Volunteering Abroad for Tree Huggers

Organizations offer volunteer programs to benefit environmentVoluntourism and socially conscious travel has exploded in the past few years. It’s easy to find ways to help with disaster relief or orphanages, but if you’re an environmentalist looking to get your hands dirty, below are five organizations that offer volunteer programs specifically tailored for working with environmental issues.

1) United Planet – *For spring/winter break
Only have time for a week-long spring break trip abroad? United Planet offers volunteer trips lasting anywhere from one week to one year, so you can customize your length of stay according to time and budget. Environmental Education and Wildlife Conservations programs are offered in Ecuador, Costa Rica and New Zealand, and all volunteers are placed in host families. Costa Rica also boasts a popular Sea Turtle Conservation program. This fills up quickly, so book in advance!

2) Projects Abroad – *For high schoolers
Programs are offered in almost every region of the world and feature a wide variety of activities including agriculture and eco-development. Volunteers can go diving in Thailand, work in the Amazon rainforest, or live on a reserve in the South African Bushveld. Projects Abroad also offers special two-week programs for high schoolers ages 16-19 (most abroad programs require volunteers to be 18 or older).

3) GVI USA – *For internships and research
GVI USA’s programs are designed specifically to work against climate change and are offered in exotic locations such as Seychelles, Belize, and Fiji. Most projects are focused on marine and wildlife conservation, but volunteering is not the only way to help. Through GVI USA, participants can complete internships and even conduct their own field research!

4) International Volunteer HQ – *For those on a budget
IVHQ may not offer as many locations as more expensive organizations, but if you’re interested in Peru, Costa Rica, Brazil, or Mexico, you’re in luck! Competitive prices and large volunteer groups make this a popular choice among volunteers of all ages – just be sure to check out what your program fee does and does not include.

5) Greenheart Travel – *For greater immersion
Conservation projects in Australia, animal population research in Brazil, and work on a private ecological reserve in Costa Rica are some of the volunteer opportunities available through Greenheart. But what makes this organization really unique is that it is part of a larger mission to involve volunteers long past their volunteer time abroad. High school students can log their abroad volunteer hours through the Greenheart Travel Club to receive awards, while other participants can apply for a Greenheart Travel Grant to fund a community project. Greenheart also runs Casita Verde – an environmental education center in Ibiza, Spain – and operates an eco-fair trade store, a music platform, and a lecture series.

-Kelisha Menon

Photo Credit: Flickr/A Strycula