Written by Lauren Miheli, Volunteer Coordinator
Erik has been actively involved as a volunteer with The Nature Conservancy for almost 2 years, both as a member of our Conservation Ambassadors and as a regular participant in our work parties. When he’s not volunteering with us, or working long hours with UPS, he’s an enthusiastic supporter of our work, talking about the importance of conservation to anyone who will listen. We appreciate Erik for his willingness to always help out with the heavy lifting, and for always making volunteering fun! Thank you Erik!
Recently we chatted with Erik about why he volunteers, and what matters most in life. Here’s what he had to say.
The Nature Conservancy: Where are you from? How long have you been living in Seattle?
Erik Alarcon: I was born in Chicago, grew up in Los Angeles, and went to college in Arizona. I have been living in Seattle for about 3 years. I love Seattle. One of the main reasons I’ve stayed here is for the outdoor activities!
TNC: What inspired you to start volunteering with The Nature Conservancy?
EA: I love the outdoors! I first signed up with Washington Trails Association clearing trails, but most of their opportunities did not fit with my schedule. I was headed home from hiking one day, and I saw a volunteer recruitment flyer at a Starbucks, which led me to call and sign up. It’s actually a funny story… I almost didn’t come back after my first time volunteering. The Volunteer Coordinator (Lauren) chastised me for not wearing my logo t-shirt to the event. But I kept getting the emails and ended up coming back and having a great time (and Lauren calmed down about the t-shirt thing.)
TNC: What gives you the most hope for the future?
EA: People are having more awareness of climate change and that we need to preserve our wilderness and nature. We know that we need to take care of the beauty around us. Washington is a beautiful place that we want to be able to share with our kids and grandkids, and teach them to appreciate and take care of the environment.
TNC: How does volunteering make you feel?
EA: Good, like I’m helping out. It makes me feel a part of something. It makes me feel like I saved bunnies*. Volunteering helps you learn things that you never would have learned yourself; there’s a lot of history in Washington. You get to meet new people. There are interesting people from different walks of life. Everyone I’ve met through The Nature Conservancy is selfless, so kind and giving. Also, there are always good snacks and refreshments for volunteers!
*(Editor’s note: Erik volunteered with the Pygmy Rabbit Reintroduction Project in partnership with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, so he literally did save bunnies.)
TNC: What is your favorite Nature Conservancy preserve or project?
EA: The Moses Coulee and Beezley Hills Preserves, and the Pygmy Rabbit Reintroduction Project! I volunteered twice on this project already, and am looking forward to getting out there again soon.
TNC: What do you think the world will be like in 50 years?
EA: I think we’re going to be fine. I think a lot of people are realizing we can’t continue to take the resources of our planet, and we need to conserve the environment.
TNC: Have you ever convinced someone to do something they didn't want to do?
EA: Yes! When I first moved to Seattle I was amazed that many of the people who I met who grew up here had never left the city, so I coordinated hiking trips to get them outdoors and show them the beautiful nature they had been missing out on. Hiking can be intimidating when you think you need expensive hiking boots and special gear, or that you need to be “outdoorsy”, but really anyone can get out and enjoy the wilderness, you really don’t need much more than a map, food, water, and good friends to hike with!