Holiday Spirit: Save the Environment Instead of Buying Stuff!
By Coach Antonia
How can you make a difference to this holiday season and save the environment?
Curious how to turn consuming on its head?
And what if I told you that you can do that while going on an incredible journey?
EarthWatch is “an international nonprofit organization that connects citizens with scientists to improve the health and sustainability of the planet.” It allows people to travel with purpose and meet other people who care about the planet and other cultures.
Earthwatch creates incredible expeditions all over the world where you can volunteer to save the environment. These range from wildlife and ecosystems, climate change, archaeology and culture, and ocean health. The expeditions are based on research questions that scientists have about today’s environmental challenges. EarthWatch partners these scientists with everyday people like you – who they call “civilian scientists” – to make it happen. They carefully select the research questions that would be most engaging for the participants, in carefully vetted locations, and build expeditions around these trips.
WHY DOES IT COST MONEY TO VOLUNTEER?
BuzzFeed made a video about Earthwatch (shown below), telling people they can volunteer to save the environment. However, the video got some controversial reactions in the comments. People found it strange that they would pay the higher-end fees of these trips (several thousand dollars) if they are going to volunteer. Maybe this sounds strange to you too?
Let’s examine further!
” You might be wondering why would you need to pay if you are already volunteering your time for free? “
Let’s examine our assumptions of the word VOLUNTEER.
Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity where an individual or group provides services for no financial gain “to benefit another person, group or organization”. Volunteering is also renowned for skill development and is often intended to promote goodness or to improve human quality of life and save the environment. Volunteering may have positive benefits for the volunteer as well as for the person or community served. (source)
Perhaps you imagine it as a comfortable once-a-week activity that you can do through an organization in your city where you help the homeless, or volunteer with seniors and kids.
Perhaps you have a romantic image of rolling up your sleeves in a foreign country defined by harsh conditions and desperate needs.
In both cases, you probably imagine that if you are coming to freely give your time, expertise and energy – that this is enough. You might be wondering why would you need to pay if you are already volunteering your time for free?
You also probably know that another big and significant way to help is donation. The assumption is that you donate money, and do not donate your time. And you’re done.
In reality, not everything is so binary. In fact, there is a new kind of GIVING opportunity that is a blend of both volunteering and donation – and it seems to not have it’s own word, and that is causing some confusion for people. We can define this new blend as a “Giving Experience.”
What many organizations tend to call volunteering is actually the mixed-blend “Giving Experience.” Perhaps because of this mis-nomenclature some people read the word “volunteer,” have a preconceived visual of what this should be, and get upset and confused when their expectations aren’t validated by the proposal of an organization.
“You are making a significant financial donation, but unlike other organizations where you just give money – EarthWatch gives you a whole experience back. “
With EarthWatch, this is exactly the case – it’s a “Giving Experience” that includes volunteering and financial donation. All it requires is a small mindset shift to see it for the true incredible opportunity it really is, for you to give and potentially more-so, for you to receive. It is hard to assume that we do not receive when we give, and EarthWatch will show you that hands-on.
HOW TO SHIFT YOUR MINDSET?
See this as an incredible hands-on experience. Perhaps as a week long educational, interactive adventure where you are not only making memories that last a lifetime and engaging with the wild in ways that would otherwise not be accessible to you with experts that can teach you more than google search.
In effect, you are making a significant financial donation, but unlike other organizations where you just give money – EarthWatch gives you a whole experience back. Part of this experience is the opportunity to be PART OF the cause to which you gave money.
This is one of the great ways to give. And do keep in mind that the higher prices of these trips aren’t just for a big margin of giving, but also include the high costs of organizing such trips. It involves a lot more than food and lodging to venture out into the wild and do highly specialized work out there – equipment, off-the-beaten path preparation, etc.
“To save the environment is a great gift to the world in the holiday season, and an amazing gift to give to yourself and someone you love. “
There are many opportunities in the world to volunteer and save the environment. Some are free, some are paid, and some are uniquely special – like an expedition with EarthWatch. This is one of the great ways to give money, give your time, and gain a meaningful experience that will have the potential to change the planet. It’s a great gift to the world in the holiday season, and an amazing gift to give to yourself and someone you love.
If you are curious about other formats of volunteering, there are options! For example, if you would like to only pay for your own travel costs, and get the rest free, you can try WWOOFing. It’s a cultural exchange program where you live on organic farms and work there, in return getting accommodation and food.
If you want to learn more about ecologically minded travel, read about the top eco retreats we featured! And if you plan on making a trip to different time zones, get the top tips on how to outsmart jet lag!