So You Want to be an Eco-Activist? Think Local!

protesters marching on city street

By David R Hill.

Eco-activist; a person engaged in vigorous social or political campaigns whose aim is to prevent damage to the environment.

I get it. Social awareness oftentimes brings pangs of anxiety or guilt, leading to a call to action. Perhaps you read online that yours is the first generation to see and feel the direct impacts of global climate change as well as the last generation to be able to do anything to possibly forestall the certainty of its cataclysmic effects. You’re thinking about becoming an eco-activist.

In a broad sense, eco-activism involves not only an awareness of the need to safeguard the environment but also the human social justice issues at play. For example, while some eco-activists work to bring attention to the worsening effects of global climate change, others seek to give voice to those people (usually the poor and disenfranchised) who are most severely affected by the consequences of climate change.

Experience the Benefits of Local Eco-Activism

My own personal journey with eco-activism began during college when I studied world food, population, and poverty issues. I had recently joined the local organic gardening club and persuaded the city council to let me establish a community model garden on a vacant lot. I amended the soil and cultivated enough food to feed a family of eight. I worked in the garden most days and answered questions from visitors about how to grow food at home. Better for the family budget; better for the planet. It was there that I first experienced the benefits of local eco-activism.

I understand why people want to save the rainforests, but I’ve found that my efforts generally have the greatest impact when I’m able to influence others as well as the environment closer to home. I recommend that you consider working as a local eco-activist, contributing your individual talents and skills to a nearby community of like-minded folk.

And it’s not as if the greater Phoenix area isn’t in need of an entire legion of eco-activists! Whether or not you subscribe to the notion that Phoenix is in the throes of a slowly developing environmental catastrophe, I think we can agree that the Valley of the Sun is long overdue for concentrated strategies and efforts in order to develop a more sustainable living environment for its large and rapidly growing population. Moreover, there already exist plenty of opportunities to partner with established eco-friendly groups and organizations that are dedicated to just that effort!

4 Tips for Aspiring Eco-Activists

  1. Start small. Frequent farmers markets to support local, organic, sustainable food production, or join a community garden. Bike to work or use the light rail or Valley Metro. Landscape with plants adapted to our low desert climate to reduce water use. Compost kitchen scraps.
  2. Do some research. There are so many causes that need advocates. Think about what really matters to you, and focus on that issue to get started.
  3. Get involved. Find a local organization that feeds your eco-activist appetite and dive in! Maricopa County Food System Coalition works to support and grow a food system that is equitable, healthy, sustainable and thriving. Several Meetup groups focus on environmental causes. Local First Arizona Green Team and are great organizations for volunteering.
  4. Share your passion. Use your voice, in person and on social media, to share your experiences, educate people on important issues, and inspire others to get involved.



David Hill is the Coordinator for the On-Site Community Garden at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ. He is a founding member of Community Gardeners of Maricopa County and serves on the national board of directors for the American Community Gardening Association.


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