Green City Project: Volunteer Network

The Volunteer Network (Volnet) was the foundation of the Bay Area Green City Project. The Network was a free over-the-phone community service program which matched willing volunteers (including individuals, schools, corporations and groups) with local environmental organizations in the volunteer’s specified field of interest and location. The Network also served as an information resource, helping media and government bodies contact knowledgeable community activists and exemplary ecological projects.  In addition, the Network was used by the groups who were part of the network to locate each other as resources and to collaborate. The Network linked together thousands of individuals and organizations with each other, promoting new activism, collaboration and innovation.

The Volunteer Network existed before the internet was developed and it was duplicated in other cities as a model project to education the public.


The Volunteer Network was organized with the use of one person, a telephone and a computer database. By the end of the year about 200 groups were listed in the database.


The Volunteer Network database expanded drastically in 1994. One hundred and ten Bay area groups representing a myriad of urban sustainability causes joined the Network bringing the total to 310 participating organizations.

We referred over 725 eager volunteers during 1994—an increase of over 100%  from 1993. Most were to individuals; others were for large service organizations such as the San Francisco Conservation Corps, and Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity at U.C. Berkeley.

The Green City Volunteer Network provided information referrals to the following media organizations, community groups, and education programs:

  • City of Oakland “We Mean Clean’ Creeks” campaign
  • Mission District 24th Street Revitalization Committee
  • KRON TV, Berkeley Earth Day
  • San Francisco Bay Guardian
  • Linking San Francisco
  • Public Coalition Against the Cross Town Tunnel Proposal
  • Critical Mass bike rides,
  • San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
  • Pathways to Peace
  • Sacramento Community Gardeners Association
  • San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners
  • San Francisco Public Works Department, Project 20
  • And the nine Bay Area Volunteer Centers

The Volunteer Network was also identified as the primary environmental resource for Bay Area volunteers ina new book by Earthworks Press, Time to Get Involved: How to Volunteer in the Bay Area.

The network idea is spreading. During 1994, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver consulted with Planet Drum Foundation to start their own volunteer referral programs based on our Green City Volunteer Network.


During 1995 we referred 2807 volunteer and information seekers (an average of 234 people/month) to Volunteer Network organizations.

Green City Project is now referring many media representatives, community groups, and education programs to organizations in the Network. Some of the groups served this year include:

  • Mission High School Eye (environmental club)
  • Americorps, Richmond YMCA
  • Summer Bridge Day School
  • the Environmental Protection Agency
  • various sororities and fraternities

The Project consulted with grassroots groups in Vancouver and Seattle on how to set-up their own volunteer networks. These cities are now seeing the benefits of having a central information and volunteer referral service.

Presentations about the Volunteer Network and other Green City programs were made to the following audiences:

  • 15th Annual Ecological Farming Conference (Asilomar, CA)
  • San Francisco Foundation meeting (San Francisco, CA)
  • Soup Stock ’95 (San Francisco, CA)
  • Linking San Francisco meeting (San Francisco, CA)
  • Golden Gate University foreign language students (San Francisco, CA)
  • San Francisco Business League lunch (San Francisco, CA)    
  • San Francisco Bike Coalition (San Francisco, CA)
  • Friends of Glen Canyon Park meeting (San Francisco, CA)  
  • Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep School (San Francisco, CA) and
  • Levi Strauss & Company (San Francisco, CA)


The Network now contains 430 organizations. we referred 2,789 volunteer and information seekers to these groups in 1996. The network has become better known, and this year referrals were extremely varied, from children to seniors and in all areas around San Francisco Bay. they included individuals, groups of friends, foreign visitors, schools, corporations, businesses, and large service organizations. Among the groups to whom referrals were made were:

  • Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity (UCB)                     
  • Audubon Expeditions School                                                                               
  • Berkeley High School                                                        
  • Biology Class for Seniors                                                  
  • Bridge from School to Work                                              
  • Council for International Exchange                                 
  • Hamlin School                                                                     
  • International Volunteers                                                    
  • Jewish Community Center
  • Lafayette Elementary School
  • Lowell High School
  • Oakland High School
  • St. Gygers Church
  • UCSC Environmental Studies Department
  • Youth Advocates
  • BAYAC Americorps
  • Beth Sholom
  • Boy Scouts
  • Castro Valley High School
  • Elderly Friends
  • Hands-On San Francisco
  • Japan Pacific Resources Network
  • John Swett Elementary School
  • LifeSpring
  • Mission YMCA
  • SF Green Team
  • Summerbridge Day School
  • Xerox Corporation
  • Youth In Action

The Volunteer Network also serves as an informational resource for both the groups themselves and others needing to contact ecologically oriented groups. Among those to whom “cross-referrals” or “research referrals” were given this year were:

  • Baykeeper
  • CA Alumni Resources
  • Marin Conservation Corps
  • Poetry Flash
  • San Geronimo Valley Healthy Start
  • Seeds of Change
  • SF Environmental Film Festival
  • Urban Service Project
  • Youth in Action
  • Bike-Aid
  • Ecology Center
  • League of Conservation Voters
  • Petrolia School
  • Rachel Elson (Chronicle/Examiner reporter)
  • San Jose Parks Department
  • SF Coastal Commission
  • SFSU Radio
  • Veritable Vegetables
  • Youth Quest

A survey was sent out in April to all Volunteer Network groups in order to update our records as well as find our how effectively our programs help provide them with volunteer and publicity. We were overwhelmed by the number of positive responses!


The Network now contains over 450 organizations. We referred 3,500+ volunteers and information seekers to these groups during 1997.The Network has become well known, and this year’s referrals continued to be extremely varied, from children to seniors, and in all areas around San Francisco Bay. They included individuals, groups of friends, foreign visitors, schools, corporate employees, businesses, and large service organizations, A few of the groups to whom referrals were made were:

  • Berkeley YMCA
  • Boy Scouts
  • Community Youth Center for Leadership & Education
  • Ex-Peace Corps workers
  • Glide Church
  • International Health Programs
  • KMPG
  • Levi Strauss Company
  • Lick-Wilmerding High School
  • North Hollywood High School
  • Project 20
  • Salvation Army
  • St. Mark’s Middle School
  • Starbucks
  • U.C. Berkeley
  • “We the People”
  • Western Consortium for Public Health

The Volunteer Network also serves as an informational resource for both the groups themselves and others needing to contact ecologically orients  organizations. Among those to whom “cross-referrals” or “research referrals” were given this year were:

  • Bay Area Action
  • Bay Area Green Team
  • City Search Website
  • Clean Water Action
  • Town of Danville
  • Do Magazine (Ukiah)
  • E+A teachers
  • East Bay Conservation Corps
  • The Gap
  • Harbin Hot Springs
  • International Sustainability Conference
  • Mini-Garden Network (Lubbock, TX)
  • Nature Conservancy
  • Neighbor to Neighbor Magazine
  • Neighborhood Parks Council  
  • Oakland Museum
  • Our Farm (CSA)
  • Presidio Alliance
  • SF Chronicle
  • SF Dept. of Public Works
  • SF  Dept. of the Environment
  • SHARE, northern California
  • Sunset YMCA
  • Ti Couz Restaurant
  • “We the People”

Because the Volnet receives current information about so many groups, this year we offered a Job Listings Service for people seeking employment. The Volet sends a letter to businesses and nonprofit organizations requesting current information about available jobs, and every two weeks the listings are compiled and sent out to subscribers.

Publicity for the Volunteer Network services was broadcast to a wide audience through public service announcements in Bay Area newspapers, radio station and for the first time a video PSA on local television stations. Green City mailed out PSA’s about the Volnet every two months and this year also mailed a “Sustainability Alert” to politicians, media, newspapers, Green City members, related Volnet groups and Board members.

In March, radio station KPFA began weekly announcements, “Green City Alerts,” of volunteer opportunities drawn from the Green City Calendar. The New Mission News also initiated a monthly Green City Alerts column that is bilingual (English/Spanish), to provide volunteer opportunities for their readership.


Green City’s Volunteer Network participated in many consultations involving teachers, students and urban sustainability. The year’s referrals continued to be extremely varied, from children to seniors, and in all areas around San Francisco Bay. They included individuals, groups of friends, foreign visitors, schools, corporate employees, businesses, and large service organizations. A sampling of groups and individuals who consulted specifically with the Volnet this year included:

  • Bay Area Backroads TV program                                    
  • Green business info for class of 40                                 
  • CA Public Utilities Commission                                        
  • City of Pacifica about native plantings                            
  • Green Map producers
  • Hands-On San Francisco
  • SAEJ
  • San Francisco State teacher in urban studies, Christine Grasso
  •  San Francisco Department of Parks and Recreation to plan neighborhood restoration/conservation
  • Student from SF State for school referrals
  • SLUG

Both Green City’s Volnet and E+A presented information to Environet, a group creating a network of environmental educational organizations, and now sits on the steering committee of this organization.


The Volunteer Network is a diverse network of organizations representing all aspects of urban sustainability from environmental justice to habitat restoration and neighborhood development. Green City has also gathered information and resource materials from local, regional, national and international sources, and serves as a clearinghouse for information on urban sustainability.

Green City focused on making resources accessible to the public and during the first quarter of 1999 approximately thirty people came into the Planet Drum office to talk to Green City staff members, use the database, or look through books and other resource materials.

During the first half of 1999, the Volnet received about 10-20 calls a week. Approximately half of them were from individuals and families and half came from school and community groups. Of the callers seeking to volunteer 75% wanted to participate in hands-on restoration or other field oriented activities and 25% were looking for various kinds of office work.

This year, in contrast to 1998 when almost all inquiries were for volunteer opportunities, 20% of inquiries were from callers seeking referrals or other information. The Volunteer Network is evolving into the Volunteer & Green City Resources Network. Callers fell into four broad categories. Individual and groups seeking:

  • referrals to other organizations,
  • information on ecologically sensitive goods and services,
  • information for their own sustainability projects, and
  • general information on urban sustainability.

Volnet services continued to expand among ethnically and economically diverse groups. Here are two examples of projects done in collaboration with Volnet organizations:

  • Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG) and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department collaborated with us in a Habitat Restoration project on Bayview Hill with Brete Harte School which has a mostly low income African-American student body.
  • Friends of McLaren Park worked with us in an ongoing environmental education and park restoration effort with St. Elizabeth School in Visitacion Valley, which has a mostly low-income Asian/Pacific Islanders student body. They are also collaborating with us on a Community Workshop that will provide a free education walking tour of McLaren Park to the public.