10 min

Environmental volunteering: save the planet, advance your career

Are you concerned about the environment, climate change, and pollution? Do you want to get valuable job experience that can set off your career in ecology?

Maybe you feel the urge to contribute to the well-being of people and animals, make new friends, and, last but not the least, impress a future employer or a university admission officer?

If yes, then consider volunteering - which usually means a wide range of activities undertaken of free will, where the monetary reward is not the motivating factor.

The number of volunteers worldwide is estimated to be around 970 million, which is equivalent to over 125 million full-time workers. Approximately one out of every four volunteers contribute their time and talents through organizations, while the rest serve their neighbors and communities directly. In terms of economic impact, volunteer labor is estimated to be worth US$ 1.348 trillion, or 2.4 percent of the world GDP.

If you are interested in the environment, you probably know that our Earth is in an environmental crisis. We've already seen the catastrophic impact of climate change – such as wildfires, heat waves, natural catastrophes all across the planet, extinction of species. Climate disasters seriously affect low-income and minority populations.

Environmental volunteering not only contributes to sustainable development (which is fundamental to poverty reduction, human development, and nature preservation), but also gives you a much-needed perspective of the scale of the problem that is essential if you plan to study ecology or pursue a career in this field.

Volunteering in the field of environmental conservation usually involves protecting the natural environment from the impact of unsustainable agriculture, deforestation, or the use of fossil fuels. It usually includes forest and jungle restoration, agriculture, coast, marine, and waterway conservation, as well as community education projects.

Even though anyone can plant a tree or take away garbage from the nearby river bank, there are also options to participate in organized volunteering projects. Let’s look at several ways of how you can start your path of volunteering in ecology.

  1. Check out volunteering aggregator websites.

There are several websites that aggregate volunteering projects around the world. You can pick those that meet your interests. Jungle conservation in Peru? Mangrove replanting in the Philippines? Tending to elephants in Thailand? Underwater cleaning in Spain? Bear rescuing in Canada? You can find pretty much everything that your heart desires.

These websites usually require some registration fee. To participate in some of these programs, you may need to pay a sum of money that will cover your accommodation, transfer from the airport, or some other costs. At some of the volunteer projects, it’s possible to obtain a diving certification.

The websites you may want to check: 

  1. Check out global organizations’ websites

International organizations such as UN, UNICEF, WWF, and Greenpeace often provide the opportunities to volunteer. This way, you will help the environment and get some valuable experience of working in a well-known global organization. This will make your CV really stand out. From a professional point of view, you will get an insight into the world of conservation, create your own network, and decide if this is something that you are interested in doing in the future. In the case of some of these organizations, you may need to contact a local office in the part of the world where you reside.

Greenpeace also provides the Global Volunteer Leadership Training which is open anywhere in the world to anyone who wants to organize, engage, and take action against environmental destruction, climate change, and social injustices.

The websites you may want to check:

  1. Check out the environmental organizations’ websites

There are so many initiatives that try to make the world a better place! They don’t always publish volunteer opportunities since they are not major global organizations, but it is always possible to write to them directly and apply. If you’re interested in a certain field within ecology and environmental preservation, perform some research and identify such organizations: it is worth checking if they need volunteers.

These are some of them:

Ocean Clean up (Dutch company that does large scale ocean cleaning projects)

The Sea Turtle Foundation (Australia-based group aiming to protect sea turtles)

Amazon Watch (organization protecting the rainforest and advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin)

The National Park Foundation (American company that supports national parks)

...and many others!