Volunteer in the New Economy

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

March 11, 2011

There has been a lot of talk, especially lately, about our “new economy.” Many I know have been preaching that it has to get worse before it gets better, and I think now, with Wisconsin, budget woes, and this “new economy” we’re seeing how it can get worse. Many businesses are reprioritizing so they can do what is “essential and precious” because they realize, they simply do not have the funds to do everything they want to do.

Budgeting is hard. Managing priorities is hard. Figuring out what’s really important is hard. It takes time to learn about yourself, know yourself, understand yourself, figure out your goals, create a plan, and finish off by doing it. I would hedge my bets that most people don’t wish or dream of working 70 hour work weeks. (Being that nothing is impossible, there are those who thrive in fast-paced, intense environments that give little to no “free” time.)

I made the choice, when I realized I wanted to work, to build a career, that I wanted to work in something I was passionate about. Something where I could go to work every day and know that my part, even if it was filing, was for the greater good – a good cause. But, even at this great cause, I still need time away. Time away refreshes me. It clears my head. It gives me perspective.

I also made the choice to volunteer. It was something my Catholic faith taught me was important, and something I realized, first hand, was important as I entered adult-hood. So, when I had free time, I would volunteer for another great cause.

Robert Putnam links our quality of life, and in many cases declining quality of life, to the decline in volunteerism. He showcases examples of cities, Portland included, where volunteer rates have reminded high or steady through the 90s (many urban areas drop off, dramatically in the 70s) and how the quality of life has also remained steady. This suggests that in order to have a strong community, we benefit greatly by giving back our time.

The Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profit or Economics, Environment, Equity (3Es)) states to have a balanced “Environment” we need to balance the three main things that affect our environment: the people who live in it, the planet itself and all the things that live on it, and the profit that drives the development and for many makes the world go round.

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