If you’re considering study abroad and are an advocate for fighting climate change, you may have some conflicting feelings. On one hand, you desire to travel the world to expand your knowledge of other cultures and yourself, and on the other hand you’re concerned about how travel impacts the environment.
While hopping on a plane across the world seems counter intuitive to reducing your carbon footprint, there are positives ways to relate study abroad to climate change. Your study abroad can expose you to resources and people around the world who are making impactful strides in sustainability. And there are even opportunities to make a difference in your study abroad location, in the same ways you would be doing back home.
So, if you’re worried about climate change, don’t count out study abroad. Just understand how you can take your study abroad opportunity and passion for climate change on the same journey with these tips.
Choose a location known for sustainability
Several countries in the world are recognized for their sustainability efforts. In fact, the following USAC programs are on the list of the most sustainable countries in the world, and there are plenty of other destinations making large strides to safeguard the environment.
- Costa Rica
- United Kingdom
Consider eco-friendly modes of transportation
Help minimize your carbon footprint by renting a bike during your semester abroad or walking whenever possible. If you do have to fly (which most students will have to do at some point during study abroad), calculate your carbon footprint and offset that impact through a verified organization. In fact, Sustainable Travel International will invest those credits in certified carbon reduction projects. Also consider what it takes to mail care packages or ship things home that you no longer need.
Educate yourself on the environmental condition of your destination before applying and/or planning travel
According to goop.com one of the best things you can do is educate yourself on the main threats to the natural resources of your destination. Whether it’s climate change, land clearing or polluted run-off, consider how tourism impacts the local community before you travel anywhere. Goop says: “The International Union for the Conservation of Nature maintains a Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas that certifies areas as being effectively managed and fairly governed, and there are a number of travel companies and sustainable tourism groups that specialize in researching and vetting locations and vendors (such as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Responsible Travel).”
Prepare yourself to make some personal changes before heading abroad
Research the conservation habits/efforts of your host country before your departure. Do they recycle? What are their water consumption habits? Knowing where the country is in their climate change journey can help shape your experience. Plus, if a country is not as advanced as you would hope, you could make it a mission to educate locals on climate change and how everyone can do their part.
Shop sustainable brands
Chances are, if you’re preparing to study abroad, you’re going to have to buy some stuff. Do some extra research to purchase clothing made from ethical companies/out of sustainable fabrics, and keep in mind that anything Amazon-Primed to you will require packaging and some sort of carbon footprint.
Turn your study abroad into an opportunity for some activism
Choose a program in a location that is leading the way in environmentalism, sustainability, etc. (Germany, Costa Rica…) to take courses in the field, participate in an internship, or volunteer to help the cause and gain valuable knowledge that you can take home with you. The following is a list of USAC programs that may offer courses, internships, volunteer, or field study opportunities relating to sustainability. (*Locations and courses are subject to change)
- Bengaluru, Indi
- Bilbao/Getxo, Spain
- Chengdu, China
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Florianópolis, Brazil
- Heredia, Costa Rica
- Khon Kaen, Thailand
- Lüneburg, Germany
- Montevideo, Uruguay
- Pau, France
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Puntarenas, Costa Rica
- San Ramón, Costa Rica
- Santiago, Chile
- Shanghai, China
- Valencia, Spain
- Viterbo, Italy
Keep sustainability in mind during your study abroad
Once you get abroad you can keep the following 8 tips for being sustainable while abroad in mind:
- Avoid water waste
- Shop local
- Donate your stuff
- Rent a bike or use public transportation
- Reduce your plastic use
- Save paper
- Calculate your carbon offset
- Choose a green hotel
Climate change is a big deal, and there are a variety of ways that you can combine your passion for fighting climate change with your opportunity to study abroad. Use the above tips and do additional research, so that you can have a valuable and impactful study abroad experience.