It’s likely you’re here because you are invested in your community and the environment. However, sometimes making a difference in what seems like an unchanging pattern of environmental issues is daunting. Strike that, it’s daunting all the time. Being a concerned person is easily overwhelming; I, for one, sometimes glance at people who live their lives in an eco-forward way in wonder.
How can they do that? What makes them not want to throw up their organic-soil stained hands in exasperation and give up? How are they walking around in hemp pants and keeping a garden in the backyard, and why are they whistling?
HOW ARE THEY SO CHEERFUL?
There’s a Banana Republic right next door, look at all the people going into it!
Don’t they see it??? Am I blind?
Well, now that I’ve sufficiently torn apart your (my?) inner monologues, how about we pick apart this feeling of being powerless? Because really, step back, and get some perspective – There is so much wrong with this notion. You are not helpless! So where does this idea come from? First off, let’s start with this: you care about the Earth. However, “The Earth” is kind of an abstract concept. (Stay with me here.)
We all know it’s what we’re standing on, but when you envision changing a globe filled with trillions of people, it’s an impossible feat. You have to go smaller, within both action and thought. Begin by conceptualizing your community as the surroundings and people immediately around you, in your town or city. Make your goal, your attack plan if you will, to become invested in the health and growth of this community.
The good news is that San Francisco has a wide variety of ways to get involved; the city is known for its sustainable initiatives. Check out the Partnership for Sustainable Development Foundation’s website, and a site tailored to SF, SF Better Streets, which helps residents become more active in the process of their neighborhood street improvements. SPUR, is a self-declared “member supported nonprofit,” which lists and engages its members in all sorts of amazing environmental clean-up projects.
Like…Really, I just discovered this website and I’m jealous. It’s community of members who join, for a fee – although there is a sliding scale available and if you are a student or do not have full time work, your fee is much lower.
They have their own newsletter, a listing of updated local events, speeches, and forums you can attend, as well as their own physical gallery that hosts exhibitions. A list of community projects and other initiatives are available, including opportunities like their “Ocean Beach Master Plan,” which works to battle coastline erosion caused by city developments.
If you’re not from or living in San Fransisco, many of these options still apply, and in regards to the specific ones that don’t, there are other options available. Volunteer for local projects like Adopt-a-Stream to clean up nearby bodies of water, Adopt-a-Highway, or your local equivalent. In searching for these types of projects, the Internet is your best friend. (As usual). If you type in your city, and something along the lines of “Sustainable Development,” a plethora of options will pop up. If something isn’t readily available, create it yourself.
For example, your town is likely to have a department in local government that deals with environmental issues, or a forestry department, a parks and streams department, and so forth. For instance, SF has a planning department. On the very first page, public hearings and events you can attend are listed. Take the initiative yourself, contact them, ask for volunteer opportunities and make it clear that you are excited, competent, and ready to work.
Most organizations love volunteers – free labor – and if this turns out to be the case, you’re golden. Go a step further, continue to search out opportunities, and involve your local institutions, like schools and places of worship. Introduce the project you are involved in, or one that is recruiting, to your children’s school.
Elementary school-aged children especially are eager to do things involving the outdoors, and by involving them at a young age, you are encouraging life-long valuing of environmental care. In these ways, you will not only tangibly boost your community, you will be a granted your own benefits.
Volunteering is known to give individuals greater feelings of confidence, self-efficacy, and efficiency. In short, you will feel like you are making a difference to “The Earth” by focusing on your local ECO-mmunity, and you actually will be. Trust us <3.