Eco-clubs attract young members
Mary Cohen, Kati Bryant, Patti Peterson & Bill Kimbler, of the Rotary Club of Duluth Superior Eco, help clear buckthorn at the Hartley Nature Center in Duluth, Minnesota, USA, in 2008. Photo courtesy of Kay Biga
A growing number of Rotary clubs have found that focusing on the environment helps them bring in new members and gain visibility in the community.
The Rotary Club of Duluth Superior Eco , Minnesota, USA, was chartered in November 2008 with the purpose of attracting younger people by being project oriented and environmentally minded.
Club president Marti Buscaglia says the club founders reasoned that young people would be more likely to have time on their hands than disposable income, and would be more engaged if they could take part in hands-on projects for a cause they felt strongly about. The club now has 54 members, most under the age of 40, and mostly women.
"The eco brings them in, and then they learn more about Rotary," says Buscaglia. "It's a good introduction to Rotary for younger people. They know they are going to be involved in something they personally care about."
Buscaglia says conducting green projects has also given the club increased media coverage. "It's a hot topic right now, something everyone is reporting on," she says. For Earth Day, 22 April, the club is planning a large beach-cleaning project. Members have also planted trees and pulled buckthorn.
The Duluth Superior Eco club has caught the attention of other clubs. Kay Biga, secretary and cofounder, says she has heard from several clubs interested in following its model. The success is contagious, she says.
"Having eco in the name sends a message that we are different from other clubs in town," Biga says. "We are going to attract more younger people because the environment is very appealing to them. I also like themes. It seems people really gravitate to something if there is a theme involved to direct your activities."
Robert Hunt, who now lives in Florida but often attended club meetings in Duluth, took the concept with him to the Rotary Club of East Manatee, where he serves as club president. Hunt says that being green has helped the club attract members, make a lasting impact on the community, and gain exposure for Rotary.
"Prospective members who have the same mindset will naturally be drawn to the prestige of what an eco-club can offer them," he explains. "As we build more awareness, education, and identity, the membership will naturally increase."
The East Manatee club conducts a road cleanup every three months, sorting out anything that can be recycled. It also held a successful shred-a-thon in March, encouraging community members to bring in old documents to be shredded and recycled. During a fall festival, club members collected hundreds of disposable plastic bottles in special containers they provided for the event.
Biga sees more and more service organizations adopting an environmental slant. "Green products are everywhere," she says. "Everyone is becoming environmentally conscious. Service organizations have to be on board with the trends and with what's appealing to people."
Does your club conduct environmental projects? What is your club doing for Earth Day? Share your projects in our comments section below.
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