Make Earth Day Active with These 5 Volunteer Ideas

Earth day tree planting
A group of volunteers plants trees with The Nature Conservancy in Chicago. (Image credit: Copyright Laura Stoecker for The Nature Conservancy)

For some, Earth Day is a time to explore nature and reflect on the planet's health. For others, it's a time to take action.

Coincidentally, many volunteer opportunities nationwide allow people to do both on Earth Day (April 22). Volunteers can plant tree seedlings for the National Wildlife Federation, or get outside and remove invasive plant species with The Nature Conservancy.

Here are five green places to look for Earth Day-related events and volunteer opportunities, and info on how to register for the ones you like best. [50 Amazing Facts About Planet Earth]  

1. Volunteer this spring

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is organizing more than 200 volunteer opportunities this spring. The program, called Connect With Nature, helps people around the United States find ways to do green volunteer work in their communities.

For instance, people near Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, can register to help construct a living shoreline reef on April 23. On Angel Island, California, volunteers can do trail maintenance and work on dock improvements, erosion control and weed abatement on April 16.

"We're asking people to get out and explore nature," LaTresse Snead, director of volunteer programs and community outreach at TNC, told Live Science.

You can search for other free volunteer opportunities near you on the Connect With Nature website.

2. Restore bird habitats

Kristin Lamberson, an interpretive gardens specialist at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, weeding at the plant nursery in Mississippi. (Image credit: Camilla Cerea National Audubon Society)

The National Audubon Society is best known for its conservation programs for birds and other wildlife. In fact, the society's 41 centers — in places such as Los Angeles; Phoenix, Arizona; Columbus, Ohio; Seattle; Dallas; and New York — serve more than 1 million visitors each year, Audubon spokeswoman Agatha Szczepaniak said.

Each center has volunteer and education opportunities available. Find the center nearest you by visiting the Audubon website. At Audubon centers, visitors can attend seminars or workshops, volunteer in activities such as citizen science and habitat restoration, and go on bird walks or hikes with other environmentally conscious people. Audubon centers also run summer camps for children, teens and adults, Szczepaniak said.

For Earth Day, people can check to see what activities their local Audubon centers are hosting. Birders can visit the website for birding tips and smartphone apps, and people can find information on the site about how to plant a native garden or how to photograph birds, Szczepaniak said.

3. Plant a tree

Know a place that could use a tree? Go to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to order a tree seedling. The NWF provides free native seedlings to its partners, who plant them in local restoration projects or as part of community tree giveaway events, including school events, according to the organization's website.

If approved, the seedlings can take 60 days to arrive, so it will be too late for Earth Day this year, but why not try to make every day Earth Day?

Trees have many benefits. They provide habitats for animals, help prevent erosion, help cool the area around them by providing shade, reduce wind speed by your house and absorb carbon dioxide, according to North Carolina State University.

If you plant a tree, be sure to tweet @LiveScienceso we can see your awesome work!

4. Volunteer Match

There are 267 Earth Day volunteer events nationwide, according to, a site that pairs volunteers with nonprofit organizations.

For instance, volunteers can go on a morning hike and help with trail restoration on April 23 in La Habra Heights, California. Or, they can join Friends of North Creek Forest in Bothell, Washington, on April 23. The group plans to remove invasive Himalayan blackberries and spread mulch that will make way for native plants to grow in the area.

Each volunteer opportunity has different age recommendations, so check your options before registering. And don't forget to bring a sack lunch and water!

5. Earth Day Network

If you're still looking for an Earth Day event in your community, try going to the Earth Day Network's website. The site has a global map filled to the brim with activities.

For example, it gives information about the free Outdoor Adventure Fest in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. It also tells people about the Earth Day Party for the Planet at Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, Kansas. 

Earth Day celebrators can also register their events at the site. Moreover, Earth Day Network encourages people to plant trees, pick up trash, recycle and, in general, raise awareness about the Earth's health.

Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Laura Geggel

Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.