Hugging trees in Oregon
Hugging trees in Oregon

Ever wonder how all those fallen trees on your favorite hiking trail get cleared? Or how your local urban parks manage invasive plant species or even clean up litter? Chances are, there’s a dedicated group of volunteers behind the scenes, helping keep your favorite outdoor places beautifully outdoorsy.

As a brand born for life outside, we're invested in protecting and stewarding the open spaces we all share. Through The KEEN Effect, we help fund projects around the world, and we encourage our employees to get their hands dirty, too.

Giving back to nature takes many forms, but whichever one you choose, there are so many feel-good rewards to taking on-the-ground action at a local level. From urban parks or coastal beaches to our national forests, giving back is also easier than you might think (and there are many socially distanced ways to do it right now during the pandemic). Even a 5-minute cleanup with a grabber tool (kids love them!) and trash bag around your block can help.

Here are five tips to jump-start getting involved:

1. Choose an organization

Before you can get involved, you gotta get informed. The more you understand about the concerns facing your local public lands, the easier it is to direct your energy. Have a favorite local trail or park? Chances are good there’s an associated volunteer group.

Next Step: Call the agency in charge and find out how you can get in on the volunteering action. The number one resource for volunteer opportunities on lands managed by a state or federal agency is For city and county parks, try your local city or county government website.

2. Keep it simple

You don’t need to sign your life away to feel good about giving back to nature. An hour, a day, a week; even if it feels small, anything you can contribute helps. Volunteering at your local urban green space is as important as giving time to a national park.

Next Step: Getting involved can be as simple as picking up litter any time you’re outside. You could also consider participating in a one-day national event like National Public Lands Day (Sept. 25 this year).

Cleaning up a neighborhood park

3. Follow your interests

Choose something that speaks to your outdoor passion. If rivers are your thing, turn a long weekend camping trip into a chance to work with a riparian restoration program. If mountain biking is your thing, get into spring trail maintenance. If you love wildlife, look into habitat restoration.

Next Step: VolunteerMatch can help you find opportunities that match your skills, interests, and location.

4. Get your kids involved

Volunteering on public lands helps kids develop a strong connection with nature. And the next generation is the key to continued action and preservation of our wild places. So, get your kids into it early! Some volunteer groups offer dedicated youth programs, and most welcome all ages.

Next Step: Plan a family volunteering trip! Read about volunteer opportunities in our national parks and start thinking about how to give back on your next visit.

5. Apply for a KEEN Effect Grant

If you’re part of an organization that actively supports kids that are protecting and maintaining wild places, reach out. We’d love to know more about what you’re up to. Since starting our grant program, we’ve supported over 100 organizations. Yours could be next.

Next Step: Check out the KEEN Effect Grant Program.

Giving back is about being part of something, or some place, you believe in. Whether it’s a national park or that bit of green space around the corner, the important piece is simply supporting the places you frequent. Start small, test the waters, and see how great it feels to give back. Or, if you prefer to think big, consider reaching out to your elected officials to make your voice heard on a pressing environmental concern. We can help.

Cleaning up a wild space in the city

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