SUMANI Trendster Blog: 7 Ways to Give Back to the City that Never Sleeps

A friend once told me “If the Internet was a city, it would be New York.” Meaning that in New York City, you can get virtually anything you desire at any time. There is endless access to interesting activities, rare commodities, and delicious food. Amid the many opportunities for all types of consumption, there are also a multitude of ways to contribute. There’s a lot of reasons to volunteer in your community, like supporting a cause you feel passionately about, gaining new skills and experiences, or simply wanting to feel like you are using your free time productively. However, because living in New York City is synonymous with having a chaotic, busy lifestyle, it can be hard to know how to give back with the precious little free time you have. So without further ado, here are 7 great places to volunteer this summer that will provide a fun and meaningful opportunity to give back to your NYC community!


Aerial Photo of Jamaica Bay, Source: Wikimedia Commons
  1. Beach Clean Up in Jamaica Bay

On top of being a unique point of beauty in an industrial city, Jamaica Bay offers a rich habitat for a variety of fish, insects, plants, and birds. Its conservation is crucial to maintaining the ecology and biodiversity of our coastlines. The Beach Clean Up in Jamaica Bay is an ongoing volunteer project in collaboration with the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, continuing every Saturday throughout the summer.

The clean-up efforts will take place many different places along the bay, beginning with the North Channel Bridge beach area. Contact Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Volunteer Program Manager Tim Farrell at 718-318-4382 to get involved.

  1. Green Neighborhoods Event: Care for the Street Trees of Inwood

With so many people living on one island, the green spaces of Manhattan are key. Even on a small scale, trees in urban areas help improve air quality, manage rainwater, and counteract the warming effect of paved surfaces. Help maintain the northern most neighborhood of Manhattan by caring for Inwood’s street-side ecology.

Contact a NYC Parks Stewardship team member at 212-360-2761, or just show up! No experience necessary, wear closed-toe shoes and clothes that can get dirty. Location: Broadway and Dyckman Street, New York, NY 10040

Source: Billion Oyster Project
  1. Oyster Restoration in New York Harbor

The Billion Oyster Project is an educational restoration project in collaboration with New York Harbor School students, students from schools across the city, and the general public to reestablish oyster reefs as part of the local marine ecosystem. Oysters were an originally ubiquitous in New York Harbor’s ecosystem, with reefs spanning the 220,000 acres of the Hudson River Estuary. Now oysters are practically extinct in this region, which means a loss in habitat protection, water filtration, and a more vulnerable shoreline. The Billion Oyster Fund hosts regularly scheduled volunteer days that you can register for, but the events fill up fast. If you can’t reserve a space, get in touch to find out about other volunteer opportunities.

Register here for a prescheduled trip to Governors Island, or contact the Volunteer Coordinator at to see how you can help.

  1. Advocate for the Environment in NYC with Citizens Climate Lobby

If the thought of writing to your Congressional representatives, doing community outreach, and reaching out to your local media stations appeals to you, then getting involved in an advocacy group like CCL could be a great volunteering option for you. CCL is committed to national policies that address climate change.  Lobbying for change is a great way to educate and empower members of Congress and the media about what we want from our government. Advocacy organizations empower you as a citizen to be able to take part in how your community is governed Within the 5 boroughs, there is a Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island chapter of CCL, all of which are active. Locate your local chapter here.

  1. “Its My Park” Events

One of the most important aspects of thriving urban areas is public green space, i.e., parks. Not only are there environmental benefits to parks, like managing air quality and storm water, parks also serve a integral social function by providing free public space that can be enjoyed by all members of the community. In metropolitan areas, it’s unlikely that a family will have private outdoor space. So, because we are all sharing these spaces, it seems fitting that we should help maintain them. This is the driving idea behind NYC Parks “Its My Park” initiative, a series of volunteer events that target community parks across the five boroughs.

The full list is here, find out what day you can help maintain your neighborhood park.

Urban Farm in Brownsville, New York, Source: DNAinfo
  1. Urban Farming

Project EATS is a New York based organization that grows food at local NYC urban farms to be distributed throughout the city. Generally, when one thinks of a farm, they think of expansive plots of land in rural areas, but the reality is that fresh produce can be grown right here within city limits. Volunteers will learn farming techniques such as how to compost and harvest crops.

Events take place throughout the summer, sign up here.

  1. Donate!

So you don’t feel like getting outside and breaking a sweat, but you still want to contribute and you have some extra cash to throw around? Luck you. Seriously though, in that case, you can find an option for donations with any of the organizations that we’ve listed. Another great resource for worth-while causes that could use your cash is the New York Cares website. It’s a great way to find out about the many volunteer and donation opportunities in NYC, depending on your interests and concerns.


–Hilary Osborn, M.S. Candidate
SUMANI Trendster Contributor, 7/13/2016

*Trendster is a voluntary, crowd-sourced initiative facilitated by SUMA Net Impact. It does not represent the collective views of Columbia University, the Earth Institute or Net Impact


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