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Making a Difference in Your Community Through Service

2009 October 9

There you are, heading to school and you see something that practically screams, “People do not care about their environment.” Perhaps you notice there are cups and bottles along the route your school bus takes. Or, you go on a hike and see a stream with garbage dumped in it. Or you realize several students at your school live near you, but you all drive your own cars instead of carpooling.

This is an important moment. Will you act on what you notice, or ignore it and hope it changes by itself? Let’s hope you choose to act. But, what can one person really do? The answer to that question is: a great deal. One person can act alone or join with others to change the way things are.

After you decide to do something about a problem, find out why it is happening. You may have to talk to others – classmates, parents, teachers or community leaders – or do some research.

Once you understand the problem, the next step is figuring out how to get people to stop doing whatever is causing it. You’ll soon discover that people act according to what they know and think. If people think it’s OK to take their used car oil and pour it down a storm drain, that’s what they’ll do. But if they learn that oil can cause a water pollution problem, they may dispose of it properly, which is to take it to a service station.

Figure out how to teach people about what causes a problem and how to solve it. Who are you trying to get the word out to? What is the best way to reach that audience? This might be a project that needs more than one person. Get organized. Find out who can help and team up. You can form partnerships and work with others who will give you support or ideas. Get your team together, set up a timeline of when you are doing what. Then, go to work and get the project done.

As you read this, you may think: “Well, sure, it sounds simple, but doing something isn’t that easy.” True. But, following up on the decision to do something will help your community and develop your ability to act on what you think , plan ahead and lead others to accomplish a goal. Even if it is something you do by yourself, the results are the same.

Take that first step. Decide to solve that environmental problem. Once you take that first step, you’ll understand that you can make a difference.

For more information/ideas:

About the author: Terry Ippolito is the Environmental Education Coordinator for EPA’s region 2 office in New York. Terry came to EPA in 1988 after being a science teacher, grades 1 through high school, and school administrator. Her work at EPA enables her to combine experience in education with a commitment to the environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
    October 10, 2009

    i think that this is the big problem that we people are facing these days. it is the big one and it will go on increasing on day by day ,if we will not do some work to make the environment better .if we have a look on our homes we can start it from ourself to clean the environment first .we have do some work on the ground level to make environment neat and clean .if we would not be able to do some work lonely then it is impossible to do something for the whole world. i have seen such people that use to keep there houses clean but they throw the wast on the roads and paths and make the environment dirty . My suggestion to all is that we should take our responsibility to contribute some thing to clean the environment

  2. Johnny R. permalink
    October 10, 2009

    Ms. Ippolito,

    Working in New York from ’88 you may have heard of the Village Green Recycling Team in downtown Manhattan, where I volunteered until it was closed by fiat of realestate. Neighborhood recycling stations was a new idea back then. What is the situation now?

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 10, 2009

    That was so true. I am a member of People First, California, Orange County Chapter. People irst works with and for disabled persons. Our Chapter has a Community Inclusion Project on the Oso Creek Trail in Mission Viejo. We walk or ride the trail one or more times a week (the trail is wheelchair accessible). We bring a camera and a notebook and pincel. We report to the Mission Viejo Public Services Department things like graffiti, trash piles dumped above the trail path, maintenance problems, debris in the creek, and cigarette butt hot spots. These things are handled by the Mission Viejo Public Works Department from between 24 hours and a few days after reporting. We also report to the Operations Manager of the Public Works Department on the good things we have seen as well as those that need attention. Sometimes we also report to other agencies like the Santa Margarita Water District. Some major projects have resulted. One sewer connection and cover was replaced in a project that took the water district several weeks, two manholes that had needed repair were in the center of the trail path and caused sudden dips in the path and cracks in the pavement. The Water District replaced the manholes and put a new path down in the impacted area. Other things we have got done working with the city and the county. Abandoned grocery carts used to be a big problem on the trail path, above the path, on the creek bank and down in the creek. We have a shopping cart patrol now through the Orange County Public Works Department that does one or two patrols a day seven days a week including holidays and takes any carts found to the county yard where owners can pick them up or they go to recycling. The Mission Viejo Public Works Operations Manager has talked to the city contract gardeners and let them know that litter control and removal is part of their job. Litter used to be a problem but now the trail is kept clean with little litter. The fence repair crews have repaired the wooden trail fences and the fencing is staying in good shape. We also got the Orange County Sheriff to patrol the trail on a daily basis. Graffiti is no longer the problem it had been. It is being kept down and new graffiti is being reported and removed within hours or a few days. We did an hour presentation on our Community Inclusion Project at the People First State Convention in Sacramento back in June and had over 40 People First members from different parts of the state come. Other members and chapters are talking about starting similar projects in places like Lemon Grove and Sacramento and Grass Valley. Our Oso Creek Trail Project is continuing. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. BeWaterWise Rep permalink
    October 12, 2009

    Thanks for the post! It encourages one to really make a difference. As you said people can contribute to the environment individually or by joining others. Getting ourselves to ‘act’ is the first step to create awareness about the environment. For instance environmental issues like water pollution can be prevented if we stop littering our water bodies and harming the ecosystem. Making a difference lies within each individual has water-wise tips that we can all implement at home and outdoors.

  5. Jason Estes permalink
    October 13, 2009

    We can make a difference, it all starts with young people. Educating our children about going green is now more important than ever. They need to truly understand recycling, and what saving energy will do for their future as well as ours. Imagine the impact of well educated kids who know what green living is all about, and are super motivated to teach others how they can get involved too. Amazing right??

    Go Green!

    Jason Estes

  6. Buy Home or Sell Home In Guelph permalink
    November 5, 2010

    We know environment is filled with pollutants of various types. If we all care for our environment and our health either we can work or contribute individually or join together to work towards our goal of improving our environment

    Dr. Art T Dash, Ph.D.

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