What if you could spend a glorious vacation in some of the world's most exotic and beautiful places, while still helping the environment at the same time?
Granted, travel and environmentalism sound incongruous, but the trend of voluntourism, or volunteer vacations, where you travel and help a cause, are rapidly gaining popularity, and some organizations have found ways to do it with a minimal carbon footprint.
Voluntourism has been around since the 1950s, and really took off during the John F. Kennedy administration when he established the Peace Corps program in the 1960s. Since then, more and more people like the idea of making a difference while visiting interesting and exciting parts of the world, and are looking for more ways to do so.
There are many organizations that offer voluntourism opportunities, but if you are specifically interested in helping the environment, the best way to start is to find a reputable organization that works in the area you would like to visit, or choose an organization that follows your passions. Anyone can voluntour, and organizations welcome people with low to high skill levels, so just because you're not a marine biologist doesn't mean you can't partake in an expedition that aims to save coral reefs.
Voluntourism.org is a great place to start to see what voluntourism is all about. The site asks visitors thought-provoking questions, such as, is the voluntourism venture you want to undertake feasible and sustainable? You can also find resources, blogs, and links to some of the top voluntourism trips.
This excellent about.com article has all the questions you should ask yourself and a potential organization before you take on the adventure of voluntouring.
Another great site is i-to-i, which focuses on helping travelers make connections with people in other cultures through volunteer projects. This company sends more than 5,000 people a year to volunteer on some 500 projects in 30 countries.
Other environmental voluntourism opportunities include:
Biosphere Expeditions hopes to make a small but significant difference to our biosphere and at the same time bring enjoyment and fulfillment to its environment volunteer teams. They organize real conservation expeditions that have a real biological conservation content and thus come with a "feel-good" factor for their wildlife volunteers, who can be secure in the knowledge that they not only had an exciting conservation holiday with a purpose, but also a productive time in conserving part of our global natural heritage.
Green Stone Journeys
Green Stone Journeys encourages a voluntourism experience for an opportunity to share global and cultural perspectives and to join with people and communities from all over. The organization's environmental projects include working with non-governmental organizations (NGO) and local communities to bring a balance between tourism and local community development.
Part of the largest grassroots environmental organization in the country, Sierra Club Outings provide environmentally-friendly outdoor adventures -- from Tahoe to Tibet -- for people of all ages, abilities, and interests. Sierra Club founder John Muir discovered an essential truth while out hiking the high country: If you want people to go to bat for the environment, you've got to get them into the wilderness.
The International Ecotourism Society
As the world's oldest and largest international ecotourism association, TIES seeks to be the global source of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, and sustainable travel.
The Oceanic Society
Enjoy and explore the natural world while contributing to its preservation. Oceanic Society Expeditions serves over 5,000 individuals annually through international natural history journeys, participatory research expeditions and California whale watching trips. The Expeditions programs offer opportunities for the public to enjoy and learn about wildlife and natural habitats or to assist scientists with field research.
Do something good for the environment while enjoying a unique vacation adventure!
If you do a volunteer vacation that helps the environment in some way, we'd love to hear about it! Email your story to PGG@dzshq.com.