By Katie Stanton
Social Media & Online Engagement Manager, YWCA USA
Happy Earth Day! Today, people all over the world are raising awareness about our environment and ways that we can care for it. Here are just a few examples of how our associations are protecting our environment and serving communities across the U.S.
1. Ensuring All Voices are Represented
On Earth Day, and every day, we must examine our work and ensure that there are many voices being heard. One way is through education: the YWCA of Western Massachusetts is working with UMass-Amherst to spread a racially-aware message of “action toward building more diverse and inclusive coalitions for the sustainability movement on campus and in the broader community.”
Another is to remember the many different ways that people can benefit from eco-friendly practices, like recycling. The YWCA Cass Clay works with Shelter Alliance to collect used and recycled cell phones to raise funds and benefit survivors of violence. The YWCA of Missoula runs Secret Seconds Thrift Stores, putting the proceeds towards their programs and services and offering discounted or free items to YWCA program participants. Being environmentally-responsible is not only about reducing waste, but also helping others.
2. Protecting Our Health
The health effects of pollution will continue to be a challenge as technology continues to evolve. Carbon emissions in the air can cause chronic asthma and respiratory illnesses; water pollution can cause heavy metals to accumulate in our food, or spread infectious disease. But there is good news: women are more likely to take action towards being environmentally-friendly and using “green” products that protect us from harsh chemicals.
The YWCA Minneapolis considers women’s health and the environment through their Green Initiative, ensuring that their triathlon supporters and participants follow sustainable practices before, during and after their races. Other associations, like the YWCA Greater Los Angeles, ensure that their buildings follow LEED guidelines for sustainable design. Through community awareness and safe practices, associations protect the health of their members and the communities of which they are a part.
3. Including Our Children
The YWCA Evanston/North Shore is a great example of women taking action for their environment and their families: their urban garden, started in 2009, began as a way to grow fresh produce for their domestic violence shelter for women and children, and it is getting bigger each year with the help of community partners. Not only do gardens like these benefit the environment for the long-term, but they also contribute nutritional value for families, and revenue for programs.
And don’t forget that children can take charge of their environment, too! For example, YWCA of New York City engages students to learn about science and nutrition through their Gardening Project. Through a hands-on approach and a commitment to education, associations ensure that children learn important lessons about their relationships to the earth.
As we celebrate Earth Day for years to come, and as we think about how to protect our environment, let’s think a little bigger about the multi-faceted ways in which our actions can benefit others in our community.