Here are several ideas for Green Service Projects:
1. Energy Audit. Use of electricity and gas is a large driver of greenhouse gas and cost. There are many good energy audit forms available on the internet. Download some, modify for your needs and audit the school and other large businesses. Make specific recommendations to reduce usage with sensors, timers, ballst, light bulbs, insulation and other methods. Consider volunteering to do audits for older folks in your community and try to get funds from the community or sponsors to help them reduce their energy usage.
2. Compost. Large portions of landfill garbage can be composted. Start one at home and then work with institutional and restaurant kitchens to develop compost processes and recipients. Consider selling compost to gardeners. Measure the amount of compost generated in a week and extrapolate to show the annual impact per house or per school/institution.
3. Plastic Bottle Recycling. Many millions of soda bottles are landfilled each year. Many schools still sell drinks in plastic bottles. Consider building or obtaining plastics-only recycling containers and contacting your community recycling center to arrange for pickup. Don’t forget the concession stands and other outdoor areas. Measure and communicate the amount of bottles saved and show some items made from the bottles.
4. Compact Flourescent Drive. Work with a local hardware or department store to offer special sales on compact flourescent bulbs and sell them as a fund-raiser. The recipients get a deal on the bulbs and support a good cause, and they will save energy for them. Make some conservative calculations of the dollar and electricity savings from each kit sold, and show it as a graph or thermometer.
5. Metals recycling in the kitchen. Many cafeterias use large cans for food. Put a bin to collect rinsed cans and either recycle them or use them for planting in other projects. The metal has good recycle value.
6. Plant Trees. You can either sprout your own seedlings or contact a nursery to see if they can obtain and donate them. Contact landowners for permission to replant, and calculate and show the carbon offset you will generate in the next 1,10,20 years from your planted trees. Get lots of others to participate in an event, perhaps on Earth Day or Arbor Day.
7. Urban Recovery. If there are areas in your town or city that are abandoned and unused, do some research to find the owners and determine if it can either be cleaned up, torn down or made into a park or green space. Do some community organizing and make a large project to create a playground or other space that the community will appreciate.
8. School Carpool Club. Many teens drive to school. Try to organize them into groups so that they can share rides with each other and save some gas and emissions. Do the math on the average car, miles to school, mileage and the monthly pocket impact to each student that drives if they carpool 1 day/week.
9. Computer Recycling Drive. Make contact with a firm that recycles old computer equipment, research that their disposition is environmentally secure and protects the old user’s data, and organize a drive to collect old machines. You may also be able to cobble together a few machines that you can reformat and load Linux and free, open-source programs to donate to neighborhood clubs, churches, homeless shelters and similar areas.
10. Environmental Awareness Education. Put together a slide show and some fun experiments for elementary-age kids and do a road show in your school district. Keep the ideas clear and get the kids excited about what they can do to save the earth.
11. Green Rooftop. A flat roof covered with plants will lower heating and cooling losses and will better use rainwater. Research “Green Roof” and construct and maintain one at a school, nursing home or other similar operation.
12. Reduce Garbage Toxicity. Research and understand which items are dangerous in household and institutional/industrial waste streams. Produce guides, hold informative sessions, and provide means for people to separate and collect these toxic items instead of discarding in their garbage.
13. Cell Phone and Battery Collection. A subset of the tip above, cell phones can be collected and repurposed to crisis shelters and other uses with no impact to the original owner. Batteries can be collected and returned to a center that can recycle the components.
14. Make A Wild Space. Take a portion of the school or other grassy area that is currently mowed and treated, and make a wildflower or other planted space that requires less water, chemicals and care, and is beneficial to local or migratory animals. Add a bench and walkway and you have created a garden sanctuary! A local garden center may donate or sponsor the park in exchange for some signage or other consideration or recognition.
15. Produce Some Produce. Build a community garden, perhaps at a nursing home or community building. Involve others and set up a community structure that will care for the garden when your project is completed. Participate in the care and harvest of the bounty. Consider donating some of the produce to the food bank or shelters, where fresh food is rare and always appreciated. Consider planting and maintaining an orchard where peaches, apples, pears and other fruits will grow for years to come. Large cans (see #5) and buckets can be used to grow plants in urban settings.
16. Create or Maintain a Hiking Trail. If you have green space nearby, consider trying to develop a public trail. Landowners may be willing to support this action if there is also financial and/or support from the local government. You may have to do more political and financial organizing than actual hoe and shovel work up front, but the resulting peaceful trail will be a great testimony to your dedication and effort.
17. Plastic-Free Dining. Take a survey of the garbage created in your school cafeteria. Try to find ways to reduce the environmental impact (carbon cost, weight, decomposability, etc.) See if you can transform plastic items to paper or metal that can be either reused or renewed without fossil fuels. Work with the procurement group to obtain the new items at lower cost, and determine if the total “life cycle cost” of dishes and silverware is lower than plastic.
18. Mileage Audits. Develop an audit tool to help people maximize their auto mileage. From tire pressure to weight reduction and driving habit changes, you can make a good guide for people to use. Set up an event, perhaps in concert with a car show or car wash, to perform mileage audits for people, pump their tires and give them a guide to keep in their car. Do a before/after road test on a few cars to gather some hard data.
19. Solar Rooftop. Obtain funding and/or supplies to install a pilot solar cell on a rooftop. Connect it to a unique object inside the school such as a moving sculpture, fountain or light display, or light a hallway. Calculate the cost of operation vs the energy cost saved and make a recommendation to the school for larger scale implementation.
20. Green Careers Research. Do some jobs research on the top 20-30 careers that impact Green. Develop a list of degrees and skills which would be needed for these jobs, along with projections of the growth and the economic and geographic locations of the jobs. Work with the guidance conselor to publish this and make available to students as they make decisions about careers. Consider building a slide show or video composite of interesting jobs in Renewable Energy and other areas.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas on good service projects that will have a positive impact on our environment. Have fun and stay green!