Within our network, the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organizations, more than 20,000 volunteers travel to international work camps around the world every year. This exchange often has many positive effects on the volunteers, and also on the local communities and organisations which are involved in organising the projects.
At the same time, participating in an international work camp means you are making your way to another region, country, or even continent. We are aware that air travel in particular does not have the best impact on the climate and the environment. And sometimes the local population does not benefit from increased tourism at all. So how can you make your work camp trip as sustainable as possible?
Here are the best tips from our volunteers this summer:
Avoid air travel
Although in many cases it may take a little longer to reach your destination; you are doing the climate a great favor when you travel by train, bus, ride, bike or even hitchhiking instead of buying a flight with a budget airline. Especially within Europe, this is easily possible. Also check our "Sustainable Transport Infosheet".
Just pack what you really need. Not only is it a lot more enjoyable to walk through a foreign city with a single backpack than with a large suitcase and three bags - less weight equals less emissions! Travel guides, for example, are also available in digital format instead of a book. If you pack laundry detergent, you no longer need to bring one t-shirt per day, but you can simply wash in between. Packing smart you can usually save lots of space and weight. Find an overview of what our volunteers definitely put in their backpack in our info booklet for volunteers.
Save water and energy while travelling
Do try not to consume more water and energy than necessary during your journey. Even if one might easily forget on a rainy autumn day in Germany; water is very scarce in many regions of Europe and the world. Clean drinking water even more so. So use it conciously. Of course, especially in hot regions, air conditioners or fans are often very pleasant to have. But think about whether you really have to have both runing the whole night for example.
Respect people and cultures
Sustainability does not just mean protecting the environment. Sustainable travel also involves how you treat the people you meet on your journey. Inform yourself before your trip to the culture, history and nature of your travel destination. Even if you do not speak the language of the country; "Hello", "Bye" and "Thank you" you can surely remember in the foreign language. Even such small gestures show your respect and can sometimes go a long way and even open doors for you.
Respect the environment
This does not just mean that you do not leave your trash on the beach or in the national park. But also, to not go beyond barriers in national parks, to not walk cross-country through protected areas and to not come too close to animals in nature - even if it would be a perfect selfie opportunity. Of course, garbage and waste is still a big topic: even if you do not want to spend two full weeks doing a clean-up (which can be a lot of fun, by the way); just take three pieces of plastic trash next time you're on the beach or in the woods, and dispose of them properly.
Buy and eat locally
This counts while travelling just as well as at home; supporting local shops and businesses is, in most cases, much more sustainable than giving your money to large corporations. In addition, you will get to know the country even better. Just swap eating at global fast food chain for a typical regional meal at the eatery around the corner from the hostel. Or look for souvenirs a bit off the big shopping streets. Local people benefit much more from this. And you as well, when you get to know a piece of their culture in conversation with them.
To travel in a more sustainable way means to pay attention to social justice, to respect foreign cultures and to minimize the negative influence of your journey on the environment.
You think the topic is interesting and want to learn more? Or you have some great tips for more sustainability while traveling yourself? Just contact our Sustainability Working Group! The group is a place for all those who want to talk about sustainability or who are looking for suggestions and tips for a more sustainable life and work.