Sustainable Travel is the New Classroom

Part of what separates sustainable travel from conventional traveling methods is the increased number of opportunities to learn. Since the commitment of sustainable travel typically entails creative and, sometimes, imaginative ways to approach mankind’s favorite pastime, learning new things along the way is inevitable. So if sustainable travel provides such a fertile breeding ground for scholastic discovery, why not up the ante by introducing study abroad programs to environmentally conscious travel? A few companies have done just that.

One organization that sets the standards for environmentally conscious study abroad programs is Living Routes. This organization strives to spread the gospel of sustainable development, green building techniques, and organic agricultural practices. As mentioned before, the concept of sustainability and responsible travel are not limited to the physical environment.  Upholding sustainable travel standards also means respecting and supporting the societal environment. Living Routes supports foreign efforts for women’s empowerment, providing a life-changing element for students. Living Routes is especially enticing because of its approach to tackling these tough environmental and societal issues. Americans have a terrible tendency to assume other cultures will acquiesce and assimilate to the “American way.” Well, just as this proves troublesome in the conventional travel industry, more disastrous results are found in the sustainable travel industry. Living Routes avoids this quandary by supplying students with all of the necessary communicative skills to work with the local residents. Life- long lessons and experiences of this study abroad experience will undoubtedly hold much more weight than shiny souvenirs and drunken debauchery often associated with conventional study abroad programs.

Some programs offer a more tactile study abroad experience, transforming a sustainable travel experience from purely educational to changing a community, one solar panel at a time. EduEco is one of many organizations with a vision and a plan. The vision is to create a fully self- sufficient environment and green community in the comparatively evergreen Ecuador. The fact that a community as naturally vibrant and bountiful as Ecador has the wise foresight to realize that their green oasis won’t stay green after decades of human abuse is enlightening in itself. EduEco will help to insert a healthy and rewarding amount of volunteerism in sustainable travel plans. With a plans spanning each realm of environmental conservation, from creating solar energy to developing organic gardens, EduEco is sure to provide volunteers with plenty of fulfilling activities to keep them busy and engaged.

The marriage of study abroad programs and sustainable travel has spurred a number of study abroad programs with an environmental mission. A legitimate study abroad program will have proof of accreditation for their programs, as well as a number of informational sessions to sit in on before making a final decision. While these are valuable tools for the selection process, the best way to gage if a program will fit specific needs is to speak directly with those who have already gone through the program. Doing preliminary research is the first and vital step towards making a difference while studying abroad.

Photo Credit: USFWS Southeast