Pretty much every year, I make a New Year’s resolution to volunteer more for environmental causes. This may seem an altruistic desire, but honestly, the main reason I want to volunteer is that I think it’ll make me happier — with a feel-good sense of achievement, deeper sense of community, and a cleaner environment to live in.

So far, I’ve never followed through on that goal.

It’s not that I don’t volunteer. I pitch in for the occasional event, like showing up for Hands Across the Sand (above) or the occasional beach cleanup. It’s just that volunteering is not a consistent practice for me. I feel great after I volunteer — and I think if I volunteered consistently, I would benefit consistently — perhaps exponentially.

Yet I still don’t volunteer regularly. Last year, I even signed up for American Express’ Members Project — a joint project with TakePart that lets cardmembers earn rewards points for volunteering — to goad myself on (full disclosure: I consult for American Express’ ZYNC card). That sign-up meant I got an email from the Members Project every couple weeks — nice reminders that, after feeling a quick pang of guilt, I deleted.

But after reading about Carlo Garcia and his Living Philanthropic project, I got more serious about giving back — and finally made a more concrete volunteering new year’s resolution goal for 2011: To volunteer for an environmental cause once a month. Of course I didn’t get on that right away — but luckily, No Impact Challenge’s Saturday topic — Giving back: Pay it forward. Feel the benefits of service — made me get on it.

So I finally went back to exploring the Members Project site — and plugged in my city into the not-that-search-friendly search engine to find volunteer programs near me. The top result: volunteering with the The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, either cooking for or serving food to neighbors in need.

Serendipitously, I’d been reading “American Wasteland” (expect a review soon) about how the U.S. creates a lot of environmental waste by throwing away about half its food — even while a huge chunk of our country’s population goes hungry. The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition was a place that was offering a partial solution, since it collected its food from local eateries and grocery stores like La Brea Bakery and San Vicente Market — perfectly good food that would have otherwise have gone to waste. I shot an email over asking if I could volunteer just once a month (the Coalition serves food every day, rain or shine), and quickly got a welcoming email with all the volunteering details.

My first volunteer session will be next week. I’ll report back to share how that goes. What about you? Do you regularly volunteer for an environmental organization or cause? If not, do you plan to start this year?

Giving back in 2011
MNN's lifestyle blogger has made a resolution to volunteer at least once a month in 2011. What are your goals to give back this year?