Past GIVE Volunteer, Now Zero-Waste Environmentalist: An Interview with Carly Bergman

By Sammie Sjogreen

Many of our volunteers go on our international trips looking for a way to take sustainable action and learn through travel. That was certainly the case for past volunteer, Carly Bergman, who joined us in Nicaragua in December 2017. Since returning from her trip, she has made an impressive impact in the world of sustainability through building an online community encouraging an environmentally-conscious lifestyle.

We love following up with Carly’s journey as a GIVE alumni and interviewed her about her experience.

1) What made you interested in volunteering in Nicaragua with GIVE?

I was 19 years old when I found GIVE. They were tabling at my school, Florida Gulf Coast, and I automatically KNEW I had to go on a trip after speaking to one of their tour guides! I have always considered myself an environmentalist, which is why I attended FGCU to major in environmentalism! I was familiar with climate change, food injustice, and rising sea levels… but I felt deep in my soul that I needed to see it first hand to connect with the issues. My trip to Nicaragua provided me with that exactly… and it instilled a passion in me to advocate for those who are struggling due to climate change!


2) Tell us about a memorable experience you had while spending time with the community.

MAKING COCONUT OIL AT MISS BRIGIT’S HOME! Wow… I drank about 13 coconut waters that day… straight from the coconut of course #strawfree! That experience was beautiful and gave me such a unique immersive opportunity to learn this practice at a local woman’s home. This is something she does so regularly and it made me think about how I can learn more homemade natural practices to avoid wasteful food production. I think as consumers, it is important for us to know where our food comes from, where it is made, how it is made, and how we can learn to reduce of footprint. After coming home from Nicaragua, I dove into permaculture and decided to get my permaculture design certificate to learn more about my food and how to grow it myself!


3) During your time in Nicaragua, what impacted you most?

When I saw the Little Corn Island hostel being ruined by rising sea levels… Seeing that just made my heart sink in my stomach. It was mind blowing to think that these islanders are losing their homes and businesses, while I’m across the world just living my day-to-day life not thinking twice about how my decisions are impacting others. This is a HUGE reason why I live a plant-based & low-waste lifestyle. I want to minimize my carbon footprint as much as I possibly can so that I’m not sacrificing the happiness of other beings (considering that conventional animal agriculture requires a lot of resources).


4) After your Nicaragua trip, what did you do to make sustainable changes in your life at home?

I started the global #FuturisticFebruary challenge! I collected all of my non-perishable waste for the entire month of February in order to get a glimpse on how my decisions were impacting the people in Nicaragua, and the environment overall. Hundreds of people, GIVErs and clubs from my school, joined the first year of running this FF challenge. Now there are thousands participating across the globe which is pretty neat!

5) What is one piece of advice you can give to anyone wanting to start a low-impact lifestyle?

Take it step by step and remember there is no such thing as perfect… and do not be too hard on yourself! I am a perfectionist… and I made the mistake of trying to be 100% plastic-free. I truly did deplete myself of a lot of joys (and nutrients!!) I now try to make decisions while keeping the planet in mind… but If I need a supplement that I can absolutely not source plastic-free, or I want blueberries and cannot find them package free, I will purchase them. I realized, if I’m not healthy and feeling my best, how am I going to save the planet?!?!

6) Why do you believe it’s important to live a mindful & sustainable lifestyle?

Every single decision we make has a positive or negative impact on the environment. Most of us are not raised to think about the environment before ourselves. It’s important to recognize how our egos get in the way of connecting to this planet. I believe that if everyone can connect to the natural world, then mindfulness and sustainable living will come along naturally.


7) Why would you recommend someone to experience a GIVE trip?

I can’t say enough good things about GIVE. First of all, I felt safe the entire time… which was huge for me! As a 19-year-old traveling abroad solo for the first time, I was never nervous about my safety with this group. Also, GIVE structures the program so efficiently that there is beautiful balance of service, fun, & leisure! I had such an enjoyable time doing construction & teaching. I LOVED my time I spent scuba diving, sledding down a volcano, snorkeling, doing yoga, making coconut oil, surfing, and swimming! Also, I’m very grateful that they accommodated to my vegan diet so I was able to eat everywhere with the group.

Today is the close of this year’s Futuristic February challenge, which means many participants in our GIVE community and others around the world are sharing their experience of collecting their trash for a whole month! Head over to @SustainableDuo to see reflections had on the collective footprint humans leave behind and recognize where we can make positive improvements.

If you’re interested in continuing to follow Carly’s journey, follow her on Instagram at @carly_bergman for sustainable lifestyle tips and connect with her about her journey since her GIVE trip to Nicaragua! We hope her story can inspire anyone to use that internal spark of passion to make a positive impact in our world.