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Volunteering might be the best and most sustainable gift you can give this holiday season.



The fictional day that the Grinch's heart grew three sizes is one of the most unforgettable fictional days of all—right up there with the day Doc and Marty hopped in the DeLorean, and the day that mayor Peter Kelly sent us all home-baked pie in the mail.

After all, that day, our curmudgeonly buddy Mr. Grinch learned a pretty important lesson: ""Maybe Christmas,' he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!'"

The esteemed Dr. Seuss's words are some good ones to keep mind this year, as you're wading through the malls—particularly if you're trying to navigate this year's holiday season sustainably. Because you, dear sustainable shopper, are already in possession of a hot commodity that you can give people. Something that doesn't need a box; something that doesn't come from a store. And that, my green chum, is your time.

It's the holiday season, and that makes people feel charitable. But before you go whipping out your pocketbook, remember that lots of eco-friendly projects need love and effort thrown at them, just as much as they need money. While there's not a lot of seasonal-specific eco-projects on the go, here are some suggestions of eco-friendly ways for you to offer up your free labour around the city—both right now and in the post-holiday future. It'll still feel good to flex your volunteer muscles after the Roast Beast is gone, we promise.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness SocietyMajor initiatives on the go right now at the local branch of wildlife champions CPAWS include a campaign aimed at protecting the horse-mussel reefs in the Bay of Fundy (described by marine coordinator Laura Hussey as a "globally rare marine feature"), and a project aimed at helping to expand the province's network of protected lands. CPAWS also needs office workers. As well, the society is more than willing to help you tailor your volunteer work to match your interests. If any of this sounds up your alley (or, if you just like saying "CPAWS"), head to, and print yourself off a volunteering form (geared towards pairing you with a time-giving gig that suits your fancy), or call the office at 446-4155.

The Nova Scotia Public Interest Research GroupStudent- and volunteer-driven NSPIRG toils daily to research environmental and social-justice issues, educate the public, and inspire action. Right now, the group's working with other local social-justice coalitions on the "Save Lincolnville" campaign-—a project aimed at combating environmental racism (the campaign posits that pollution-emitting industries are often situated in First Nation and African Nova Scotian communities). The group also supports a number of smaller focused working-groups, including DalGreen, which promotes sustainability on the Dalhousie campus. Or use your green thumb here in the city: during the summer, volunteers help maintain Seymour Green, the NSPIRG community garden. Check out for more—the site has contact info for all working groups—or chat with someone at the group's main line, at 494-6662.

Clean Nova ScotiaWhile Clean Nova Scotia, which promotes individual action as a means of furthering environmental change, isn't looking for volunteers right now, it's a good idea to check out their website ( periodically for new volunteer opportunities. As well, the organization's "Great Nova Scotia Pick-Me-Up" program lets you volunteer your time to help get rid of the province's litter, without having to leave the comfort of your neighborhood. Volunteers who express interest in getting involved are sent a tool-kit of supplies—including garbage bags, recycling bags and posters to advertise the Pick-Me-Up (so that people don't have to be all sad and alone while collecting garbage). Plus, coordinators for each Pick-Me-Up event get a free sassy, red, reuseable grocery bag. Call Clean Nova Scotia at 420-3474.

The Sierra Club of CanadaThe Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada is Halifax-based, and needs help with tons of neat projects. Volunteers help run the group's in-school education programs—so, if you like flapping your gums about sustainability, give the Sierra Club a call. Other current high-priority projects include the Cool Cities program (which lobbies municipal governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the city level), and a wilderness campaign (its current high priority: raising awareness about next year's provincial voluntary planning consultations, which could have a huge impact on the future of Nova Scotia and its wildlife). Plus, the group's always on the lookout for volunteers to do office work back at headquarters. "It sounds dull, but it's very important," says Gretchen Fitzgerald, the branch's director. "And it can be kind of soothing, at the hectic Christmas just go in, and do some sorting!" Itching to get filing? Give the Sierra Club a call at 444-3113, or drop Fitzgerald a line at

The Ecology Action CentreEco-volunteering mainstay the Ecology Action Centre is looking for volunteers to help run its organic Christmas tree sale on December 15 (learn more about that on page 13). But the centre needs help the rest of the year, too. Right now, it's looking for volunteers for its maintenance committee, which helps plan the ongoing sustainable renovations to the centre's workspace, and for volunteer workers to help put those renovations into action. The EAC is also looking for data-enterers, office volunteers and website-maintainers. Plus, keep in mind that the centre always has new projects on the go (they didn't win Best Activist Organization in this year's Best of Halifax poll for being slack-asses); getting yourself added to the centre's volunteer mailing list is a pretty handy way to keep in the know. Contact the Outreach Coordinator at, or call 429-2202 for more info.

Other optionsReally, any volunteering is green giving (unless you're driving 50km in an RV to get to your volunteer site, or donating your free time to help big business dump chemicals in a river). So, if none of the above options sound like your cup of tea, keep in mind that the municipality's filled with tonnes of other organizations that need your help, too. If it's Christmassy volunteering you're after, the Salvation Army currently needs hundreds of volunteers to help sort presents for its annual toy drive (Contact 422-1598.) If you've got golden, radio-ready pipes, the local VoicePrint branch wants your help reading newspapers to vision-impaired listeners all over the country. (Call VoicePrint at 444-7358.) Need a friend? So do tons of isolated seniors: Contact the local VON Canada branch (455-6653) to apply to become a year-round Volunteer Visitor.

And that's just for starters. The key is to use your imagination, and think beyond the box (and plastic packaging and wrapping paper). Let's make like the Whos, and think about giving in a more Seussy, less literal sense.

Sometimes, Lindsay McCarney sings "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch," to her cat, Joey Pants. Her grandma makes a mean Roast Beast.

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