Here at the Red Rocks Initiative for Sustainable Development, our mission is to offer volunteer abroad programs that engage local communities through sustainable practices in the veranda massive region. By partnering with young professionals, students, and researchers, we can help these local communities thrive in a dynamic and changing world without losing their cultural identity. In a previous blog, we outlined what sustainable tourism was. After reading it, our followers asked how can they practice sustainable tourism when they travel.

Since our foundation in 2013, our organization has been a leader in sustainable tourism practices in our Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Today will outline a number of easy ways you can practice sustainable tourism as you travel through Africa and abroad.

#1: Start with Research

One of the easiest ways you can start practicing sustainable tourism is by researching your destination. This can be done from the comfort of your own home using resources found at the library or online. Take the time to learn about the geography and environment of the region. Look for cultural and political centers as well as communities of all sizes. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the local culture and look for do’s and don’ts so you don’t unintentionally find yourself in a situation fueled by cultural misunderstanding. This will help you better navigate the region as you travel there.

#2: Partner with Reputable Programs

as part of your research, you will undoubtedly find that an easy way to practice sustainable tourism is to work with the program to do it. When properly outfitted and guided these programs can help you connect with local communities and environments in sustainable ways. This makes your travel easier on yourself and the region you’re traveling through. However, you should also look at the program itself. Check its mission and vision statements, the opportunities and projects they offer, as well as reviews of the program itself. The most reliable projects are the ones which are the most transparent. They will clearly outline how they use funds to support their projects and the communities they work with.

#3: Support the Local Economy

As you travel will undoubtedly want to bring some souvenirs home with you as a tangible reminder of your incredible journey. However, your souvenirs can also support the local communities you’re working with. By purchasing local handicrafts and artwork you are putting money directly back into the community that you stayed with. Not only are you supporting the local economy but you’re also supporting the local culture. When local communities are allowed to sell these handcrafts, the tradition and art ways of the region are sustained and passed down to new generations.

#4: Pack With a Purpose

It’s important to remember that whatever you bring with you to your volunteer abroad program you should plan on taking home with you. This means you should be conscious of what you bring with you in the first place. Avoid bringing items and products that have unnecessary packaging or uses replaceable batteries. In many cases, these types of micro-trash can quickly build up and pollute the local community. This minimizes your generation of waste as you travel.

#5: Stay Near Your Camp or Lodging

While the temptation to explore the natural environment around you may be very strong, it’s important that you stay near the camp of your program. These landscapes are still very much wild and can be difficult to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with them. Staying near your camp ensures the safety of not only yourself but also your fellow program members. It also ensures that the resources of the program are applied towards helping the community rather than rescuing you should you get lost.

#6: Make Your Donations Count

It can be tempting to want to bring gifts for the community are staying with. Small items like candies or toys might not seem like much to you but can lead to unintended consequences in the local community. These outside resources are more valuable than you realize and could lead to struggles between individuals. If you really want to leave a gift with the community, make sure you donate financially to them. In this way, the program can use these resources to help them in more tangible and direct ways that are within their sustainable practices.

Support the Red Rocks Volunteer Abroad Program

You can be a part of the peacebuilding efforts in the veranda massive region. Learn more about our community and conservation efforts, as well as our research projects and then make a donation or sign up for one of our volunteer abroad programs today.