPS) depends on its employees, interns and volunteers. Imagine waking up and going to “work” at the Grand Canyon, the Everglades or Glacier National Park! As a volunteer you can assist with tasks such as trail repair, habitat restoration, animal monitoring, litter collection and a host of other duties to fit your personal tastes.
2. Teach Kids to Recycle
Get kids recycling early on by implementing a program at a school or day care. Gather support from parents and teachers to educate kids on the importance of recycling plastic bottles or school supplies such as paper and crayons. Yes, crayons! Petroleum-based wax crayons never biodegrade, but Crazy Crayons, accepts old crayons and makes them into new ones.
3. Be a Green Volunteer
Volunteering, whether it be for an organization with an environmental focus or not, can be an eco-friendly experience. Here are a few things you can do to green the act of volunteering:
- Carpool with others from the same organization.
- Bring a stainless steel water bottle instead of plastic ones.
- Set up a recycling system at the organization if one doesn’t already exist. Or if one cannot be put into place, you can collect papers, plastic bottles and cans while you’re there and recycle them at home.
4. Raise Funds for Green Causes
Fundraising provides the opportunity to educate the community on the issue at hand. Take the Brita Climate Ride for example. Cyclists, biking 300 miles from New York City to the Capitol in Washington D.C., must raise $2,400 to participate, which goes to causes such as Rails to Trails, Clean Air Cool Planet and Focus the Nation. In addition, during the five-day ride, speakers educate riders and those in the communities along the route about “the science, policies and solutions to the climate crisis.”
If a fundraiser of this sort seems too daunting, use your consumer power to raise funds on a smaller scale. A great place to start is the Greenraising Web site, where you can not only purchase eco-friendly products such as recycled gift wrap, lunch bags and stainless steel bottles, but also select an affiliate such as the Brita Climate Ride or the West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science to share a percentage of the sale. Now, your green purchase donates money to eco-centered causes.
5. Green the Homes in Your Neighborhood
Location. Location. Location. They’re the three most important aspects of real estate, but there are different perspectives on what constitutes a “good” location. For those who wish to be close to an urban area, seek out one of the 200+ LEED for Neighborhood Pilot Programs.
Participating means you’d be living in an area that is consciously reducing urban sprawl, protecting animal species and reducing automobile dependence. According to the U.S. Green Building Council,
“Typical sprawl development, low-density housing and commercial uses located in automobile-dependent areas, can harm the natural environment in a number of ways. It can consume and fragment farmland, forests and wildlife habitat; degrade water quality through destruction of wetlands and increased stormwater runoff; and pollute the air with increased automobile travel.”
Companies like this alert you to potential areas of improvement that may help put a little green in your pocket over time by lowering your bills.
6. Plant Trees
You can’t always save trees from being cut down, but on the flipside, you can always plant a tree, whether it be on your own property or through the local Parks and Recreation Department. Major cities such as Los Angeles and New York City enacted programs called One Million Trees, where the city hopes to have one million trees planted by businesses, community organizations and homeowners. The Million Trees L.A. Web site reports that planting one million trees,
- Saves $10 million in annual energy costs
- Removes 2.24 million pounds of air pollutants
- Captures 1.9 billion gallons of stormwater to decrease runoff and erosion
You may think that planting one tree won’t have an impact, but the Web site also notes for every $1 spent on your tree, you reap $2.80 of benefit. It’s a win-win situation.
7. Get Food Fresh from the Farm
Food definitely tastes better when it’s fresh. Go local and participate in a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. Essentially, you pay for a membership that provides you with a weekly share of the farm’s products. Depending on the farm, you may be able to get meat, cheese, flowers, etc. in addition to seasonal produce.
By joining a sustainable CSA, you are supporting local farmers who are putting their best environmental foot forward when it comes to farming practices. You also help decrease emissions by decreasing the number of miles food travels from farm to table. Most produce in the U.S. travels 1,300 to 2,000 miles, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.
8. Take Cyber-Action
Cyber-action comes in many forms. It can be as easy as forwarding e-mails with green living tips to a friend, or posting them on an info board at school or the gym. You could also try putting a link to an eco-conscious Web site (hint: Earth911.com) in your e-mail signature and using your blog or social networking pages to announce green issues or events. The platform you use is not as important as the fact that you are spreading the word about the issues you care about.
No matter how involved you are in eco-initiatives, you can always move to the next level. It can be as easy as making a change at home, out in the neighborhood, in the community or as part of a national organization. Just jump in!