When 250 volunteers filled Alameda Park during CEC’s Earth Day Festival in April —building displays, greeting and counting attendees, helping exhibitors load in to their booth spaces — Heather Gardner was in the thick of it all.
Returning this year as a Zone Captain – a volunteer who helps manage other volunteers – Heather reflected on what keeps professionals like her returning to the event year after year. As a UCSB Materials Engineering Academic Personnel Coordinator by day, she regularly meets people from all over the world in the science and technology industry. CEC’s Earth Day Festival, however, is a chance to connect with and give back to her community. ””I find it incredible to see how many facets there are of people in the community who care about the environment. It’s my favorite thing that I volunteer for,” she said.
Returning volunteers are important because they know the overall layout of the festival and are familiar with the duties, said Clara Svedlund, the festival’s Volunteer Coordinator. “Without them, the festival couldn’t happen; they’re the integral part. If they come back, it shows we’re doing something right!” This year, 83% of the volunteers surveyed after the event said that they help simply because they feel it is the right thing to do. Over 90% said they found the volunteering process easy and felt like they were well utilized, and 95% said they would volunteer at CEC’s event again.
In addition to being of service, the volunteers also report that they learn from the exposure to environmental displays and information. For example, Heather enjoyed the Green Car Show because she thinks the “transportation industry is a big problem, and seeing what they’re doing to ease congestion is always very exciting.” She also said she was inspired by CEC’s Environmental Hero Van Jones, who stirred the audience with his questioning of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline installation.
After two years under her belt, Heather recommends a few things to anyone volunteering: good walking shoes, sunblock, and a bottle of water. “Just enjoy it; people are really serious so you have to come into it with a lot of enthusiasm.”