New York City offers a surprising range of natural spaces and wildlife, from protected wetlands and the various bird species to the so-called ‘blue borough,’ the extensive network of rivers and oceanfront that border the city. Protecting these natural resources is a tough job, and one that relies on the efforts of thousands of volunteer groups and individuals who work alongside city agencies and non-profit organizations to help keep city spaces protected and clean.

Yet, even if slogging away outdoors is not up your alley, there are still great ways you can volunteer for green causes. Many environmental groups welcome dedicated volunteers interested in filing, answering phones and helping to keep the office running. For those short on time, recycling and sorting centers offer a chance to do hands-on work to keep reusable resources from landfills, with the flexibility to volunteer when you are able.

Looking for an opportunity to give back to your community and help out a green cause? Here are some eco-friendly volunteer options in New York City.

Natural Area Volunteers
NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
The Arsenal
Central Park
New York, NY 10065
(212) 360-3318

Natural Area Volunteers (NAV) offers New Yorkers a chance to get their hands dirty while helping to clean up the city’s natural wetlands, park areas and other natural areas. Families and groups can participate in one-day clean programs in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Volunteers wanting a more long-term program can also apply to be NAVigators, a program that offers expert-led training on invasive species removal and tree planting in exchange for 12 service hours a month. 

Field Volunteers
New York City Audubon Society
71 W. 23rd St.
New York, NY 10010
212) 691-7483

Each year, 90,000 birds are victims of glass collision in New York City, resulting in both injury and death. Volunteers for the NYC Audubon Society track and search for glass collision victims and rescue injured birds. The work is a vital part of the Audubon Society’s conservation role, which is working to prevent glass collision accidents and stop the decline of bird species impacted most by this urban threat. For those looking for a longer term commitment, office volunteers are also needed.

PortSide New York
Carroll St.
Brooklyn, NY 111231
(917) 414-0565

The heart of PortSide New York is the historic ship Mary H. Whalen, the only oil tanker in the world, currently docked in Red Hook. Due to tight restrictions at the city’s ports, however, short-term volunteers will probably find themselves volunteering at Portside’s pop-up site, currently located on Commerce Street. No matter where you find yourself giving back with your time, however, you will be working beside a dedicated team of volunteers committed to improving New York City’s waterways and helping Red Hook and surrounding neighborhoods become more resilient to flooding and other weather emergencies.

Build It Green! NYC
3-17 26th Ave.
Astoria, NY 11102
(718) 777-0132

Build It Green! NYC is a recycling and salvaging program that takes surplus building material like scaffolding, tiling, shutters and lumber and helps make it easy for New York City contractors and builders to re-use the materials. This year alone, BIG! NYC expects to reclaim 4,000,000 pounds of usable building materials that otherwise would have ended up in the city’s landfill, thanks in a large part to the small army of volunteers that assist in the program each week. Volunteers and groups are always welcome year-round to help sort, paint, do inventory work or help in the retail space at warehouses in Astoria or Gowanus.

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Tamar Auber is a freelance writer whose work can be found on

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