One of the best ways to support a sustainable world is to get involved in your own community. Local groups such as political organizations and homeowner associations have the power to improve the environment where we live, work and play. Start by building a strong relationship with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Then, by working together to understand the issues and determining how to make improvements, you’re essentially forming a group that will make a difference, similar to forming a community or neighborhood green team.
In 1978, an ordinary citizen named Lois Gibbs kick-started community-led environmental activism after learning her children’s school had been built on top of the Love Canal waste dump. Suspecting that the toxic site was responsible for her children’s serious, unexplained illnesses— including asthma, epileptic seizures, liver, and urinary tract problems – she began a public awareness campaign that resulted in major policy change. In 1980, Congress approved the environmental response, compensation, and Liability Act, which identifies and eliminates all toxic waste in the United States.
After crude oil from the BP spill began washing ashore, many Gulf Coast communities came together to help with the cleanup efforts. Ordinary citizens from around the country also have volunteered to help, donating their time to restore the beaches and wildlife affected by the disaster.
Connect with your community: The first step in promoting a sense of community is getting to know your neighbors. Connect with people in your area with shared interests, professions, hobbies, and causes. If you have trouble finding a group that matches your interests, check out this guide to learn about starting your own.
Learn about your local environment: Do you and your neighbors know the local environmental qualities? Is it safe to swim at your favorite beaches? How can you help protect your drinking water? Find out more at EPA’s community website. One of the best ways to support a sustainable world is to get involved in your own community.
Do restoration work: Help a community group clean up a local stream, highway, park or beach. Check out VolunteerMatch.org for opportunities to do restoration work or talk to your employer about integrating environmental service projects into your company’s social responsibility and sustainability initiatives.
Start a community garden: If space or agricultural knowledge is an issue, consider joining a community garden. None in your area? Check out the American Community Gardening Association’s website for resources on how to start your own community garden. Talk to your child’s school or your employer about starting a garden on their property.
Plant a tree: Make a supporting group with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Plan the meetings for planting the trees and watering plants. Track your contributions with United Nations Billion Tree Campaign.
Get involved: Participate in local politics and have a say in how your community is run. Whether you’re campaigning against poorly planned development, saving a local farm, or changing local policy, it’s vital that you have a voice. Attending city or county meetings is a great start.
Create a monthly swap meet: Arrange a once-a-month get-together with your friends and neighbors to exchange anything you’re not using. It’s a great way to save money, recycle items and keep unnecessary waste out of landfills.
Get your company to give back: Ask your employer to invest in environmentally and socially sustainable development both locally and abroad.