The Field Guide to Community Service
“The Earth is what we all have in common.”
— Wendell Berry
There are many environmental challenges in our region (and our world), including climate change, pollution and resource depletion. Thankfully, hundreds of nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area are working tirelessly to protect and restore our planet. If you want to help with these efforts, learn to live more sustainably or simply get out into nature, this is the chapter for you.
Learn about Village Harvest, a nonprofit that helps get fresh produce to people who need it the most. You can request that they come glean fruit from your trees or you can volunteer to pick fruit from private homes and local orchards. The bounty is donated to local food banks.
Familiarize yourself with ocean-friendly seafood choices at Seafoodwatch.org.
Download the San Jose Urban Village Toolkit and find out how to improve your neighborhood.
Sign up for a daylong beautification effort with San Jose Project.
Take the kids to a Youth Garden day at Veggielution where the whole family can enjoy gardening, crafting and learning together.
Learn to compost through Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County or the City of San Jose.
Help install solar panels for a low-income family with SunWork Renewable Energy Projects.
Volunteer with Taylor Street Farm, which is open to volunteers on Wednesdays from 3:30-5:30 p.m. (winter hours) and Saturdays from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. It’s located in the heart of downtown at 200 W. Taylor St., next to Citibank.
Help out the Asian Pacific Environmental Network if you are fluent in Mandarin or Cantonese.
Check out Green Foothills Community Advocates Leadership Academy, which is an 8-month training program that provides participants with the foundation to run and participate in successful campaigns for conservation and environmental justice. The training program equips participants with the tools to create effective campaigns for environmental advocacy that prioritize race equity.
Volunteer to be an Outdoor Education Leader at Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to teach elementary students about good land stewardship.
Gather a group of friends for a day of planting trees with Our City Forest, Canopy or Friends of the Urban Forest.
Become a garden mentor with Valley Verde, and help urban families learn to grow their own organic food. Spanish speakers are especially needed.
All in: Interested in fire safety? Become a Home Ignition Zone Assessor with the Santa Clara County Firesafe Council and help members of your community fire-proof their homes.
Acterra: Action for a Healthy Planet
Acterra brings people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet, including the Business Environmental Awards, energy and climate program and a public lecture series.
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
APEN brings together a collective voice to develop an alternative agenda for environmental, social and economic justice. The organization’s work focuses on Asian immigrant and refugee communities.
Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education
AEOE hopes to advance the impact of environmental and outdoor education in California. They envision a world where every young person lives in a healthy community with access to meaningful learning experiences outdoors.
Bicycle Exchange Silicon Valley
Bicycle Exchange provides refurbished bicycles to underprivileged individuals. It reaches these individuals by donating bicycles and helmets to more than a dozen social service organizations throughout Silicon Valley.
Breathe California of the Bay Area
Breathe California of the Bay Area fights lung disease in all forms. They envision a world that promotes healthy lungs and a healthy environment. They strive to educate people on the pollutants in our cities and educate the community on how to prevent air pollution.
Canopy plants and cares for trees where people need them most. Their mission is to grow urban tree canopy in Midpeninsula communities for the benefit of all.
CWC preserves and protects coastal watersheds through community stewardship, education and monitoring.
Green Foothills protects open space, farmland and natural resources in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties for the benefit of all through advocacy, education and grassroots action.
The Crayon Initiative recycles used and unwanted crayons to preserve our environment and enrich the lives of hospitalized children through art and imagination.
The ESF works with the government and community to protect the beautiful slough. They conduct research and provide tours to better understand the region and provide education.
Endangered Species International
Endangered Species International is strongly committed to reversing the trend of human-induced species extinction, saving endangered animals, and preserving wild places. They have a passion for nature, respect for all life, and optimism for solving the species extinction crisis.
Environmental Volunteers promotes understanding of, and responsibility for, the environment through hands-on science education.
Filoli is dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and stewardship of the Filoli Historic House & Garden for public education and enjoyment.
Friends of Stevens Creek Trail
FSCT promotes community pride and involvement in the completion, enhancement, and enjoyment of the Stevens Creek Trail and Wildlife Corridor. They also give access to spaces for outdoor activities and time in nature.
Friends of the San Jose Rose Garden
This group is dedicated to maintaining the roses at the Historic San Jose Municipal Rose Garden.
Friends of the Urban Forest helps individuals and neighborhood groups plant and care for street trees and sidewalk gardens in San Francisco. Since 1981, FUF has brought communities together to plant more than 60,000 trees, totaling almost half of the city's street tree canopy.
The Gamble Garden is located in Palo Alto and is home to the beautiful property of Elizabeth F. Gamble. This property was turned into a place of beauty and civic pride. As an organization, they hope to maintain and enhance the historic home and garden as an oasis of beauty and tranquility. They provide community resources for horticultural education and enjoyment.
Good Karma Bikes transforms lives by supporting people with low cost or free bicycles so they can get to work.
Grassroots Ecology leverages the power of volunteers to create healthy lands across Silicon Valley. They restore native plants to open spaces and neighborhoods, steward creeks and watersheds and provide hands-on nature education.
Greenbelt Alliance addresses a single challenge: how the Bay Area handles growth. They shape the rules that govern growth to protect the region’s open spaces and to ensure neighborhoods within our cities and towns are amazing places for everyone.
Guadalupe River Park Conservancy
GRPC provides leadership for the development and use of the Guadalupe River Park & Gardens through education, advocacy and stewardship.
The Hakone Foundation manages the Hakone Estate and Gardens toward independence from public financing by encouraging membership contributions, managing rentals of the buildings and gardens, and sponsoring programs.
Happy Hollow Foundation supports Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, which connects people to nature through play. It was the first amusement park and zoo in the country to be certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Hidden Villa strives to foster educational experiences that build connections and inspire a deeper appreciation and respect for nature, food and one another. They provide beautiful acres for hikes and picnics and also have animal reserves and gardens for relaxation and education.
Kitchen Table Advisors fuels the economic viability of sustainable small farms and ranches through practical business advising and trusted relationships.
Land Trust of Santa Clara Valley
The Land Trust of Santa Clara Valley protects, promotes and enhances the habitats of fish, wildlife, plants or similar ecosystems, and preserves land for agricultural, recreation, education, historic preservation or open space.
Living Classroom works to make education come alive and to empower the next generation by growing environmental champions, inquisitive learners, and healthy eaters who know where their food comes from. They inspire children to learn about and to value the natural world through garden-based education.
The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito is leading the field in ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue, veterinary medicine, science and education.
Based in Redwood City, the Marine Science Institute strives to cultivate a responsibility for the natural environment and our human communities. They use a variety of interactive marine science programs that put people in direct contact with ocean life.
Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County
Master Gardeners is a volunteer organization that works to extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management and sustainable landscape practices.
Middlebrook Center for Urban Sustainability, The
The Middlebrook Center redefines how we utilize the land around us to provide the essential things we need to sustain our lives. It is a place of community so that others can witness, learn and share in a better way of living.
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District works to acquire and preserve a regional greenbelt of open space land in perpetuity, protect and restore the natural environment, and provide opportunities for ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.
Open Space Authority Santa Clara Valley
Open Space Authority preserves key portions of the natural environment in order to balance continuing urban growth.
Our City Forest cultivates a green and healthy Silicon Valley by engaging community members in the appreciation, protection, growth and maintenance of our urban ecosystem, especially our urban forest.
The Pacific Beach Coalition works to preserve the ocean, coastal habitat and wildfire. They work with volunteers to end littering through advocacy, community building and citizen action.
POST protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley.
SPUR brings people together to develop solutions to the big problems our cities face. It is a leading civic planning organization, respected for its independent and holistic approach to urban issues.
San Jose has 19 year-round community gardens that are managed by volunteers and offer opportunities for San Jose residents to have their own garden.
SJPF advocates for San Jose’s parks and trails, and the programs within them, by empowering residents and volunteers and securing private donations.
Santa Clara County Farm Bureau
The SCC Farm Bureau is dedicated to promoting and preserving farming and ranching in Santa Clara Valley.
Santa Clara County FireSafe Council
SCC FireSafe hopes to mobilize the people of Santa Clara County to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfires. They provide education and project assistance for homeowners and landowners in communities that are vulnerable to wildfire.
Save Our Shores is a marine conservation organization that works to care for the marine environment through ocean awareness, advocacy and citizen action.
Save Our Trails promotes trails in Santa Clara County for the benefit and enjoyment of all.
Save the Bay works to protect and restore the Bay for people and wildlife. They strive to unite the Bay Area to create a clean and healthy environment.
As sea levels rise, Sea Change works to meet the challenge of climate change. They strive to preserve the safety and wellbeing of San Mateo County and safeguard the regions that will be most affected.
Sea Hugger protects and heals the marine environment from plastic pollution. It works to educate the public to reduce plastic dependency, while focusing on protecting the marine environment, ensuring the intrinsic rights of aquatic life, and helping create sustainable coastal communities that are free of plastic pollution.
Sierra Club, Loma Prieta Chapter
The Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club provides opportunities for people to develop leadership skills, give back to the community and help the environment.
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition
The Bicycle Coalition exists to promote increased cycling and to create a healthy community, environment and economy through bicycling for people who live, work or play in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
SVTC is engaged in research, advocacy and grassroots organizing to promote human health and environmental justice in response to the rapid growth of the high-tech industry.
Sustainable Silicon Valley is a collaboration of companies, cities, counties, and research and educational institutions working to conserve resources and improve the environment.
Sweet Farm is the first nonprofit sanctuary in the world to address the global impacts of factory farming across animals, the plants and the planet.
Taylor Street Farm educates youth, families and the community on where food comes from and how it is grown.
The Trash Punx is cleaning up our community, one piece of trash at a time. It’s hard to imagine that cleaning up litter would be fun, but Trash Punx makes the experience interesting and rewarding for children, teens and families.
Valley Verde provides low-income families with free organic gardening classes and materials.
Veggielution connects people from diverse backgrounds through food and farming to build community in East San Jose.
Village Harvest is a nonprofit volunteer organization that provides food for the hungry, preserves our heritage and skills, and promotes sustainable use of urban resources. It organizes backyard fruit harvesting, and provides education on fruit tree care, harvesting and food preservation.
The Walden West Foundation seeks to make Outdoor School programing as accessible as possible to Santa Clara County students both financially and logistically. Established in 1996, the Walden West Foundation has helped to develop and foster collaborative science partnerships with leading Silicon Valley companies and educational institutions.
YSI works to inspire enthusiasm for science and a love of learning by offering hands-on, nature-based science education to children, families and the general public.
Compost. The City of San Jose has great workshops and discounted bins to help get you started.
Take a walk in nature.
Turn the TV and computer off one day a week.
Shop at a local farmer’s market.
Take light rail, BART or Caltrain.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
This Field Guide chapter was edited by Evan Broccoli.
Evan is a student at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose and will graduate in 2022.
When he is not editing the Field Guide, he likes to run cross country, explore nature through camping and backpacking, cook gourmet meals and hang out with friends.
He enjoys community service because it makes him feel good to give back to the community and people in need.