Green Initiatives

Each year, hundreds of volunteers travel down to our partner communities in Latin America to contribute to infrastructure projects and take part in a knowledge exchange with community members and local leaders. We do, however, recognize that by sending over 30 trips down each year, we make a significant negative impact on the environment through the carbon costs of transportation. As such, we are continually working to take steps that sustainably minimize this impact both in Canada and Latin America.

 

Eco-Technology

Ecosystem Restoration and Volunteer Education

Solar Energy

Ecotourism Rest Days

Low Impact Building

SOS actively seeks out partnership with organizations that work with an environmental focus. In 2012, we completed our first “eco-brick school” with partner organization Pura Vida Atitlan. This organization has pioneered an environmentally-friendly approach to construction, whereby communities create eco-bricks through stuffing empty pop bottles with inorganic materials. In the months spent collecting this trash, they learn about recycling and healthy living, all the while making a significant contribution to their educational development project. These eco-bricks act as a substitute for typical concrete bricks that fill a regular building structure. Having had a hugely successful project in Guatemala, we look forward to expanding the number of eco-brick projects in coming years.

Prior to departure on an Outreach Trip, the majority of our volunteers take part in environmental conservation projects that both reduce their carbon footprint, and perhaps more importantly, generate awareness about conservation and ecological restoration in their communities in Canada. Working with local organizations, our volunteers participate in projects to restore locally degraded sites, thereby, decreasing our net environmental impact.Volunteers are piloting this initiative across Canada during the month of April to help off-set groups traveling in May. Check back regularly, we’re excited to provide you with an update as soon as possible!

Many of the communities we work with have limited or no electricity. This is largely because they are located far from the national power grid or because the cost of electricity is too much to manage. While many communities have access to a generator, these are only used for special occasions because of the cost associated with operating it. In a pilot initiative, SOS is bringing solar energy to four communities in Guatemala and Nicaragua this May.Guelph-based solar panel manufacture, GreenClean, has generously helped us obtain solar panels, power storage units and LCD light bulbs that our students then install on community buildings. Currently, school rooms can only be used for lessons during the day but with electricity at night, these places can become areas to study after-hours and places for community meetings and development. Following installation, we will work with communities to learn about the impact and whether there is value in repeating this initiative elsewhere.

On every trip, we volunteers take time to rest by exploring the host country. We see this as an incredible opportunity to explore part of a rapidly expanding group of community-based eco-tourism projects. When visiting places that re-invest tourist dollars with a social and environmental focus, we are able to add further impact to the dollars spent. Additionally, through visiting organic, fairly traded and sustainable farms, our volunteers are able to learn about alternative styles of production, and methods.

All our projects are done in communities isolated within the jungles of South and Central America. In order to minimize our environmental impact on these highly valuable and diverse ecosystems projects are built using local materials and simple construction practices. Students, using nothing but their own bodies, an assortment of hand tools and the knowledge of local masons, build and repair buildings which are vital to the communities’ development and the education of their children.