You’ve Heard Of Volunteerism – So How About Voluntourism? Here Are Some Tips

For many of us, vacations are all about sun, sand and sea. We spend most of the year planning and saving for our dream holiday, counting down the days till we can escape the rat race for sunnier climes, swapping coffee for cocktails and computers for cameras. Of course, we’re now more aware of the impact of international travel on the environment, and it’s usual practice for many travel companies to provide carbon off-setting services to customers, charging a discretionary fee based on your air miles, which in turn helps to fund a range of carbon reduction initiatives.

However, for a growing number of people, the idea of combining their vacation with something altogether more meaningful is on the rise. Instead of simply paying a fee for carbon-neutral travel, the more conscientious tourists are looking for opportunities to make a more significant contribution when they arrive at their holiday destinations, volunteering their time and talents to get involved in service projects. Forget sipping margaritas on the beach – and welcome to the wonderful world of Voluntourism.

A holiday with a difference
Voluntourism gives you the chance to combine sightseeing, exploration and cultural immersion – while helping local people to take action on some of the most pressing issues facing our planet. From well-digging and supporting the work of clinics and health centers to running education classes or helping with animal conservation – there are a variety of ways to share your skills and talents to make a real difference. Interested? Here’s a few tips if you’re keen to find out more:

Getting started
It’s important to put some time into researching your volunteering placement. Think about the kinds of causes and issues that matter to you, as this will help to refine your search. Idealist and Transitions Abroad both offer volunteer brokerage services, with searchable databases to enable you to find the right opportunity for you.

Skills
Many people are concerned that they may need specialist skills to volunteer in another country. Unless otherwise specified, most international volunteering opportunities require energy, enthusiasm and commitment – nothing more. The very best charities and NGO’s should provide pre-departure preparation, as well as in-country training on arrival. Many also offer great alumni programs, so you can keep in touch with fellow participants once you return home. Voluntourism can be great way to share your skills but also to learn new ones – which might help if you’re considering a career change, or simply want to pursue a passion or interest further.

Costs
Contrary to popular belief, volunteering is not free. Alongside the travel, visas, immunization and other medical costs, it’s likely that you’ll also be expected to make a contribution towards the overall management of your volunteering project. It’s important to remember that the charities or NGO’s you’re working for are likely to be operating with fairly limited resources – but they’ll want to ensure that you have a safe and worthwhile experience, hence the additional placement costs. However, before paying any fees, be sure to check the credentials of the organization you’d like to volunteer with – they should be able to provide a full breakdown of program costs. As a guide, some of the best NGO’s will aim to spend between 80-90% on the cause itself, with minimal additional project costs.

Fundraise
You’ve taken the decision to help a worthwhile cause, so why not fundraise to cover some of the costs of the trip? It may seem a bit weird to ask people to donate towards your holiday, but it’s important to bear in mind that you’re taking part in a service project. You won’t be spending donations on margaritas and massages, but rather on helping the people or ecology of your chosen destination, and most people will be happy to support you.

Voluntourism is a unique way to experience another country, and a fantastic opportunity to do something incredibly worthwhile. One thing’s for sure, once you’ve become a voluntourist, holidays will never be the same again!

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We Are What We Do – Something To Inspire Us All

Every now and then, we come across an organization or product that really inspires us. One such organization is the simple, engaging and environmentally-friendly We are what we do. Rather aptly titled, the UK-based charity describes itself as ‘a global movement that inspires people to use their everyday behaviour to affect big environmental and social issues.’ It’s a pretty ambitious aim, but when you check out their credentials, they certainly pack a punch.

Remember the wonderful bag, designed by Anya Hindmarch, with the strapline ‘I’m NOT a plastic bag.’? A limited edition run, the bag became synonymous with the move away from plastic bags, and towards an altogether more sustainable way to carry groceries and other shopping. And the idea for the bag? It came from this great little charity that seems to be brimming with good green ideas.

I am not a plastic bag

Simple actions
If you check out the We are what we do website, you’ll find ideas for 132 actions that you can do right now, to help make life a little bit better for everyone. From saving energy to recycling, donating money to improving the area that you live in, there’s something for everyone. The website includes a live counter, which allows you to ‘report’ when you’ve completed an action – and with almost 5 million actions taken by site visitors, they’re definitely on to something! Examples of individual actions include:

#094 Make coffee for someone busier than you
#025 Use a mug, not a plastic cup
#101 Make someone smile
#013 Recycle your mobile phone
And my personal favorite…..#123 Don’t start a war.

The site demonstrates that small, simple actions have the power to change lives and improve our planet.

From humble beginnings
Founded by David Robinson, a community worker, and Eugenie Harvey, a communications and marketing specialist, the charity has attracted creative thinkers from business, government and the voluntary sector with the aim of finding new and innovative ways to change society for the better. The charity has published two books – including their bestselling Change the world for a fiver which included ideas contributed by people around the world which would make the world a better place. This was closely followed by Change the world 9–5 which focused on encouraging positive behaviour change in the workplace.

The organization is also committed to inspiring young people, and now runs a Young Speakers Program, training young volunteers to give talks and run assemblies in schools across the UK, which encourage their peers to take action on the issues that matter most to them. Their latest campaign, ‘Teach your granny to text’, is designed to encourage intergenerational bonding – helping young and old people to spend time together and learn from each other. So, there’s no shortage of great ideas, and site visitors are invited to contribute their own ideas too. So, if you’ve got a wonderful idea for improving life as we know it, why not email info@wearewhatwedo.org …if anyone can make it happen, they can!

Green From The Inside Out: Greening Your Undergarments

Lingerie is big business, with financial forecasters predicting that by 2016, the retail market will sell 1.64bn bras and 4.74bn briefs worldwide. However, behind all the lace and frills, many retailers have dubious manufacturing credentials, which fail to adequately consider the sustainability of their fabrics or the ethics of their production lines.

Enter Green Knickers, a lingerie business which was the brainchild of Sarah Lucy Smith, a young entrepreneur with a flair for design and firm commitment to ethically sourced, Fair Trade products. Sarah attended a degree course in Eco Design at Goldsmiths College (part of the University of London), where she was inspired to create a special line of ‘green’ knickers, using environmentally-friendly fabrics including silk, hemp and organic cotton, to create a truly unique lingerie business which puts the Fair Trade back into fashion.

Fair Trade fashion
Green Knickers is committed to creating a commercially viable business built on ethical principles – giving customers greater choice, and ensuring that global and local suppliers get a fair deal. Sarah, with her business partner (and old school friend), Rose Cleary, are also keen to challenge the eco-warrior stereotype, reflecting a fun and playful sense of humour in all their products. Green Knickers are stitched with quirky messages like ‘Stop deforestation’ and ‘Cycle more’ which aim to convey serious messages in a fun and accessible way.

Green Knickers

Explaining their approach, Sarah says: “There are a variety of styles, but there’s humour in all of them. That was my aim: to add a cheeky excitement and much needed humour to green politics. I want people to be excited about changing their lifestyles – not bullied into it. Otherwise you can get demoralised – people who care, often end up feeling guilty all the
time.”

It’s certainly a sound proposition, which combines stylish, sexy designs with ethical production values.

Just a fad?
We all know how fickle the fashion world can be, so it’s easy to assume that the focus on ethical fashion could be a passing fad. And with Green Knickers at £25 a pair, there are significant affordability issues which the average consumer might find difficult to swallow. However, while cost is perhaps a barrier for now, it’s clear that fair trade fashion is growing
in popularity. Charity shops have reported significant increases in sales, with Oxfam and others capitalising on the vintage fashion potential of clothing donations to their stores. Indeed, with fashionistas like Sarah Jessica Parker regularly sporting the vintage look, it’s clear that recycled fashion offers consumers a chance to develop a unique and individual look that high street store chains simply can’t deliver.

So whether you’re looking for a vintage collectable, or shopping with a conscience, it’s clear that ethical fashion is on the rise. Green is definitely the new black, and it seems that at least some high street retailers are starting to…ahem…cotton on. Consumer demand for ethically produced clothing is also likely to increase pressure on big name designers to adopt fairer trade and production values, encouraging the rest of the industry to follow suit. And with Green Knickers proving that you don’t have to substitute style for substance, let’s hope the trend is here to stay.

Recycling And Sharing For Environmental Prosperity

Have you heard that saying, which goes ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’? All over the world, people are looking for items which you may have in your garage or store room, gathering dust. When the urge to have a good clear out hits, have you considered the brilliant schemes for recycling we have out there, instead of simply dumping your stuff in the trash?

Recycling has become cool

Over the past few years, there has been a sociological shift in the way we recycle goods. Whereas once taking secondhand goods from thrift stores was considered to be a little trashy, now even the glossy high-fashion magazines are featuring vintage and retro items with reverence! It’s as if we’re starting to appreciate the practical beauty of recycling, and pausing to think before we throw things away.

I recently got in to gardening for the first time, and was looking online for things to buy to help me along. My neighbours helped out by giving me plant pots that had been lying around in their back yard, and I soon built up a stash of goods to use. I realised that by putting a bit of effort in and sharing my crops and seedlings, I was able to set up a kind of feudal system in my back garden just by swapping things around.

The internet has caught on to this craze for sharing rather than trashing, in a big way. Sites like eBay make it easy for us to hunt out the things we need, and procure them at a low cost. It’s now easy for us to find second-hand items at a fraction of the price they would be originally, and feel a bit smug as we realise we’re not only saving cash, but helping the environment.

The online craze for recycling

Initiatives like www.freecycle.org provide a global network of sites which are dedicated to providing lists of second-hand items that people no longer need, and giving them away or swapping them for something else. In times of economic crisis and recession, this is a superb idea for saving money while reducing environmental impact.

www.Earth911.com is another great site which promotes recycling initiatives, offering a range of goods which people no longer need, and are looking to give away to a good home.

The chances are, if you’re looking for something, someone else has a spare one! Goods ranging from plant pots, clothes, computers, kitchen items, electrical appliances and furniture are all available to a good home if you know where to look. The days of the thrift shop being regarded as trashy are long gone, and it’s now considered hip to share what you have with other people, to reduce manufacturing costs and chemicals.

How can you get in on the action?

Check out your local area for ideas about what you can recycle, and how to do it. Anyone who has done a garage sale understands that there is a good home for absolutely anything you can sell, so it’s worth taking a look at what you have and seeing if you can find it a good home, before popping it in the garbage. Similarly, if you’re looking for a specific item, check out your local recycling centres, thrift stores, charity shops and online resources to see if you can hunt it down second-hand. Have fun!

Grow a Mo for Movember

Not strictly to do with the environment, but growing a moustache/mustache may err save on shaving products or something. Anyway, Movember is an international even where men get involved in raising money for prostrate cancer by growing a moustache.

I (Adam) have joined in with this and I am 16 days in – you have a clean shave on the 1st. The latest picture of me is below but you can check out how it’s going at http://uk.movember.com/mospace/291540/ and also sponsor me too. Smiling makes me look even weirder…

Mo 13th

nvohk Crowd Funding Clothing Company Goes Live

The eco clothing company that is managed by it’s members, nvohk, has gone live today. Previously we’ve written about the company here, but in brief members will contribute $50 in annual membership dues to…

  • Receive regular business updates and provide ongoing feedback via message boards
  • Help make major business decisions including logo design, product designs, advertising, sponsored athletes and musicians, etc.
  • Members will be invited via email to login to nvohk.com and read about specific business decisions on the table. Members will then vote on their preferred outcome. when members reach a consensus of 60%+ (active votes), the decision will be executed via nvohk’s management.
  • Earn reward points based on 35% of net profits (1 to 1 ratio of dollars to points)
  • Identify and select beneficiaries for corporate charitable donations (10% of net profits to environmental charities)

I will be signing up and plan to keep you all updated on the progress of the company and how well things are going. You can join up too for $50 if the idea and terms appeal to you.

How nvohk works

Green Wedding Presents

We’ve previously talked about green wedding dresses, but you can obviously also get green wedding presents.

Whilst buying a green wedding present isn’t difficult, sometimes I don’t really want to buy more “stuff” for the happy couple. That’s why I think Changing the Present is a good idea. To be more precise they offer charitable wedding gifts/lists, not green ones, but many of the gifts are green. Couples can choose from a full range of over 1,000 charitable gifts from $2 to $5,000 from hundreds of leading nonprofits, such as plant 40 trees, protect wildlife, and educate little kiddies.

It looks like a great idea to me, so please let me know if you’ve used it or have any other ideas for green gifts (wedding or otherwise).

Changing The Present Weddings