By Paula Swiatkowski, WEN Board member
We all recognize that the holidays are a time of giving, and the urge to give is a wonderful thing!
I know many of us – myself included – are uncomfortable with the ‘shop ‘til you drop’ approach to holiday giving; I’m more of a Plaid Friday than Black Friday shopper. After all, there isn’t much stuff I truly need, and the environmentally conscious among us often lean more into enoughism than consumerism.
How about volunteering your time instead? Getting out and helping is a great way to not only work off those extra holiday calories, but it also just makes you feel better about life overall. Volunteering brings out the best in us.
Of course there’s a plethora of avenues for volunteerism. I felt inspired to search first for environmental-themed options, which are a bit lean at this time of year. Here are several possibilities I found:
Restoration, Sustainability and More at the Presidio – San Francisco
The lovely Presidio has volunteer opportunities almost every day year-round, to fit whatever time you have to give. All ages and skill levels are welcome to participate in such programs as Habitat Restoration, Gardens and Sustainability, and Forest and Trail Stewards (these include van transport from the Presidio Transit Center to work sites on the Presidio grounds). The Golden Gate Maintenance Volunteers-in-Parks Program meets at various locations such as Ocean Beach and Fort Mason to perform upkeep.
Literacy for Environmental Justice – San Francisco
Youth empowerment meets urban environmental education at LEJ. The program is designed to meet the unique ecological and social concerns of young people from the Bayview Hunters Point area of San Francisco and its surrounding areas, interacting with the larger community via family-friendly volunteer opportunities.
LEJ hosts volunteer shifts the first three Saturdays of every month for, respectively, 1) A nursery where native plant stock is grown for local restoration projects in Candlestick Point State Recreation Area (CPSR); 2) Native ecology restoration days within CPSR; and 3) Nursery and native plant maintenance for open-space enhancement and wildlife habitat in several Southeast SF public parks.
Invasive Plant Early Detection – National Park Service, various locations
This one’s for the detail-oriented science-y nerds among us. Did you know that invasive species are the second greatest threat to global biodiversity, after habitat loss? You can help protect rare native species and conserve precious resource management funds by helping to identify invasive plants at the Point Reyes Seashore, John Muir National Park, and the Golden Gate Recreation Area. So pull on your imaginary lab coat as a citizen scientist, and head to Bay Area national parks to help identify and map invasive plants…no prior experience necessary.
Perhaps what you really need at this hectic time of the year is a continuously updated calendar to consult when you identify your perfect volunteer moment. This organization has a dense monthly calendar of opportunities across a wide range of interests and activities covering, as they aptly put it, “all the causes people care about”…including, yes, some environmental options. Most events have a volunteer number limit, however, so don’t wait too long to sign up for something that hits your sweet spot…then go do it!
Camp Fire Relief
If you don’t have time to spare but still want to make a difference, the folks who lost everything in this horrific fire will continue to need help for a long time to come. There’s broad consensus that monetary donations are the most critical need and the Red Cross, United Way and Butte County’s North State Food Bank are among the groups actively seeking funds. Also, the Butte Humane Society is providing free pet food and supplies for Camp Fire evacuees seven days a week.
I wish you islands of beauty, peace, and contentment amid the hustle and bustle as you celebrate the season in your unique style and traditions. And if you have a bit of time to spare for people or places in need of some loving care, I hope you find your perfect moment to do just that. Happy holidays to all!