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Giving Nature: No Time To Waste

Around the Gardens Blog

Across the Gardens, volunteers give back to help Birmingham Park & Recreation and Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens staffs meet needs and enhance garden spaces.

By Wendy Wallace Johnson

This post is the third in an eight-part series highlighting some of the many ways that dedicated volunteers—both longtime and new—give of their time and talents to support the Gardens and all that it makes possible. We invite you to enjoy additional stories from this series through the links at the end of this post, then sign up to learn more about volunteering with the Friends.

Just how does one earn college credit for picking up litter? When it was time for UAB Honors College student Lizzie Valentine to choose a community partner for her honors service class, she knew she wanted that partner to be the Gardens.

“I first signed up as a garden greeter and to work with the Herbs Growing Group. [Volunteer Coordinator] Alice Moore called me to make sure that is what I wanted to do, or if I wanted to try something else. Shortly after this conversation, a friend and I walked to the Gardens, and it upset me to see litter along the road. I asked if I could change my project to picking up trash around the Gardens, and the rest is history!”

Many college students see Friday as the jumping off point for a weekend of fun. But Lizzie’s Friday afternoons look a bit different.

“When I get off work on Fridays, I head to the Gardens, pick up some gloves and a garbage bag, and get right to work,” says Lizzie. “I walk the paths looking for garbage until about 4 p.m., when I take a picture of my bag and send it in for accountability.

“I always let them know if I find something interesting,” adds Lizzie. “Sometimes that is something cool, like a turtle shell. Sometimes it is something more perplexing, like glass bottles, road reflectors, or even a dirty diaper.”

While this might sound off putting to some young people, Lizzie loves her work. “I try to do my part for the planet. I love cleaning up and keeping a wonderful place beautiful,” she says. “You have to go into volunteering knowing what gives you joy, so it’s not a chore, it’s a choice.”

Interested in volunteering at the Gardens? Learn more about volunteer opportunities by visiting

Giving Nature: An Eight-Part Series about the Impact of Volunteers at the Gardens

Part One: Giving Nature

Part Two: Feeding Mind, Body, and Soul

Part Three: No Time to Waste

Part Four: Show of (Helping) Hands

Part Five: Bridge of Accomplishment

Part Six: Seasonal Sketches

Part Seven: Sitting Pretty 

Part Eight: Clearing the Way