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Environmental Sustainability Volunteer Project in the USA - Chicago

Environmental Sustainability Volunteer Project in the USA - Chicago

Apply now. The next available start date for this project is Nov 1, 2021

Love the outdoors and want to be an Environmental Sustainability volunteer in USA - Chicago? International Volunteer HQ’s Environmental Sustainability project empowers volunteers to help clean up one of America’s most polluted cities. Volunteers gain knowledge and experience in sustainability and recycling while assisting community gardens, public parks, lakes, urban farms, and other outdoor spaces to be environmentally sustainable. Volunteers also help with community education which helps to make the city a healthier, safer and environmentally sustainable place for those who reside there.

  • Programs start every Monday
  • Affordable fees from $630 for 1 week
  • Includes accommodation, daily breakfast, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Improve green spaces, remove invasive species, help with recycling and community education programs

  • Grab a slice of Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza

  • Stay with other travelers in the dining district of Greektown

Apply Now

Who is this program suited to?

Volunteers who like getting their hands dirty, working in nature and are passionate about environmental sustainability efforts and climate change.
Who is this program suited to?

Key information

Teach communities how to live sustainably
Based with local initiatives
Dormitory-style volunteer accommodation
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Up to 5 hours volunteering a day
Fully hosted experience from $630 for 1 week
Durations from 1 - 12 weeks
Catch a baseball game at Wrigley Field

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

As a result of the rising population, a growing manufacturing sector and global climate change, Chicago has been classified as one of the most polluted cities in the USA. This in turn has resulted in vulnerable populations suffering from the side effects of this pollution. The Environmental Sustainability project takes a multi-faceted approach to combating this issue by focusing on sustainability, recycling and environmental education initiatives.

As an Environmental Sustainability volunteer you can expect to work with sustainable community partners in community gardens, public parks and lakes, urban farms, and other outdoor spaces to assist efforts toward making these spaces clean and environmentally sustainable. You will help to combat the pollution in these areas by:

  • Promoting and developing the viable use of green spaces
  • Tree planting
  • Assisting with nature conservation efforts such as the removal of invasive species, park and beach cleanups
  • Environmental education within the community

It’s important to note this project predominantly involves working outside and you should keep this in mind for the time of year you are choosing to volunteer. You should come prepared for the seasonal weather and be particularly aware that winter in Chicago can be very cold.

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Cities account for approximately 70% of global carbon emissions and over 60% of resource use, with low-socioeconomic areas hit hardest by overburdened infrastructure and worsening pollution. Cities must evolve to provide better access to basic services for all, including housing, transportation and clean air.

Why do Environmental Sustainability volunteering in Chicago with IVHQ?

When you volunteer to clean up Chicago you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Supporting sustainability efforts Helping reduce pollution
  • Providing environmental education for local communities
  • Developing your communication skills
  • Gaining sustainability volunteer experience
  • Learning about the environmental effects of climate change
  • Exploring Chicago and Illinois

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
  • Volunteers aged 16-18 are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation to the local team
  • All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
  • All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
  • All volunteers must speak fluent English.

”This experience was definitely the most humbling experience that I have had so far in my life. New Orleans has amazing people, rich culture and I was blessed to have an awesome placement. The host family and staff were helpful, always attentive, helpful and nice.”

Read reviews from Environmental Sustainability volunteers in United States

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Volunteer Abroad in the USA, Chicago with IVHQ


The IVHQ USA - Chicago volunteer program has volunteer placements located in neighborhoods throughout Chicago, the largest city in the state of Illinois. Here you’ll discover the home of jazz music; intricate architecture; museums; professional baseball, basketball and hockey; and deep dish pizza. Unfortunately, the city is ranked the 16th most polluted in the USA for ozone and particle pollution, mostly driven by vehicle emissions and extreme heat as a result of climate change. Volunteering on the Environmental Sustainability program enables you to contribute towards initiatives that help combat pollution in the city, which not only preserves native plants and animals - but can also help protect many lives. Whether you are looking for short-term volunteer opportunities, or longer volunteer vacations in the USA, the IVHQ Chicago volunteer program can support you to make a positive difference while experiencing everything that this iconic city has to offer.

Arrival and orientation

The program orientation begins every Monday. Volunteers need to arrive in Chicago on the Sunday before orientation day.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago. You’ll be greeted at the airport by a representative of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee if you arrive on the Sunday before your program start date. Pickups are made between 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Sunday, and volunteers must arrive during this period. If you can only arrive after 8:00 PM, you will need to make your own way to the volunteer accommodation.

If you are traveling in Chicago prior to your volunteer program, our local team can arrange for you to be picked up in the Chicago CBD area on Sunday between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM. Alternatively, you can choose to make your own way to the volunteer accommodation.

Orientation is hosted by our Chicago team at the volunteer accommodation. Orientation begins on the morning of your chosen start date and runs all day. It covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Chicago. It includes an introduction to Chicago, reflection on the importance of volunteering, code of conduct and expectations, transportation and safety instructions, and an overview of the week. Volunteers travel to the volunteer project sites and take a brief tour of the surrounding area. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.

Volunteer schedule example

First day

Your first day of volunteering in the USA is taken up by a program orientation, which includes a visit to your project placement to meet the staff you’ll be working with.


Volunteer schedules are varied based on where you’re placed and the time of year. Usually volunteer days range from 3 to 5 hours. A typical volunteer day may look like this:

7:30 AM Self-serve breakfast at the volunteer accommodation.
8:00 - 9:00 AM Travel to placement to join local placement staff and begin work on your project.
12:00 - 1:00 PM Lunch break. In Chicago, a lunch break typically lasts for about an hour, but the timing and length will ultimately depend on the organization that you’re volunteering with.
1:00 - 5:00 PM Work at the project typically ends between these times. Use your free time to either travel back home, sightsee or do some shopping.


Free to use as you wish. Most volunteers head out together to get dinner and enjoy the city.


You’ll have the chance to truly explore Chicago in your free time and your biggest problem will be figuring out what to do first. Chicago is famous for its ability to host visitors from all walks of life. With a lively nightlife, bold architecture, delicious food, and vibrant sports scene there is something for everyone.

Take time to explore the city and its history by visiting spots like Cloud Gate where you’ll find the famous Bean sculpture, the Willis Tower Skydeck, the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Botanical Gardens or catch a baseball game at the world-famous Wrigley Field.

In the summer, Lake Michigan boasts plenty of activities and slightly further afield you can spend a day at 6 Flags Great America Amusement Park.

Accommodation and WiFi

Volunteers are accommodated in a dormitory-style public hostel in the heart of Chicago, located in the Greektown neighborhood of the West Loop with easy access to nearby shopping and food stores.

You should expect basic dormitory style accommodation. Rooms are mixed gender and you could share a room with up to 16 other volunteers. Bedrooms are comprised of bunk beds with bedding provided but you will need to bring your own towel.

The accommodation has shared bathroom facilities equipped with western toilets and showers. Cleaning staff clean the accommodation throughout the week. However, volunteers are required to do their own dishes and to keep their rooms tidy.

The accommodation has a kitchenette, library, common area and a TV. There are also vending machines onsite for quick snacks, and a variety of restaurants, bars, cafes, supermarkets, and pharmacies in close proximity to the accommodation, not to mention most tourist sites being within short walking distance.

The accommodation is equipped with WiFi for you to use. You can also purchase a local SIM card with data for an unlocked mobile phone to access the internet.

Private rooms, if desired, can be booked after you have registered for the program, subject to availability and an additional cost.


Chicago is known as one of the world’s best cities for food, home to the deep dish pizza and famous Chicago Dog. While daily breakfast is provided as part of the program, you’ll be able to treat yourself to many local delicacies for lunch and dinner.

Volunteers are provided with breakfast foods delivered to the hostel. Volunteers will be able to choose from foods including cereal, granola, toast, eggs, fresh fruit.

Volunteers are responsible for their own lunches and dinners, but with no shortage of delightful food options in the windy city, you’re sure to find a wide range of food to suit your personal taste. You may also prepare your own meals using the kitchenette at the hostel.

Volunteers are expected to do their own dishes after each meal so please be prepared and willing to do this.


Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
1 week $630 Equivalent to $90/day
2 weeks $1,055 Equivalent to $76/day
3 weeks $1,420 Equivalent to $68/day
4 weeks $1,790 Equivalent to $64/day
5 weeks $2,110 Equivalent to $61/day
6 weeks $2,435 Equivalent to $58/day
8 weeks $3,105 Equivalent to $56/day
10 weeks $3,505 Equivalent to $51/day
12 weeks $4,070 Equivalent to $49/day
  • Accommodation
  • Daily breakfast
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Airport pick-up
  • Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Certificate of International Volunteering

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of $299 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, some meals, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Chicago generally find US$200 - US$300 per week to be sufficient for expenses, such as lunches and dinners, and local tours and activities.

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Safety and support

IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.

  • All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
  • All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
  • All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
  • All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Safety and support with IVHQ

Protecting against COVID-19:

Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel

Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel

Health & safety information provided during orientation

Health & safety information provided during orientation

Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation

Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation

Greater physical distance between volunteers

Greater physical distance between volunteers

Essential city information

City Chicago
Population 2.7 Million
Languages English
Currency United States Dollar (USD)
Time zone GMT-05:00 Central Time Zone

Weather and climate

Chicago’s midwest location means that the climate is warm and humid in the summer, and freezing and windy in the winter. July is the hottest month in Chicago with an average temperature of 83°F (29°C) and the coldest month is January at 33°F (0°C), though it can get down as low as 22°F (-5°C ). Chicago is partly cloudy year round, with the most daily sunshine hours at 15 in June. The wettest month is May with an average of 94mm of rain.

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