Nature Groupie staff members from left: Emma Tutein, Wellsley Costello and Haley Andreozzi. Courtesy photo.
A University of NH Cooperative Extension program is seeking to rebrand tree huggers as Nature Groupies. A nonprofit outreach program at the extension, Nature Groupie recently launched a Kickstarter campaign. Their goal is to raise money for NH conservation efforts through Nature Groupie Gear by selling T-shirts, hoodies, mittens, and more.
“Trails and natural areas in New Hampshire and other areas [are seeing] much more use as people are getting outside,” says Malin Clyde, project manager for Nature Groupie. “They will need stewardship, and conservation groups are concerned.”
Clyde points out conservation groups have brought more than 200,000 acres of land under conservation protection in the past 20 years. “Volunteers are a great resource, but it takes staff and expertise to do the care and feeding of volunteer programs,” she says.
Clyde notes conservation groups were forced to curtail stewardship efforts due to COVID-19 despite the increased use. “We thought we needed to come out of this as a really strong resource for our conservation partners, with volunteers, because the land is going to need a lot of help,” she says.
The extension runs 14 volunteer programs of its own, including 4-H and Master Gardeners. But Nature Groupie focuses on connecting volunteers with conservation groups and provides an online clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities as well as produces a newsletter. Clyde notes there have been requests to expand the program to neighboring states.
Recognizing that the funding model for the program, which was grants, was unsustainable, Clyde connected with the UNH Innovation Center in 2018 to figure out how to create sustainable revenue.
Out of that came the idea to sell tees, mugs, and more. Nature Groupie Gear was scheduled to launch on Kickstarter in March when the pandemic hit. So, Clyde paused those efforts. But, after seeing the wear and tear on public lands and trails, she decided it was time to move forward. They launched on Sept. 29 and as they close in on the end of their campaign on Oct. 29, Nature Groupie Gear has raised more than 80% of its funding goal from more than 200 backers. For more information, visit naturegroupie.org.