Environmental volunteers conduct a range of activities including environmental monitoring (e.g. wildlife); ecological restoration such as revegetation and weed removal, and educating others about the natural environment. They also participate in community based projects, improving footpaths, open spaces, and local amenities for the benefit of the local community and visitors. The uptake of environmental volunteering stems in part from the benefits for the volunteers themselves, such as improving social networks and developing a sense of place.
Like other types of volunteering, environmental volunteers are motivated by a range of different factors, some of which are altruistic and others are for personal interest and development. Recognised motivations are: 1) making a contribution to community, 2) promoting social interaction, 3) personal development, 4) learning about the natural environment, 5) a general ethic of care for the environment, and 6) attachment to a particular place. Environmental volunteering has also been associated with helping those with mental health conditions, as physical activity and fresh air benefits some sufferers.
An example of environmental volunteering is the project Let's Do It! World, asking worldwide people to join a series of local, national and regional clean-up events. A project called World Cleanup 2012 started on 24 March 2012, with people from more than 80 countries participating. Perhaps the largest success in organising environmental volunteers was achieved in Slovenia by the group Ecologists Without Borders, which managed to activate over 10% of the total Slovenian population in several cleaning campaigns. Environmental projects operate all over the world at all scales, with new projects being launched almost daily, such as the Western Isles Support for the Environmental Project in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, UK. To support many different smaller projects and educational tasks the Voluntary ecological year was founded in the 1990s in Austria and Germany.
- Gooch M. (2005) ‘Voices of the volunteers: an exploration of the experiences of catchment volunteers in coastal Queensland, Australia’, Local Environment 10(1), pp. 5-19.
- Measham T.G. and Barnett, G.B. (2008) Environmental volunteering: motivations, modes and outcomes, Australian Geographer 39(4) pp. 537-552
- Savan, B., Morgan, A.J. and Gore, C. (2003) ‘Volunteer environmental monitoring and the role of the universities: the case of citizens' environment watch’, Environmental Management 31(5), pp. 561-68.