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.
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.
The Covid pandemic has taught us that we need to change the way we travel. As travelers and students demand more conscious trips that drastically limit damage on the planet, we offer some expert tips on how to travel more environmentally sustainably, starting with how to plan your next educational trip.
By Kagumu Adventures Staff
STUDY TRIPS | 6-minute read
Choose a responsible local operator
The easiest way to limit your environmental damage while traveling is to choose a responsible travel operator. Many operators offer carbon neutral travel, taking into account the CO2 emissions from your flights, transport and trip as a whole. 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, 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 company to assess its commitment to environmental sustainability.
One of the easiest ways to offset your 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: involve students in this process, encouraging them to calculate and donate to these projects themselves,
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 and negating the need to fly, would further reduce carbon emissions. This brings forward the 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. Tip: draw up a theory of change to determine what you want your students to gain from the trip and whether travel is required for this desired change.
Choosing the right 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 more eco-friendly airlines. 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 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 manage 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 local tourism board to 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.
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.