The following are 10 Environmental Service/Beautification Projects that you could perform in your community. Be sure to find out specific rules and regulations regarding the project you want to complete. Since most of these projects involve a Community Service Project component, check out the Tip Sheet on Starting a Community Service Project. Remember: these are only ideas...be creative and work to protect your environment in other ways!
1. Planting Trees
Is there a shortage of greenery in your neighborhood? Do you see a park or street that could benefit from a few more trees? Why not look into planting trees in your neighborhood. Here are some websites that can help you get started: Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org) and TreeHelp.com (www.treeplanting. com). You will be able to find out the types of trees that are just right to grow in your neighborhood simply by punching in your zip code. Also, check out Tree Musketeers at (www. treemusketeers.org) to find out how you can become a member of the largest youth run organization dedicated to planting trees across the world as an agent of social change.
2. Testing Water and/or Soil
Ever wonder about the chemical composition of your drinking water and the soil in and around your home? The United States Department of Agriculture sponsors a website on the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Services (CSREES). By visiting this site (www.reeusda.gov/1700/ statepartners/usa.htm) you will be able to find where soil and water testing is conducted in your community. Also, check out Earth Force (www.earthforce.org) for information on testing water.
3. River Cleanups
Is there a stream, river, or other flowing body of water in your neighborhood? If so, is it clean or does it get cluttered with garbage or items that could otherwise be recycled? Does the water source flow into a bigger body of water? If you answered yes to most of these questions, chances are that you are near a river or stream that could use your help. Be sure to contact your local town/city government for information on issues regarding illegal dumping, hazardous waste, and who will be able to pick up the debris that you collect. Chances are that your city or town will welcome the extra help in beautifying your community and be willing to properly dispose of the garbage that was collected. By cleaning up a flowing body of water you are not only helping to protect the immediate area and life that reside in the water, but also improving the quality of life for animals and plants that will no longer run the risk of getting tangled in or swallowing the pieces of debris that you have collected.
4. Recycling Programs
Today, many communities have recycling programs. If yours happens to be one of the communities without such a program, contact your town/city hall or company that picks up the refuse in your neighborhood for information on how to start such a program. Visit Keep America Beautiful at (www. kab.org) and The EPA’s page on recycling at (www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/recycle.htm). Earth’s 911 can help you locate environmental information and recycling centers in your community just by typing in your zip code.
5. Vacant Lot Cleanups
Is there a vacant parking lot or piece of land in your community that people have come to refer to as an eye sore? If so, how about doing a beautification project to clean up this unsightly area. Let local residents know of your plan and some of them may even be willing to lend a hand to help clean up the place they call home.
6. Removal of Non-native Plant Species
In some areas, especially where there are state or national parks, plants have been cultivated and planted to prevent erosion, keep soil in its place, and shelter for animals. However, at the time that these plants were rooted in their new environment, it was not a well-known fact that they would take over the nutrients, water, and life of plant species that were native to the growing region. It is for these reasons that many parks and recreation departments are now having to remove some of these plants so that the ones that do belong in certain regions are able to survive and flourish in their natural environment. For more information about where such a project is taking place or how you could start a project, contact your local Parks and Recreation Department.
7. Beach Cleanup
A “beach” commonly refers to a point at where the ocean meets land, this terminology could be taken a few steps further to refer to any place where a body of water meets land (such as a lake or pond). While it is important to care for the oceans, it is also just as important to make sure that our lakes and ponds are clean as well. The easiest way to do a beach cleanup is to make sure that you carry out everything that you carried in while you spend a day at the beach. States that are located along an ocean coast line have Coastal Commissions that can be easily searched by placing the state name before the words “Coastal Commission” in your search. These Commissions will have ideas and resources on where you could take part in a beach cleanup and some, like California, may even sponsor a statewide Coastal Cleanup.
8. Preventing Erosion
On the opposite end of removing Non-Native Plant Species, is the idea of Preventing Erosion. Today, parks personnel and scientists who specialize in botany (the study of plants) are aware of the correction types of greenery that will suit the location where they are to be planted. In certain areas where erosion is possible – whether it be on a mountain side, hillside, or piece of land with little to no foliage – some individuals will take it upon themselves to root plants, shrubbery, or trees to help prevent erosion of the soil.
9. Labeling/Cleaning Gutters and Drains
Even in the 21st Century, there are still some people who do not realize the hazards of dumping waste in gutters that are at the end of their streets. Groups such as the California Coastal Commission have made an effort to work with groups to label gutters and drains in neighborhoods warning people of the dangers of dumping dangerous materials in their gutters. In cities and towns throughout the United States, the gutter and drain system is an intricate network of tubes and tunnels that eventually empties into a larger body of water and reaching its final destination of the ocean. Keeping gutters and drains clear of debris will also allow for smooth drainage and will prevent garbage from the streets from entering the system and potentially draining to the ocean. To help educate people in your neighborhood about this environmental issue, you could contact your coastal commission or Department of Public Works to find out if they have labeling programs in place.
Composting is the process of taking scraps of food and leaves through decomposition and using the resulting soil-like material as an addition to landscapes and gardens. Compost is often used to improve the texture, water-retaining capacity, and aeration of soil. Of all the projects listed, composting is the easiest...you can do it right in your own backyard! Annually, composters recycle between 600 to 750 pounds of matter that would otherwise have gone to the landfill. Imagine how much space we could save if everyone who had access to a small piece of land could compost matter from their households! For more information on how to begin your own compost visit these websites: www.oldgrowth.org/compost/ and www. mastercomposter.com/.
Some information in this Tip Sheet provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Reprinted with the permission of Youth Service America. © 1996-2008 Youth Service America. All Rights Reserved.