You’ve already replaced your traditional light 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:
Look locally and you’ll likely find plenty of environmental nonprofits that need volunteers, too. Join a beach cleanup or trail maintenance crew to further your devotion to the environment.
Beyond short-term volunteer work, internships and service corps opportunities can help you provide meaningful environmental assistance. Imagine waking up and going to “work” in a stunning old-growth forest or the Grand Canyon? Depending on your availability, you can spend the week, season, or decade doing trail repair, habitat restoration, animal monitoring, or even office work to protect the planet.
Recycling is a valuable habit, but some people simply don’t know how. That’s where you come in. Use your recycling knowledge to teach kids, adults, anyone how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Telling them why you care about recycling and the environment will inspire them to do their part.
Get kids recycling early by implementing a program at a school or daycare. Gather support from parents and teachers to educate kids on the importance of recycling their plastic bottles and paper.
Take a trip to your local nursing home and give a presentation to all the residents, stressing the importance of recycling and providing information on what materials are accepted in their curbside pick-up service. Find information from your neighborhood waste disposal company.
3. Green Your Workplace
Whether you work for an environmentally focused organization or not, you can make work eco-friendly. A few green tips:
- Walk, bike, bus or carpool to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Use a reusable water bottle at the water cooler and a reusable mug at the coffee machine.
- Set up a recycling system if there isn’t one in place. Include signs detailing which items should go where.
- Turn off electronics when you’re done for the day to save electricity. If possible, unplug them so they don’t draw “vampire power.”
4. Raise Funds for Green Causes
Fundraising is a great way to inform the community about the issues you care about. Take the World Wildlife Fund Panda Nation runs for example. Athletes — even aspiring ones — can participate in their featured events or a marathon, triathlon, or mud run of their own. Participants help raise money and awareness for the conservation group by committing to an event and collecting donations along the way. As a thank you for reaching your fundraising goal, you get complimentary run registration. One-on-one support from fundraising coaches is always available if you need a hand.
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 Amazon Smile, especially if you love online shopping. By linking your Amazon account to Amazon Smile, you can select an affiliate like the World Wildlife Fund or American Rivers 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, and location are the three pillars of real estate, but there are different perspectives on what that means.
For those who want to be close to an urban area, seek out a LEED-certified building or neighborhood. Choosing a LEED-certified home 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.”
Take a look at the Residential Energy Services Network to find a local company to perform an energy audit on your home or building. Their results will show you how to shrink your energy demand while saving hard-earned cash.
Residents can add recycling and composting charts to common areas to let everyone know what they can and can’t toss in the bins. If your community doesn’t compost, reach out and teach them about the harsh realities of organic matter in landfills to change their minds.
6. Plant Trees
You can’t always save trees from being cut down, but you can always plant a tree. Whether it is on your own property or through your local Parks and Recreation Department, planting trees is a relatively easy way to make an environmental difference.
One Tree Planted is an environmental organization focused on reforestation across the globe. Areas in North America, Latin America, Asia, and Africa have garnered their support. By volunteering or donating, you can plant life-giving trees in your own community and around the world.
Healthy forests help absorb greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions that are caused by human civilization and contribute to global climate change. Without trees and plants, more carbon and greenhouse gasses enter the atmosphere to make matters worse.” — One Tree Planted
7. Eat Locally Grown Foods
Food definitely tastes better when it’s fresh off the farm. Go local and participate in a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, such as LocalHarvest, which allows you a weekly share of a local farm’s crop. Some CSAs even include free delivery, making eating local more convenient than ever. Depending on the farm, you may find meat, eggs, dairy, or flowers in your weekly box next to bundles of seasonal produce.
By joining a sustainable CSA, you support local farmers who put their best environmental foot forward when it comes to farming practices. You also help decrease greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the number of miles food travels from farm to table, a concept called “food miles.” Most produce in the U.S. travels at least 1,300 miles, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, but buying locally can reduce that number by hundreds.
8. Take Action Online
Cyber-action comes in many forms. It can be as easy as forwarding emails 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 website (hint: Earth911.com) in your email 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!
How have you taken action to help the environment?
Editor’s note: Originally published on September 7, 2009, this article was updated by Earth911 writer Lauren Murphy in July 2018.