Earth Day has orbited around to our spring calendar once again. If you are looking for ways to save the planet and make a better world, consider the impact volunteerism has on strengthening our human community.
Earth Day is an opportunity to do more than plant, recycle and reuse. It's also a reminder to put some energy into promoting social causes for a healthier planet.
Volunteering helps strengthen communities in a number of ways. And stronger communities make for a healthier planet.
Volunteering is a great way to foster consensus. The more energy to a cause you invest as a group—a volunteer crew pulling invasive weeds out of streambeds one weekend, for example— the less likely you are to work in opposition with one another when you are outside your group.
Working on a common cause alongside others also imbues us with a deeper sense of belonging, purpose and human value. It changes you from the person you were before your group experience to a more highly-aware group-consciousness.
When the time comes to vote on a clean rivers levy, for example, you'll spend less time arguing and more time knowing what impact or role invasive species plays in your local watershed.
Even if a hectic work or school schedule leaves you feeling like you hardly have any time to yourself, carving out just a little bit of time to volunteering can be worth the rewards to your self-esteem and social bonding.
Volunteering also makes stronger individuals.
Just as practicing gratitude
has been shown to increase more positive experiences for the person expressing gratitude, so can volunteering improve your own life while you are improving the life of others..
Unpaid volunteers make up a large segment of our economy and are often the glue that holds the foundation of a community together.
If you’ve been looking to build more job skills, need extra classroom credits, or just want to learn something new, volunteering is one of the best ways to get free education and training and give something back to your community.
But not all volunteer slots are for everyone. It’s important to seek opportunities that are aligned with your personality, interests and availability.
Please don’t volunteer at the animal shelter if you’re really only looking for human companionship, for example.
The best part about volunteering is, you only have to have a willing heart, dedication to the cause and an able mind to be "hired." No harrowing job interview required!
So, if you’re looking for something to give your time and attention to, check out these ideas for how you can get into the best volunteer opportunity for you.
Working with animals puts us in touch with nature. Animals are more connected with the earth than we often realize. Spending time around them helps balance our own priorities and responsibilities toward the earth.
Wild animal rescue hospitals and animal shelters usually run on a non-profit shoestring. You don't have to be a veterinarian to help out with cleaning, office work, maintenance jobs, community outreach and adoption fairs.
Get closer to the land, and your neighbors, by digging into a community garden plot. Breaking ground first to break bread together later reinforces our connection to nature's planting and harvesting cycles, and our interdependence on each other.
Community gardens depend on volunteers for garden design planning, planting, watering, harvesting and year-round maintenance. Many community gardens serve double purpose as suppliers of local food pantries, as well as school lunch programs, low-income housing co-op gardens and urban renewal projects.
The more we share the wealth of fresh, wholesome food, the better fed we'll all be. Poor nutrition and hunger are among the leading causes of learning disabilities, depression, illness, accidents and a host of other social ills.
True nutrition is alive and energetic. Fresh, naturally grown food has vitality, literally an electromagnetic charge, that processed food does not. The more we give our bodies living nutrients the healthier and more vibrant our Qi will be.
Food banks are in constant need of pickers, packers, shippers and delivery people. And, most food banks host nutrition and cooking classes, potlucks, growing and agriculture demonstrations and other free community education programs.
Consider signing up for a shift at the food bank this Earth Day rather than going to a fancy restaurant.
Building healthy communities starts with healthy bodies. Free and charitable clinics are vital to public health. Volunteers help keep the cost of care low and help clinics provide critical services to the community.
Clinics need volunteer licensed physicians, nurses and other healthcare practitioners, as well as intake workers, pharmacy assistants and many other positions held at regular health care facilities. But you can also be a regular Joe without an M.D. and help with clerical, outreach, support group facilitation and other roles that don't require a professional license.
Attend a Family Earth Day Activity
Lastly, don't forget to strengthen your own family ties by doing something earthy together this Earth Day.
Many parks and nature preservations host trail and path cleanup events, from clearing invasive species to planting trees, that the entire family can participate in.
Don't wait for Earth Day! Pick your favorite volunteer activity and get started today. Volunteering will do you a world of good.