Tips for a Sustainable Study Abroad

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How to manage your carbon footprint while still making the most of your abroad experience.

Boat between two small islands in a bay

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience. Living and studying in another country helps you learn not only about your coursework, but also about the culture, language, and yourself. However, it is a well-known fact that travelling can have adverse effects on the environment. To help mitigate this, here are some tips to make the most of your study abroad experience while being conscientious about your carbon footprint.

7 Tips for Studying Abroad Sustainably

  1. Explore the country you’re in. Staying local is a great way to limit carbon-heavy traveling. Get to know the public transportation system, find a hiking spot just out of your city or town, or take a weekend trip to a local beach. Discovering your host country is just as fun as traveling around the continent!
  2. Take the train or bus whenever possible. Airplanes emit tons of carbon dioxide, and they aren’t always necessary to get to wherever you’re going. Europe and India have extensive railway networks, which makes it easy to go from city to city without relying on airplanes. South America has considerably fewer train routes, but you may be able to find trains and buses that will get you where you want to be.
  3. Buy a water filter or boil water instead of using plastic water bottles. When in places with unsafe drinking water, students usually default to buying bottled water. This is far better than ending up in the hospital with a stomach bug, but can be wasteful over time. Follow local guidelines to find safe alternatives, such as boiling your water or using a filter.
  4. Support local and sustainable businesses. When you buy locally, you not only help support the local economy – you also are purchasing products that have a smaller carbon footprint due to transportation, or lack thereof. You can bring your own canvas bag to stores in order to reduce your own waste. The best part about this is you end up with items that are more meaningful to you and representative of your host city.
  5. Clean up after yourself. If you have trash, hold on to it until you find a recycling bin or a trash can. It’s that simple.
  6. Eat locally sourced food. Sometimes it’s hard to determine where your food is coming from, but it never hurts to ask. Eating local helps support local farmers and restaurants, reduces carbon emissions from food transportation, and ensures that you are eating food that contributes to the local ecosystem.
  7. Find study abroad programs that focus on sustainability. If you’re interested in studying sustainability while you’re abroad, there are many programs that offer classes in sustainability or environmental action. Cities in which there are programs that offer these classes include (but are not limited to) Canberra, Jerusalem, and Buenos Aires. Additionally, SIT Study Abroad has programs focused primarily around sustainability. You can research all of these programs and more on the Georgetown Study Abroad website.

Studying abroad can show you how beautiful the earth can be – and why we should take care of it as best we can. Following some of these tips will help you reduce your carbon footprint while you’re abroad. When you are a visitor in someone else’s home, it is best to leave it better than you found it.