5 Sustainable Volunteer Ideas

Spending your time helping others is a great way to build relationships, increase your skill set, benefit your mental health and give back.

Volunteers worldwide have put forth their time and effort to help communities in need, whether they travel somewhere else or stay in their hometowns. 

There are many volunteer opportunities you can take part in, but they’re not all sustainable. When considering your options, you want to ensure you’re giving back to the environment, economy and society so you can meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations. 

Here are five sustainable volunteer ideas for you to consider, followed by ways to be as ethical and sustainable as possible while volunteering.

1. Wildlife and Environmental Protection Projects

Animal and nature lovers can be part of a sustainable volunteer movement, too. You can help with various projects that advocate for animals and their habitats, including wildlife care and administrative work. 

Other ways to volunteer for the environment are advocating for endangered species and speaking out about conserving habitats. Protecting the planet is just as important as helping humans. Without a sustainable environment, surrounding communities will lack what they need to survive.

Sustainable volunteering"
Volunteer and Elephant Cambodia"
Cambodia food project"

2. Agricultural Services or Community Gardens

One way to get the whole community involved in a sustainable volunteering effort is by offering agricultural services or growing a community garden. You can help communities improve their food supply to ensure future generations have access to fresh fruits, vegetables and protein. 

Impoverished communities often need volunteers to help them get back on their feet to market crops, improve food production techniques or access foods in general. Building a community garden and supporting local farmers can do wonders for a region to sustain itself.

3. Health Care Aid

Some areas of the world don’t have access to health care or ways to treat patients. This might include care from doctors or nurses, medication and general health education. 

If you have the knowledge and the ability to help others in need of medical care, you could bring your services to underserved areas. Even if you’re not in the field, you can help with administration or operational jobs. Offering these communities access to better health can improve people’s futures there.

4. Local Business Development

A crucial aspect of being sustainable is helping the local economy. If you know about leading or developing a business, you can volunteer your knowledge and time to teach local companies to promote themselves and boost the local economy. 

Advising business owners about how to improve operations will help them long term. Communities that support local companies are often better able to sustain themselves because they contribute to the economy. Any topic, from marketing to accounting to business plans, can help.

5. Disaster Relief

When a natural or human-made disaster strikes, thousands of volunteers flood to the area to help build back the community. Any place impacted by such an event needs help, but that initial rush of volunteers can be overwhelming, leading to harm instead of help. 

Make sure you research before traveling to a disaster-stricken area and see how you can best help. It may benefit more from donations rather than you physically being there. Additionally, the region may need continued support long after that rush of volunteers leaves.

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Children teeth cleaning project"
Butterfly nets Peru amazon"

How to Be Sustainable While Volunteering

When choosing a program or organization to volunteer with, you want to make sure it’s sustainable. Additionally, while you’re volunteering, you should follow eco-friendly practices. Here are some things to consider while volunteering: 

  • Research where you want to go and make sure the organization you choose is practicing what they preach. Look for signs it’s actively supporting sustainability and contributing to the local community.
  • Walk, bike or take public transportation while volunteering to limit carbon emissions. 
  • Take reusable items with you, like a water bottle, and pack lightly. 
  • Support local businesses wherever you go so you can boost the economy. Try to avoid any tourist attractions. 
  • Choose to live in a homestay or look for local accommodations rather than staying in a chain hotel.  

Volunteering sustainably is the best way to volunteer. Choose your options carefully

Choose the Best Sustainable Volunteer Travel Ideas

Choose something you’re interested in volunteering for and ensure what you’re doing is beneficial to the economy, environment and society. You’re sure to make a difference if you do.

Globalteer guest author Ginger
Author - Ginger Abbot

Ginger Abbot is a learning and education writer with a personal passion for study abroad and international travel. She also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Classrooms.com, where you can read more of her work.