5 Ways to Do Good This Summer
By Ginny Figlar, KEEN Editorial Director
It’s not always easy to find the time to give back to our communities and the natural spaces around us, or even know where to start.
As a KEEN employee, I’m super lucky that giving back is part of how we do business—and part of our benefits package. Every full-time employee receives 40 hours of paid volunteer time each year. Yes, we get paid to volunteer. This is in addition to any company-sponsored service days. (Yes, this is amazing!)
The other day, KEEN headquarters closed so we could all volunteer for Earth Day. About 75 of us stepped away from our computers to rehabilitate trails in Portland’s Forest Park, one of the largest urban forests in the United States. As a user of trails for the past 30ish years of my life, I’ve never actually taken part in a work crew to perform trail maintenance. It was legit work. We dug trenches and broke up sections of the trail that weren’t draining well, and then armored those areas with drainage rocks that we hauled uphill in wheelbarrows. Total workout. My muscles were definitely sore the next day. But it felt so good to give back to this beautiful space that my family and I enjoy so much.
But what if you don’t get paid to volunteer? How do you work it into your free time?
As a parent, I want to find ways to introduce the idea of stewardship and community to my kids. And, as a KEEN employee, I need to figure out how to use my 40 hours of volunteer time this year! So I asked some of the organizations we work with for some tips on getting involved when they stopped by the KEEN office for a volunteer fair a few weeks ago.
Whether you have five minutes or half a day, here are some simple ways to work giving back into your life:
1. The 5-minute beach cleanup
Our friends at SOLVE say a beach cleanup is a great family-friendly way to help our waterways. All you need is a bag and as little as five minutes. It’s an easy way to give back while traveling, too. Next time you are at a beach (ocean, lake, or river), be part of the #5minutebeachcleanup movement. Find as much garbage as you can in five minutes, take a photo of it, and then post on Instagram with that hashtag. It combines conservation and creativity, as kids will love to create art out of what you find.
2. Scoop up those poop bags
Forest Park Conservancy, the non-profit we partnered with for our Earth Day volunteer day, said dog poop is a big issue, even when bagged up. Many of those bags get left behind by well-intentioned dog owners who forget to scoop them up and out of the park. So if you happen to see an orphaned bag when you’re out on the trail, picking it up and disposing of it is a big help to prevent pollution and let trail crews focus on other tasks.
3. BYOB… everywhere you go
Organized cleanup events take place regularly on trails and in urban areas. But you don’t have to be part of an organized group to make a difference. Grab a bag as you head out the door, whether running errands or checking out a new trail. In Sweden, people have even created a sport that revolves around picking up trash, called “plogging."
4. Give back from your backyard
Invasive plants are a problem for natural spaces, as they can displace native species and push ecosystems out of balance. If you’ve ever spent hours pulling ivy out of forests, you know first-hand how destructive they can be. What you may not realize is that thwarting these species on your own property can help mitigate the problem, particularly if you live adjacent to parks and forests. So you can make a positive impact even while you are out gardening in your own yard.
5. Make it a group effort
For those who have a more flexible schedule, joining a group for organized volunteer events can add camaraderie to the mix. Food banks and libraries exist all over the country, and many have programs that are kid-friendly. You can find a food bank near you at www.feedingamerica.org, and www.volunteer.gov lists many opportunities through the U.S. Forest Service if you are looking for somewhere to start.
Every little bit helps. Thanks for doing your part, and have fun out there!