Limiting environmental damage on a study trip can be a major challenge for faculty members; here are some tips on how to ensure your students travel in an eco-friendly manner.
By Kagumu Adventures Staff
STUDY TRIPS | 6-minute read
Choose a responsible local operator
The easiest way to ensure a trip limits environmental damage is to choose a responsible travel operator. Many operators offer carbon neutral trips, not only taking into account the CO2 emissions from your flight, but also emissions from your overall trip. While aviation environmental impact usually bears the brunt of criticism, it's other lesser-known carbon emitters that can have a huge negative impact - starting with how you consume and the services you use.
All the products you buy or eat, or the services you use during your trip, just like when you are at home, will have an environmental footprint. It's often difficult to know the most eco-friendly services - restaurants, hotels, means of transport - when visiting a new country, so working with a conscious and experienced local operator is a must. Tip: request information on the internal operations of a local operator to assess their commitment to environmental sustainability.
One of the easiest ways to offset a flight's environmental damage is to calculate the tonnes of CO2 emitted then donate the equivalent amount to a certified reforestation or clean energy project. For example, if you have a return flight in economy class from London to Medellin with a stopover in Bogota, simply enter your details in South Pole's calculator. You will see that for one person the amount of carbon emitted is 3.159 tonnes. You can then go to Stand For Trees and choose a project to donate 3.159 tonnes of carbon credit. This will pay for the organization to remove the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere through one of its projects.
These conservation and protection projects are certified by Stand for Trees and can include protecting habitats for birds in Guatemala and reforestation projects in the Brazilian Amazon. You will then receive a certificate, showing how much you have donated. Of course, a responsible travel operator should include this in your package but we recommend supplementing this to ensure that you overcompensate for CO2 emissions. Tip: encourage students to donate to these projects themselves, involving them in the process from the beginning.
Choosing a destination close to home
One of the easiest ways to reduce the impact on the environment is to choose a destination to a neighboring country. Of course, choosing a destination within your own country, negating the need to fly, would further reduce carbon emissions. This then opens up the eternal travel conundrum - do the benefits of travel outweigh the inevitable environmental damage? The only way to truly know this is to outline and measure, to the best of your ability, the positive impacts of the trip vs the negative environmental impacts. Study abroad programs create life-changing moments for students, and our experts at Kagumu Adventures would be happy to discuss the potential impacts of a trip with you by contacting us today.
Choosing a carbon-friendly airline
The way airlines operate can severely affect their performance in terms of carbon emissions. But how do you know which ones are environmentally conscious? Alternative Airlines, a search engine for international flights, gives you essential information on airlines that work in a more eco-friendly way. You'll discover that Delta is investing heavily in their carbon offsetting and has committed to removing all plastic from their planes. And, in 2019 Etihad Airways powered a commercial flight using a mix of jet and biofuel - material used from the Salicornia plant.
Also, look out for those airlines that have signed up for the CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) agreement. This obliges airlines to report their carbon emissions and offset any increase in their carbon emissions from 2020. Tip: try to get a non-stop flight as this will lower the carbon emissions produced from landing, taxing around another airport and then taking off again.
Eco-friendly internet searching
Did you know you can help with the global reforestation effort by just choosing the way you search for things on the internet? Ecosia uses the profits generated by you using its search engine to plant trees across the world. In fact, they claim that for approximately every 45 searches you make, they plant 1 tree. Their internal carbon footprint is incredibly low too as they run on 100 percent renewable energy. Check out their excellent blog on international environmental issues and tips. Tip: encourage your university to add Ecosia to its network, in turn joining others from around the world as seen here on their on Campus Campaign.
One of the easiest ways to lower carbon emissions is to eat and buy from responsible local suppliers and look after your food waste. This UN Food and Agriculture Organization report says that if food waste were a country it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Keeping this to a minimum will not only lower your carbon footprint during the trip but also set a great example to your students. Tip: enquire about your hotel’s food waste management process or ask your local operator for information on this subject. Check out Kagumu's blog post from a expert responsible consumption officer on how to lower your carbon footprint through food choices.
Choose eco-friendly accommodation
Again, this is something a great local operator should help you with. But if you are booking accommodation yourself, the best way to ensure eco-friendly stays is to look for international certifications. These will prove your host has gone through rigorous assessments to certify its environmental and social commitments. Look out for: Rainforest Alliance, B Corporation, Green Globe and Green Key. Alternatively, you could contact the tourism board of the country you are visiting and inquire about the most eco-conscious hotels. Top tip: book a hotel with Trip Zero and they will automatically offset your carbon emissions of your trip for FREE.
Reduce water waste
We have known that plastic is bad for the environment. In fact, glass, tins and any container that have to be made and then destroyed or recycled has a big impact on the environment. To solve this, insist that students bring their own refillable water bottle to either fill up from a clean water supply. An environmentally-conscious operator should supply drinking water throughout the trip in order to drastically reduce carbon emissions from unnecessary drink purchases. Tip: to really minimize the environmental damage, choose a responsibly made bottle like the US-based brand - Nalgene or Liberty Bottles - both of whom are BPA free and use ethically-sourced materials to make their bottles.
Our final piece of advice is use the expertise of the tour operator you choose to travel with. A great operator will take care of the safety, the logistics and the environmental impact of the trip (and provide you with details of the above) leaving you to focus on the academic goals and of course enjoying the adventure.
Check out 9 essential tips for keeping costs down when organizing your next educational trip for your students.
By Kagumu Staff
STUDENT TRAVEL | 4-MINUTE READ
Choose your destination carefully
This may seem obvious but the cost of a trip will depend heavily on the destination you want to visit. Look for upcoming destinations that fall away from the main tourist track. These destinations will not only give your students a less touristy experience but you will doubtless get more bang for your buck. You have all heard of the term: tourist prices haven’t you? Well, this can double or even treble your overall costs.
Decide on the best time of year
if possible choose to travel outside of peak vacation times. In South America, for example, try to avoid Easter (semana santa) and the main vacation period from mid-December to mid-January. Prices will inflate during these peak weeks, adding to your costs or increasing travel operator prices. If in doubt, ask a local operator what time of year is best to travel
Book your flights wisely
If you are booking your own flights, check these tips out before you do:
If you are using a travel agent, make sure you book in advance and ask them for quotes for different days. You will be surprised how much the cost of a flight changes from one day to the next. Don’t be afraid of negotiating too. Even airlines are able to offer discounts!
Use a reliable local operator
it may sound counterintuitive to pay an operator to organize your trip. I mean, you can book everything yourself, right? Well, local operators are experts in their area. They will save you time and money and you’ll end up with a cheaper trip than if you organized it yourself. Here’s why:
The more students you can gather for the trip, the better. Local operators should offer group discounts as their costs will be reduced when more students join a trip. Kagumu offers discounts for groups of 10, 15, 20 plus students
Plan in advance
This may seem obvious but planning in advance will save you a lot of money. Firstly, local operators will be glad to organize a trip months, maybe even a year in advance as this gives them time to arrange discounts and book early and thus avoiding any inflated prices. Arranging a trip in advance will also give you the chance to find a good deal on flights.
Many colleges and universities already incorporate fundraising into their travel programs. This gives students a great opportunity of feeling the worth of their trip by contributing to the costs. It will also give them good fundraising skills that may be useful in the future. Encourage your students to have fun and creative with this. In the past we have seen students run around their town centre in a bear outfit, host a dance marathon and get family members to do facebook karaoke.
Be cheeky and ask for discounts
Don’t hesitate to ask your local operator for discounts and money-saving offers. In the past Kagumu Adventures has given early-bird discounts for colleges and universities that have booked well in advance. We have also offered discounts for large groups as stated above and we offer discounts for colleges and universities that return the following year. Kagumu also offers free faculty member places for groups of 10 and above. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Colombia’s mega diversity offers the ideal opportunity for students to enjoy a memorable study abroad program.
Colombia boasts the second highest biodiversity in the world. It merges a wide variety of cultures and traditions emerging from Africa to Europe and North America. And its people are often regarded as among the friendliest in the world. In essence, Colombia is an ideal place to spend a study abroad program; the only issue is where to go.
We offer six excellent options to inspire students.
By Kagumu Staff
Posted on 18/4/2020
Colombia’s second biggest city has undergone quite a transformation over the past decade. It has gone from one of the most dangerous cities on earth to one of the most desired places to visit in South America. Students learn about this remarkable change by visiting and working alongside social initiatives and innovative communities movements in Comuna 13, Moravia and the city centre.
Click here to see Kagumu’s 4-week program. This experience will encourage you to work alongside local artists in creating impactful murals that will help you understand how art can transform neighbourhoods and foster pride in the community. Students enjoy hands-on activities with inspirational local projects - such as reforestation, organic farming, urban gardening - all the time learning about pressing global issues such as climate change and equality. As well as developing a wider knowledge of sustainable development, students will connect with an ultra-friendly culture, experience one of the most innovative cities in the world and bask in its glorious spring-like climate.
Providing the main thrust of Colombia’s resurgence as a developing economy in South America is its sprawling capital Bogota. Located in the centre of the country, this chic city offers a variety of areas within its compass, including its birthplace: La Candelaria. Here, Spanish colonial walls and buildings are emblazoned with world-class street art, telling stories of Colombia’s violent past, extensive peace process and hopeful future.
Students wanting to delve deeper into the civil conflict that blighted the country for over 50 years, can join the Human Rights & Peace Building program by Global Youth Connect. The program includes visits to the National Center for Historical Memory, Center for Peace, Memory, and Reconciliation and the promoters of Human Rights organization - Dejusticia. Students spending a study abroad program in Bogotá will enjoy a more international experience with excellent day trip opportunities to the unique Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, the stunning Chingaza National Natural Park and one of the most beautiful colonial towns - Villa de Leyva.
Noted for its salsa traditions and welcoming residents, Cali’s sultry infectious nature reverberates among visitors immediately. Like Medellin, this vibrant Colombian city has had to resurrect itself from previous violence and now offers a great study abroad option for students.
One of the most popular programs to enjoy is a Spanish language immersion program of which there are many to choose from. CET Colombia offers an 11-week course that immerses students in the language with daily lessons focused on race, ethnicity and identity. Cali holds a large Afro-Colombian population and students discover how this plays an essential role in the social makeup of Colombia. When students are not salsa dancing in Cali, they can explore one of many parks located in the city and take weekend trips to the Pacific Coast, where a whole new world of biodiversity exists.
Blessed with Caribbean beaches, thick monkey-strewn jungle and the highest mountain range on earth, Santa Marta enthralls all those who visit. The historical old town is beautifully preserved with yellow and rose-washed Spanish colonial architecture. The real draw, however, lies in La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta - a region declared the most irreplaceable natural reserve on earth.
Here, students delve into the world of human development and anthropology by visiting ancient archeological sites, taking part in cross-cultural learning opportunities with Kagumu’s partners in the Arhuaco and Wiwa indigenous communities and learning from expert anthropologists (click here to view our workshops). Students discover the positive and negative social impacts tourism has on native communities and they will work alongside foundations and projects that are helping preserve traditions that date back to the 7th century. Of course, no visit to Santa Marta would be the same without visiting the Lost City - a 4 day adventure through the jungle, crossing waist-high rivers and eventually reaching an archaeological site dating back several hundred years.
Cartagena is one of Colombia’s most iconic cities with its strong Afro-Caribbean population and intriguing history creating a vibrant, coloful, and music-infused atmosphere. It also boasts stunning Spanish colonial architecture inside its city wall; a place so beautiful and rich in history that UNESCO declared it a world heritage site.
Thanks to a clear, easy-to-understand accent, Colombian Spanish is often highly desired by new or lower level learners and Cartagena holds some excellent language institutes. Nueva Lengua, which is located within the Old Town, offers Spanish courses merged with a variety of activities like scuba diving, sailing and dance. Another option would be Centro Catalina that offers Spanish lessons for all levels and the chance to immerse yourself into the culture by staying with a local family.
Colombia’s cities range from the historically rich to the uber cool and from hubs of innovation to places of dance, music and rhythm. Add to this towering Andes peaks, jungle-skirted beaches and unique ecosystems teeming with animal species, and you’ll understand why extensive exploration is a must.
Luckily, Kagumu’s programs include various adventure opportunities, merging the colorful and innovative culture in Medellin to the unique ecosystems adorning the Los Nevados National Park landscape. Students will also get the chance to extend their stay and visit La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, discovering an ancient Lost City and enjoying socially-responsible workshops with our partners in the Arhuaco indigenous community.
Fancy exploring the world’s second most biodiverse country on a study abroad program? Then click here to find out more.
Thinking more about eating habits not only helps reduce climate change but could connect students to fascinating new cultures. We also unearth some essential insider foodie tips from our interview with Kagumu Adventures’ responsible consumption expert Julia Ruiz de Castroviejo Méndez.
By Kagumu Adventures Staff
Posted on: 12/2/2018
Good afternoon Julia, so how do we affect the environment through what we eat?
Good afternoon. So, all of our food consumption actions have an impact on the environment. In fact, it is responsible for about 17% of all the greenhouses gases. How we consume also affects water and is a major cause for the loss of biodiversity. The two main causes of deforestation in South America is unsustainable soya production and cattle rearing in South America.
How can I travel more responsibly by the food choices I make?
When we travel we are looking for something different. We look to experience part of a new culture and the country we are visiting but at the same time we have to be responsible. We should adhere to the no plastic rule for everywhere. Avoid foreign snacks. We should choose local food and reduce the amount of meat you are eating...even in places like Argentina.
You should take advantage of the great quantity of fruit and vegetables available and find out how they are produced by asking. Establish a relationship with the vendors, ask in the supermarket, in the restaurant, in the market. Extend the awareness. This will not only help the environment but also connect you to their culture.
And, are there any good mobile apps for local responsible consumption?
I use Happy Cow which shows you sustainable restaurants and markets. Also, go to the local government websites and search for farmers markets. Here in Medellin, we have Mercados Campesinos that happens all around the city every Sunday. Fooducate is also good for choosing healthy options.
What is your mission while working with Kagumu Adventures?
I want to increase awareness about our consumption habits and show the social, environmental and health impact. I’d like to show students alternative ways of consumption and do it in a responsible way.
What would you like to show Kagumu’s students?
I’d like to show that everyone has a major part to play in the change. Through hands-on activities, games and workshops people can learn and assess their consuming habits. But also give people the opportunity to act in their own way after knowing all the facts.
Julia has lived in Medellin, Colombia, for five years and leads Kagumu Adventures’ interactive and activity-filled organic farming tour in El Carmen de Viboral. She also instructs a yoga class in the verdant forest surroundings of Santa Elena, assists our sustainable cooking challenge and leads our unique reflections session on responsible consumption.
Over the past decade international travel warnings have relaxed to South America's mega-diverse country; we discover new opportunities for international school trips.
By Kagumu Adventures Staff
Let's face it, travelling to Colombia around 15 years ago was deemed highly questionable for tourists. Even daring backpackers arrived in dribbles rather than droves. And for teenage students? Forget it. Barely even a consideration.
Fast forward to 2018 and the second most biodiverse country on the planet is shining brightly as a hub for global travellers. Visitor numbers have soared 300% since 2006. Highly reputable publications like the New York Times and Lonely Planet are lauding Colombia as the place to visit. And president Juan Manuel Santos has added to the country's growing international reputation by winning the Nobel Peace Prize for leading the country's successful peace process.
This is quite a turnaround considering Colombia's often overstated and unfair reputation for violence, narco trafficking and general insecurity. But while tourism has been on the up for years, we wanted to explore why there is there still scepticism about school trips and whether Colombia, a country of undoubted natural beauty and intrigue, is now safe for teenagers to visit?
Governments downgrade travel warnings
In 2016 Colombians received the news they had been waiting for for over 50 years. Peace at last. Consequently this historic deal between the Colombian government and leftist rebel group FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) convinced the US State Department to lower Colombia's travel warning to Level Two, the same as Brazil, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and even... Belgium!
It seems these new guidelines take into account the security of individual regions rather than whole country (at last). And while it still states caution should be adhered to in certain areas, it's positive in its message:
“Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Colombia each year for tourism, business, university studies, and volunteer work. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Bogotá, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Medellin, and Cali. However, violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural and urban areas.”
The British Government takes a similar view. On its website, a map clearly marks which parts of the country are safe to visit including major cities like Bogotá, Medellin, Cali, Cartagena and huge swaths of surrounding rural regions.
Click here to listen to Kagumu Adventures founder Simon Willis interviewed about Colombian school trips
But what about parents and teachers who, somewhat understandably, may still be wary of a country with such a chequered past? Well, drama teacher, Sofía Elizalde Durán, witnessed first-hand the situation in Colombia during an immersive week-long trip to Medellin and Rio Claro with her students from Santiago’s Nido International School.
“We visited Colombia with 23 students in November last year (2017) and what did we see? Colors, music, laughter, flavors, and warmth," Sofia said.
"If you ask me, much can be said about Colombia, yet danger or concern about safety would definitely not even make my top twenty things to mention. Let’s face it, as a traveller you must be cautious, open, respectful, no matter wherever you go.”
Sofia and her students stayed in an eco-hotel on the outskirts of Medellin, witnessed world-class street art in vibrant Medellin neighbourhoods, walked through luxuriant forests and travelled to an Andean jungle in Rio Claro, trying extreme sports and living among endemic birds, creepy crawlies and howling monkeys.
During one day students explored the formerly infamous Comuna 13, a neighbourhood transformed from a no-go area to visitor hotspot. Victor, a 16-year-old student at Nido, admitted apprehension before he visited but was surprised with what he saw.
“At first, I had a different vision of Comuna 13,” he said. “However, when I actually went there it was a lot different to what I expected and a lot better.”
Tamara, a fellow IB student born in Venezuela said: "I had a very special connection with Comuna 13 because I am from Venezuela and to see how they have gone through this massive change reinstalled hope inside of me that change is possible"
Despite the succession of positive news coming out of Colombia those who have never visited will often be drawn to its more publicised, more macabre, past. It’s only natural, right? Sofia take a different slant…
“Much is said about Colombia and its potential danger to visitors,” she says. “They say be careful of theft, assaults, and drugs. But I'm a firm believer that fear should not bring me down and/or paralyze me - much less fear based on mere rumors like these."
Most school trips abroad offer students the chance to explore a foreign land, try bizarre new foods and immerse themselves in a different culture. What really shapes lives, however; what embeds trust, compassion and empathy into a person's makeup is breaking down cultural barriers and quashing stereotypes. Colombia has many. The world knows this. And now that the travelling community has deemed it safe to visit, maybe it's time for students to seize the opportunity.