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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Vegetarian Butcher Opens In The Hague

While a lot people (mainly meat-eaters) find it odd, I’m a big fan of meat substitute food. Veggie sausages and veggie bacon are great when everyone else has a plate full of meat. And since you get stores dedicated to meat – a butchers – why not one dedicated to fake meat?

Well now one has opened in The Hague in Holland. De Vegetarische Slager concentrates on selling meat substitutes and also has its own line in products made from lupin seeds.

Time will tell to see if it takes off and is the first in a range of similar shops. I, for one, hope so.

De Vegetarische Slager

Spotted via: Springwise.

Transition Vert Offers A Multi-Lingual Eco View

There aren’t many multi-lingual blogs around so when one of them’s an eco-blog I thought it was worth a mention.

Transition Vert is dedicated to bringing people’s green experiences from around the world – in different languages. Set up by a former editor of Green Guy’s Global, Gareth Jones, the site has an unusal mix of writers including a 10 year-old girl, a human rights activist with experience in Kosovo and Rwanda and a lawyer from the Exxon Valdez case who quit when she realised she was on the wrong side. There are also writers from Norway, Nigeria and Indonesia lined up so it’s well worth a look.

Tranistion Vert

Communities Fight Ecological Effects Of Climate Change

Nick from Big Green Smile has written an interesting post on how the Government is rewarding communities trying to stop climate change:

Communities battling to stop the ecological damage of climate change could receive a share of a £10 million government fund.

Twenty successful communities will receive funding from the Low Carbon Communities Challenge, which will be used to pay for energy saving measures chosen by the residents themselves, such as electric car charge points.

If measures put in place by the project are successful at cutting emissions on a local scale then they could be rolled out nationally.

Currently around one-quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions come from powering heating, lighting and electrical appliances around the home, and this number needs to fall to almost zero by 2050 if the country is to meet government energy saving targets.

The Government also wants to see around 40 per cent of energy produced by low carbon sources by 2020.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, explained that the project is a chance for communities across the county to play their part in tackling climate change.

He said: “The UK has the most ambitious emissions reduction commitments in the world and projects like this will develop the policies we need to be successful.”

Ten Of The Worlds Most Iconic Green Office Buildings

Ahoys Blog recently published an pretty cool article about the ten most iconic green office buildings. Most have yet to be built though.

From the site: “Despite tough economic conditions, large office complexes continue to be built in major cities throughout the world. ‘Green’ campaigners argue that such developments are inherently bad for the environment, and skeptics point out that by making sustainability central to their new office designs, many companies are simply attempting to offset their environmentally degrading activities elsewhere.”

One Westminster, courtesy of Ahoys Blog

Take a look here.

Ode Magazine Walks the Green Talk

Ode magazine comes highly recommended by a green friend of mine who describes it as “a beacon of grounded, real positivity in these challenging times”. It’s about positive change – about the innovations and ideas that are changing the planet for the better. While most media focus on what’s going wrong, Ode looks at what’s going right, and spreads good news by telling the stories of people who are making a difference.

It actively reaches out to readers and gives them ways to contribute content and connect with each other, amplifying the impact they can have in the world. Everybody is welcome to contribute to the Exchange section, where original and found articles are and they have a rotating featured blogger each month.

How can a magazine be green? Ode is printed on recycled paper, but they also offer a digital edition, replicating the experience of thumbing through a magazine, on your computer, minus the paper. A sample of that can be found here.

It has different sections that cover books, music, film, the web. Travel and nature. Food. Beauty, health, and fitness. Spirit and meditation. Gadgets and technology. Ode to people, passion, and possibilities, in sections such as:

Business – Entrepreneurs and businesses doing well by doing good
Energy – Exploring how the balance of power is shifting in the energy sector
News – Good, not bad; solutions, not problems
Health & Science – Alternative methods to help and to heal
Life – Real stories about people making real changes
Spirit – Spirituality in our daily minds and our daily lives
Marketplace – Products that make a difference
Ode to Possibilities – New, inspiring ways to solve problems

They’ve also got three columnists giving you something to think about, be inspired by, and take action, in your life, your community, and your heart: Paolo Coelho, bestselling Brazilian author of The Alchemist; Amy Domini, an innovator and expert on sustainable and ethical investing; David Servan-Shreiber, French author and psychiatrist .

We have a blogger exclusive deal to get you an issue of Ode for free, then it’s $19.95 for a year, $10 less then the already good rate, they plant a tree in your name, and your get a Thich Nhat Hanh meditation CD. If you decide it’s not for you, just return the bill marked “cancel.” and you’ve spent nothing, owe nothing but keep the Free Preview issue no matter what.

I think I may actually break my habit of a lifetime and give it a go myself.