Force of Human Nature: The Best Spring Volunteer Activities Outdoors Around NYC

Gardening in Spring Unsplash

Editor’s note: this post was originally published in 2011 and updated annually to reflect the newest volunteer opportunities available.

Spring is here. It’s time to put those winter sweaters back into storage and dust off your flip flops. As the seasons change, so do the volunteer opportunities; there are gardens to be planted, parks to be prepped for the onslaught of visitors, and other outdoor projects that are most enjoyable in the cool sunshine of Spring. Below are some ideas for outdoor volunteer projects and activities around New York City that you can sign up for right now.

Pick A Day, Any Day

Are you too busy for a big time commitment? Sign up for these one-day volunteer events:

  • The ‘It’s My Park’ Series is an ongoing event taking place this spring from February to May You don’t even have to register: just find a participating park and go!
  • Million Trees Planting Event: The city’s Million Trees Initiative has an ambitious goal: to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s five boroughs over the next decade. Throughout the spring, you can help them reach that goal by joining them in parks in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and volunteer to help plant trees in your community.

Runs Don’t Run Themselves

New York City plays host to a slew of fundraising 5K’s and walks, and all of them need volunteers to help ensure the day goes smoothly. You can help by handing out water along the route, checking in participants, cleaning up after the race, or even cheering! Here are some upcoming runs and contact info:

  • AIDS Walk New York: May 17th. Sign up on the website or contact Volunteer Coordinator Shaun Sheppard with any questions at or (212) 807-WALK (9255).
  • NYCRUNS: On April 18th, benefit Camba by running a 5K or 10K in Prospect Park.  

Going Green for the Season

There are many organizations that are dedicated to community gardening and environmental education all year long. Now that Spring has arrived, they’ll need help for the busy planting season. Check out these groups for ongoing volunteer opportunities with varying commitment levels:
  • New York Cares Day Spring: Join New York Cares and 5,000 other volunteers to work on an environmental project to make our city’s parks and gardens cleaner, greener, and ready for summer.
  • ioby (which stands for ‘in our backyards’) connects donors and volunteers to environmental projects in their neighborhoods to inspire earth awareness and action in New York City. Check out their sponsored projects, which are always in need of volunteers to plant veggies, build gardens and educate the public; visit their website for more information.
  • New York Cares is the all-encompassing, citywide mecca for volunteers. Just sign up online and attend a 45-minute orientation and you’ll be able to access their database of 1,000’s of projects that take place all over the city, from Pelham Bay Park to Gregory’s community garden in Brooklyn and almost everything in between. You can volunteer once, weekly, monthly; whatever you schedule, NY Cares has something for everyone.
  • Slow Food NYC is the New York City chapter of Slow Food, a non-profit, member-supported organization founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life. From time to time, they need volunteers to staff events or to help with outreach programs. Contact them at or check the calendar for upcoming workshops and events like the Just Food Conference.

Do you have other local organizations you love? Comment below! For more environmentally-helpful volunteer projects, visit

Photo: Daniel Avila