This story is part of our partnership between Peril and Promise and Rewire.
By Elaine Thompson
If you’re anything like me, you probably spent the winter cooped up indoors, feeling a little depressed. (If you’re exactly like me, you had a cozy blanket, a book and cat on your lap 76 percent of the time.) But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—spring is here!
With the smell of rain, flowers and sunshine in the air, it’s the perfect time to soak up some vitamin D and get back to nature. What better way to do it than to invest in your community?
Millennials are more likely than any other generation to get involved with charitable giving through volunteering. There are lots of good reasons for this (like the fact that most of us don’t have boatloads of cash to donate), but studies suggest that volunteer work and serving others can improve your mood and mental health. So, beat the winter blues with these four ideas for investing in your community by getting outside.
1. Start a community garden
Growing your own food is hardly a new concept, but the idea of urban farming and community gardening has been pushed mainstream in the last decade by environmentally and health-conscious millennials. Besides being an Insta-worthy hobby, cultivating a community garden offers tons of benefits:
- The produce grown supplies urban areas lacking grocery stores or farmers markets, also known as food deserts
- It encourages efficient water use and discourages waste by growing food locally and cutting back on water-intensive landscaping
- Growing your own promotes a healthy diet that’s cultivated and harvested by you
- It empowers communities by bringing neighbors together for a common purpose
Unless you already have a community plot available, starting your own community garden can be challenging. Take advantage of resources available to you, such as the American Community Gardening Association, so you can learn how to use land properly, exactly what seeds to plant and how to care for your plants and crops as they grow.
2. Turn your neighborhood into a bird-watching hub
Involving animals in your nature quest is a great way to get everyone excited to participate. It can also be a great way to give everyone a mental health boost. Studies show that bird watching can reduce the effects of depression and anxiety.
Turn your neighborhood into a bird-watching hub by hosting a community craft day to make bird houses and bird feeders.
You can find all kinds of bird feeder recipes online, like this classic made with a pinecone and peanut butter, as well as all sorts of fun birdhouse crafts, whether you make them out of popsicle sticks and string or paint a more elaborate home for your winged friends.
After everyone takes their crafts home, watch as birds flock to your neighborhood for the goodies you’ve made.
3. Organize a neighborhood tree-planting day
Did you know that trees can help reduce the effects of global warming? If you’re already doing your part by recycling, conserving water, and using renewable energy as often as possible, planting trees in your neighborhood may be the perfect next step to creating a green community.
Trees can impact a neighborhood environment in many beneficial ways, aside from being aesthetically pleasing. Trees can:
- purify the air by filtering CO2 and supplying oxygen
- cool surface and air temperatures by providing shade (some studies show that evaporation from tree leaves has a cooling effect, too)
- benefit local wildlife by providing a vital habitat
- create a more peaceful environment that is good for mental health
- increase property values
A neighborhood tree-planting day is a great way to get your community together as the weather warms up. You may even be able to coordinate to grow a specific type of tree together as a community. Just be careful about where you plant trees if you or any of your neighbors have solar panels.
Watching the young trees grown taller and stronger throughout the years can be really special for your community. Even as the neighborhood changes and familiar faces come and go, a tree can commemorate a specific point in time and be a symbol of peace and prosperity.
4. Volunteer for a neighborhood clean-up
Whether or not you live in one of the many communities impacted by a natural disaster last year, your town or neighborhood is probably looking for volunteers to help with clean-up and renewal projects.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out volunteering information online or in your local paper. You’ll likely come across groups that are improving the local watershed, clearing plastic and debris or cleaning building walls of graffiti.
If there’s not already a volunteer project happening, start your own. If you have a passion for a certain park or natural area in your community, organize your own clean-up day. You can bring everyone even closer together by organizing a celebratory potluck for after the work is done.
This story is part of our partnership between Peril and Promise and Rewire. Rewire is a public media national initiative that offers smart, fresh, original, thought-provoking content that inspires individuals to make their lives better. It’s for people who are getting started in their adult lives—people who want to grow, thrive and build a better world.