2011 was, for me, a year of much volunteerism, all of which I greatly value and appreciate. The people I’ve met, the groups I’ve learned about…all of it. And it came from being open to invitations and trusting people, but then carefully selecting. As we near the eve of 2012, a fresh year, with fresh perspective, I thought I’d share something about being involved in something greater than ourselves. And yes, it always take a bit of effort. But that’s what also makes it worthwhile…
I believe that you make your own experience….and your own community.
So I admit it would annoy me when some high school friends would come home from college for their breaks and say to me, “How can you really get anything out of such a big school?” You see, many of them were attending Ivy League universities (smaller classes, smaller campus) and I was attending UCLA (with a mere 35,000 students).
My response? “Do you go visit your professors’ office hours and get to know them? Have you sought out an activity that you can embrace that gives you satisfaction in return?” Often the answer to the first question was “uh, no”, but I had, and that made the school ‘smaller’ to me. Some had done the latter. For me, the latter was what made my college experience and played a major role in forming my approach to life.
My major was fantastic and I use every day what I learned. But as it was more theoretical, I found the perfect practical complement, the college radio station at UCLA, where I became an on-air personality, head of the mobile DJ unit, and most importantly, the Director of Operations. I ingrained myself, learning how things ran, how we worked with the administration to get funding, hiring/firing, and creating an alumni fundraiser…and I made a handful of lifelong friends. Also key to my life (and to this discussion): we were the underdog media outlet on campus, and we all banded together with a determination that everyone else should know about and respect what we offered.
Fast forward to today…
Those of us involved in the world of sustainability like to think that everyone around us is, too, and that everyone in the country is at least aware of the concept or the importance. Of course, that is so not true, and we are certainly ‘the underdog’. Just walk to your local convenience store, or go to a school meeting or art show, and see what the level of awareness is in displays or in talking to fellow attendees.
My special focus happens to be green building. I discovered that the Los Angeles Chapter of the US Green Building Council was opening a Westside branch (where I live) by wandering into a presentation. I then offered to come and help where I can. Now, not only am I fully ingrained in our branch and help create programming and support our team, but I’m more active in the overall Chapter and have met some of the smartest and nicest people I know.
I attend events through Green Drinks or Women of the Green Generation, and support Global Green, Rock the Boat film and Pipe Dreams film, but committing myself to one group solidly that resonates with me daily has served me (and hopefully them) well. This has lead me also to involvement with the great A+D Museum, and even aligns with some of my clients.
Find a group that resonates with you to walk in to or go online and get involved with? Some ideas…
- Get involved with the Charlotte Green Team – go-to source on sustainability efforts within the Charlotte, NC, community. What’s your town’s equivalent?
- Help toward expanding the green workforce through Green for All.
- Fight the Tar Sands. Here is a link with a wonderful list of resources from Burbank Green Alliance and Wilder Utopia.
- Do a search in your community for green organizations and pick one. Detroit, MI, has Greening Detroit, for instance.
- Help a person or community rebuild with Habitat for Humanity.
- Engage kids in learning and advocating for a sustainable economy and education: Teens Turning Green or Green Works in Kansas City.
- Industry specific? The furnishings industry has formed the Sustainable Furnishings Council.
- Get active on your school’s PTA and if remodeling is being done, help guide it sustainably; or help initiate an organic garden on campus. Become the green voice for your kids.
- Understand and learn to work with native flora at the Theodore Payne Foundation; start with a class, and you might find you do more!
- Help organize locally worldwide through 350.org.
I met a recent college graduate a few months ago at a LOHAS event and he was overwhelmed with the green group choices in Los Angeles alone. I bet you can imagine my response…
Would love to here from everyone about your local opportunities, YOUR interests…please share! What will YOU get involved in and try out for 2012?