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Environmental volunteering is key to healthier, happier, more employable young people, says SNH chairman

24th April 2014

Photograph of Environmental volunteering is key to healthier, happier, more employable young people, says SNH chairman

Scotland’s young people can become healthier, happier, and more employable by taking part in environmental volunteering, according to the chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

An estimated 90,000 people take part in environmental or wildlife volunteering in Scotland each year. While many of these are young people, the majority are aged between 45 and 74 and from rural areas.

Ian Ross, a former volunteer himself, took over as SNH chairman last month. He said he’d like to see more young people reap the benefits from this type of volunteer work and highlighted the many opportunities in and around towns and cities.

He said: “When someone takes part in environmental volunteering they develop practical and social interpersonal skills, they gain a sense of achievement, self-confidence and self-esteem. These are all qualities that can help them into permanent employment in whatever line of work they are interested in. This type of volunteering also helps young people build a connection with the natural world and sustain a life-long interest in its care.

"In broader terms, the hard work and commitment of environmental volunteers benefits communities, nature and landscape. Even the economy benefits, through the increased employability of volunteers and by reducing public costs for health services and environmental projects.

“Our vision is to see more people in Scotland taking positive actions for nature and wildlife and enjoying the many benefits to their quality of life and well-being as a result.”

In the past year SNH has supported around 90,000 environmental volunteering opportunities, either directly on national nature reserves and through grants to organisations including the Trust for Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and Community Services Volunteers (CSV).

Much of the environmental volunteering that takes place involves taking part in practical management tasks to help manage and improve local greenspaces. However, increasingly volunteers are also getting involved in collecting data and information. This is known as citizen science and studies have estimated that this work across the UK is worth more than £20 million a year. SNH is planning a citizen science workshop in May for people interested in getting involved.

Examples of environmental volunteering projects

Caithness Countryside Volunteers is a group organised by the Ranger service in Caithness. They meet once a month and carry out a wide range of environmental projects across the county.
They have web site at http://caithnesscountrysidevolunteers.org/

CSV Action Earth is a campaign run by Community Service Volunteers charity (CSV) in partnership with SNH across Scotland. It empowers people to make a positive difference to their local environments through volunteering and offers small grants to projects that will protect and restore natural habitats. One such project is Gorbals Healthy Living Network in Glasgow which involves over 40 young volunteers aged 16 to 25 who are transforming a neglected park into a community wildflower meadow and communal growing space.

The Green Team is an environmental organisation based in the Lothians. They work with young people to restore and conserve wild places as an important part of learning about the natural heritage of Scotland. One of the programmes they offer is Green Angels, a project for girls aged 12-18. The girls take part in practical conservation work each month in and around Edinburgh. The project offers opportunities to discover and explore some of the most stunning countryside in the Lothians whilst making substantial practical improvements. The programme gives the girls new experiences, allows them to make new friends and learn about the natural environment in a fun and exciting way.

Urban Roots is a community led organisation working across the Southside of Glasgow. The project aims to inspire people and communities to connect with nature, and take practical action that makes a positive difference to their own lives, their communities and the planet. Activities include community gardening, conservation and biodiversity improvement work, education, workshops and schools projects.

Shettleston Community Growing group is a partnership project run by residents in the Shettleston and Tollcross area of Glasgow. It aims to increase local food production by bringing an unsightly piece of vacant land back into productive use. The project highlights the physical and mental health benefits of gardening and promotes healthier eating. The site is fully accessible for wheelchair users and the raised beds are ideal for people who might find a traditional allotment space too demanding. Two local primary schools have growing spaces on the site for use in their studies. They are learning about the environmental cost of transporting food and the importance of growing, eating or buying local seasonal produce. The project is assisted by Shettleston Housing Association and Glasgow City Council’s Greenspace Team. It received support from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund and Glasgow City Council.

Friends of Possilpark Greenspace are a group of local residents working to raise the standard of their local environment, in one of Glasgow’s most deprived areas. The organisation’s aims are to enhance open spaces, conserve the natural environment and promote and enhance biodiversity in Possilpark and the surrounding area. The group also aim to make sure that the community has an active role in the decisions that take place in relation to the park and its practical management.

Sustrans - Greener Greenways In this project volunteers are undertaking a series of surveys, data searches and consultation with conservation organisations to identify which types of flora and fauna inhabit the National Cycle Network. In Scotland, the project is targeting 100km of greenways managed by Sustrans and over 100km of greenways owned and managed by other organisations. These are part of just under 600 miles of traffic-free greenways in Scotland. The project will run in Scotland for three years, between August 2013 and August 2016.

Friends of Glasgow LNRs This is a voluntary group carrying out practical conservation work working across 10 local nature reserves in the Glasgow area. The group gets involved in raising awareness of the city’s nature reserves and wildlife. It works with the council to ensure the reserves are managed effectively. It also organises and supports practical conservation days or events in the city.

Westquarter Wildlife Group This is a community group delivering greenspace improvements in Westquarter Glen in the Falkirk area and then encouraging people to use the improved sites.

Polbeth Community Green Gym This West Lothian community group is working to turn a derelict market garden site into a ‘Garden for Life’ which will be a community garden for everyone on Polbeth, West Calder and surrounds.

 

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