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Opinion piece from Lyon Software staff and from mebers of the CBISA Community.
Volunteering is for everyone.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr once said that “everybody can be great…because anybody can serve”. If you have the ability to take time out of your life to help others, you should absolutely do it. You’ll be amazed at the impact it has on the people you serve, as well as your own life.
I’ve volunteered at a handful of places, in both short and long-term roles. When you find the right fit, it can be an incredible experience. Over the next few minutes, you’ll discover some benefits of becoming a volunteer, as well as tips for how to get started.
You’ll Become More Grateful
Can you name one person who doesn’t feel good after helping someone else?
Becoming a volunteer allows you to see life in a different way, through someone else’s lens. Even if just for a little while. It feels good to know that you’re making a difference in the lives of others, and that you’re doing it without the expectation of anything in return.
When you contribute to a cause or project that doesn’t directly benefit you in any way, you’ll become more grateful for the opportunities that you have. You’ll feel more empathy and compassion for the people using the services that you are providing.
Volunteer a few times and you’ll begin to experience the joy of being a small part in helping to improve the life of someone else.
You’ll Get More Than You Give
Obviously, this isn’t the reason to become a volunteer. However, more often than not, this is the outcome you’ll experience. My first time volunteering was as a 3rd & 4th Grade Head Coach for a co-ed soccer league in 2007. I wasn’t even sure what I was doing at first. That part rarely matters.
When you volunteer, the people you serve are incredibly grateful that you’re giving your time and talents to help them. In just my first season, I was told by a parent of a player that he learned more in the 2 months that I coached him than he had in the previous 3 years combined.
The day the season ended, I came home to a call on my voicemail from another family. They wanted to know how to get their son on my team the following season, even though we had just lost the championship 11-1 the day before.
When you show up consistently with a good attitude and give your best effort, it makes a real impact. People want to associate with someone who enjoys the process and is always looking to improve, regardless of short-term results. That leads to additional opportunities, so in that way, you’ll receive, even if you were just there to give.
A Chance to Develop Your Skills
That first year as a volunteer coach led to a promotion. I was asked to coach the Boys U-10 travel team for 2008, and I accepted. It didn’t work out long-term, and I was back at the recreational league as a volunteer coach in 2009. Because of that experience though, I had a new opportunity.
Our organization was looking for a volunteer to become the website manager in the summer of 2008. I had practically no experience with websites, but I was interested and willing to learn. At our travel coaches meeting, I volunteered and got the position on the spot.
That experience helped me to improve my writing, design, and technical abilities. I re-wrote our rules (have been a referee since 1994), created game schedules, and completely redesigned the website several times. People loved that they could get all of the forms that they needed online, and that they were so well organized. I remained in that volunteer position until 2021.
Today, I update the Lyon Software website and create a lot of the graphics that we’ve used at various conferences in our virtual booths (as well as the image on this post). Taking over the Lyon Software website was only possible because I volunteered to manage a youth soccer league’s website in 2008.
Some Tips When Considering Opportunities
When you’re deciding where to volunteer, think about what you enjoy doing. I think where a lot of people go wrong is that they sign up for something that they have no interest in, just because it’s convenient or available. But the truth is, you can volunteer just about anywhere.
If you enjoy the activity, there is a greater chance that you’ll have a positive experience. On the flip side, if you’re not having a good time, that will also be noticed. You’re giving your time, so make sure your volunteer experience is one that is both rewarding and enjoyable.
Also, remember that there are quite a few one-time volunteer opportunities. These can be great to get familiar with the process of becoming a volunteer. In the past, I’ve volunteered to set up an Easter egg hunt in my community. More recently, 4 of us at Lyon Software went downtown to our local arena in August and spent the morning filling backpacks for school-aged children in a community-wide event.
Keep in mind that many different types of organizations need volunteers. You may think of volunteering as working in a soup kitchen or food pantry. Obviously, those are great options and fill a tremendous need. Just remember that there are a plethora of volunteer opportunities available to you. You don’t have to limit yourself to one type of activity.
Keep Trying New Places
It may take you several tries before you find a volunteer position that feels like a perfect fit. If you’re looking to be a long-term volunteer, keep searching until you find it. You’ll be glad you did, and so will the organization you’re serving.
In the beginning, go into each shift with the attitude that you’re trying it out. You aren’t making a long-term commitment. Then, if you volunteer 2-3 times and it doesn’t feel right for you, be direct with your main contact and let them know.
If you want to keep volunteering for that organization, they will find a different spot for you. They’ll appreciate your honesty and that you want the best experience possible – both for yourself and the people you serve.
Everybody wins that way!
October is International Campus Sustainability Month. Last year, I wrote about my memories of BGSU Can Recycle – the campus environmental awareness program at Bowling Green State University in the late 1990s. That was my first real exposure to the sustainability movement.
This year, I’m attending the Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education (GCSHE) to learn about the sustainability practices of colleges and universities across the country. It marks the 6th consecutive year that Lyon Software will be a participating exhibitor at this conference, which is hosted by AASHE (The Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education). GCSHE is once again in a virtual setting, and this year, has attracted over 2,000 attendees from all around the world.
One of the reasons we enjoy this conference so much is the ability to learn what new developments are happening in the area of campus & corporate sustainability. It’s also inspiring to see so many students working to advance the green initiative on their home campus.
The Urgency of Now
This year’s theme is The Urgency of Now. Every session has done a terrific job of capturing the spirit of the theme. Each presenter has focused on the changing physical and social landscape, and how important it is for all of us to come together for a better future – and sooner rather than later.
We began with a spirited keynote address from Tyson Yunkaporta on October 18th. He talked quite a bit about the changing landscape of the world, and how university and campus life fits into that. Then yesterday, Kumi Naidoo gave an inspiring talk about the need for going beyond the solo approach and working together for a better world. GCSHE wraps up on Thursday, November 3rd.
A Great Way to Connect
It’s been over 20 years since I left campus as a college graduate, so for me, this conference is a wonderful way to interact with students and faculty about an emerging topic. It’s amazing to learn about all the great work that is happening on campuses all over the world to advance environmental sustainability initiatives.
My favorite part of the conference is getting to interact with so many of the attendees online. Face-to-face isn’t my game, but I can keyboard warrior with the best of them. I find that people are much more interested in what you have to say when they can respond at their own pace. It allows us all to be more thoughtful in our communication.
Make Plans to Attend Next Year
If you’re considering attending a sustainability conference to learn about the best practices currently happening in a higher education setting, I strongly recommend putting GCSHE on your calendar for next year. It will likely be in October and continue in a virtual format. If you do decide to attend due to reading this blog post, be sure to stop by and say hi to me. I’m sure Lyon Software will be back in 2023.
Quick Question: Will you plan to attend the Global Conference for Sustainability in Higher Education in 2023?
Let me know in the comments below.
Living sustainably on an individual basis may seem as simple as drinking from a refillable water container, refusing plastic grocery bags, and recycling. However, many people miss out on a major and necessary area of sustainability, which is what they wear.
According to the EPA, textiles, such as clothing, shoes, bags, bedding and more, accounted for 14.4 million tons of total municipal solid waste in 2017, which equates to around 70 lbs per person in the US. These numbers do not need to be so high, but the reality of the matter is that consumerism and fast-fashion are so common that they have been conditioned into the minds of millions.
Thankfully, there are several approaches that can be taken to help decrease the amount of needless textile waste that ends up being added to landfills or incinerated.
Buying less is the most impactful and obvious thing that can be done to decrease textile waste. This can be accomplished by repairing old clothing vs throwing it away, avoiding purchases based on trends, and putting together custom capsule wardrobes. A capsule wardrobe is centered around a few staple, versatile articles of clothing, shoes, and accessories that pair well with each other, and can be easily mixed and matched to create multiple outfits that suit the style and needs of the wearer. Taking the time to create an individualized capsule wardrobe deters people from submitting to the temptations of fast-fashion, as well as simplifies the process of getting ready for the day.
Guide on how to get started with a capsule wardrobe here: https://importantenough.com/how-to-create-the-perfect-capsule-wardrobe/
The best thing to do when in need of additional clothing is to try to find items you need second-hand from a yard sale, thrift shop, or online marketplace. Buying second-hand can easily save you money, while also saving on textile waste.
When buying second-hand is not an option, choosing clothing made from sustainable materials like organic cotton, hemp, linen, bamboo, recycled cloth, etc., or choosing clothing from brands that are transparent about their production processes still helps to make up for some of the negative environmental impact brought on by introducing more products into existence.
Go the extra mile
One extra step that can be taken to minimize harm to the planet is to purchase a filter to help catch some of the synthetic microfibers that come off of clothing while washing, preventing them from entering and polluting the water system. This step may not fit the budget of all sustainability warriors, but another alternative to installing a filter is tossing your clothes in a filtration bag while washing, or adding a specially designed laundry ball that helps catch some of the microfibers that would otherwise be washed away.
Versions of these items can be found here: https://eluxemagazine.com/living/tech/5-great-microfiber-filters-to-help-stop-microplastic-pollution/
When considering living a sustainable lifestyle, the first thing that comes to mind may be the decisions you make at home and in your free-time. This makes sense considering that is when and where you have the most control, but the average person actually spends around one third of their lifetime at their job. With this apparent, sustainability practices in the workplace should be considered equally important as they are at home or in public.
Tips on how to have a Less Wasteful Workplace Kitchen
1. Instead of plastic bags, use reusable containers that seal such as silicone zip-bags, glass containers, or reusable plastic containers. Your office will want to have a few extra that people can borrow to take home leftovers in case they forget their own.
2. Instead of plasticware and disposable dining products, consider using reusable silverware, plates, bowls, etc.
3. If your office serves coffee, consider using a coffee a pot and washable mugs instead of disposable foam cups. Or, if using a Keurig (single use) coffee maker, use a reusable pod and ground coffee instead of single-use disposable pods.
4. If your office takes trips to the grocery store to stock snacks, beverages, or condiments be sure to bring reusable grocery bags with you to avoid needing to use disposable plastic bags.
At Lyon Software, we set up recycling bins for containers, cardboard, and paper, all labeled with details on which items are acceptable to go in. Once the bins fill up, we take them to one of our storage rooms, where we keep larger sorted bins to dump our smaller office bins into to collect the recycling until the time comes to take it to the recycling center- We try to make it very simple and efficient to encourage more people to participate in recycling, and have had great success!
Utilizing Natural Light
Instead of keeping the lights on in your office or work area all day, try to make a habit of flipping the lights off whenever you leave your area (going to complete a task in another area, going to the restroom, going to have lunch, etc.), or on bright days, you might not need extra light if you have a window in your work area, so consider working without extra lights on.
How to be Less Wasteful when Ordering and Shipping
1. Request sustainable packaging from Amazon if purchasing with them- you can do so by contacting their customer services via email or phone. You can also check with any shipping company or supplier you use to see if they have sustainable shipping alternatives and utilize them when applicable.
2. If you need to ship from your office, consider using more sustainable methods such as minimizing the amount of paper mail sent by digitizing what is sent, using recycled paper, and choosing envelopes without plastic windows.