From Outside , In: Going Green for Your Community

Written by Molly Kay and Paige Witek

Here in Missouri, we’re no stranger to being surrounded by a variety of flora and fauna. From the hardy Bur Oak to the tiny Eastern chipmunk—a day out in nature isn’t complete without encountering a handful of unique species. As beautiful as our outdoor spaces may be, they also serve a substantial purpose when it comes to the health of our planet and the individuals that inhabit it. Today, let’s take a look at some of the many ways you can get involved in your local environmental community from the outside, in.

Our organization, The Missouri River Bird Observatory (MRBO), works toward the conservation of Missouri’s birds and their habitats; and although our work is very specialized and doesn’t offer a lot of volunteer opportunities for community members, we partner with several environmental organizations that you can get involved with. Recently, MRBO partnered with the Missouri Bluebird Society and Arrow Rock State Historic Site to put up two Eastern Bluebird nest boxes at our office in Arrow Rock. The boxes are a part of the Missouri Bluebird Society’s Nest Box Grant Program. The goal of the program is to encourage the placement and monitoring of nest boxes on public properties in Missouri. We hope to utilize the boxes as a method to teach the importance of citizen science to our summer camp, The Young Explorers’ Club. If you would like to put up your own nest box, or want more information about The Missouri Bluebird Society, please visit their website If you are interested in volunteering for the Young Explorers’ Club, or interested in registering your child for the camp, you can find contact info on our website:

Another important partnership of MRBO that you can get involved with is the Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF). The mission of MPF is to protect and restore prairie and other native grassland communities through acquisition, management, education, and research. The Missouri Prairie Foundation also promotes the use of native plants through its Grow Native! Program and supports the identification and control of invasive plant species through its Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force. We fully support the use of native plants as a way to both contribute to the ecosystem as well as attract birds to your backyard! Check out MPF’s website ( ) to learn more about their Grow Native! Program and Invasive Plant Task Force and how to get involved!

If you are looking to become a part of a team of extraordinary individuals who are making a positive difference for Missouri’s natural resources, consider becoming a Missouri Master Naturalist. The Missouri Master Naturalist program is jointly sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation and University of Missouri Extension. Missouri Master Naturalist volunteers support conservation efforts and natural resource education in their communities. To learn more about how to become a Missouri Master Naturalist and which chapter is in your area, visit:

The last partnership that should be mentioned is MRBO’s partnership with the Audubon Conservation Ranching Program. The purpose of the program is to establish a market-based incentive for ranchers to voluntarily want to improve grassland bird habitat. The Audubon conservation ranching program will enhance and restore millions of acres of grassland bird habitat across the Great Plains by partnering with ranchers to implement sustainable grazing practices. This program allows you, as a consumer, to participate in conservation efforts that keep ranchers on the land and healthy grasslands on the landscape. To learn about ranches and retailers near you, please visit:

As you can see, there’s no shortage of ways in which you can support your local environment. Now, some of you may be wondering, “what can I do to help today?” The answer may just lie in your own home. From upcycling to low energy lighting, let’s look at some of the simple, everyday changes that you can make today.

Let there be light

We all have lights in our homes, but not all of us think consciously about how we use them. Everyone knows that you should turn off the lights when you leave a room. However, people often overlook how the light itself can affect both your energy bill and the environment. Consider switching out your current lights with energy efficient LED bulbs. Not only does their long lifespan limit waste, but they also consume over 75% less energy than their incandescent cousin.

Organic and sustainably sourced

When it comes to cozying up at home, it’s hard to beat the comfort of your couch and a blanket—the last thing you would want is for that comfort to be compromised by harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, this may the case if your fabrics aren’t made from organic fibers. Fabrics made using organic materials are not only better for your skin, with which the fabric makes direct contact, but are also better for the quality of air within your home. Oh, and that couch I mentioned earlier? Check to see if it’s made from sustainably sourced wood. If not, there are plenty of furniture options that now come certified by organizations like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Refurbish and reuse

Looking to refresh your decor without breaking the bank? Look no further than a local garage or antique sale. Not only is this part of the latest home decor trend, but taking the time to refurbish and reuse old items eliminates the need for raw materials and resources that are used when creating new ones. Looking for some inspiration? Check out these before and after pictures to see what others have already done. Once you have a piece in mind that you’re looking to restore, check out this step-by-step guide.

These are just a handful of ways in which you can help out the environment from the comfort of your own home. Combined with the local initiatives that are happening right here in Missouri, you can truly start to develop a well-rounded approach to environmentalism and take your eco-friendly attitude from the outside, in.

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