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Volunteer for the environment

By Rachel England Wednesday 29 May 2013

Volunteer for the environment

Life can get pretty hectic from time to time. Kids, day jobs, money worries and relationships all want a piece of us, so come the weekend it’s no surprise most of us just want to flop on the sofa with a packet of biscuits.

But what if you did something different? Something that’d get you out of the house and meeting new people? Something that was fun and inspirational, and not only good for you, but good for others – and the environment – too?

Every year, millions of people in the UK donate a small chunk of their free time to volunteering, which basically involves giving a bit of unpaid help to groups, clubs or organisations in a way that benefits others or the environment. And it’s a growing trend. During 2010/11 39% of adults in England said they’d formally volunteered once in the previous 12 months; in 2012/13 that figure rose to 44%. That’s 22.7 million people donating a few sofa hours to good causes!

And it’s good for your health. Giving up some of your free time is an altruistic activity that can reap rewards not only for your soul (to give is to receive, after all), but your body, too. Researchers have found that volunteers have healthier cardiovascular systems, older volunteers are less likely to be depressed, and that heart health significantly improves after just 10 weeks’ volunteering. Take that, low-cholesterol margarine!

There are all kinds of volunteering opportunities available, particularly in the environmental sector, and you don’t even have to be that keen on nature – or even being outdoors – to get involved! Whether you’re an armchair activist or full-on eco-warrior, take a look at what you could do for these great organisations. Sure beats another weekend on the sofa.

For green-fingered gardeners

There are gardens all over the UK crying out for a bit of TLC, and the ones at properties owned by the National Trust provide some of the most rewarding gardening opportunities going – after all, your own garden isn’t part of a palace or stately home, is it? From planting and pruning to helping community groups grow produce on the organisation’s allotments, becoming a volunteer gardener with the National Trust is a great way to share and indulge your love for horticulture. Visit their website for more information.

For fitness fanatics

How about combining your volunteering experience with a bit of get-fit? Forget military-style workout bootcamps, the Conservation Volunteers have an eco-friendly and award-winning alternative: Green Gyms. An opportunity to improve both your health and the environment, Green Gym leaders will guide you through a range of practical projects, giving you the opportunity to tackle physical jobs in the outdoors while improving your strength, stamina and body confidence – all while benefitting your local community. Visit their website for more information.

For organisational wizards

Want to help the environment without actually being in the environment? Check out the range of volunteering opportunities available through Show off your spreadsheet skills, flex your organisational prowess or let your leadership shine; there are lots of office-type voluntary opportunities on offer – many of which can be done from home!

For nature lovers

If you love being immersed in the great outdoors, why not dedicated a few hours a week (or however much time you can spare) to pursuing your passion and helping others? Volunteers with Natural England can take up roles as wardens or walk leaders, or help with vital habitat management, surveying and monitoring. The organisation estimates their volunteers give around 29,000 days of support each year, meaning more time can be spent on protecting the natural environment we all love. Check out volunteering opportunities here.