Students want to know exactly what to pack for an educational trip abroad. Here, we highlight the most ethical and responsible brands you can support while compiling your packing list.
By Kagumu Adventures Staff
STUDENT TRIP | 7-MINUTE READ
Before we look at some ethical brands, the first thing you need to ask yourself is, do I actually need to buy anything?
Remember the sustainable clothing consumption mantra: reduce, reuse, and recycle. And keep in mind that the most sustainable garment is the one you don’t buy, Here are a few tips to consider before you head to the shops.
1. Can I reuse any of my clothes? Before you quickly answer “no”, consider that using your old(ish) clothes will prevent the environmental strain of throwing it away or even recycling it. Also, you won’t have to buy anything new so you will be saving yourself money and saving the environment needless carbon emissions from producing and shipping the garment.
2. Can I mend any of my old clothes? What a great life skill. If you have a torn t-shirt or a pair of glasses with a scratch on the lens, look online for easy-to-follow repair videos. Here are a few to start with:
Click here to see how to repairing jeans and shirts by hand.
Click here to see how to removing scratches from sunglasses.
3. Can I reuse someone else’s clothes? Why not scour your sibling’s wardrobe or ask friends for a helping hand? Maybe your college or university has a recycled clothing scheme? If not, why not set one up? A trend that is really growing is the clothes swap.
Get a group of friends to bring clothes they don’t wear anymore and have an evening of fun while exchanging each other's clothes. Check out this website to know how to start a clothes swap.
If, after swapping, borrowing, repairing and reusing old clothes, you still need to hit the shops; we have compiled a list of great ethical and eco-friendly brands to look out for.
Summer student trips
Reformation (International) - this San Francisco-based company bills itself as sustainable from the outset. They choose fibers with the lowest environmental impact and highest positive social impact. When producing swimwear, they carefully measure: water input, energy input, land use, eco-toxicity, greenhouse gas emissions, human toxicity, availability and price. Website: thereformation.com.
Ruby Moon (UK & Europe) - Ruby Moon started in Brighton and now has HQs around Europe. This female-owned company focuses on women empowerment, giving their profits to female entrepreneurs in developing countries. They also use plastic found in the ocean to make many of their products. Website: rubymoon.org.uk.
Ama Saturday (US) - This black female owned company sells swim gear for all body colors, shapes and sizes. They also have a new range of face masks for the current pandemic. Website: amasaturday.com.
Sunski (International) - Another brand from California, Sunski focuses on a low-environmental impact brand with its commitment to carbon neutrality, recycled frames and zero-plastic packaging. They are also part of the 1% for the planet scheme - committing to donating 1% of their sales to environmental non-profits. Website: sunski.com.
Pala eyewear (UK & Europe) - Very much in the Toms mould, Pala eyewear donates to eye-care programs in Africa, working to help solve the lack of prescription glasses in including Burkina Faso, Zambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. They also utilize recycled plastic to make their sunglasses, use eco-friendly recyclable packaging and offset their carbon emissions from shipping. Website: palaeyewear.com.
Bohten Eyewear (International) - using reclaimed materials, Bohten Eyewear bills itself as sustainable with their unique designed glasses inspired by the landscapes found in Ghana. After appearing on Canada’s Dragon’s Den, owner Nana Boateng Osei made it his mission to create jobs in Ghana through local production. Website: bohten.com.
Ninety Percent (UK and some other countries) - This womenswear label takes sustainability seriously. It only manufactures its clothes in high-class factories in Bangladesh and Turkey and also uses organic or recycled materials in line with the Global Organic Textile Standard. Spoiler alert! Their name represents their commitment to giving 90 per cent of their profits to charitable causes. Website: ninetypercent.com.
Alternative Apparel (International) - While larger outlets have been found to be incredibly unethical and environmentally damaging in the way they operate, Alternative Apparel is different. This world-wide brand has developed a more eco-friendly production method by using recycled cotton, organic cotton, hemp-blend and has committed to using 100% recycled polyester by 2021. Website: alternativeapparel.com.
Summer footwear and sandals:
Toms (international) - We love this classic. For years Toms have been driven by their ethical company policies that include a donation of $1 for every $3 they make. As well as funding charities focused on equal opportunities and mental health, Toms have done their bit in the fight against Covid-19 by donating one third of their net profits to workers on the frontline. Website: toms.com.
Gumbies (International) - Born in the UK but inspired by Australia, Gumbies is dedicated to making eco-friendly flip-flops (or thongs) using a variety of materials like cork - a type of bark that is stripped from a tree that grows back over time. They also use recycled rubber, textile and plastic as well as natural algae foam and castor beans. Website: gumbies.com.
Wondering what to do with an old pair of flip flops? - Check out this YouTube video to see how you can easily repair them.
Winter student trips
Winter jackets and clothes
Patagonia (International) - Like Toms, Patagonia has expanded around the world while promoting a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. Patagonia donates 1% of its net profit to environmental non profits and offers funding for grassroots environmental conservation projects. It has also supported groups fighting against oil drilling to those suing the president of the United States. Website: patagonia.com/home.
Cotopaxi (International) - One telltale sign of a company's dedication to social and environmental sustainability is the B Corporation certificate. Cotopaxi gained this in 2015 thanks to its financial support of community development programs around the world. They also launched a skills-based volunteering initiative that leverages the time and talent of employees and responds to a clear need in the community. Website: cotopaxi.com.
Nae vegan shoes (International) - born in Portugal, this footwear brand is dedicated to using materials that are natural and sustainable in production. These range from recycled plastic bottles to organic cotton and from cork to pineapple leaf fibres. They also promise to donate $5 for every boot sold to animal conservation projects. Website: Nae.
Vivo barefoot (International) - This company has a range of outdoor footwear products for students that are mainly made with eco-friendly materials. Their transparency is to be admired as you can see from their website. Some highlights of their sustainable practices are: 141k pairs of footwear made with recycled PET, 100% of employees engaged in their sustainable practices and 242k pairs of shoes made with animal-free products. Website: Vivo barefoot.
Click here to get your responsible traveller checklist
Ethical brands: Apps and Websites
Good on you - The Good on you website and app rates international brands in line with their social and environmental sustainability. If you have a favorite brand or want to know about a new one, simply search in Good on you for a reliable rating.
The Good Trade - The Good Trade is a leading online resource for sustainability. Check out their website for more information on ethical clothing brands among many other themes. Website: thegoodtrade.com.
Thredup - Thredup has outlined the top eco and ethical brands for 2020 many of whom are well-known high-street retailers that have specific eco-friendly lines. It is also the world's largest online second-hand destination.
PETA - Many clothing brands have committed to a production method excluding any animal interference whatsoever. PETA gives a great list of vegan-friendly clothing brands that have been researched and given the green thumbs up.
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.
Immersive cultural experiences, breaking down social barriers and being able to apologize for terrible dance skills: a few reasons to choose a Spanish study abroad program.
By Kagumu Adventures Staff
Posted on 13/12/2019
We chat with London-born Jake Macmillian, who enjoyed three different study abroad programs during his Spanish degree at Newcastle University in the UK. Jake currently lives in Medellin, Colombia with his partner and works as the Educational Services Manager at the British Council.
Here are Jake’s top five reasons for studying Spanish abroad.
Full immersion in the local culture
The major advantage of studying Spanish abroad is that you are thinking about the language every day. You start by observing and listening, then you go out and interact with people in the food markets, talk with fellow students on the university campus and go for beers with new friends at night. From breakfast to dinner you are immersed in the language and the progress you can make is huge. I studied in Jerez and Salamanca in Spain and Guadalajara in Mexico. I took classes for 4 hours in the morning then used the language during my free time in the city and on travel adventures.
Break down social barriers
Being able to talk with people in their own language allows you to break down social barriers and understand their lives. You learn that people from different countries and cultures think very similarly to you. Talking with local Mexicans allowed me to become real friends with them. I also got to explain in the British culture, we weren't the bumbling, comedic characters portrayed in TV shows like Fawlty Towers.
Traveling to lesser-known destinations
When you go to a country as a tourist you don’t have time to uncover the lesser-visited places. During my time abroad, I was able to meet local people and explore places that weren’t in the guidebook like local’s houses in rural areas surrounding Oaxaca, where they make traditional mole (a Mexican sauce). The most unique experiences included being invited into a new friend’s house in Guadalajara and learning how to prepare traditional ceviche with his grandma.
I still talk to my friends in Mexico, even though it has been over eight years since I was there! I have been to weddings and stag parties in Mexico and I even met my partner while studying there. So you could say that I made some good connections. Being on a university campus was great to meet other like-minded people and I discovered some really great community projects this way. And of course, every conversation was in Spanish. I remember being immensely proud when I was able to ask my friend’s grandma to dance at a wedding and then being able to apologize to her in Spanish afterwards.
Improving your language skills, quickly!
It’s obvious to say but when you study language at home, you just learn the theory. You learn what to say in the supermarket but you don’t practise until you go on a summer holiday to Tenerife. During my study abroad program I would learn the practical language in the classroom and then use it that same day, whether it was asking for directions or telling a story. You also learn to make mistakes and laugh at the mistakes. This makes you improve and it’s really good fun. I would learn a local phrase and then see how everyone loved it when I slipped it into a conversation. For example, I would answer the phone and say mande which is like saying “come again” in English. Coming from a foreigner they found this most amusing. But, they LOVED it.
Jake’s top tip for studying abroad: my top piece of advice for making the most out of a study abroad program would be to say yes to things you’d not usually accept. If someone invites you to dinner at their house, don’t think about it, just say yes. You never know what will happen. That changed everything for me. You realize the generosity of people and find yourself in the middle of a family Christmas celebration without even realizing it.
University students are increasingly seeking study abroad programs. We discover how a homestay experience can make a trip utterly memorable.
By Kagumu Adventures Staff
Posted on 22/11/2019
According to international study information resource Open Doors, almost 10 per cent more students studied abroad in 2018/19 compared to 2016/17. The increase suggests that colleges, universities and students are seeing overseas learning as a way to gain new skills and/or enhance existing ones while immersing themselves into a new culture. Although many study abroad programs offer excellent courses, one ingredient is essential for students to make that deep, long-lasting connection to the country they are visiting: Homestays
Unlike hotels and hostels, a homestay trip allows students to live with a local in their house, sharing in their daily routine and taking part in family activities.
Daily life at a homestay
Students enjoy this cultural exchange by communicating daily with their new families, in their adopted tongue, and learning how they live, eat, and work, all while discovering different family values and cultural traits.
Jake Sager, a 17-year-old student from Pacific Ridge, San Diego, travelled with Kagumu Adventures in June 2019, living with a family in the outskirts of Medellín, Colombia.
"The homestay was an incredible way to legitimately connect with Colombians and discover what their culture is like,” Jake said.
“I was beyond lucky to be spoiled by an incredibly open, loving, and kind family."
On a regular day, Jake ate a traditional Colombian breakfast of eggs, fruit and of course fresh Colombian coffee, prepared by the mother of the house Marisol Ortega. He would speak Spanish with her husband and two children before heading out to volunteer with local environmental and community service projects.
“At night, I would sometimes play cards with José (Marisol’s son) or walk to my neighbours' house to play games of bingo and even dance salsa,” Jake added.
It’s easy to see why a homestay in Colombia would appeal to college and university students seeking study abroad programs. Colombians are often voted among the friendliest people in the world with their vibrant, colorful culture - filled with music, dance and flair - instantly bewitching visitors.
A mutually beneficial experience
And it’s not just the visitors who find the homestay memorable, and life-changing; locals benefit too.
For the hosts, the extra income will be a timely boost, and the opportunity for cultural exchange invaluable.
Marisol said: “We are so happy to welcome visitors into our houses”
“In Colombia, we are very friendly, talkative and cook very well. And of course, we love to dance salsa, merengue and other traditional dances. We see the homestay as a chance for them to learn from us and us to learn from them.”
Marisol runs a beautiful plant nursery where she grows native trees to supply to reforestation projects across Colombia. Having seen the positive effects and cross-cultural learning opportunities from welcoming foreign students into her house, many neighbours have shown a desire to sign up to the program.
“We were eating a sancocho (a typical Colombian soup) with the students one day and lots of locals came round to ask what was happening. Once we explained,” Marisol said, “they all asked how they could get involved.”
Kagumu currently works with six associated host families that are located 40 minutes from Medellín in a forested region called Santa Elena. Here students live in traditional houses surrounded by Andean mountains, sprawling forests and an abundance of wildlife.
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 an infamous 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.