How to Incorporate Sustainability Into Your Volunteer Coordination

Climate change is perhaps the most pressing issue of our time, and it’s important that organizational practices – especially in nonprofits – emphasize decreasing our individual and collective footprints. Considering that disposable items are frequently used as thank-you gifts for volunteers, and that food items must be pre-packaged at many events, it’s difficult to organize events that won’t add to our ozone and our landfills – but we have to try!


Let’s say you’re the volunteer manager for a breast cancer research organization, and your biggest event of the year – a 5k – is taking place this fall. You have a few all-star volunteers who you can trust with running teams, and a few dozen volunteers signed up for the day of.


How can you make your race as green as possible while keeping the focus on your organization’s mission?


Provide incentives.

One way to encourage your participants to lower their footprint is to offer special packages or deals for people who consume less before and during the race. For example, you could offer a “Green” package that’s slightly cheaper than the other signup options: in exchange for the discount, participants have to bike or carpool to the race, bring their own water bottles & supplies for eating, or other location and theme-specific behaviors.


Only offer “green” products.

Engage your all-star volunteers to come up with creative ways to provide sustainable products at the race. You can set up water stations instead of providing bottles, offer plant-based food or meals instead of meat (avoiding meat is a great way to lower your carbon footprint), and avoid printing t-shirts on new shirts. Partnerships with local businesses also tend to have less environmental impact than buying your supplies at a big box store.


Get the whole family involved!

Folks often wait on the sidelines to cheer on the racer in their families. This is a prime time to provide educational activities and interact with them. Here is a fun list of potential activities to set up for families. This is also a great opportunity to ask your all-star volunteers for help in leading the activities and gathering people.


Those who participate in charity events are often already civic-minded and want to help out. Reminders that they’re getting fruits and vegetables as snacks for the benefit of the environment will likely increase their level of engagement and pride in what they’ve accomplished. Make environment-themed signs, give verbal encouragement, and thank them for making your event as green as possible!





Jordan Maze

Jordan Maze is a staff writer for VolunteerLocal. She enjoys going on walks with her dog, reading, and biking.