When my wife and I began to upgrade our appliances a couple of years ago, we ended up choosing products with that Energy Star label. You know the one. It signals that appliance is compliant with government regulations regarding energy efficiency. By our calculations, we’ve already saved a bundle, and that’s what I’ve loved most about going green. My wife and I have taken the money we’ve saved and plan to use it for a trip out west. In our Prius, of course. They get the best mileage. And I’ve been thinking about giving a little something back to the whole green movement since it’s saved me some money, so I’ve been researching different environmental charities and initiatives to volunteer with. After all, going green doesn’t have to stop at your doorstep.
Define Your Interests
First things first. If you want to volunteer for anything, you need to figure out what your interests are and what kind of work you want to do. For me, I may want to volunteer with an organization that promotes energy efficiency at home and in the office. That fits me to a T. But I also love hiking, so working with a group that supports and furthers wilderness preservation would also be up my alley. What are the issues you care about most? What do you find yourself talking about with other people? Reading and sharing online? Chances are those topics are your passion, so volunteering with an organization would fuel your passion and provide you an outlet. Plus, you’ll meet a lot of like-minded people, gaining new friends and contacts.
After you list your interests, consider the type of work you’d want to perform, or would be willing to perform. Are you good with people, or do you prefer to work behind the scenes? If the former, you could work at event fairs or cold-call people to ask for donations. If the latter, organizing an event or clean-up could be more your speed. Since I’m in marketing, I figure I can help with an organization’s promotion and spreading the word about initiatives and events.
Research, Research, Research
Once you open the door to looking up green charities and initiatives, they come flooding in. Do a quick search online for best organizations, and you’ll be inundated with results. I learned that Charity Navigator is reputable, so I’ve done a lot of my searching there so far, but keep your eyes peeled for local groups around you that maybe didn’t make the list. (Here in Indianapolis, we have a group called Keep Indianapolis Beautiful that does everything from planting trees to cleaning up neighborhood blocks to installing public art projects.) You can look for local groups like this or go bigger and work with local branches of national or international organizations. And do your research with your interests in mind. Chances are, you’re going to find something that dovetails with your desire to, say, lower carbon emissions or clean up your township’s waterway.
Select a few organizations in your area and get in touch. See if they need volunteers and for what. Ask any questions you have and explain what you have to offer. More than likely, they’ll be happy to have you on board and will sign you up for the very next volunteer orientation.