Sustainable Travel

and Sustainability

Join Us on a Volunteer Trip for Sustainable Travel!

Concerned about Sustainability? Interested in Sustainable Travel? See how our nonprofit organization, our mission and our volunteer trips align with the concepts of sustainability. Click the expandable links below for details.

Sustainability and Sustainable Travel

Conservation Volunteers International Program is dedicated to helping sustain some of the world's greatest landscapes, cultural heritage sites, and biodiversity. Learn more about our mission and vision here.
"Sustainable: capable of being sustained", that is, "capable of being maintained at length without interruption or weakening" [from Merriam Webster dictionary]

We generally think of sustainability in the environmental sense. What does environmental sustainability mean? Definitions vary. Here are two examples:

"Sustainability is the ability to exist constantly. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for the biosphere and human civilization to coexist. Defined also as the process of people maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. For many in the field, sustainability is defined through the following interconnected domains or pillars: environment, economic and social . . ." [from Wikipedia. Read more]

"Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations. (from the EPA Website)
Since our founding in 2007, ConservationVIP has been a virtual organization. Our staff work from their homes - no carbon footprint from our commute!

At our Volunteer Trip destinations, we collaborate with the local people responsible for protecting and managing the natural and cultural resources, to identify environmental conservation projects which our volunteers can help with. ConservationVIP also helps local land managers by purchasing much needed tools and equipment to donate to them.

ConservationVIP's Volunteer Trips engage in projects which contribute to sustainability of destinations we help, including: planting trees which fight climate change (in Scotland and Tanzania), maintaining trails which protect fragile landscapes (Patagonia, Alaska, Yosemite, Virgin Islands), protecting wildlife (Galapagos and Costa Rica), preserving cultural sites (Machu Picchu and Virgin Islands), removing invasive species (Machu Picchu), and picking up trash and filtering beach sand to remove microplastics which endanger sea life (Galapagos).

Beyond the volunteer projects we work on, ConservationVIP® is committed to processes on our volunteer trips that minimize any negative impact on the environment and the local communities we visit. While we recognize that different destinations and activities require different "best practices," our trip leaders follow a set of principles which guide all our volunteer trip operations.
  • Leave No Trace (See More Below)
  • Reduce the amount of waste whenever possible by avoiding single-use plastic water bottles, refilling empty water bottles rather than disposing of them.
  • Recycle wherever possible
  • Respect the environment by staying on trails, avoiding activities that pollute water, and ensuring that we do not contribute to the spread of invasive species
  • Respect wildlife and minimize disturbance of wildlife at all times
  • Respect local residents and protect their quality of life
  • Preserve the past; exercise care around cultural or historic structures and artifacts
Our extraordinarily generous volunteers not only volunteer their time and energy to help sustain our special destinations. They also pay fees which cover the trip expenses (lodging, food, transportation) so that they in no way place a burden on the local communities we strive to help.
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics details the seven principles of Leave No Trace:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors
In 2015, the U.N. General Assembly adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. We believe ConservationVIP's mission and our volunteer trip projects fit into the U.N. effort, especially:
  • Goal 15, Life on Land: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 14, Life below Water:  Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 13, Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Here's a LINK to read more about the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
The concepts of sustainability described above underpin the sustainable tourism criteria promulgated by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). The GSTC has developed a standard for sustainable travel and tourism, intended for use in education and awareness-raising, policymaking for businesses and government agencies and other organization types.

The GSTC has developed criteria for both destination management and for hotels and tour operators. The Tour Operator Criteria are organized around four main themes: effective sustainability planning, maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community, enhancing cultural heritage, and reducing negative impacts to the environment.
Conservation Volunteers International Program is a nonprofit focused on environmental conservation projects. We carry out our mission by organizing volunteers who work on volunteer projects. Our volunteers travel to get to the volunteer projects. Because of the travel aspect of our activities, we are keenly aware of two concerns which are sometimes raised about the travel industry.

The first concern is the growing number of people who travel to popular places. There is much discussion about "overtourism" degrading the qualify of life for very popular travel destinations. We agree that overtourism is a problem, and we want to be part of the solution. Our volunteer projects help local land managers at our destinations to better deal with the influx of tourists and reduce the damage from the high levels of visitation. Volunteers on our volunteer trips often tell us that they choose volunteer trips as the more responsible way to travel.

The other concern raised about travel is because carbon dioxide emissions from commercial air travel contribute to global warming and climate change. If all travelers stayed home, the carbon emissions from airplanes would decrease, which is definitely positive from a climate change point of view. Is that likely to happen? We doubt it.

We agree that people who choose to avoid airline travel and participate in environmental volunteer projects close to home are making an environmentally positive contribution. The question is, would the environment benefit if all the volunteers on our trips stayed home and did not fly? Possibly, but the benefit would likely be minimal. The airplanes would probably continue to fly to the destinations we serve, either with fewer passengers or full of passengers who would not work on conservation projects which leave the destinations better off after their visit. Beyond the immediate positive impact from the volunteer projects, many ConservationVIP volunteers return home with a renewed connection to the places they helped and to the natural world. This leads to further advocacy for the environment both for the destination they visited and in their local areas.

ConservationVIP is committed to offering volunteer trips which are focused on substantive volunteer activities that truly benefit the destinations we serve. We believe that the contributions of our volunteers on our volunteer trips are an important and positive contribution to the environment. For those who wish to contribute more and want to offset carbon emissions from their travel, we suggest that they donate to Trees for Life to support their excellent program to reforest the Scottish Highlands, or better yet, join our Scottish Highlands Volunteer Trip and help to reforest the Scottish Highlands.
ConservationVIP® is building a community of volunteers to help protect the world's most precious natural and cultural landscapes. Through our Volunteer Trips we work with local leaders on a variety of conservation projects to help protect these world treasures.

What's your particular passion? We have a Volunteer Trip for you:  


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