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How to become an environmental or conservation volunteer   

The environment is now recognised as one of the most pressing issues of our time. There is greater awareness of environmental issues such as GM crops, open-cast mining, deforestation, renewable energy sources and recycling. However, despite this increased public concern there are still 500 landfill sites in Scotland and we have one of the worst recycling records in Europe with less than 6% of our waste being recycled. Environmental and conservation organisations and groups across Scotland are actively campaigning to turn public concern into action. These organisations exist without funding, instead relying on charitable donations and the commitment of volunteers to enable them to successfully champion the cause of environmental justice.

On this page:

What does the role involve?
What will I get out of this?
What will I be expected to give back?
What skills do I need?
How much time should I expect to give?
How do I get involved?

What does the role involve?

There are many environmental and conservation groups and organisations. A few are large organisations that are household names, such as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, which try to tackle the big issues affecting the natural world. Most are smaller organisations with more modest ambitions to tackle one or more identifies problems in a specific geographical area. Such a variety of groups and organisations means that there are many ways for you to get involved.
Volunteering with an environmental or conservation group or organisation would give you the opportunity to get involved in different ways. This could include:

  • fundraising
  • lobbying
  • campaigning to raise awareness through leafleting or speaking to members of the public
  • direct action
  • practical conservation work, such as helping to maintain footpaths or protecting local wildlife and their habitats
  • letter writing
  • helping to run the organisations through providing administrative support

    What will I get out of this?

    Getting involved with environmental or conservation groups can be an extremely satisfying and rewarding experience. It’s a chance to make a real change. You get a real sense of camaraderie from all working together for the same cause. If you are involved with a local conservation group, you will have the chance to really make positive improvements to your natural environment.


    What will I be expected to give back?

    There are so many opportunities with environmental and conservation groups that levels of commitment can vary. You could attend one protest march, dedicate your Saturday’s cleaning local footpaths or spend 6 month at sea with Greenpeace. However, most people who volunteer with a large organisation spend about 3 to 4 hours a week on it.


    What skills do I need?

    You don’t need any particular skills to work with environmental and conservation organisations, just a commitment to the issues and loads of enthusiasm. However, larger organisations always welcome volunteers with specialist skills and knowledge, such as lawyers and accountants.


    How much time should I expect to give?

    As much time as you can spare.


    How do I get involved?

    Local groups are likely to advertise volunteering opportunities in libraries and local newspapers

    Friends of the Earth Scotland have campaigned on environmental and conservation issues for over 20 years. They have championed initiatives in Scotland which are bringing about renewable energy, better public transport, cleaner rivers and beaches, and freedom of information.

    Friends of the Earth Scotland
    72 Newhaven road
    EH6 5QG

    tel: 0131 554 9977

    Reforesting Scotland is a networking organisation of people and organisations active in the ecological and social regeneration of Scotland.

    Reforesting Scotland,
    62-66 Newhaven Road
    EH6 5QB

    tel: 0131 554 4321

    Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) is a charitable organisation that manages over 125 wildlife reserves throughout Scotland and aims to raise public awareness of threatened habitats and species. They have a network of committed volunteers, involved in everything from planting trees to running committees, from giving talks to rattling collecting cans, from surveying for water voles to running Watch groups for young people, and everything in between!

    Scottish Wildlife Trust
    Cramond House
    Cramond Glebe Road
    Edinburgh EH4 6NS

    tel: 0131 312 7765

    British Trust for Conservation Volunteers is the UK’s largest conservation charity involving 130,000 volunteers.

    Conservation Centre
    163 Balby Road
    DN4 0RH

    tel: 01302 572 244

    Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens is an UK wide organisation representing groups involved in community led development of open space through locally managed farming and gardening. Many City Farms and Community Gardens are dependent on volunteers for their survival and development, as they often only have a few, if any, paid staff. Many projects were started by a group of volunteers from their local community and continue to encourage volunteers to take part at all levels of their organisation. Volunteering on City Farms and Community Gardens is a great way to meet people, get involved in a local community project, and to gain new skills and, in some cases, vocational qualifications. Most of all, it's fun!

    Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens
    The GreenHouse
    Hereford Street
    BS3 4NA

    tel: 0117 923 1800

    The John Muir Trust is a charity which aims to protect and conserve Scotland’s wild and natural environments and to increase awareness and understanding of the value of such places. They are involved in seed collection and tree planting to footpath repair, beach clean-ups and surveys. Volunteers carry out much of the work of the Trust.

    John Muir Trust
    41 Commercial Street
    EH6 6JD

    tel: 0131 554 0114

    Sustrans is an UK wide sustainable transport charity. They co-ordinate the National Cycle Network. You can get more involved by becoming a volunteer ranger (with responsibility for your own section of the National Cycle Network!).

    Sustrans Scotland
    162 Fountainbridge
    EH3 9RX

    tel: 0131 624 7660

    World Wildlife Fund Scotland is part of an international organisation that has offices in nearly 100 countries. They rely on the support of volunteers to raise funds, campaign and organise and publicise events.

    WWF Scotland
    8 The Square
    PH15 2DD

    tel: 01887 820449

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