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Green Volunteering Guide

Looking for ways to volunteer in San Francisco to help keep the city green?
By - posted 10/10/2011

Green Volunteering GuideThat yearning to go outside, as the weather warms, it’s also telling you to spend time in a park. And, if you got a few hours a week, you could wield a shovel or sport some work gloves and volunteer some time to preserving a green space near you.

Two local organizations have proved to be stalwart keepers of our green havens: the small but focused Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy whose motto is “Parks For All Forever.”

That said, there’s two local sites that seem particularly rewarding:

A Hands-on Lesson in Biology

Presidio Plant Nursery
Green Volunteering GuideThis nursery grows over 80,000 plants a year used in site restoration. But it takes work. Volunteers go out to watersheds and restoration site and collect seeds by hand, then grow these in the nursery and replant them where needed, anywhere from grassland to rocky outcroppings. Organizers call it “a really interesting program that reflects the lifecycle of plants.”

When: Wednesdays & Saturdays, 1 to 4 pm
Where: Presidio Native Plant Nursery at 1249A Appleton Street — Presidio

A Scenic Worksite

Green Volunteering GuidePresidio Coastal Bluffs
Sure there’s the steep terrain and rampant poison oak but, as outdoor worksites go, it’s hard to find a more beautiful setting: wild & rocky but softened by Cypress trees and long views of the Golden Gate. This is a newer program that needs crews to steward over the land, doing whatever it takes (from maintaining fences to restoring trails and weeding). As for the danger, don’t worry: they’ve got Tyvek suits to protect from the poison oaks, the right tools and—worse comes to worse—funding to give you the care you need if you get hurt. Just bring a reusable water bottle and they’ll bring snacks.

When: Thursdays, 1 to 4 pm
Where: Battery Godfrey at the end of Langdon Court — Presidio

Urban Volunteering: Planting Trees in the City

The green movement goes beyond just the parks and some might say that replacing concrete with trees is just as worthwhile a cause. It’s too bad The City ranks dead last with all Bay Area counties in tree cover, with its 0.9 million trees accounting for a mere 16.1 percent canopy cover, according to the USDA Forest Services.) To that end, the local nonprofit Friends of the Urban Forest has been planting close to a 1,000 trees a year since 1981.

FUF teams up with homeowners that band together to plant some 40 trees within a 4-block radius almost every Saturday, each week a different part of the city. If you want to help, read on:

Friends of the Urban Forest Tree Planting: put trees in sidewalks with neighbors
Green Volunteering GuideIf you go, you’ll think about this every time you go for a walk. The nonprofit does the brunt of the preliminary work: it gets the permits and has the city cut holes in the pavement. On Saturdays, you go down to the neighborhood and put foliage in the ground, with stakes for support and protection. The morning is usually capped off by a free potluck lunch put together by the landowners whose houses now have trees out front.

When: Saturdays at 9 am
Where: Check calendar (Plantings rotate through neighborhoods)

Volunteer on Alcatraz

Green Volunteering GuideGardens of Alcatraz:
There are still many more volunteering opportunities out there. One program that’s gotten a ton of attention is the Gardens of Alcatraz volunteering program. It’s more weeding, pruning and groundskeeping but in a setting that’s as distinctive as they come: the former penitentiary and part of the allure is that you’ll get to go out there even when the public isn’t. We think that’s pretty cool.

The flipside is that there’s a commitment to be made to this program. You have to fill out an application and agree to spending a minimum of three months with the crew. The work is done every Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 to 12:30 and, of course, you have to get there by boat; miss the boat because you slept in and you’ve just missed a day of volunteering.

Like with most volunteering opportunities, there are some drawbacks but, if you can handle it and you’ve got the time, it can be one of the more rewarding things you’ll do all year.

Other Volunteering Opportunities


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