Waste management is a global problem, but not every country has the financial, logistical, or educational resources needed to deal with waste in a safe and sustainable manner. That’s where you come in. A number of different organizations run waste management volunteer programs in countries all around the world—if you’re an environmentally-minded traveler, these programs are your opportunity to make a real difference to a local community on your next vacation.
Read on to learn about five places that could use your help.
The situation—A nation of tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are known for their extensive coral reefs, beautiful white sand beaches, and flat, low-lying land: no part of the Maldives rises more than eight feet above sea level. This makes the forecasted rise in sea levels due to climate change a serious concern for this island nation, but an equally pressing and somewhat more immediate worry is garbage: the unique geography of the Maldives, with hundreds of tiny islands spread out over hundreds of miles of ocean, make coordinated waste collection and disposal very challenging.
How you can help—Sustainable travel company MuchBetterAdventures is helping eco-tourists clean up the Maldives by offering three-week volunteership stays on the island of Naifaru, where participants help plan, develop, and implement a waste management program. Weekly leisure excursions like island cruises or snorkeling are included in the package. A longer-term option is offered by Volunteer Maldives, whose “Go Green” campaign welcomes volunteers for a one-month minimum stay between January and November.
The situation—Thanks to its growing economy and stunning natural beauty, Belize is currently experiencing an immigration boom. The country’s population is growing by nearly 2% every year, more than the population growth of the US, the UK, and India. Wisely, Belize is working to implement conservation and waste management efforts sooner rather than later, before its booming population puts too much pressure on the environment.
How you can help—FrontierGap’s two-month volunteership brings participants to the rainforest ecosystems of southern Belize, where the aim is to encourage economic development that both supports communities and protects the rainforest. Volunteers will help with a variety of projects, including new facility construction and social media management to help raise awareness about local waste management issues and efforts.
The situation—Ghana has experienced huge challenges in bringing up-to-date waste management methods to its citizens, and the struggle has become something of an ongoing confrontation between the country’s government and its people. Municipal-issued garbage bins are frequently stolen, residents are unable or unwilling to pay private companies for garbage collection, and the government is reluctant to furnish basic necessities like public toilets. The result is that a great deal of trash and waste is simply tossed into the street or burned by individual households.
How you can help—Volunteer Projects for West Africa is looking for creative people with innovative ideas and solutions for managing Ghana’s waste issues. Volunteers are housed in Accra, the capital city, or in Ghana’s eastern regions; program stays can be up to six months long. This opportunity may not seem as inviting as lounging on a tropical beach, but for dedicated participants, it is a unique chance to make a huge difference to the future of an entire country.
The situation—One of the world’s best-known eco-tourism destinations, Costa Rica is nevertheless experiencing significant pressure on its biodiversity due to poor waste management practices. Less than 10% of the 2,400 tons of garbage the country generates daily is recycled, and over half of those tons are disposed of at unregulated dump sites, which are a major threat to sensitive rainforest ecosystems.
How you can help—Based in the San Ramon region of Costa Rica, tourism company Costa Rica Frika has hit on the perfect formula for incoming eco-volunteers: simple, hands-on tasks that are desperately needed. During stays ranging from a minimum of two weeks to as long as they’d like, volunteers are in charge of practical responsibilities like sorting and packing incoming recyclable materials and running recycling awareness campaigns in local communities. Participants also have the opportunity to be fully immersed in Costa Rica’s culture by staying with a local family.
Let’s Do It! World
The situation—That’s right, this opportunity is one for the whole world. In 2008, a civic-led mass movement was launched in Estonia, where 50,000 people across the country united with the goal of cleaning up the entire country in a single day. This effort saw volunteers dispose of 10,000 tons of illegal waste, and launched a movement that has grown today into one of the biggest worldwide volunteerships, with 113 countries and over 16 million people participating.
How you can help—September 8, 2018 is the next designated World Cleanup Day. The goal is to have millions of people all over the world taking positive action to clean up waste, raise environmental awareness, and show how a united global community can help achieve a clean and healthy planet. Check out www.letsdoitworld.org to see if a World Cleanup Day event is planned for your area. If not, why not consider organizing one yourself?