Here are four ways you can give back while you’re enjoying the great outdoor world around you.
Organize a cleanup event
Grab your masks, gloves, a box of garbage bags, and a few socially distanced friends and head to a local park to pick up litter. Or organize a river cleanup, beach cleanup, park improvement project, or other COVID-19-safe outdoor spruce-up. It’s a great way to spend some time with people you love while making your community cleaner. The Leave No Trace program from the Center for Outdoor Ethics also identifies areas that have severe human-related impact and sponsors programs designed to help them thrive again. Or simply help a neighbor. There are people in your community who are older, sick or who may have disabilities that prohibit them from doing yard work or mowing their lawn. Offer to lend a hand to help a friend in need.
The “grow your own food” movement became more popular during the pandemic. You can garden any time and anywhere: Start a small container garden of herbs or a couple of tomato plants at home. Plant some seeds to transfer into a garden in your yard. Get involved with a local community farm or join or begin planning a community garden. Find information about getting started in gardening or organizing gardening projects at nonprofits like Growing Gardens, Food is Free, and the American Public Gardens Association. (Each offer volunteer opportunities with their organizations, too.)
Plant for and track local wildlife
Another great way to get outdoors and improve the environment is to plant food for local wildlife. Plant a flower garden to feed pollinators and provide habitats for hummingbirds, song birds, and other small wildlife. Join the Great Sunflower Project by planting and growing lemon queen sunflowers in your yard. Once they bloom, count the number of pollinators that land on the sunflowers in five-minute segments to help track pollinator populations. Or download the iNaturalist app to document local animals and plants for research projects.
Support a park near you
Parks around the country need your help. Local, state, and national park systems rely on volunteers. The National Parks Service has a wide range of safe, outdoor volunteer activities, ranging from conducting tours to helping maintain green areas and facilities. Find state parks near you and contact them for volunteer information or reach out to your county or municipal government and see if there are opportunities to donate time to a park in your town.