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Responsible Travel and Sustainability
United Planet volunteers work as additional staff members at local partner organizations in their host communities. United Planet tries not to continue the practice of sending the “outsider” to projects to impose his/her ideas of development. These organizations are not run by United Planet and operate independently with their own staff. United Planet volunteers are asked to assist its partner organizations in their work; volunteer roles and duties will be defined by the staff at the time of volunteering.
United Planet dedicates a portion of its program fee to preparing volunteers to be culturally-sensitive, so as to leave as little a footprint as possible while also facilitating positive exchanges in the work environment and sustaining relationships with host families. United Planet does not directly fund its partner organizations, but empowers them by sending volunteers. Over time, the support of volunteers year in and year out will help grow United Planet’s partner organizations while avoiding the creation of a system of dependency. United Planet gives a small donation to the project per volunteer, but a larger portion of the program fee goes towards Country Funds—these larger funds enable United Planet to support larger, sustainable projects. Our partners can apply for funding for one-time improvements, such as an extra dormitory at an orphanage. Each partner organization who applies for financial assistance from the Country Fund must demonstrate a partial financial commitment to the project as well. In this way, United Planet completes its mission of sharing challenges while also focusing on sustainability.
Responsible and Sustainable Travel
United Planet operates all Quest programs following responsible and sustainable travel practices. These include:
- Using local staff, guides, and teachers as often as possible, to support the local community
- Educating volunteers about their host culture both during pre-departure and again during the in country orientation
- Housing volunteers in host families whenever possible , so families can gain additional income and the volunteer can gain insight into how local people use important resources like water and electricity
- Asking host families to provide all or some meals to the volunteers, so they are more likely to eat local food
- Incorporating cultural activities into each quest, to broaden the volunteer’s understanding of their host community.
- Working with the local community and provide volunteers to sites that need additional assistance
- Sending volunteers in Cambodia and Peru to UNESCO world heritage sites, thus benefiting the conservation efforts of these sites
- Having Country Funds that accumulate donations from current and previous volunteers, to be used to fund sustainable development in each United Planet destination
- Having all volunteers to sign and follow our code of conduct, which requires volunteers to act in a respectful manner towards the local culture- an important element to sustainable travel because locals are more likely to welcome back United Planet volunteers in the future!
A Greener United Planet
At United Planet we are dedicated to cross-cultural understanding, volunteering abroad and community service. We now extend that dedication to our environment and to responsible and sustainable travel pratices. Over the past year we have introduced green practices within our offices both in Boston and abroad to try to limit our environmental impact.
At our Boston office we :
- Use the internet as the main source of communication with volunteers, reducing the amount of paper we need
- Have all of the documents pertinent to each volunteer on our website or volunteer interface, eliminating the need to send paper copies to each volunteer
- Only print documents when absolutely necessary
- Recycle paper after using
- Use both sides of each paper to minimize waste
- Conserve electricity by turning off lights and computers after office hours
How to make your Quest Greener
We encourage all volunteers to take the following steps to make their Quests greener:
- Research what kind of programs or guidelines your destination has for recycling or saving energy and what you can do to help the community.
- Keep your shower time short and shut off the water while you are brushing your teeth, shaving or washing dishes.
- Always remove any litter or waste
- Use minimum amount of soap, shampoo or detergent that could be harmful for the local water source. You may use environmentally friendly products.
- When leaving rooms, turn off and unplug electric devices
- If it is safe try to use public transportation or walk instead of using a private taxi.
- Support local artisans and craftsmen but never purchase souvenirs that look like they could be manufactured from endangered species.
- Purchase local produces and eat local specialties which support farmers.
- Reduce consumption of plastic bottles by packing your own water bottle to reuse.
- Consider puchasing carbon offset credits for your international flights