Volunteering and Working Holidays
With travel – and particularly flying – so heavily indicted in the whole ongoing debate about global warming and man-made climate change trying to reconcile environmental-awareness with a love of visiting new places can seem to present an almost impossible dilemma. However, there is a solution – taking a working holiday can be a very good way around the problem, letting you gain from the experience at the same time as you put something back. The work is often hard – and the costs of some projects can be high, especially if you opt to go overseas – but the payback is an unparalleled opportunity and the knowledge that you are doing your bit in a very practical way. There was a time when the only real options open to the green and socially aware were largely limited to hauling old prams out of the local canal or taking a year or two years off to live and work in a developing country. Things have, fortunately, come on a long way since that and today’s choices are very much wider.
VolunteeringIf you are looking to do some eco-friendly volunteering – from one or two days to a fortnight or even more – then one of the best places to start is the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV). Within the UK, many of the regional branches run a huge variety of weekends and working holidays, typical projects including maintaining footpaths, hedge laying, willow and woodland management, riverbank improvement and dry stone walling. Although BTCV play a major role in preserving Britain’s countryside, they can offer projects from Scotland to South Africa and beyond, while the equivalent organisations in other countries also offer similar opportunities for working holidays. Through the Conservation Volunteer network, you could find yourself anywhere from the Hebrides to New Zealand and just about everywhere in between. Other organisations to try for volunteer projects include the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Care for the Wild, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the Wildlife Trusts, all of whom offer various “hands on” holidays. If surveying basking sharks around Britain, helping with reforestation in Ecuador or monitoring turtle populations in Greece sounds like the sort of adventure you are looking for, there should certainly be something to suit.
Working HolidaysAs a quick online search will show, there is no shortage of working holidays available ranging from the offerings of the formal conservation organisations to opportunities from a wide number of travel companies. Many of the wildlife based charities run working holidays to bolster funds for their projects. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, for instance, have their own travel wing – Out of the Blue – and offer responsible whale and dolphin watching across the oceans of the world. Other organisations with good holiday opportunities include Earth Watch, who promote a variety of projects around the globe and the Wildlife Trusts Partnership who run basking shark expeditions aboard their 40ft sailing yacht. On the commercial side, the best of this sector are very good indeed, but it is essential to make sure that any company you are considering really is as ecologically-minded as they would have you believe – and not simply adept at a spot of green-washing. Verifying claims is notoriously difficult – some companies are more forthcoming and transparent than others and in any case, things can change from year to year – but it is worth asking a few questions to ensure that both your time and money will be well spent. However, with a bit of careful research, you could be helping with water relief in Africa, surveying wolves in Bulgaria, or monitoring dolphins off the Azores.
With the rise of environmental-awareness and the increasing numbers of people looking to find holidays which mirror their principles and values, many organisations and travel companies have risen to the challenge of meeting their needs. Being eco-friendly does not have to doom you to living in a cave and going nowhere – so if the travel bug has bitten you, then there are few better ways to have your holiday while staying true to your green ideals in the process. It seems sometimes you can have your cake and eat it!