Local Volunteering Opportunities in Sustainability

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March 04, 2023

Story: Delaney Behning

Sustainable development in a community involves meeting the needs of others in order to sustain future growth. A sustainable university requires resources and engagement devoted on- and off-campus. Understanding this, a way to contribute to sustainability in Iowa City is through local volunteering. Local volunteering allows students to foster skills as sustainability leaders in the community and in their future. Below, the Office of Sustainability and the Environment highlights some local organizations and groups where students can volunteer their time. 


Meeting Basic Needs Organizations 

Sustainable development requires intersectional solutions. Of these involves meeting the basic needs of community members. These needs include food security, housing stability, clothing, and mental health services. The following local organizations have a sustainable component and seek to meet some of these needs. 

Table to Table  

Table to Table works with various local organizations, aiming “to keep wholesome, edible food from going to waste by collecting it from donors and distributing to those in need through agencies that serve the hungry, homeless and at-risk populations.” Throughout their existence, 25 million pounds of food have been collected and redistributed throughout the community, preventing a large amount of local food waste. The U.S. FDA estimates that 30-40% of the total food supply goes to waste, and food is the largest material category occupying landfills (Food Loss and Waste | FDA). Understanding this, actions taken to eliminate or minimize food waste are crucial to help the climate while also assisting in more equitable food distribution. If interested in volunteering, you can find more information on Table to Table’s volunteer page, or you can email volunteer@table2table.org or call 319-337-3400. 

table to table

table to table

CommUnity Crisis Services 

CommUnity Crisis Services provides assistance for anyone in a crisis situation. Through their various services—crisis phone, mobile crisis outreach program, support groups, suicide prevention training, food bank, mobile food pantry, and financial support program—CommUnity truly wants to help. Having these systems in place is vital to fostering sustainable development within Iowa City and to enable individuals to thrive mentally, physically, and economically. If looking to volunteer with CommUnity, there are opportunities with the food bank, grocery delivery, mobile pantry, financial support, or crisis services. You can apply through CommUnity’s website.





Food Pantry at Iowa and Clothing Closet 

The Food Pantry at Iowa is a service on-campus that “provides free nutritious food and basic necessities for University of Iowa students, graduate and professional students, postdocs, staff, and faculty.” The Clothing Closet seeks to provide students with professional clothing at no cost. Many of these items are donated or used, helping to meet the professional needs of students while repurposing material items. For information about the volunteering process at the Food Pantry at Iowa, you can learn more here. If interested in becoming a volunteer, you can email them at studorg-foodpantry@uiowa.edu. 

food pantry


Shelter House 

The purpose of Shelter House “is to provide safe shelter and help people improve the quality of their lives as they move beyond homelessness.” They are a non-profit organization working in Iowa City since 1983. Shelter House provides drop-in services, emergency shelter, employment support, housing stabilization, permanent supportive housing, mental health recovery, and veterans assistance. For information about volunteering opportunities, you can read about them here. If interested, you can complete their volunteer sign-up form

shelter house shelter house


Nature Protection and Action Organizations 

Protection of our natural environment and taking action to advocate for it is key to sustainability. Within the following organizations, volunteers help restore and support nature.

Iowa Project AWARE River Cleanup 

Iowa Project AWARE is a river cleanup project in the summer, focused on removing trash and learning about watersheds, geology, archaeology, recycling, and the environment. Anyone can participate in the cleanup, and it involves camping, canoeing, and evening activities over the week-long volunteering. For more information, explore their website and register for this season’s cleanup, which opens for registration on March 13. 

iowa aware iowa aware

Friends of Hickory Hill Park 

Friends of Hickory Hill Park is a volunteer group “dedicated to preserving Hickory Hill Park as a natural sanctuary for Iowa City.” They work to protect and preserve the natural environment and unique qualities of the park as a habitat for wildlife and recreation for Iowa City residents. Some goals are to preserve and expand the park, preserve low-impact recreation, improve water quality, educate the public, and influence decisions made about Hickory Hill Paek. For more information, you can learn about the park’s history, and you can volunteer by filling out this form

hickory hill hickory hill

Grow Johnson County 

The mission of Grow Johnson County “is to improve healthy food access through SUSTAINABLE food production and hands-on education.” They work to train growers to create a more equitable, sustainable food system, as well as grow and provide fresh produce for our community. At Grow Johnson County, they focus “on sustainable practices, including cover cropping, beneficial insect habitat, and organic pest and weed management.” To volunteer for the upcoming growing season, fill out their volunteering survey

grow johnson county grow johnson county

Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club 

The Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club is motivated by nature and works “to protect our communities and the planet” as a branch of “America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.” Issues of concern include air, water, energy, natural protection, and government action through legislative advocacy and outreach. If interested in volunteering and to learn more, you can fill out their volunteer interest form

sierra club sierra club


Other Opportunities 

Green Iowa AmeriCorps 

The mission of Green Iowa AmeriCorps is to “empower Iowa’s communities and school districts to make more environmental, conservation-minded decisions and improvements by engaging our AmeriCorps members in direct services work, environmental education, professional development opportunities, and volunteer engagement.” There are branches in Iowa City as well as other Iowa cities. Information on open services positions with Green Iowa can be found here, and if interested, you can apply here.



Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center 

The Iowa City Animal Shelter hosts dogs, cats, and other pets available for adoption, as well as providing lost and found services, resources on licensing and pet regulations, and animal training. Taking care of domesticated pets and making sure they are protected and go on to live in a healthy environment is important for a community. You can visit their website for information on how to adopt a pet or to become a volunteer

animal shelter animal shelter

Environmental Advocates 

Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit corporation with goals “to create an ecologically resilient, sustainable community by linking and cultivating the efforts of individuals and environmental groups in Johnson County, Iowa.” They work to bring awareness to local environmental problems and host educational events. To become a member, supporter, or patron, you can apply through their website