volunteering

Eco-Friendly Weekend Activities – Special Holiday Edition!

It’s that time of year again! We want to wish everyone a fun and sustainable holiday season. Since the world didn’t end when the Mayan calendar said it would, we compiled some extra suggestions for how to spend your time in the New York City area for the rest of December. See you next year!

Christmas Morning Bike Ride: Neither rain nor snow nor holiday will keep the Five Borough Bike Club from their ride through three states. Approximately four hours of great fun and comradeship. George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, 178th St. at Ft. Washington Ave, Manhattan, 45 miles, C-14 pace. Ride ends at the Willis Ave Bridge in the Bronx. Leaders: Jesse Brown and Rodney Millard. Call 917-578-2244 with inquiries. Tuesday, December 25, 8:30 a.m. (see link above for other options available).

Ice Skate at Van Cortlandt Park: The caption says it all! Open daily during the holiday season.

Holiday Open House at the Queens County Farm Museum: Warm up the winter season with mulled cider, tours of our decorated historic farmhouse, and craft activities for children. The event takes place from Monday, December 26th until Wednesday, December 28th and is free of charge.

Midnight Run in Central Park – Celebrate the New Year with a toast to your health by participating in a four mile annual fun run. Monday, December 31, 10 p.m.

Needlecrafts: Before video games, movies, and television, indoor games and projects helped pass the long winter days. At Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, you can try your hand at needlepoint! Wednesday, December 26, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.

Presents to the Animals – It’s the last chance to see animals at the Prospect Park Zoo pounce on their presents of treat-filled bags and boxes. Saturday and Sunday, December 29-30, 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Volunteer – For many New Yorkers, it’s been a very tough year. Rather than just donating money, there are many ways you can donate time or other services. We’ve provided several ways you can get involved to help make sure that 2013 is a better year for everyone. (Note: The following list does not reflect EPA policy or endorsement.)

City Harvest – From nutrition education to food distribution, help make sure that all New Yorkers get well fed this holiday season.

Disaster Response – New York Cares is perhaps the city’s largest volunteer organization. Check out their special activities targeted toward ongoing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.

Friends of Firefighters – Volunteer to help firefighters and their families who may need extra support this holiday season.

Holiday Volunteer Projects – Several food prep and package delivery activities for individuals, families and large groups.

NYC Service – Launched by the mayor, this citywide initiative helps coordinate volunteer initiatives.

Occupy Sandy Recovery – Sign up for volunteer opportunities with this on the ground organization.

Red Hook Initiative – Help out in this Brooklyn neighborhood that was affected by the recent storm.

Roberto Clemente Park Cleanup – Head to the Bronx to volunteer at this ongoing park cleanup opportunity. Wednesday, January 2, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Volunteer in Staten Island – Some of the communities in Staten Island are going to be recovering from Sandy for a long time. Target your time in a hard-hit area by checking out this extensive list.

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 ‘Sump’ Thing Happen on Earth Day

By Rob Alvey

This year Earth Day falls on Sunday, April 22 and I’m going to make “sump” thing happen. No, I didn’t misspell it. In fact, local storm water basins are referred to as “sump.” And, at the Tanners Pond Environmental Center in Garden City, NY, this year, the 1st Annual Earth Day Run will help raise funds for a solar powered irrigation well.

I remember our first storm basin cleanup on Earth Day in 1995.  I was a recent appointee to Garden City’s Village Environmental Advisory group and faced with the task of creating a “green map” for the community. One of our first assignments was to clean up a storm water basin that had become an eyesore – filled to the brim with trash and tree debris. We elicited the aid of local volunteers and the Audubon Society and transformed nine acres of land and marsh into a local green space, demonstrating environmental stewardship through education and community service.

Besides cleaning up the storm basin and adjacent land, we also raised money for fence repair and landscaping. We overcame lots of natural challenges and some not so natural – like vandalism. Every time one of our birdhouses was knocked over or torn down, we put two in its place. Eventually we wore down the interlopers!

Today more than 10,000 volunteers have been active in this effort. The Tanners Pond Environmental Center has evolved from a bird sanctuary into a community nature preserve including a new Nature Camp program, the Alvey Arboretum, a $55,000 wet meadow funded through the Nassau County Environmental Bond, seating areas, gardens featuring more than 10,000 flowering bulbs and a children’s memorial garden. It is also a favorite destination for the Girl and Boy Scouts.

Looking ahead to our first annual Earth Day Run, in addition to a 3k race, there is also a 1.5k fun run, a 1k obstacle trot and lots of food, music and educational displays. I hope you can join us in the coming years!

About the Author: Rob Alvey is a geologist with ERRD and has been the “hydro” for dozens of Superfund sites involving groundwater contamination. He was co-chair of the EPA’s Ground Water Forum and served a detail as Special Assistant to RA Judith Enck. He is also a Geology Professor at York (CUNY) College and has three grown daughters- all involved with environmental and ecological causes.  In his ‘spare’ time, he writes articles on “daddyhood” and performs as Mark Twain for charity benefits.

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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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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Green is the new dot-com!

Photo of staff cleaning up C&O Canal Park carrying a large log

About the author: Tim Lyons is EPA’s Deputy Press Secretary.

From green ballparks and green toilet paper to Wally the Green Monster and Green Power Partnerships, green is the new rage these days and, quite unexpectedly, I’ve even caught this green wave and I hope you will too, if you haven’t already.

Green is everywhere. The question is where do you want to be? Do you want to be one of EPA’s world-class scientists or a high school science teacher? Do you want to be in the public or private sector? Regardless of where you want to be and what you want to do, we can all chip in and improve the environment.

Growing up in New Hampshire, a state which makes the environment one of its top priorities, and having worked on environmental issues in my previous job, I gradually learned what steps people could take to preserve the environment. Those experiences translated into a growing interest in this whole “green” rage and, now, here I am at EPA.

Cleanup crew member with an abandoned tire and a dead fish.In the spirit of Earth Week (April 20-26) and National Volunteer Week (April 27-May 3), it is important to understand that we can all “catch the green wave” – and it doesn’t take much of an effort. My office, EPA’s Office of Public Affairs, tackled a project on Friday, April 25, at the Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove along the C&O Canal in Georgetown. In coordination with the C&O Canal Trust, we removed tons of trash and debris (i.e. massive logs) to help clean up the park area. We returned home with scrapes and pulled back muscles, but we accomplished a lot and, hopefully, we made a difference.

If we all do our part, we can change the world and do something good for the environment. Whether it involves moving heavy debris or picking up trash like we did, I encourage everyone to grab a board and hop on the green wave. There are countless environmental volunteers out there who are riding this wave and making a difference in our lives, so we should take a moment to thank them and think about becoming volunteers ourselves.

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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