Living a more environmentally friendly life can seem like an unattainable goal. When a lot of people think of being more environmentally friendly, they may think that they have to buy solar panels, stop using plastic altogether, or become a vegan. While these are good ways to positively impact the environment, they aren’t the only ways. People may also be discouraged by how much work needs to be done in the world and may feel like they have to do something really big to have any impact at all. For example, people might think they have to protest like Greta Thunberg or become a politician that fights for environmental legislation. Again, these are great ways to help the environment, but there are ways that you can help without having to dedicate your whole life to sustainability or completely change the way you live. Here are some ideas for small(er) projects that you can do in your community.
1. Community Composting and Gardening. Composting is a great way to improve the way that you deal with food waste and put waste to better use. Composting on your own is a wonderful way to improve your impact on the environment, but you can also consider expanding your composting to the whole community. Research programs or information about how to best start a composting program in your community, or join one if one already exists. This source provides a link to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance that provides resources for people interested in starting composting programs in their communities. Another way to help the environment in your community is through community gardens. Many areas have existing community gardens that you can use for planting your own vegetables and herbs. Now, instead of relying on vegetables from the grocery stores in plastic containers that have traveled a long way, you are growing your own local produce. If one doesn’t exist, you may be able to start your own! (“23 Things You Can Do to Make Your Neighborhood Greener”)
2. Tree Planting. Planting a tree is another amazing way to improve your community, and make it a prettier area! You can plant trees in your own yard or help others plant trees in their yards as well. You can also plant community trees, either by applying yourself or by joining an organization. If you want to do it yourself, make sure you research it well and find out how you can plant trees and where you can plant them. Depending on where you live, you may even be eligible to apply for free trees. If you don’t want to organize it yourself, there may be existing organizations that do tree plantings that you can participate in. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is a great example of this. This organization does a lot of work across Marion County, including hosting tree plantings (I don’t know how they are doing them during COVID but in normal times they do them all the time). You can volunteer with organizations like KIB and plant trees in your neighborhood and others that need them! (“Community Forestry”)
3. Encourage People to Vote. This one may seem a bit odd, but encouraging people to vote is a really important way to inspire change. I know the election just passed, but stay informed for the next election (NOT JUST PRESIDENTIAL)! When it gets closer to the 2022 and 2024 (and future) elections, research the candidates who are running, and not just for large office positions. Vote for candidates that support creating environmental change in your community, city, state, or the country. Then, try to get involved in their campaign or by just encouraging people to vote. You can support specific candidates and encourage people to support them, or you can just encourage people to vote in general. Spread awareness in your community about registration deadlines and types of voting options. When people vote, change can happen. If your community leaders are supportive of sustainable practices, it can also make your other community activities easier and more attainable.
There are a lot of other small projects that you can do in your community, and some that are a little bigger or more involved, like approaching your representatives about improving sidewalks, lighting, bike access, etc. to encourage people to walk more and drive less. There are also a lot of ways that you individually can do small-scale things in your house or with your practices. I found a very nice infographic that gives a lot of ideas for reducing your impact in your house, which I encourage you to read. But just realize that making your community more eco-friendly is very achievable and important. Find a way to help that suits you and your community and try it!