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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Eco-Volunteering: Hands-on Ways to Help Our Planet this Summer

Group of volunteers cleaning up trash from a park


Helping nature while enjoying the great outdoors is a classic win-win opportunity. Here are a few ideas to join the fun while contributing sweat equity.

Corral the Cleanup Crew

Becoming a weekend cleanup community leader can be as simple as gathering family, friends and neighbors to beautify the surroundings and save animals from suffering. To improve water quality, pay special attention to beaches and rivers. Get permission from local authorities, arrange a special trash pickup and equip the crew with gloves and garbage bags. Afterwards, stand together proudly before the enormous hill of discarded plastics, fishing lines, beer bottles, aluminum cans, fast-food containers and other refuse. Congratulate the team and take pictures to post on social media. Find more tips.

Get on the Community Gardening Bandwagon

Community gardens are springing up on school grounds, at hospitals and correctional facilities, on rooftops and balconies, and in unused public spaces and underserved communities. Researchers have proven what we suspect: Gardening is a great workout and leads to improved heart health and weight loss, while breathing fresh air and helping things grow in kinship with like-minded people is a surefire mood enhancer. Reaping the benefits of locally grown, fresh produce; beautifying a neighborhood with flowering plants or shade trees; and providing food and refuge for pollinators and other wildlife is not too shabby, either. Now is the time to join an existing group or start a new community garden. For inspiring examples and how-to ideas, visit Food is Free Project and One Tree Planted.

Lend a Helping Hand at a Park

Local, state and national parks rely on volunteers to conduct tours and maintain green areas and facilities. Even artists and scientists are welcome to lend their expertise. Consider combining a park visit with purposeful assistance. The National Park Service runs a Volunteers-in-Parks program that offers one-time service projects and longer-term positions at parks throughout the country and in U.S. territories in the Pacific and Caribbean. Visit for tasks like a campground host at the Rocky Mountain National Park or climber steward at Joshua Tree National Park. Many state park systems and municipal parks and recreation departments use websites to manage their volunteer opportunities, such as the Florida State Parks Volunteer Portal or Texas State Parks volunteering opportunities. All it takes is an internet search of the name of the state or county plus “park” and “volunteer” to find local openings.