Originally published in Engage Journal Q4 2021
9 Earth Day Volunteer Ideas for April
Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970, is the most coordinated call to take action to help the planet. About 192 different countries and 1 billion volunteers embrace April 22 to support a clean and healthy environment. There are hundreds of amazing Earth Day volunteer ideas out there from that half a century of experience!
The beautiful thing about Earth Day action is that it can be either local or global, personal or public. Volunteers can work together or independently on a wide variety of projects.
The keys to success are:
Setting up various events and opportunities that appeal to different types of volunteers. You may consider hosting both an in-person, public event and asynchronous, personal events. Planting trees is a popular activity that can be organized in many ways, for example!
Taking advantage of the latest tech tools to connect with and organize volunteers. Golden is the best volunteer app on the market, helping you find the right volunteers for your cause and streamlining their engagement.
Idea #1: Cleaning Local Trails
Some 30 percent of Americans go hiking, and most use local trails. Those trails do not stay clear from debris and litter on their own. Most American trails rely on volunteer networks for maintenance so that hikers can appreciate the nature experience.
One of the best Earth Day volunteer ideas is to organize a cleanup crew for trails in your local area. You may have to connect first with the park service or nonprofit organization that manages the trail system. Then you can organize an opportunity, for volunteer teams or individuals, to visit the site on Earth Day and clean the trail.
Some cleanups ask volunteers to pick a portion of the trail from a GPS-integrated mapping tool. Those who sign up can work when they like and then mark the task as completed. Others seize the opportunity for a team-building event and coordinate a group to sponsor a trail or trail segment. A trail cleaning event can give you multiple opportunities for volunteer engagement while helping your community enjoy the outdoors!
Idea #2: Plant a Wildlife-Friendly Garden
Birds, insects, and other small critters are facing a habitat crisis from the compounding issues of climate change and land development. One of the best ways to support their survival and recovery is to plant native shrubs, flowers, and trees in available spaces.
Whether in pots on a balcony or converted lawn space, any organization or home can find an area to give back to nature this way! The human benefits also abound. Native plants are much easier to care for and usually do not require toxic pesticides. They also attract beautiful wildlife – from colorful birds to buzzing bees and fluttering butterflies.
Ask volunteers to sign up for a number of square feet to plant (or pledge to plant) on Earth Day. Environmental organizations can help you identify plants and even help with landscaping ideas. The National Wildlife Federation has plant information by zip codes, for example.
Ideas #3, #4, and #5: Climate Crisis Action
Earth Day volunteer ideas can involve many different ways to take action against the climate crisis. Most of these actions are individual and can be performed virtually by a volunteer anywhere in the world.
Promote Energy Inventorying. People can only save on their energy use (and carbon footprint) if they understand how much energy they are using. The Department of Energy has a tool to calculate how much energy is being used throughout a home. Taking the time to consider how much energy we are using can help us understand how to reduce use!
Carbon Footprint Fast. Ask volunteers to fill out a pledge to reduce their carbon footprint for a set amount of time. They can pick their actions from many. Ideas include: driving less, only buying produce from the local farmers market for a month, or going vegan for a month. If you add in a footprint calculator, you can sum up the collective impact of your virtual event.
Just Say No to Plastics. Another fasting idea is to ask people to go without single-use plastics (or greatly reduce plastics use) for a set amount of time. Americans use 221 kilograms of plastics a year, and many can be avoided. The action itself will raise awareness for individuals on how they might consume less to help curb the climate crisis.
Idea #6: Take Political Action
Popular Earth Day volunteer ideas include ways to take political action for the environment. At any given time, local, national, and global politicians are debating new laws and legislations that will impact air quality, biodiversity, or the climate crisis.
Surfrider Foundation is a leading advocate for ocean and waterway health. They regularly post opportunities for political action to advocate for clean water. If you want to know more about global issues and action areas, you can research information from the United Nations Environment Programme.
Idea #7: Join Forces with A Bigger Event
Why create your own event when you can make an impact with one that already exists? Hundreds of nonprofits, globally and locally, will have amazing volunteer events available on Earth Day. In fact, the entire third week of April is National Volunteer Week, with thousands of other events happening to celebrate volunteerism.
You can volunteer with Golden, the most award-winning platform out there. Golden is fun, too! You can create your own dashboard and link with your social media to network with friends, family, and colleagues. Logging time with different volunteer events can earn you Karats, opening up opportunities to win unique prizes, such as meeting celebrities.
Idea #8: Do Something Wildlife Positive with Children
Some of the most positive and active Earth Day volunteer ideas connect children with nature. Too many children lack access to nature and opportunities to get outdoors, especially those from inner cities.
If you regularly create mentorship events with children, think about how you can relocate to a local park for Earth Day. Similarly, see if the school group with which you work can gain permission for a bus trip to a nature center. A ranger or volunteer will likely be able to take the kids on a guided tree identification or birding trail walk.
Another idea is to bring nature to the children! See if a wildlife rescue can visit your children’s group, with rescue raptors or other nature demonstrations. They can learn new skills and connect with wildlife from your usual place of engagement.
Idea #9: Host an Earth Day Fundraising Event
One of the most traditional Earth Day volunteer ideas is to use the day to rally your base and help you fundraise. This especially works if you can host an outdoor event or if you are working to raise funds for a green project. Some fundraiser ideas include:
Hike-a-thon. Instead of a traditional marathon, ask volunteers to gain pledges for a hiking event at a local or regional park.
Bird-a-thon. Similarly, bird expert volunteers can collect pledges for the number of birds they hope to identify on Earth Day weekend. Groups of birders collect pledges beforehand and collect the funds raised for your cause after they have tallied and verified their results. This is a great way to get groups involved in friendly competition!
Outdoor Green Fair. Ask volunteers to help with a bigger event focused on raising environmental awareness in your community. Different community groups might showcase how they are “going green” in your area and fundraise for corporate sponsorships from throughout the community.
Even More Earth Day Volunteer Ideas!
These are just a few of many potential Earth Day volunteer ideas. There are hundreds more ways you can support this meaningful cause day by adapting your existing volunteer events or creating new ones.
Virtual volunteering ideas can be adapted for Earth Day. For instance, volunteers might make Earth Day-friendly crafts for people in need or for charities to sell at events.
If you are overwhelmed with the options, Golden can help you find opportunities for volunteering and provide guidance on how to design and administer an Earth Day event that works for your organization. See here for a quick demonstration of how Golden works.