College is about much more than pursuing a degree – it’s an opportunity to better yourself, make a positive impact in your community and acquire skills that will be an asset to your chosen career and throughout your life. The majority of U.S. campuses are home to local organizations that work to better the planet, but there are also branches of national or international groups at many higher learning institutions. Here are five of the most popular.
1. American Water Resources Association
Founded in 1964 in Urbana, Ill., the World Wildlife Fund is a science-based organization dedicated to promoting education and dialogue regarding water resource issues. Members of AWRA student chapters participate in educational outreach activities, environmental stewardship projects, and seminars and internships. Active involvement in the AWRA can help students understand that water conservation is a multi-faceted issue and an important consideration in varied career paths including public health, civil engineering, urban planning and marine affairs.
2. Net Impact
With a mission to promote sustainable business practices and social justice, Net Impact boasts a membership of more than 100,000 students and young professionals in its more than 300 chapters. Net Impact programs include a sustainable food competition and business plan internships in national parks. Volunteers are challenged to brainstorm viable carbon emission reduction strategies that can be implemented at the workplace, and many campus groups work on national debt-awareness campaigns. In this organization, students may develop strong leadership, management and organizational skills.
3. Food Not Bombs
Addressing the issue of food waste while providing meals to those in need, Food Not Bombs is an international grassroots organization with chapters in many college towns. The organization’s mission is to feed as many people as possible, serving healthy vegetarian or vegan meals in public areas. Volunteers coordinate with local grocers and receive donations of produce, breads and other perishable foods that cannot be sold, and then the donations are used to prepare nutritious entrees that are typically served weekly. Those involved with FNB learn to cook creatively while helping to reduce food waste and increase community strength.
4. World Wildlife Fund
Partnering with conservation groups at a number of campuses, the World Wildlife Fund is a heavy-hitter when it comes to environmental protection issues. Students who are concerned about protecting endangered species and conserving natural resources may find the WWF to be an ideal fit. College chapters may participate in athletic fund-raising events, letter-writing campaigns to government officials and petition drives. More than 6 million people throughout the world are members of the WWF.
5. Heifer International
With chapters at many prestigious universities, including Cornell and Purdue, Heifer International was founded by a farmer and Spanish Civil War volunteer who dedicated his later years to the mission of ending world hunger and poverty. Today, Heifer International promotes sustainable agriculture practices and helps to educate small-scale farmers, leading to stronger communities and increased self-sufficiency. Campus branches of HI participate in fund-raising campaigns and educational activities that help bystanders learn about the impact of global hunger and possible solutions to the problem.
If you’re passionate about the health of the planet and want to make a difference in your community as you earn a college degree, consider the benefits of volunteering with one of these eco-conscious organizations. Whether you hope to learn more about workplace sustainability, strive to help reduce landfill waste or want to do your part to protect endangered animals, there are many worthwhile organizations that will welcome your participation as you achieve your personal goals.