Can Volunteering Offset Your CO2?

August 31, 2020

How much good does green volunteer work do? We break down the numbers to show how effective volunteering can be at combating climate change.

By V. S. Wells


Volunteering for environmental causes definitely gives you that groovy feel-good energy, but how much good does it actually do? Here’s a look at the numbers behind some of our favourite forms of green volunteering. 


Planting trees

A bombshell 2019 study estimated that planting trees was the single best way to take CO2 out of the atmosphere. That paper assumed 1.2 trillion trees would need to be planted — but we can start with baby steps! Planting 15 trees can sequester one metric tonne of CO2. Google your city council to see what run local planting programmes they run.


Promote cycling and walking

Transportation is responsible for 25% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions — and it’s something we can control. Beyond swapping your own car journeys for bike trips (where possible), volunteer with local charities to help other cool cats do the same. Help organize cycle to work days, set up car-free days in popular neighbourhoods, or advocate for bike lanes and greener public transport to encourage everyone to cut their transit emissions. 


Clean up shorelines

From coast to coast to coast, more debris is in our water — and more people are working to get it out of oceans, lakes and rivers. More than 80,000 volunteers worked to clean up shorelines last year, picking up 163 tonnes of litter (or almost 2kg per person). It costs a lot of carbon to produce and transport the stuff that becomes trash, so the least we can do is stop it hurting our ecosystems.  


Grow local food

Food is a contentious issue. Over 80% of greenhouse gas emissions come from production rather than transportation — but in Canada, emissions from freight trucks have tripled since 1990, so eating close to home helps reduce these long-haul trips. Volunteering with low-impact local farms and supporting sustainable agriculture can help reduce emissions while also giving back to the community: many urban growing partner with foodbanks to increase access to healthy, nutritious food and spread the love. 


While fixing the world is going to take a lot of multi-level work, direct action by individuals is where we can start to make a difference. And volunteering locally is a great way to be the change you want to see.


Learn more: 

Search green volunteer positions at Goodwork

Plant trees with Forest Recovery Canada and Trees Canada

Pick up litter with the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-Up 


By V. S. Wells


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *