When bringing your own bag to the supermarket, sorting your plastics and biking to work isn't enough, green volunteering is your answer to making a real eco-difference. As much as we are doing our part in contributing to world conservation efforts, so much more is out there. Step it up by doing just a little more (and in return, get a great travel experience too). Outdo yourself and go the extra green mile:
Better Than Your Own Bag
Refusing plastic bags at the market has become somewhat common practice in the states. Why do we do it? To conserve resources. BUT, do you reuse your Ziploc bags, coffee filters and plastic food wrap? No that's gross, you shouldn't. Better ways you can go a little further in your conservation efforts:
DOSOMETHING.COM is currently featuring a volunteership dedicated to maintaining, rebuilding and educating about the natural rainforest at the Monte Saino Reserve in Punta Galera. To volunteer you need nothing more than an openness to learn, a one month commitment and $400 bucks (which buys you all meals and cabin housing for the duration of your stay). Daily activities include: planting rainforest seeds, raising and selling products for market, conducting educational conservation workshops, raising crawfish and general reserve maintenance. So trade your supermarket bag for a backpack and roll up your sleeves (and pants, since you can only get to the reserve by foot, horse or canoe).
Better Than Recycling
Sorting things into paper, plastic and aluminum makes us feel like we're saving the rainforests and freeing up space in landfills. But for every can you separate, some douche throws two bottles in the trash. Recycling is a goodwill notion and although it is a small part of contributing to environmental sustainability, recycling isn't the full extent of what you can do. Take it to the source:
The GREEN VOLUNTEERS NETWORK is focused on providing members with no cost (or low cost) lists of volunteerships aimed at conservation all around the world. To join the network, you must pay a one-time fee by purchasing a guide book for $18.90 (includes Shipping and Handling). You will be provided with a user name and password and receive updated online lists of worldwide volunteerships from then on. Some good ones from the sample list:
- Environmental Advocacy in Guatemala: THIS program, set in a natural rainforest reserve, focuses on reforestation, conversation advocacy and community building. At about $350 per month (for housing and all food), it's a super cheap way to get involved in preserving natural resources. If you choose to volunteer for more than 12 weeks, you get to stay in a furnished house (where you can sort your recyclables until you turn blue) for $50 per month. You can also get Spanish lessons for an unheard of $3 bucks an hour.
- Summer Work Camps in Greece: Remember how you planted that tree in elementary school on Earth Day? Well, this program is like that but on a much larger scale. SUMMER WORK CAMPS last for 2 to 3 weeks, cost 120Euro (about $174 USD) and aim to plant trees and set up forest fire prevention mechanisms in remote places all around Greece. This way, you can tan naked for the rest of the summer knowing your laziness is well-deserved.
Better Than Biking
We bike to lessen our carbon footprints (meaning reduce the ozone damaging CO2 emissions that gas-powered vehicles spew into the air). Yes, biking is a fantastic form of alternative transportation. How do you take it a step further?
Through the PEDAL POWERED MACHINES, program in Central America, you help turn used bicycles into other eco-friendly machines to help sustain farming and business in the region. What can you make out of a used bike? Well, washing machines, plows, laptops, electricity generators (you get the picture). Your feet, though smelly at times, are powerful always.
Coral reefs aren't just great scenery for snorkeling and scuba diving but a natural way to control the CO2 levels of the ocean. In addition to providing shelter for thousands of marine species, reefs maintain a balance between land and water which supports the existence of everything on earth. Those cars and trucks you refuse to drive have already destroyed a large percentage of world reefs, with the reefs of the Philippines being at the top of the charts (only 5% of their reefs are in good condition). Luckily, there is something you can do to help besides biking. Headquartered at UCLA in California, the REEF CHECK project is dedicated to protecting the coral reefs of the world and have volunteer availabilities wherever there is a reef (especially the Philippines). If you have diving experience, are a marine biologist (or studying marine biology), volunteering here would be a great hands-on experience. If you're not marine savvy, they also welcome photographer and fundraiser volunteers. Here is a list of countries with Reef Check projects. You can select your country of interest from the alphabetical list of contacts to see if a volunteership is available.
Our choices to live greener lives is having a positive impact all over the world. We are collectively using less and doing more. Reusable shopping bags are cutting plastic waste, recycling and biking have become the norm. But when it comes to truly making a world impact, know that your reach is much greater than just putting a can in the blue bin.