Lyda Salatian

Lyda Salatian

Going green as a team

An environmentalist uses social networking to bring like-minded people outdoors together.

“You’re a machine,” Lyda Salatian tells a newcomer, a volunteer hard at work pulling ivy branches on a trail at Campbell Valley Regional Park.

The volunteer is one of more than 20 that will break a sweat on a cool Sunday morning, a good 10-minute walk from the parking lot. Among them are teenagers, seniors, even families with small children.

Equipped with gloves and shears provided by Metro Vancouver Regional Parks workers, and powered by homemade muffins and granola bars, the volunteers will spend the next three hours removing the invasive ivy plants from the nutrient-starved trees.

One woman from White Rock says she’s helping out because she’s a regular visitor to the park.

Another says she brought her kids to teach them that it can be fun to volunteer outdoors.

It’s this sense of community that’s in the mind of Salatian, bringing together like-minded people who feel the need to help the environment, but may not know where to start.

Until now.

It’s called the Lower Mainland Green Team.

Salatian has got big ideas, and already has 11 events organized into September – the ivy pull was just the first event.

“I’m surprised somebody else hasn’t done this,” says Salatian, who, just three weeks after its inception, had 97 people join the Green Team on its www.meetup.com website.

(A month later: Nearly 300 members.)

Planting and restoration events have already taken place in Maple Ridge, Blackie Spit Park and Tynehead Regional Park.

Salatian, a self-described uber-organizer who hasn’t driven a car since 2003, says the purpose of the Green Team is to bring people together outdoors.

In 2005, she had started the first Canadian chapter of Green Drinks in Vancouver, where people gathered to chat about environmental issues. (Green Drinks now has dozens of chapters across the country, even one in the Northwest Territories.)

The Lower Mainland Green Team, Salatian explains, was simply the next step.

“It’s not just talking, but doing something.”

She believes that obstacles for people who have an environmental spirit is that they lack information about what to do, lack leadership and don’t see coordination between environmental groups.

People might also not believe that they can make a difference.

Salatian thinks they can with the Green Team, which organizes events in partnership with other groups.

“Every single event and activity I have planned is in partnership with a non-profit, a charity or city. I could not do anything without their cooperation and active participation. They provide the tools, the input and direction about what they need done – and refreshments.”

She adds that the success of a group like the Green Team – its magic – is dependent on the participants.

“Any success this group garners will be on account of every single person who attends and participates in the volunteer activities. They are the ones to be celebrated and cheered on.”

For more information about upcoming events, visit www.meetup.com/The-Lower-Mainland-Green-Team/