Would you like to be an environmental advocate and help taking care of nature while traveling? Find what environmental volunteering is, where to find sustainable volunteer opportunities and more!
We have already known that we shall protect our planet, but do you know how to become an environmental volunteer and start helping nature? There are several sustainable initiatives all over the world waiting for you! In this article, you will find out what environmental volunteering is, what is the importance of environmental volunteer work, where you can find opportunities near you and more!
What is an environmental volunteer?
Volunteering is an old activity where we use our time and knowledge to help someone or some project without receiving any financial value in return. Environmental volunteering is, therefore, the dedication to some initiative whose goal is to protect, care for, and/or restore the environment.
What does an environmental volunteer do?
Environmental volunteering is not about what you do, but what kind of initiatives you are helping. You can do a really traditional activity and still help the program, for example, take care of the financial side of a reforestation initiative.
Now, if your goal is not only to help but also to learn and get hands-on directly, there are many different options, such as beach cleaning, planting trees, setting up urban gardens, bioconstruction, etc.
The importance of the environmental volunteer work
We haven’t been educated to understand that Earth is our home and that nature itself is the extension of human life. Without the balance in nature, there is no human life on Earth. And now, we can see the problems in this failure in our education: a climate emergency with a lot of consequences such as pandemic, water shortage, floods, etc.
Some quite discouraging data:
- The planet is already 1.2°C warmer than normal. If things continue as they are, in the next five years it will increase by 1.5ºC to 2ºC.
- This increase in temperature leads to melting ice, rising sea levels, wildfires, lack of rain, water shortage, and impacts on agriculture and industry.
- Earth no longer shines as it used to, because we no longer have as much white surface (ice), which can also change the temperature of the planet.
- By 2050 the projection is that there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the sea.
- Speaking of plastic, there are already studies that show that we ingest and inhale between 74,000 and 121,000 micro-plastic particles per day.
And this list could be continuous, but I think this data it’s enough to understand that something has to be done! And we, as citizens have a fundamental role, both in direct actions and by pressuring politicians and companies to act as well.
Today EVERY action is helpful to revert these impacts. Volunteer work is a wonderful tool that we can use, and there are so many ways to do that!
To give you an idea of the diversity of ways you can help the environment, the UN has established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to make us aware to take actions towards these issues and see how taking care of nature can build a better world.
Environmental volunteer work opportunities
See now some opportunities to help the environment through volunteer work, in that way you can have more clarity to source the initiative that fits you better.
If you have some knowledge of environmental issues, it’s a pretty good idea to share them. You can share the most general topics, from technical things, such as how to reduce waste, how to prepare vegan recipes and how to make a home garden.
To do this, look for a school, NGO, education event such as Plastic Free July, or perhaps offering a class in your building or neighborhood.
You can take a look at how the fire brigade works in your country. Many places have special groups to take care of national parks and rural areas. For this kind of volunteer, you have to have time to be dedicated, as it requires training and activity in the field.
The best option for those who want to work in the fire brigade is looking for a project that is near the place that you are living, or where you intend to spend some time. Another tip to find a fire brigade volunteer is to contact in the local government or the administration of some park next to you.
Increasingly common, there is even a world day especially for it, September 18, the World Cleanup Day, where more than 180 countries organize activities and groups to clean up their beaches, rivers, and streets. You can participate punctually, just on the day of the event by cleaning up, or you can sign up to help to organize the activities.
Worldpackers, for example, has a lot of beach cleanup opportunities around the world. I joined a beach cleanup volunteer opportunity with them in Ilhabela – Brazil, it was an amazing day, with a lot of learning, awareness, hands-on, and, why not say, fun!
Preservation of wild animals
It’s really important that you keep in mind that this is a delicate area of volunteer work. So, go to places that you have already done a good previous research and keep your eyes open if there is any animal abuse or illegal activities. If so, inform the authorities.
Prevention is not enough, we need to recover! The forest is fundamental for ecological balance. A standing forest is a sign of biodiversity, life, soil preservation, and rainfall generation.
To volunteer in reforestation projects you can look for specific initiatives such as River Keepers, wait for commemorative dates such as Arbor Day on September 21, when there are planting campaigns, or look for agroforestry projects where you can produce food while reforesting a degraded area.
Have you ever thought about learning how to produce your food in a sustainable way? Going to agriculture initiatives is magical! Do you know why? Because we usually don’t realize the powerful life that we have on the plate.
Sustainable agriculture can embrace an organic garden, a biodynamic plantation, or one made by agroforestry techniques.
It’s in the ecovillages that you will find a lot of environmental volunteers, especially sustainable agriculture and bio construction. But being in a community usually involves other aspects, such as learning the graces and difficulties of living in a group and thinking collectively.
This kind of volunteer has other activities as well, depending on the moment that the ecovillage is passing through. You can be in charge of the recycling, cooking, cleaning, etc.
If the “playful child” spirit lives in you, then you will love bioconstruction. There are several techniques for this, such as adobe, pau a pique, and ecological brick, among others.
You will most likely end up getting muddy and having fun in the process of putting up a low-cost, eco-friendly house.
Social media for environmental projects
Finally, if your talent is Communication, you can help to give a voice to environmental projects. This style of project works very differently from traditional media, because not only do they need to propagate themselves, but they also need to educate their audience.
This volunteering can be done through text development, photos, videos, website, etc.
In October 2021 I had a 7-day environmental volunteering experience in an agroforestry site near Salvador, Bahia through Worldpackers, being responsible for creating videos for TikTok.
Where to do environmental volunteering?
To do an environmental volunteer work you have two options: reach out to environmental agencies and NGOs or through a search on volunteer work platforms:
Environmental agencies and NGOs
Opportunities in places like WWF, United Nations, Green Peace, etc. This is a super opportunity to learn from people who are at the forefront of the climate fight. However, they are harder volunteers to get into. Some of these programs will require training in the field, interviews for approval, and months of availability.
Environmental Volunteer Work Platforms
There are platforms that concentrate sustainable volunteer opportunities, simplifying your life when it comes to choosing the project that suits you best. As mentioned, the one we use here is Worldpackers, because we understand that it has more varied options, cool content, and more engagement with the volunteers.
Although the platform is geared towards travelers, it doesn’t mean you can’t find some project in your city. Here’s how Worldpackers works:
- After registering on the site and choosing your plan, you can log in and go to the “Volunteer Jobs” page.
- On that page, on the left side, you will see several filter categories:
- destination (Remember that Worldpackers has volunteer vacancies all over the world!);
- type of trip;
- purpose of the Trip;
- how you would like to help, etc.
- Select the filters that match with what you are looking for. For environmental volunteer work opportunities, don’t forget to select “Eco Program”.
- In the central part you will see the available options. By clicking on each of the projects you will get information about the place, how many hours you will work, what the activity is, what you receive in return, among others.
- See here some sustainability volunteer positions. Bear in mind that we have a Worldpackers discount code that gives you $10 off your membership!
5 advantages of traveling as an environmental volunteer
Volunteering in environmental projects is a way to practice a sustainable tourism and it has advantages such as:
- Being able to help the world while you have fun.
- Discovering new realities and understanding how each country deals with nature.
- Getting to know different solutions and being able to be a disseminator of this knowledge, both in your networks and in the projects that you help.
- To have a more global vision about the environment, understanding that we can exchange information, but that each action must be local, according to the cultural and environmental reality of each region.
- We usually think of the Earth as separate blocks of continents, but, in fact, it is all interconnected. When we travel as volunteers we can understand in practice how, for example, deforestation in the Amazon can harm other places.
Helping the environment through volunteer work is not only necessary to combat the current crises, it is also rewarding. It is an opportunity to get to know the planet we live on, to honor the ground we walk on, to give continuity to human life.
To connect with nature is to recover the most primitive and basic link with life, and this helps us to reconnect with our own essence, we are part of nature! As you enjoy each volunteering experience, you also extend your learning to your routine, inspiring more people around you.