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Environmental Activism without Time

By Staff | Jun 3, 2008

Since “green is the new black,” suddenly it is hip to save the planet — but who has time? Turns out, there are plenty of things you can do without spending the night shift in a tree sit. “I think one of the most important things people can do is bond with the place that they care about,” says Andy Mahler, coordinator of Heartwood, a regional network of local groups working to protect Eastern hardwood forests. “You find yourself inevitably wanting to protect it.”

Here are a few pointers on how you can plug in to protect your special outdoor place — even with a limited time budget:

If you have five minutes

∫ Write a check to your local environmental group.

∫ You’re not off the hook yet. Read the action alerts they send you and take another five minutes to make one phone call or write one e-mail a month to a decision-maker.

∫ Try some trailhead activism. When you sign a trailhead register, use the comments box wisely to communicate to officials as well as other trail users. Here’s one: “Stop logging our national forests.”

If you have an hour

∫ Write a letter to the editor or a letter to a politician. That group you joined will let you know who to target and what to say.

If you have a day

∫ Volunteer at the office. Most environmental groups really need folks to stuff envelopes, write thank-you notes, answer the phone, the list goes on.

∫ Volunteer one day a week at your local nature center or metropark. You can usually choose an inside or outside job.

∫ Help out with invasive species removal, trail maintenance or a cleanup effort. Organize your workplace, school or place of worship to help out for a day and make a big impact.

If you have a weekend

∫ Plug in to a more intensive maintenance or cleanup outing. The Buckeye Trail Association has weekend-long “work parties” (www.buckeyetrail.org).

∫ While you’re on that weekend trip, document the good and the bad. Take notes and photos of any rare or endangered species you might be lucky enough to come across; alternately, document any illegal or damaging activities. Share your findings with your local environmental group or the agency that oversees the land.

If you have more time

∫ Plan a fundraiser — a concert, a spaghetti dinner, a silent auction or whatever you’re good at putting together — for your chosen environmental organization.

∫ Sign up for an outdoor volunteer vacation. The American Hiking Society has volunteer vacations in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia, among other states (www.americanhiking.org/events/vv/index.html).

∫ Serve on the board of directors of your favorite environmental organization.

Like drops of water that turn the millwheel, when we all pitch in a little bit, we can make a large impact.

Matt Peters was a college radical who has retired from full-time activism to raise worms for composting in southeast Ohio, where he can’t afford a new hybrid car, like most working stiffs.

Contact Matt at letters@graffitiwv.com