So let’s say you desperately want to green your neighborhood or greater community but don’t know where in the world to start. Sure, taking action — whether it’s volunteering, donating or spearheading a new initiative — may seem effortless on paper but sometimes, for one reason or another, that’s just not the case. And so, many potential neighborhood eco-activists find themselves overwhelmed and burnt out before they even get started. Often, all that’s needed to turn a great green idea into a reality is a simple platform to create, engage, inspire and raise funds. This is where NYC-based “online microphilanthropy” organization ioby (which stands for "in our backyards") steps in.

An action-oriented riff on tired old NIMBYism, NYC-based ioby is like Kickstarter but for action-oriented environmental do-goodery instead of creative projects, functioning as a clearinghouse/fundraising platform for “yes please, in my backyard” type of projects worth throwing your support behind whether it's through a financial contribution or through volunteering. ioby also hopes to serve as a reminder that the “environment” is “not just the Amazon rain forest or the arctic glaciers” but is our own in-need-of-TLC neighborhoods.

As ioby explains, “ioby connects people and money to site-based projects. All of these projects are conceived, designed and run by neighbors — which ensures community buy-in, long-term caretakers and daily reminders of what’s been achieved. Successful projects are then magnified, so they can benefit other neighborhoods — and the positive impact can ripple throughout the city. ioby is about having a stake in the game, engaging with others while you do so, and seeing and living with the end result.”

Just today, ioby relaunched its website out of beta while last week the organization was subject of a great profile in the Wall Street Journal. Spread throughout all five NYC boroughs, current ioby projects — ranging from a community greenhouse building effort in Brooklyn, to a battery recycling program in Queens, to a Composting the Five Borough Bike Tour — are organized by “impact areas” such as education, open spaces and waste. Since being conceived in 2008 by Erin Barnes, Brandon Whitney and Cassie Flynn, ioby has helped to raise $84,224 and successfully funded 66 projects. This month, all donations to all ioby projects will be matched dollar for dollar through an Earth Month Match program.

On the topic of Earth Month/Week/Day, ioby Executive Director Erin Barnes is inviting MNN readers to get involved by partaking in the Reimagine Your City campaign. Here’s how it works (and you needn’t live in NYC or any big city to join in):

1. Download the “With ioby, I could be …” sign.

2. Reimagine your city: Find a space near your home or office that could use some ioby love. Imagine what that space could be and fill in the blank in a big bold marker how you've reimagined the space.

3. Do a photo shoot with your sign!
Snap a photo on your camera phone with you, or a friend, in it. Be sure to include the environment around it so people can have some context for what the sign says.

4. Email the photo to REIMAGINE@IOBY.ORG. Be sure to include your location in your email.

Once submitted, your photo (and please don’t suggest anything illegal, kids) will be shared on ioby’s fabulous and inspirational Reimagine Your City Flickr set. Even if you don’t decide to create your own sign, it’s worth perusing the photos to see how others are reimagining their own communities. And please, feel free to take advantage of the comments section to tell me and other MNN readers about dream greening projects that you’d like to see take place in down-and-out parts of your neighborhood. Sure, it's cliche to say, but you never know, someday that dream might come true …


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

This Earth Day, feel free to reimagine
For Earth Day and beyond, NYC-based environmental organization invites MNN readers to 'reimagine' spots in their neighborhoods that are in need of a little gree