Environmental volunteering is a great way to help improve and enhance the environment, learn new skills, improve your health, meet new people, inspire others and help your local community.
Whether you’re interested in improving places for nature, gaining valuable work experience or are looking for an alternative to working out in the gym, a wide range of organisations offer opportunities for volunteering in the outdoors and some of these are detailed below.
Biological Recording Groups carry out wildlife surveys, gather data on wildlife and ensure that the information is available to the public. To find out how you could get involved, contact BRISC to find out how to contact your nearest group.
Borders Forest Trust is an environmental charity formed in 1996 to conserve, restore and manage native woodlands and other natural habitats for the benefit of people and wildlife. They support community woodlands, habitat restoration, education and arts projects and are involved in the sustainable use of hardwood timber.
From expert ringers and ecologists, to patch birders, garden enthusiasts and Cuckoo sponsors - BTO have a range of projects to suit your skills and time available.
We are always keen to hear from individuals who would like to volunteer for Buglife.
Butterfly Conservation relies on the support of thousands of volunteers. Without them, we could not do our work. There is a wide range of opportunities for people who would like to get involved, whatever your age or experience!
There may be a community woodland near you where volunteers are very active. A list of community woodlands in Scotland.
The Countryside Jobs Service has a section on survey and monitoring projects which require volunteers.
- Solway Firth Partnership: The Making the Most of the Coast project August 2012 – August 2014 aims to encourage people to look after and make the most of the fantastic Dumfries and Galloway coastline. The project will assist individuals, groups and businesses to become involved in activities to improve beaches and promote the special seashores. If you would like to participate in beach cleans, wildlife surveys or have ideas for other seaside related activities please contact the Solway Firth Partnership.
- Fleet Valley National Scenic Area and East Stewartry Coast and Nith Estuary National Scenic Area: These National Scenic Areas in Dumfries and Galloway have a very active and valued group of volunteers.
There are many volunteering opportunities based in Forestry and Land Scotland woodlands and forests, ranging from helping construct mountain bike trails to being a guide at an osprey project in the Scottish Borders.
Volunteers are vital for parks to flourish and develop. By giving your time you will not only be making a difference to your park but you will also become part of the parks community where you will learn new skills and gain a real sense of achievement. To find out if there are any volunteering opportunities at your local park visit MyParkScotland.
Voluntary geoconservation activity in the west of Scotland is available through one of three groups which are sub-committees of the Geological Society of Glasgow. These are:
- Strathclyde Geoconservation,
- GeoDiversity Dumfries & Galloway (GeoD) and Geoconservation,
- Argyll & the Islands.
These groups all aim to increase understanding and enjoyment of the geodiversity (rocks, fossils, landforms and landscape) in the west of Scotland.
The JMT run a series of conservation work parties between March and October. These run from one day up to seven days and are mostly hands on conservation activities. They also run the John Muir Award scheme where participants work towards discovery, explorer and conserver awards.
Organised under the auspices of the Edinburgh Geological Society, Lothian & Borders GeoConservation offers scope for voluntary effort. Their volunteer group welcomes anyone interested in any aspect of local geology and conservation. The group has evening meetings every month, and also gets involved in occasional work parties and other events.
A conservation group that run a practical nature conservation task each Sunday. These include tree planting, meadow raking, pond work, removing invasive plant species, woodland management and more.
Enjoy working with MCS as a valued volunteer. There are many ways you can help MCS with our work towards clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries and wildlife protection.
NMS occasionally recruit volunteers with an environmental focus at the National Museum of Rural Life.
Scotland’s National Parks include some of this country’s most amazing landscapes and wildlife. For more information go to:
Both offer a range of opportunities for people to get involved.
If you’d like to help look after some of Scotland’s most beautiful and historic places the National Trust for Scotland offer a range of volunteering opportunities. Visit for information about their volunteer programmes and current opportunities.
NatureScot offers volunteering opportunities – ranging from one-day activities to placements of 1 month or more - at some National Nature Reserves.
Find UK projects that match your interests in helping nature. Conservation organisations offer free opportunities here including single short events, placements and being part of a regular team. Projects can be anything from a one-off morning beach clean to a weekly butterfly survey and can be based anywhere in the UK.
Paths for All (PFA) promotes walking for health and the development of path networks. They currently support 130 active community walking projects across Scotland. Most of the walks are led by volunteers and PFA has trained more than 6000 Volunteer Walk Leaders. They also support community groups to develop local path networks. You can find contact information for local health walk projects and the PFA Development Officer for your area.
Help to conserve Britain’s most threatened plants by becoming a volunteer with Plantlife.
Many Ranger Services run volunteer projects. Contact your local council to find out about Ranger Services in your area. You can find links to many of Scotland’s Ranger Services here. Alternatively, to find your nearest Ranger Service, look on the website of your local authority. The local authority Ranger Service will know about any nearby Local Nature Reserves or Country Parks where volunteers are active.
RSPB’s nature reserves include some of the wildest and most beautiful places in Scotland. They offer a range of volunteering opportunities at their reserves and offices across Scotland.
Get involved with understanding and improving Scotland’s environment. You can help to collect the data and information that will improve our understanding of Scotland’s environment by taking part in one of the many ‘citizen science’ projects that are running in Scotland.
For example, you could record sightings of animals and plants, observe local weather patterns, or help to monitor the quality of the air, land and water in your local area. Or you can get involved in ‘citizen action’ projects that help to improve our environment, such as removing litter from your local beach, making your garden more wildlife-friendly, or promoting safe routes for walking and cycling to school or work.
Opportunities exist for voluntary activity in Scotland’s three Geoparks – Lochaber, Shetland and the Northwest Highlands. Each area encompasses unique and outstanding geological heritage that is promoted through local community effort with the aim of bringing about sustainable development. For further information visit:
People make the canals what they are and there are all sorts of opportunities to get involved (on both land and water - no previous experience is required!) Scotland's canals are places to volunteer, to get involved and to make a difference.
An exciting and ambitious 4-year partnership project set up to tackle invasive non-native species alongside rivers and watercourses in northern Scotland.
With SWT you can get involved in everything from planting trees and repairing boardwalks to surveying flora and fauna or running Watch groups for young people. Visit SWT to find out how you can get involved.
Sustrans makes smarter travel choices possible, desirable and inevitable. They are a UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys they make every day. They work with families, communities, policy-makers and partner organisations so that people are able to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and spaces to move through and live in. Over 3000 people volunteer with Sustrans.
TCV is the UK’s largest conservation volunteering organisation, working with people and communities to help them improve the quality of their environment. Find out what is happening in your area at your nearest TCV Scotland office.
The Green Team are a small dynamic organisation which delivers conservation projects for young people aged 14 – 25 yrs in and around the Edinburgh area.
Trees for Life is a conservation charity working to restore the Caledonian Forest and all its species to a large contiguous area in the Highlands of Scotland.
Volunteering Matters is a national charity leading UK volunteering in policy and practice. Their vision is of a society where everyone can participate to build strong and inclusive communities.
To find volunteer opportunities near you search for conservation/gardening opportunities on the Volunteer Scotland website or contact your local Volunteer Centre.
WDCS volunteers help to provide a range of roles in offices, wildlife centres and around the UK. A number of opportunities may be available requiring a diverse range of people to fill various roles. Depending on your interests and skills, WDCS can make sure that you find the right volunteering opportunity to suit you.
If you know of other organisations that we should include on this list, or find that any of the information needs updating, please email [email protected].
Disclaimer: Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has changed the name to NatureScot as of the 24th August 2020.
At the time of publishing, this document may still refer to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and include the original branding. It may also contain broken links to the old domain.
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