Hi everyone! My name is Anna Shoultz and I am a senior spending my last semester here in London, England with USAC. My home university is the University of Alabama where I major in Spanish and minor in both creative media and global and cultural perspectives. I am finishing my undergraduate experience here by taking modules that relate to the creative media portion of my degree and am excited to continue learning even as my college career comes to an end. In this piece, I share my top tips for living sustainably during study abroad. I live in London, but I believe these tips can be applied anywhere.
Traveling is an exciting, eye-opening experience, but as we adventure, it’s a good idea to be aware of how we respect this earth we are lucky enough to explore. As we reach our second Earth Day during a global pandemic, most of us have become quite familiar with outdoor activities. When traveling, whether that means across the world or to your local park, there are certain factors that can easily be kept in mind to do your part in keeping Mother Nature healthy.
Utilize Public Transportation
Taking the Tube (Metro, subway, underground, etc.) is often already the best bet in a larger city because of cost, but using public transportation is also a much eco-friendlier method than an individual uber ride or something of the sort. If public transportation is available where you are, it is a resource that should be utilized.
As spring continues in full bloom, now is a great time to get outside and get active, if it is available to you. Biking or even walking to your destination saves money, lets you escape the lockdown cycle for a bit and helps reduce the amount of non-renewable fuel that is being used.
The first step to a successful shopping trip is remembering those reusable bags! In fact, most places expect that you’ll bring your own and charge you upon requesting a paper or plastic bag. This might sound familiar to some, but for others it is always worth a reminder.
In London, where I am abroad for the semester, I have found a few shops in areas such as Greenwich Market that emphasize sustainability- from recycled materials to ethical working conditions and even zero waste options.
At the grocery store, be conscious about buying produce not wrapped in plastic, when available. However, local stands and shops are always great, and a more authentic, way to support the community while sustainably immersing in a place.
If you need specific clothing for an event, job interview, or presentation, but are on a budget or time crunch, try to find pieces that use recycled material or offer clothing drop offs. For example, H&M conscious is a good label to look for and doesn’t break the bank. Otherwise, shopping in local boutiques and supporting small businesses that you don’t have in your home country is another great way to make the most of your experience abroad.
Right now, paper masks draw a parallel to the plastic straws topic that has gained traction in recent years. While realistically not the biggest culprit of plastic in oceans, the rise in awareness led to some great sustainable solutions that are, again, most cost effective as well as benefiting the earth. The same can be said on the topic of masks.
Paper masks are meant to be worn once or twice, especially now that there is no longer a shortage of any sort of masks. It is cheaper to have a few masks that are regularly washed and sanitized. Also, if possible, avoiding single-use anything really is the way to go.
- Booking your travel? Skyscanner is not only a great price comparison tool but will also tell you which flights have a better carbon footprint. This will help you to make the best choice based on all of the important factors!
- Bring a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. Not only does this help you avoid buying expensive bottled water, but it also allows you to refill in places like Italy and Vietnam, among many others, that have free public taps (with water that is safe to drink.)
- Heading out for a day of class or going to the park for some fresh air while you study? If you want to pack some snacks or a meal, use reusable silicone bags. These are easy to clean, durable and practically pay for themselves since you won’t have to continue picking up plastic sandwich bags. One great brand is Stasher.
- Worried about buying cleaning products and want an easy, environmentally friendly, solution? Purchase different products, like the ones from Blueland, in tablet form that can then be added to water upon use. These will fit in your suitcase or carry-on (thank you, zero liquid!) and can help you avoid buying a big bottle of product that you’ll only use a bit of during your study abroad experience.
- The same can be said for shampoo and conditioner bars; they are environmentally friendly, and help you avoid weight and liquid limits when traveling on any length trip! Lush offers many great options when it comes to hair and skincare products and can be found all over the world.