For Connecticut to truly go green requires the work and donations of countless volunteers. These people plant trees, add a row in their garden to help feed the hungry, pull trash from rivers and streams and perform other volunteer work to support charities and advocacy groups. Get involved with one of these great organizations to create a greener Nutmeg State. 

Connecticut Food Bank
P.O. Box 8686
New Haven, CT 06531
(203) 469-5000

“Can you go without your luxury for one day so that Kate may eat?” That is just one of the many campaigns now being run by the Connecticut Food Bank to raise funds to feed the hungry in the state. In the 30 years since it was founded, the situation has never been worse – and the need for volunteers willing to give their time and money never greater.
Although it is one of the more affluent states in the nation, in Connecticut, tens of thousands of people go hungry every day. At least 150,000 children in the state “struggle with hunger,” reports the Connecticut Food Bank. Many times, those people have to skip a meal one or more days each week, and even then do not get the nutrition let alone the amount of food needed to stay healthy. With the economic downturn and the subsequent and now continuing drop in government money, not to mention the latest cut to the Food Stamp program, the hunger situation in Connecticut has only gotten worse. The Connecticut Food Bank is working hard to alleviate the growing needs of the hungry and the under-nourished, but it needs help.

Every town and city in the state has one or more food banks or similar food donation programs, and the Connecticut Food Bank not only keeps track of these 650-some organizations, but also provides contact information about them and ways to help. The Food Bank also sponsors food and fund drives, runs a mobile pantry and supports a backpack program that helps provide children at risk with access to healthy food.

There are many simple activities for volunteers, including the “plant a row for the hungry” campaign where those who have home or community gardens donate some of what they grow to a local food bank. The Food Bank also needs “gleaners” – people who work with local farms and orchards to pick fresh produce that the growers donate to the hungry. There are many other programs in need of volunteers, and the good people at the Connecticut Food Bank are eager to help match up volunteers with the programs in their area.

Connecticut River Watershed Council
15 Bank Row
Greenfield, MA 01301
(413) 772-2020

The Connecticut River is the single most defining natural feature in the state – and what happens to the river and its watershed impacts the lives of everyone in Connecticut and three neighboring states. The Connecticut Watershed Council stands watch over the river, and this year, as it has for the last 60, is in need of volunteers, donors and sponsors.

The Connecticut River runs from the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, through Massachusetts and empties into Long Island Sound on the Connecticut shore. Since 1952, the Connecticut River Watershed Council has stood watch over this 410-mile-long river and the 11,000 square miles of watershed. The non-profit group depends on physical and financial contributions from volunteers to supplement grants from government, corporate, public and private foundations.

The Council sponsors activities year-round. In October, for example, it again kicked off another annual “source to the sea” cleanup program. Cleanup coordinator Jacqueline Talbot says the 2013 cleanup will involve over 2,000 people and 65 groups from the four states in the Connecticut River’s watershed (Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts). She says that in 2012, these volunteers and organizations pulled many tons of trash from the river – including a cement mixer, parking meters and abandoned cars.

The Connecticut River Watershed Council also watches over thermal pollution by Vermont Yankee and other power plants, monitors five hydropower dams along the river and supports water testing of the river and its tributaries.

Commemorative Tree Planting Program
725 Old Post Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
(203) 256-3178

The United Nations is encouraging people around the world to plant one billion trees, and many towns in Connecticut are doing their small part to make that dream come true. Trees are the lungs and roots of the planet; they help clean the air of pollutants naturally and bind the soil to stop erosion. Even a state as blessed with forests as Connecticut can use more trees. 

The Town of New Fairfield, for example, is one of many towns that is supporting this with a Commemorative Tree Planting Program. It is run by a tree warden (Ken Placko) who oversees the process and ensures that the trees are planted properly and in areas where they will do the most good. 

As Placko explains, “trees are lasting contributions to the quality of life in Fairfield.” The commemorative tree program takes that one step farther, as it encourages people to plant “living, growing tributes to friends, loved ones and community organizations.” Each tree that is planted is noted on the town’s forestry site and recognized with a plaque in the town’s Independence Hall.

Fight For Clean Air Climb
American Lung Association of Connecticut
45 Ash St.
East Hartford CT 06108
(860) 289-5401

On Valentine’s Day, the American Lung Association of Connecticut hosts an annual “vertical marathon” to support clean air. In February of 2014, that will take place at 360 State Street in New Haven. Volunteer “vertical marathoners” are encouraged to climb or race up the 32 flights of stairs. Proceeds from the marathon go to support the fight against lung disease, as well as education and advocacy programs in support of clean air.
The highlight of the marathon is the race by firefighters who run the 32 flights in full gear. The American Lung Association is looking not only for people to sponsor and participate in the climb, but also for volunteers to work that and other events.

Ice Watch USA
Nature Abounds
P.O. Box 506
Dubois, PA 15801
(814) 765-1453
Watching ice form, melt and move may not sound like a big deal, but Ice Watch USA, part of the Nature Abounds program, needs volunteers to do just that – in Connecticut and every other state. Becoming an Ice Watcher is easy, takes no more than 10 minutes a day (and obviously not every day year round) and the information collected is of great help to scientists studying climate change in the state, country and world. Although the Nature Abounds main office is in Pennsylvania, not Connecticut, its Ice Watch USA program needs volunteers in every town and city in Connecticut.

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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at


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