community service

Green Apple Day of Service, How Cool!

A lot has changed since I’ve been in school. When I was in school we didn’t recycle, we didn’t have a rain garden or have native plants on school grounds. I doubt we had energy efficient lighting or created signs about environmental awareness.  Schools now are doing all those things and more. Private and public K-12 schools across the country can sign up to participate in the Center for Green Schools  Green Apple Day of Service .  On September 29, schools are encouraged to create a sustainability service project and work with their community to create positive environmental change. The hope is that the Green Apple Day of Service will create a lasting awareness of the importance of green schools. I was impressed with the amount of suggestions available. Hosting a bike tune up, conducting a water audit and even pulling weeds can count as projects.

What’s your school planning on doing September 29? I’d love to hear all about it.

Megan Gavin is the environmental education coordinator at EPA in Chicago. She lives across the street from one of the winners of the Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.

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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The Butt Stops Here

I had no idea where our eighth grade study of water science would lead me this past fall: picking up cigarette butts out of street gutters, creating anti-litter advertising, and talking to the Raleigh City Council about how cigarettes are the biggest–and most hidden–form of litter in our city and state.

We learned about water properties through class discussions, guest speakers, and amazing field trips like canoeing our local Neuse River and stream testing nearby tributaries. Our quarterly project consisted of participating in the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation’s Environmental Challenge.  In teams of 8, we formed action plan projects to solve water issues.

We talked to experts, including representatives from NC Big Sweep and Keep NC Beautiful. We learned that cigarette butts are the number one form of litter in our community.  Our environmental goal: We want cigarette smokers to dispose of their cigarette butts properly, which will result in cleaner waterways and streets.

To meet our goal, we created a grassroots campaign that would positively affect the community and get its support in the process. Our campaign reached an estimated 35,000 people on a budget of under $1000. We received free City of Raleigh advertising space, assistance from its public affairs staff, and design assistance from a local sign shop. The shop helped us create placards for every city bus and a grant from Keep NC Beautiful helped pay for them.  We also produced, filmed, and edited three free PSA commercials with the Raleigh Television Network.  We talked to City Council about adding cigarette ash receptacles on more streets in downtown Raleigh. According to Keep America Beautiful, for every ash receptacle added, the littering rate decreases by nine percent, so we know this will have a lasting impact on the community. We specifically want to add ash receptacles to bus stops, city parks, and other meeting areas around the city.

I never paid much attention to cigarette litter before the project.  I didn’t always notice it.  My shock of realization came after conducting the first survey near Raleigh’s main bus station. We found over 2500 littered cigarette butts in one day!  Cleaning them up made me realize that even small types of litter really affect the way I view a community. One project realization is the willingness of residents to make changes in communities. Our campaign was a success because of people who cared about our city.

Annie is an eighth grader at Exploris Middle School. She enjoys reading and playing the alto saxophone in the Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble.

Exploris Middle School, is a charter school in downtown Raleigh, NC that uses integrated project-based learning and service-learning to carry out its mission to help students learn to build a “connected, just, and sustainable world.”

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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Are you a Volunteer?

logoI love volunteering!  I have been volunteering at my local animal shelter for the past few months.  It is so much fun to help animals in my local community.  I like volunteering at the shelter because it compliments my job as an Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator.  I get to help the environment by doing the big picture work and help individual animals one at a time at the shelter.  Volunteering is a great way to enhance your school resume, college applications or to simply do what you love.  Check out local volunteer opportunities near you at:  http://www.volunteer.gov/gov/

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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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Community Service…Pick a Project!

Many students need to complete a community service project as part of a class in school.  The new student’s website has a whole webpage dedicated to community service projects and ideas.

Be sure to check it out,  and let us know what your community service project is!

http://www.epa.gov/students/communityservice.html

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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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60,000 Hours, Oh My!

kids in forest

On September 29, more than 5,000 kids donated more than 60,000 hours on habitat -related service projects. All these hours mean healthier places for plants and animals to live. Some kids raked leaves and planted bulbs, while others cleaned up vacant lots. Acorns and walnuts were collected and put in nurseries to grow new trees. You don’t have to wait till next year’s Public Lands Day to get involved. Contact you local nature center and see if they need volunteers. What about organizing a cleanup project for earth month?

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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Making a Difference One Person at a Time

By Terry Ippolito

How many times do I see a problem, any problem, and pretend it doesn’t have anything to do with me? Sometimes I find myself saying, “Sure that big old ___________ out there is a huge eyesore, but I can’t do anything about it?” Even though I work for EPA, I can convince myself that a stream filled with trash or littered streets is something I can’t change.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I may not have created the problem, but I can help create a solution to the problem. Many times in life we clean up after other people’s messes. When my efforts are joined with others’ the change can be dramatic. A great way to see and affect real change is to participate or volunteer for a community service project. Getting involved isn’t that difficult to do either. There are always organizations and people in need. Think of your community, its needs and where you already know people go for help. Some ideas include nature centers, local park districts or agencies, schools, hospitals, community centers and senior centers. You could also start out with a simple search on the internet; search your town’s name and community service. You might be surprised how many people, places and things out there really need your help.

Another way to search out that perfect organization from a national level is just a click away. The United We Serve and the Corporation for National and Community Service

Sometimes community service attracts people who are interested in specific topics. As an example, today lots of people are concerned about what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico and wish they could do something about it. If this is the case and you want to get involved, try United We Serve’s special site, Gulf Spill: How You Can Help. The Gulf oil spill is also the focus of Bloggers Unite for the Planet and the National Wildlife Federation’s site on helping wildlife impacted by the oil spill.

Where do you volunteer? How did you find that volunteer connection? We’d love to know.

About the author: Terry Ippolito has worked at EPA for 21 years. She currently serves as the Environmental Education Coordinator and is a former science educator. When she was 10 years old, she organized the kids on her block to do a clean up thus setting the stage for an interest in community and the environment. She lives in New York City and is still picking up litter on her way to the train in the morning.

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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Volunteering to Protect the Environment

Students are often looking for opportunities to earn service hours. Non-profits, faith-based organizations often have such opportunities. Yet, why not think of creative ways to earn these service hours and protect the environment at the same time? And who says that community service should be limited to those who are currently enrolled in school? Volunteering for the environment should be everyone’s business regardless of age.

In last week’s blog, “Never Too late for a New Year Resolution,” I was struck by one of the statements from a regular Greenversations commenter, Michael E. Bailey. He highlighted how the City of Mission Viejo where he lives has made the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) one of its top priorities in environmentalism. He points out that this active community involvement has earned Mission Viejo a green reputation.

I was surfing EPA’s Web site and found useful information on how you can volunteer to protect the environment. There are tips for teachers and students, multicultural community groups, and other public participation opportunities.

There are many volunteer opportunities to improve the quality of our local waterways. The “Adopt your watershed” program has useful toolkits on watershed stewardship for volunteers. You can also recommend to your Girl Scouts troop to participate in the clean up of a local stream or waterway so the Girl Scouts can earn a service patch. Businesses can also board the green bandwagon by organizing environmental awareness activities to encourage green procurement.

These are just a sampling of some of the tools available. I’m sure that many of you have already put creative methods into practice. We would like to hear from you. So, as the old Chinese proverb says: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” It’s just a matter of starting. You can also make a difference today by engaging in environmental stewardship.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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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Community Service Projects

About the author: Amanda Sweda joined EPA’s Office of Environmental Information in 2001 and develops policy development for web related issues and serves on the Environmental Education Web Workgroup. Amanda is a former Social Studies and Deaf Education teacher and is married to a math teacher so education is an important topic in their home.

My 20 year high school reunion is this summer so I’ve been reconnecting with old friends, looking at my yearbook, and thinking about my high school days (yeah Class of 1989!). In some respects I am sure high school hasn’t changed much since I was in school – homework (too much), worrying about what to wear and my hair, thinking about the future (ranging from college to the prom)…that sort of thing. But some things have really changed. In 1989, we didn’t have e-mail, cell phones with text messaging, or even the Internet to help us with our research and homework! Now before you start thinking I am really old – we did have computers. I used the computer to write my papers for school but I could turn in a handwritten copy if necessary. Another difference – there is more focus on community service now – sure we did things for our community but nothing like the current generation’s commitment to service. So when I was thinking back to my school days, I was wondering what I would have done for community service in my small hometown of Rockwall, Texas. Back then, I don’t know where I would have started with coming up with ideas for making the environment better. For the past seven years, I have worked for EPA and try to do as much as I can at home and at work to make a difference in the environment…I only wish I could have used what I know now to help make a difference back in school in my community and the environment….

If you are looking for a potential community service project, sometimes the best place to start is with an issue or concern (or a potential one) in your community. Read your community’s newspaper (or web site), check out what the hot topics are in the town meetings, and take a look at the Community Service Projects page on EPA’s High School Web site. You can also check out “In Your Neighborhood” links to find resources about watersheds, air quality, ecological footprints, and if you’re not sure where to start – just plug your zip code into the Zip Code Search and see what comes up. Every community is different because of its history, geography, culture, etc. What you care about may be different from what I care about for lots of reasons so find something that matters to you. No matter what you do – enjoy your time in high school.

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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