I write a lot about connecting to nature. The positive impacts on health and well-being are well-rehearsed.
Connecting is a verb. It requires action. And research tells us that the 5 best actions to connect to nature are:
- Using our senses
- Feeling emotion
- Appreciating beauty
- Giving meaning
- Showing compassion
Within these compassion is key. Caring for nature benefits us and benefits nature. Volunteering is one way to express compassion for nature. But in a busy world the demands on our time are many and fitting in long term volunteering roles can be challenging. And, even with time, many people want to try out different approaches and organisations before settling on a bigger commitment.
Microvolunteering as a route to connecting to nature
Microvolunteering is about small acts to benefit a good cause that can be done to fit in with the volunteer’s schedule and interests. Examples include signing petitions, setting up a bug hotel, letter writing to the lonely and picking up litter whilst out walking or on the beach.
For forming connections to nature in a busy world micro-volunteering is a great solution. Small acts of compassion that connect us to nature. And many of these can be done within our daily exercise or with a step onto our doorstep or simply just by looking up.
Within micro-volunteering there are opportunities to become citizen scientists.
Citizen scientists are specific acts of microvolunteering that crowd source important information for larger research projects. One of the best known is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.
Microvolunteering connects us to each other
At a time when human contacts are different micro-volunteering helps us to see ourselves as part of something bigger. Many organised projects connect people virtually via social media #tags or online discussions and the current guidance on volunteering outside of the home is here.
By adding our inputs to the greater good micro-volunteering and citizen science helps creates a movement for nature that can lift us all.
There are some great models that take forward connections to nature and the adventures of the outdoors in a set of micro-volunteering (and micro-adventure) challenges.
- National Trust 50 Things Before 11 ¾
- YHA 90 Children's Activity Pack
- And for inspiration and guidance try the Get Outside Hub
But if you want to try 1 thing at a time then here are some of the best supported micro volunteering and citizen science projects for the year ahead. Some are attached to specific dates and others are year round. All have free resources to support action and the projects can be done as individuals and families; as schools and as workplaces, for any age and ability.
|Big Garden Birdwatch||RSPB||29-21 January|
|Star Count||CPRE||6-14 February|
|Garden Butterfly Count||Butterfly Conservation||All year
Details of the separate Big Butterfly Count 2021 to follow
|Great British Spring Clean||Keep Britain Tidy||28 May – 13 June|
|30 Days Wild||Wildlife Trusts||June|
|Plant a Tree||Woodland Trust||All year
Applications for free trees for delivery from March 2021
|Map a footpath||Ramblers|
|Clean a beach||Marine Conversation Society|
|Save a wildflower||Plantlife|
Anita Kerwin-Nye is Executive Director at YHA and Lead at Every Child Should. She is an Ordnance Survey Get Outside Champion. Connecting young people to nature and encouraging social action are part of her life time mission.
Micro-volunteering is a core part of the YHA hosted DEFRA funded Generation Green programme which aims to create over 100,000 opportunities to connect to nature.
It is also part of many passport approaches to enrichment including the Flamingo 50.