Dig In for the Earth

One of King County's volunteer Park and Trail Ambassadors shares knowledge and experience as a steward of public land. (Photo courtesy of King County Parks and Recreation Division.)

April is Earth Day month (Earth Day is April 22), and it's a great time to consider "green volunteering." Many eco-volunteer opportunities involve being outside, and who doesn't want to be outside in the Northwest in the spring and summer?

It's also a chance to do your part to reduce climate change, one of the hottest issues of our time. (That may be a pun, but climate change is no joke!) Check out these top 10 ideas for green volunteering and activism from King County’s EcoConsumer program:

  1. The Evanston P-Patch community garden offers a peaceful setting where older gardeners meet, talk, and grow together. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.)

    A Thistle P-Patch gardener tends his crops. The community garden supports more than 125 families from all over the world. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.)

    Helen understands the value of composting—not just in April but year-round! (Photo courtesy of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.)
    Show parks some love. Thousands of folks volunteer with King County Parks every year. Join them! Volunteer opportunities in the County's magnificent parks include salmon counting, noxious-weed surveys, habitat restoration and helping with recycling at the Marymoor Park concert series.
  2. Think big. If you believe climate change poses a huge threat to civilization, consider becoming active with regional or national organizations working on this problem such as Climate Solutions, 350.org and GoFossilFree.org. If you're not particularly mobile, some of this work could be done by phone or computer.
  3. Close the loop. Do you love the recycling arrows symbol and the whole "reduce-reuse-recycle" ethic? Then sign up to be a volunteer recycling educator with King County's Master Recycler program. The deadline to sign up for this year's training is April 18.
  4. Pick it up. Not all community volunteer work needs to be organized. Make a personal commitment to pick up five pieces of trash every time you walk. Wear light gloves or put a plastic bag over your hand if you're worried about germs or dirt when you're on your informal litter patrol. Recycle what you can.
  5. Try a bright idea. Solar energy works well in the Puget Sound region, from solar panels to solar-powered water heaters to homemade solar cookers. Volunteer with Solar Washington, the Shoreline Solar Project and neighborhood-based solar energy organizations, to name a few.
  6. Hit the market. King County boasts dozens of wonderful community farmers markets, and most of them welcome volunteers. Just ask around at your local market. As an example, here's info about the volunteer needs at the Sammamish Farmers Market.
  7. Reach out and pick some fruit. Gleaning, or harvesting unpicked fruit trees or vegetable plots, is one of the cool environmental and socially beneficial trends of the 21st century. Several groups in the area, such as Solid Ground and City Fruit, organize volunteers to pick fruit – if a homeowner is unable to pick all the fruit in her yard, for example – and donate most or all of it to food banks.
  8. Go grow. Picking is great, and so is growing! Community gardening volunteer opportunities abound in our area, such as with Seattle Tilth programs in Seattle and Issaquah, or Seattle's P-Patch Program.
  9. Share the bounty. Food banks feed the hungry and conserve resources by distributing edible food that might otherwise get tossed out. Nearly every food bank can use volunteers – check out this extensive list of Seattle and King County food banks.
  10. Get creative. The ideas above just scratch the surface. Consider exploring other creative green volunteer opportunities in our area. Volunteer Match is a great resource to help you find those. Just enter your zip code and "environment" as a keyword.

Thanks for all you do! Have you got green volunteering ideas to share? Questions? Contact King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson at tom.watson@kingcounty.gov or 206-296-4481.

Tom Watson is project manager for King County's Recycling and Environmental Services (www.KCecoconsumer.com).