COMMENTARY: Trading Bikinis for Green

Embarking On a New Kind of Spring Break

Students can spend their spring break volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.© Eastern Illinois University

Spring Break is just around the bend. But before you start silk screening T-shirts that read "I survived Spring Break 2009" for you and your buddies, or sign up for that wet T-shirt contest, consider an eco-friendly alternative.

In March, thousands of college students hit the sun and sand to recuperate from all that studying and partying with a lot more partying. Many will spend their days doing little more than nursing a hangover. An alternative spring break gives college or high school students an opportunity to spend their time off volunteering in a local or global community helping different environmental projects including conservation, trail repairs, research, farming, building, and teaching.

Hundreds of colleges and universities are teaming up with organizations throughout the U.S. to give students the opportunity to make their spring break more memorable, and more meaningful. Break Away, the Alternative Break Connection, provides alternative break programs for the fall, winter, spring and summer breaks. The organization connects campuses to local and global communities in need of volunteer help, also providing each campus with training and information. Hundreds of schools including the University of Maine, Colorado State University and Union College are members of the Break Away organization.
CONTACT: Break Away

Other organizations offer volunteer opportunities, too:

The organization i-to-i, by LifeChangingTravel gives students an opportunity to get a tan, have fun and meet new people all while helping conserve wildlife and local ecosystems. Students can surf and save turtles in Costa Rica, conserve forests in Honduras and fight to help save biodiversity in Ecuador. Don’t think you can afford an exciting exotic trip? The organization is offering student groups of three or more students a 10% saving per person when traveling to Costa Rica during spring break.
CONTACT: i-to-i

The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (or WWOOF) offers a get-your-hands-dirty spring break.©

The organization Habitat for Humanity is challenging students to volunteer during spring break to help build homes for communities in need as part of the organization’s Collegiate Challenge program. The organization’s year-round alternative break program gives students the opportunity to build homes for a week throughout the U.S. The organization’s Construction and Environmental Resource Department strives to build each home with energy efficiency and healthy indoor air equality.
CONTACT: Habitat for Humanity

For years, the United Way has given students a chance to participate in an alternative spring break. This year, spring break students will have a chance to repair communities destroyed by flooding in Indiana and help rebuild Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coasts from the destruction caused by hurricanes Katrina and Ike. The program starts February 28th and ends March 21st. It costs $150, but the organization offers fundraising information to help with the costs of transportation and program fees.
CONTACT: United Way

Ready to get your hands dirty? The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) organization offers volunteers a unique experience on organic farms around the world. Volunteers can choose a destination and host provided by the organization. Farms partner with WWOOF organizations around the world, from Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Turkey, Australia and Uganda. Volunteers will develop hands-on experience working with organic farmers while helping sustain the agricultural land and local economy. They help their hosts with daily tasks, and are provided with living arrangements in return. WWOOF requires a small fee to uphold networking costs.
CONTACT: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is providing a memorable alternative spring break opportunity for students. The organization offers a week-long environmental excursion to the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Students will set up camp in the park and hike the canyons during the day participating in vegetation projects and removing graffiti along the trails. This trip offers students a unique experience in one of the most beautiful and majestic parks in the U.S.
CONTACT: Student Conservation Association

The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) group welcomes students to join The Mountain Justice Spring Break on March 7th-15th in Tennessee to continue the group’s fight to stop mountaintop removal mining. The group is joining with the United Mountain Defense, the Save our Cumberland Mountains group, Southern Energy Network and the Sierra Student Coalition to help the fight. The group will work with local Tennessee communities to rebuild land destroyed by mining practices. The SEAC is a combination of student and youth environmental groups striving to protect the environment.
CONTACT: Student Environmental Action Coalition

Amizade Global Service-Learning and Volunteer Program is offering students a chance to earn academic credits during their spring break while exploring Petersfield, Jamaica. Students will have a chance to participate in a week-long (March 7th-14th) community project focusing on the current sugar industry in Jamaica. They will interact with the local community while exploring the beautiful island nation. Program fees include living arrangements, local programming, staffing, university credits, transportation, international health insurance, contribution to the local community, and recreational activities. Fees range from $1,463 to $1,963 depending on application date.
CONTACT: Amizade

BROOKE NEUMAN is an editorial intern at E.