Fundraising for an event is the most common type of volunteer role in the United States. The state of the climate is the main concern of people concerned about the environment, especially younger generations. Around 69% of members of Generation Z (adults born after age 1999) are anxious about climate change, and 37% of Generation Z and 33% of millennials (born after 1998) say it is their “main personal concern” (Pew Research, 2020). What's interesting is that they want to address the problem both online and offline.
Online activism, such as promoting on social media, signing petitions, or tracking carbon use, can be great ways to engage these younger generations. The popularity of health and wellness has increased the desire to eat fresh, local and organic food and to be connected to where the food comes from. Working on a farm can help relieve stress, making it one of the most popular types of volunteering. From joining a local garden cooperative, where volunteers share a gardening space, to helping local farmers sell fresh fruits and vegetables through community-supported agriculture (CSA), volunteer opportunities abound to work in the field.
Harvesting, farm-to-table processing, food distribution, nutrition, and hunger-related activities fit this pattern. The types of volunteering within the conservation space are diverse. They can include active participation, such as helping to inventory biodiversity. They can also include more opportunities to work at the desktop, such as helping with the design and monitoring of the geographic information system (GIS).
Permaculture is a holistic way of looking at our relationship with the Earth. We can live harmoniously in a property if we analyze our needs in conjunction with those of the natural world that surrounds us. The projects vary by geography, but include the integration of different agricultural techniques and, at the same time, the protection of wildlife and native forests. Agricultural work can be in a rural, community, agricultural or permaculture project.
The best of these projects include local outreach, such as demonstration farms and educational workshops in schools that support a change in the way people think about agriculture throughout the community. Volunteers can work with children in an orphanage or day care center, give English or math classes to teenagers, or organize sports activities for at-risk youth. The most effective child care centers are those that offer quality education that prepares children and young people for an economically viable future and that offer alternatives to the temptations of drugs and gangs. This broad category includes everything from installing solar panels in a health clinic or water collection systems in a school and training firefighters in response to emergencies to supporting the administration of microcredit programs. For those who prefer a tangible sign of progress, projects in the area of construction, from installing a better stove to building a house, can be especially satisfying. Educational programs range from lending a hand in an elementary school to teaching English to adults to improve their job opportunities. Volunteers can provide vocational training or health and hygiene education through workshops, or give private lessons to struggling students in an after-school program. Environmental projects can include volunteers working in an office preparing educational materials, outside creating trails (or recycling, collecting garbage, or planting and caring for flora), or in schools or neighborhood centers that offer community outreach activities. In a context where putting food on the table is a more urgent need than caring for the environment for many families, volunteers should look for projects that combine community outreach and education with their efforts, and know that their presence can help draw attention to an area that the local community might have overlooked in the past. Volunteers can choose between activities such as protecting baby turtles on their journey from the nest to the sea, supporting the rehabilitation of injured and trafficked animals, or restoring the natural habitats of endangered species.
Not all wildlife protection projects allow volunteers to work with their animals; instead, the work may focus on cleaning cages, restoring natural habitats, or visually monitoring animal activity in the wild. Programs that help develop alternative sources of income generation for the community are especially interesting since they turn many “wildlife protection” projects into a combination of environment, education and community development. Volunteer opportunities that focus on women may include promoting artisanal weavers' associations or supporting workshops on topics ranging from civil rights to household finance. According to UN Women “there is a direct relationship between the increase in female labor participation and growth” and World Bank studies show that women are more likely than men to spend their income on food and education for their children making investments in women a fundamental part of development.