Environment: Good Stewards Make Good Neighbors

by Sierra Turner & Grid staff

The health of our environment directly impacts the health of our people and our economy. These are just some of the great organizations working across the region to ensure that we’re protecting some of our most valuable assets: healthy air, clean water and neighborhood access to nature. Lend a green thumb or knock on doors to support the cause.

Awbury Arboretum

Awbury Arboretum preserves its historic house and 55 acre landscape and connects to the urban community with nature and history through educational programs and events. It has been open to the public free of charge as a public park and arboretum for nearly 100 years. 

Calling all:
Guerrilla gardeners, trailblazers, event programmers and office experts 

What you’ll do
Work in the garden, host events, lead tours, help with administrative and office tasks, participate in spring and fall plantings, remove invasive species, or assist with trail maintenance, mulching and seed collection

Jewish Farm School

JFS is dedicated to teaching about contemporary food and environmental issues through innovative training and skills-based Jewish agricultural education. Their Philly Farm Crew program organizes volunteers weekly throughout Philadelphia.

Calling all:
Urban gardeners

What you’ll do
Get your hands dirty helping out on vacant lot gardens, urban farms and with food providers

Land Health Institute

This organization is dedicated to environmental education, ecological design and repair of degraded land. Utilizing unwanted and unused spaces within cities, they connect people to nature through education and land revitalization. 

Calling all:
Graphic designers, fundraisers, marketing gurus and web development specialists

What you’ll do
Grant writing, membership outreach, assist with new ways of marketing online and out in the real world, design materials or even serve on the board—applications are now being accepted.

Natural Lands Trust

The region’s largest and most comprehensive conservation organization saves thousands of acres of open space in Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey each year. They also own and manage the region’s largest system of private nature preserves, which help ensure biodiversity in the region.

Calling all:
Amateur naturalists and open space advocates

What you’ll do
Plant trees, assist with controlling invasive plants, count birds and butterflies, and learn valuable land management and conservation skills

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

While PHS is internationally renowned, much of its great work happens right here in Philly. It’s best known for the high-profile Philadelphia Flower Show, but it has many programs that increase access to green space and nature throughout the entire city. The Garden Tenders program, whose volunteers help start community gardens, is one way to get involved.

Calling all:
Neighborhood rabble-rousers and urban gardeners

What you’ll do
Go through a training program to gain hands-on gardening experience and learn how to establish successful, self-sustaining community gardens. You’ll gain insight into finding a site for a community garden, recruiting and keeping volunteers, basic horticulture, assessing and finding resources in your neighborhood, planting and garden maintenance, and forming viable partnerships.

Overbrook Environmental Education Center

This nonprofit is dedicated to the preservation of our neighborhoods and natural environments, the improvement of public health, and the promotion of sustainable and livable communities.

Calling all:
Artists, community health experts, gardeners and community organizers

What you’ll do
Organize and engage the Overbrook neighborhood, maintain and expand green space, and assist with programming and community events of all kinds

Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

SCEE inspires meaningful connections between people and nature. Using forests and fields to foster appreciation, SCEE deepens understanding and encourages protection of the environment.

Calling all:
Naturalists, office workers and educators

What you’ll do
Garden, care for plants in the nursery, train for the Senior Environment Corps, run wildlife clinics, and assist with special events, including environmental art shows and other receptions

“Volunteering is my way to say thank you and to give something of myself back to my community.”  
– Henry Geyer, SCEE volunteer

Philadelphia Orchard Project

The Philadelphia Orchard Project works with community based groups and volunteers to plan and plant orchards filled with useful and edible plants in neighborhoods across the city. 

Calling all:
Tree huggers and Lorax lovers

What you’ll do
Plant orchards in the spring and fall, and assist with other weeding, mulching and planting throughout the year

Protecting Our Waters

This grassroots nonprofit organization works to protect the health and vitality of our communities by defending people, animals, water, air and land against the damage caused by all phases of shale gas extraction, processing and use.

Calling all:
Community organizers, policy or law experts and anyone who can lend a hand with office tasks

What you’ll do
Help to organize creative and nonviolent actions to draft and pass legislation that would protect our land and water

Riverbend Environmental Education Center

Riverbend is dedicated to teaching environmental principles to children in Southeastern Pennsylvania through a direct connection with nature, inspiring respect for the natural world and calling on them to be aware, responsible and caring citizens. 

Calling all:
Handy-people, naturalists, kid and animal lovers, and office experts

What you’ll do
Volunteer for habitat maintenance such as weeding, raking and watering, maintain facilities at the site, become a naturalist educator, assist with administrative and marketing tasks, help run summer camps, and provide care to animals at the center

Soil Generation

This black-led coalition of Philadelphia residents and organizations supports equity and social justice for community-managed green space, gardens and farms through advocacy, grassroots organizing and community education.

Calling all:
Food and environmental justice advocates who believe in community self-determination

What you’ll do
Get trained to lend your voice to ensuring that City Council and other policymaking bodies understand how urban gardens help strengthen communities

Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership

TTF’s mission is to improve the health and vitality of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Creek and watershed, which includes neighborhoods in North, Northeast and Northwest Philadelphia and Abington, Cheltenham, Jenkintown, Rockledge and Springfield in Montgomery County. 

Calling all:
Stream stewards and green infrastructure geeks 

What you’ll do
Monitor stream quality, maintain and clean trash from streams and help with plantings that contribute to stream health