After a long semester of assignments, studying and exams, it’s finally summer. (Hello, freedom!) Now that you have some spare time, why not donate some of it to one of the many organizations focused on combating climate change?
Climate change is a complex problem, so confronting it requires complex solutions. This means you can follow your interests and harness your talents in a variety of ways, from rebuilding homes destroyed by natural disasters to writing letters to government officials urging climate action.
Here are some helpful tips on where—and how—to become a climate change volunteer this summer.
How to Start
The first step in becoming a volunteer is to figure out how much time you have to donate. Organizations typically have established a set of volunteer requirements, such as donating 4 hours a week or committing to volunteer for a minimum of 10 weeks. You should only apply where you know you meet the volunteer requirements.
The second step is to decide how you’d like to volunteer. Some people enjoy providing hands-on help, while others don’t mind helping “behind the scenes,” doing administrative or other work that helps the organization function. Think about any special skills or experience that would make you especially helpful and use your talents to guide you to the volunteer job that’s right for you.
Where to Volunteer
Once you’ve hammered down your summer schedule and identified your talents, it’s time to figure out where to volunteer. Three great options include:
1. Citizens’ Climate Lobby – for the aspiring writer, economist or politician
If you’re an English, economics or poly sci major, you probably should consider volunteering for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, an organization focused on confronting climate change through policy. Some of the major ways they do this is by submitting opinion articles for publication through print and online media outlets, writing letters to politicians urging climate action and by holding summits to discuss potential climate policies.
Citizens’ Climate Lobby visits college campuses across the United States to recruit students to join their local chapters. Many of the organization’s regional conferences are also held on college campuses, where members of college environmental clubs assist in event planning and coordination.
2. Habitat for Humanity– for those looking for a hands-on experience
Habitat for Humanity is well known for building simple, affordable homes for people in need. But recently the organization has implemented new programs recognizing climate change as a major threat to the environment and which can destroy the homes they build.
So the organization created a “Weatherization Challenge” to encourage people to boost their homes’ energy efficiency (so they use less climate-warming fossil fuels), and has implemented new building strategies to help make the houses it builds more resilient to weather events and natural disasters exacerbated by climate change. It also has a Disaster Corps program, where volunteers help rebuild homes destroyed by natural disasters. If you’re looking for a hands-on volunteer experience setting up wall frames and installing storm panels on windows, a position with Habitat for Humanity is the job for you.
3. Citizen science projects- for the science major or nature lover
Citizen science—the premise that any amateur can contribute to the ever-growing collective mass of scientific information known to humanity—is becoming more and more popular. As a result, there are a number of ongoing projects related to climate change that you can easily join and contribute to. These projects are more flexible in terms of allowing you to volunteer around your own schedule and as time permits (but note that some do have stringent volunteer requirements).
Typically citizen science projects require you to use a cellphone app or website to input data you collect when, say, counting the number of birds you find in your backyard or measuring snow in the mountains. Once enough information is collected, expert scientists analyze it and attempt to answer questions about climate change and other ecological issues.
Get involved: Ask your university’s science department if it knows of any ongoing citizen science projects focused on climate change, or check the U.S. federal register of citizen science projects and search “climate”.