You consider yourself a nice person, right? Maybe you cry during sweet movies, or hold the door open for people at the grocery store. Maybe you’ve helped a stranded car on the side of the road get gas, or even just smiled at someone having a bad day and said “Buck up, buddy. The world isn’t all bad,” once or twice. Man, you’re pretty awesome.
Know how you could get more awesome? Well I’ll tell ya. Volunteering! And even better, volunteering outdoors. You may ask, “Well, why?” A plethora of reasons, my friend. Not only does manual labor like trail building and park restoration foster lasting relationships, but you get to do what you love—be outside—and feel even better about it. Maybe you’ll even feel a little fuzzy inside!
There are a lot of ways to get involved, too. You can choose organizations that require very little commitment and involvement, or volunteer for a week, a month, or even years at a time. What are you waiting for, get out there and change the world for the better! Here are some favorite resources and noteworthy organizations to inspire you:
- REI Volunteer Search Engine: This is a very cool useful tool in finding day long, or even continuing projects close to you. It even categorizes the events in age group appropriateness.
- US Army Corps of Engineers: The Corps of Engineers cares for almost 12 MILLION acres of land and water. The volunteer opportunities for this organization including cool things like Visitor Center Staff, Fish and Wildlife Habitat Work, and lots more.
- The Sierra Club: Founded by John Muir in 1892, this is one of the oldest and most influential environmental organizations in the US. Talk about tradition! Based on the idea that wildlands should be protected by any means lawful, it is based in “outings” of all sorts. The Sierra club is involved locally and internationally, and can fit the bill for anyone interested in getting involved.
- National Park Service: The US National Park Service has a volunteer search engine that is equipped to assist in the location of volunteer opportunities via state, park, or area code. You have the opportunity to volunteer in National Parks, National Monuments, and more.
- Eco-Volunteers: Outdoor enthusiasts can definitely get their fix volunteering with this cool organization. Organizing international trips to restore wildlands, it is sure to provide some once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
- American Hiking Association Volunteer Vacations: The classic perception of an awesome vacation is a beach towel, a lot of sun, and maybe a good book (or a lot of tequila). This can lead to two things: ultimate boredom, or lack of recollection of your entire trip. Why not try something more interesting? This organization hosts small groups of volunteers for week-long projects of building and maintaining trails. And hey, if nothing else, it will make for a much better story.
- Thru-hike maintenance: There are organizations focusing on maintaining the thru hikes that are so iconic in the US. Have you thought about the Pacific Crest Tail and/or the Appalachian trail in wonder, just to dismiss it because holy crap, that’s a lot of walking to do? Well, never fear—you can still get involved and help those crazy souls who do embark on the noble trail.
Pacific Crest Trail: http://www.pcta.org/volunteer/
Appalachian Trail: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/get-involved/volunteer