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Go Green, Do Good

You’ve heard it before: When you give, you receive. And no fuller, lasting reward is had than when we take care of our planet. Environmental projects preserve our natural surroundings and better our land. And in return, the earth provides us with food, sustenance and beauty for generations to come.

Minimize the use of limited resources, strengthen community bonds—the benefits go on and on. There’s also ample opportunity to share and learn from others across generations. Giving time to Mother Earth really means doing good for all.

Not sure where to start? We’ve compiled ways big and small you can give back to our planet:

Conserve, recycle and donate

They’ve become buzz words these days, but don’t let words like conservation or sustainable intimidate you. There’s a reason they’re popular—it’s easy to dive right in! Make a difference right now by:

  • Buying local produce
  • Riding public transportation more often
  • Using alternatives to plastic (i.e., reusable shopping bags and glass food storage)
  • Using recycling opportunities in your area (if there are none, discuss recycling with your local or state representative)

Groups like Keep America Beautiful, the Earth Day Network and the American Forest Foundation all offer actionable ways for individuals and groups alike to better the environment. Conservation projects range from water projects in New England to Mississippi forest restoration and Wisconsin watershed care.

Clean, clean, clean!

We can all learn a thing or two from Cinderella and do more cleaning! (Minus the wicked stepmother, of course.) There are countless opportunities to clean up our environment, wherever you are:

  • Water: It’s essential for all living beings, and its quality affects everyone. Millions of tons of trash end up in our nation’s rivers and streams every year—and it’s more than just an eyesore. It contaminates drinking water and threatens the lives of all who depend on it. Create the Good partnered with American Rivers to make it easier for you to get involved. Check out our Clean up a River guide for the basics in tips and safety tools.
  • Parks: The U.S. has nearly 400 national parks, and they could all use a little help. Find opportunities to spruce up a park near you at the National Park Service’s volunteer page.
  • Streets: Want to make a difference close to home? Pick up litter on your way to and from work or organize a group clean-up project; just be sure to wear gloves! You can also help with “walkability” surveys to give to community decision-makers. Creating a walker-friendly environment helps reduce traffic congestion and pollution and increases property values. Walking is easy, cheap and gentle on the body; plus it gets your community out exercising, boosting social interactions among neighbors. Visit Create the Good’s guide to sidewalks and streets survey.

Plant a tree (or more!)

Deforestation and record wildfire seasons threaten the health of our country’s trees—an effect that could be detrimental. Trees provide countless benefits: They conserve soil, reduce carbon dioxide in the air, create windbreaks to reduce erosion and drought (like the Great Plains Shelterbelt), and help to restore ecological balance overall.

You can find individual and group volunteer opportunities or donate toward forest restoration through the Arbor Day Foundation, the Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees campaign and Trees for the Future.

Get your hands dirty

Organic gardening returns organic matter to the soil—improving soil structure, water retention and nutrient cycling, among other benefits. It also helps provide community members with healthy alternatives to unhealthy junk food. Dig in by doing some gardening, donating time at a plant nursery or helping food pantries with their gardens. You can even start or join a community garden, a great way to learn new skills while providing those in need with fresh and healthy food.

Begin with Create the Good’s online guide to starting or joining a community garden or the American Community Gardening Association.

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