If you’re anything like me, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation can often seem overwhelming. We can try to reduce our own carbon emissions through actions like taking public transportation and using less electricity, but it’s hard to see the impacts of those actions. What, I sometimes wonder, can I do to help the environment in a more tangible way?
A new organization called ioby provides answers to that question. ioby (an acronym for “in our backyards”) is an online microphilanthropy site that was created to support small-scale environmental projects in the New York City area. And the best part is that ioby makes it easy for people to get involved.
ioby’s website (ioby.org) fosters connections between projects and donors. You can search a database of projects by location and category (including emissions, waste, access, and more) and can donate any amount toward a project’s fundraising goal. If you want to get involved but prefer to give time instead of cash, ioby also posts projects that are in need of volunteers.
The organization’s name is a play on the acronym NIMBY, or “not in my backyard,” a term for movements that spring up to oppose environmentally hazardous development projects. Unfortunately, NIMBY movements often push undesirable developments out of affluent areas and into lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Lower-income areas are also likely to bear a disproportionate load of climate change impacts (such as illnesses that are heat-induced or related to air quality), so it is crucial that plans to mitigate and adapt to climate change take environmental justice concerns into account. ioby addresses environmental injustice by helping projects and organizations in all of New York’s communities gain access to support.
Each project must meet the following criteria: it must be local, benefit the public, make no profit, and be discrete and site-specific. Projects that have been posted since ioby’s launch earlier this month range from beach and park clean-up days to composting classes to constructing a stormwater catchment system.
One upcoming project that will take place here in Columbia University’s backyard is the 5th annual Hike the Heights day on June 6, 2009. An organization called CLIMB (City Life is Moving Bodies) is seeking support to host this day of hiking, food and activities along the “Giraffe Path” between Central Park and the Cloisters along the Northern Manhattan Cliffside Parks. We like this project because an improved understanding of and appreciation for our environment is a good first step to action.
By connecting us to projects like these, ioby serves as a great reminder that the environment is not just about distant, melting glaciers or disappearing tropical forests but also about small-scale efforts that take place, well, in our backyards.