City volunteers most frequently engage police department, park, or social service opportunities, but in recent years city volunteer programs in environmental sustainability are becoming popular, as volunteers everywhere are increasingly interested in the environment. This is not surprising, as more and more cities develop comprehensive plan elements related to environmental sustainability.
One of the best ways to develop volunteer environmental opportunities is to encourage city staff members to find ways to collaborate with existing nonprofit programs in the community.
Access to environmental projects will be an increasingly effective tool for club recruitment and retention, of interest to multiple generational cohorts and vocational backgrounds.
With its seventh area of focus – protecting the environment – Rotary is well positioned to encourage cities to adopt and fund local environmental projects. (Rotary’s seven areas of focus: 1) promoting peace; 2) fighting disease; 3) providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; 4) saving mothers and children; 5) supporting basic education and literacy; 6) growing local economies, and 7) protecting the environment.)
The seventh area of focus is just one of many ways cities can imagine relationships with Rotary to benefit local communities.
Rotary International, founded in Chicago in 1905 – as was Lions Clubs International some years later – has long fostered the investment time and money in local communities. Rotary is perhaps best known for its efforts to eradicate polio and for international service in conjunction with organizations and governments worldwide. Historically, surveys show that about 60% of each Rotary club membership is typically most interested in local community service.
Each Wednesday morning at 6 AM PDT, I participate in a networking Zoom meeting with 30-80 Rotarians and non-Rotarians from around the world. Each meeting, we hear and discuss the nature of environmental projects, fostered by Rotary clubs and other organizations.
Projects shared are broad-ranging: plastic pollution prevention and cleanup (https://www.esragplastics.org/), habitat and wildlife preservation, literacy projects that extend the life of books, projects that clean up streams and rivers, preserving urban forests (https://youtu.be/mntmUyEpLQ8), projects to preserve pollinators, solar energy innovations, energy conservation, preservation of mangrove habitats, reducing carbon footprint (The Carbon Almanac, a particularly purposeful book, https://youtu.be/QsCpXWlPLSQ), and more. All these projects generate ideas with local improvement potential.
Check out Rotarian Dr. Sam Hancock’s Emerald Planet TV with a wealth of short videos on diverse environmental projects at https://www.youtube.com/c/EmeraldPlanetTV/videos. Or email Emerald Planet TV at Dr_Sam_Hancock@emerald-planet.org.
This type of engagement can lead to projects that benefit the community. For instance, in-line with a project started by Poulsbo Rotarian Lori Clotier, five elementary schools in Peninsula School District, Gig Harbor WA, regularly collect plastics – transferred to Rotarians and then to Home Depot (several other stores participate in this bench program). Plastic waste is converted into long-lasting park benches for use in the community.
The Rotary Club of Gig Harbor Midday, the Rotary Club of Gig Harbor, the Gig Harbor Land Conservation Fund, and the City of Gig Harbor, conducted an Earth Day project on Donkey Creek and Crescent Creek restoration, the two main streams that flow into Gig Harbor Bay.
Subsequently, Gig Harbor Rotarian Gary Glein has pursued long term project cooperation with Pierce County and the City of Gig Harbor for improvement of the main stream basin that flows into Gig Harbor Bay, Crescent Creek, including on-going stream maintenance and culvert replacement.
Similar to Rotary clubs in the Monterey CA area, Gig Harbor Rotary is developing a pollinator project. This Gig Harbor project is in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Transportation and the City of Gig Harbor. With leadership from Gig Harbor Rotarians Chris Pellett, Gary Pellett, and Paul Alvestad, this project will transform a freeway interchange, at Highway 16 and Wollochet Drive in Gig Harbor, from a mowed zone into pollinator habitat with a mix of evergreen and perennial vegetation that beautifies the interchange. By creating a complex habitat location, bees and numerous other pollinators can pollinate sustainably.