Take your duck spirit abroad with a commitment to sustainability!
To become a responsible citizen of our increasingly global world, it is important for UO students to experience the world firsthand. Yet air travel is a major contributor to human-generated carbon emissions. It can be difficult to reconcile world travel with green living. However, there are numerous ways that UO students can pledge to live green while studying or interning abroad!
Study sustainability abroad
Did you know that the UO offers a number of programs focused on sustainability? You can study sustainable bicycle transportation in the Netherlands and Denmark or social justice and sustainable development in Brazil. And those are just two of the many programs that focus on sustainability or incorporate sustainability course work! Think about studying sustainable development with Australian students at Curtin University, or find an ecologically focused internship.
Sustainability goes beyond ecology
The concept of sustainability does not apply only to the natural environment but also to the economies, societies and cultures of international communities. One of the best ways that you can practice sustainable study abroad is to shed your US standards and adopt local practices, thereby limiting your impact on the host culture. Remember, you don’t have to study on an environmental program to learn how a foreign culture lives sustainably.
Sustainable travel tips
- Fly coach and nonstop. Not only does it save time and hassle to fly nonstop, it helps to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Jets burn the most fuel at take-off and, if you travel in coach, it is not only cheaper but reduces the amount of emissions per person.
- Pack light. Carrying heavy bags is hard on your shoulders and on the earth. The heavier a plane or bus is, the more fuel it uses.
- Purchase carbon offsets. Think about participating in a carbon-offset program. Two thousand miles of air travel emits one ton of CO2 per passenger, so check to see if your airline offers a carbon-offset program. You can also search the Internet to calculate your carbon footprint and find programs to help you reduce or "offset" your travel's carbon footprint. There are many organizations that offer these offsets, and they are relatively affordable (averaging under $100 for even the longest international trips).
- Do your research. Before you go, find out what the park system is like in your host country. Are there any Blue Flag beaches nearby? Are you studying at or near a World Heritage Site? There is substantial information about responsible tourism and travel on the web, so check it out before you go.
- Don’t ignore your regular environmental habits while abroad. It is easy to forget learned behaviors while abroad. Do you always turn off the lights and unplug electrical appliances in Eugene? Do these things at your host site, too. Furthermore, bring good habits from abroad home with you (a souvenir that doesn’t take any space). Many cultures have more sustainable practices of necessity, and you can find ways to incorporate these into your life back in the US.
- Local, local, local! You are travelling abroad to experience a new place, so indulge in the area to the fullest. Buy local goods as souvenirs and gifts. When you buy locally sourced and crafted items, you are supporting sustainable lifestyles and the host community. Eat local food. Not only will you be experiencing a delicious part of your host culture, you will be supporting sustainable agriculture. Apply the ‘local’ mantra to travel within your program. Just because you are on an excursion doesn’t mean you can’t live locally and sustainably at a new site. And excursions don't have to be to neighboring countries (or "the Great Cities of Europe Tour") to be extremely rewarding. In fact, sometimes staying within a small area gives you more time to feel that you have really experienced a place and appreciated what it had to offer.
- Use sustainability to get involved in the community. What better way to connect with your host site than volunteering? Research before you go and talk to someone at your site about ways to get involved with local programs. Many of our study abroad programs offer organized volunteer or service-learning options.
You may be living more sustainably at your host site than you realize
- Do you live with a host family? Then you are sharing resources. Use this experience as an opportunity to observe the environmental practices of your host culture.
- You will likely be walking and taking public transportation at your host site more often than in the US. (Warning: it's a habit that sometimes travels back with you!)
- Are you planning to travel around your host region? You will use less carbon by traveling from your host destination than you would by departing from the US. You can also consider less carbon-heavy modes of transportation, like a combined bike-and-train trip (many train services abroad accommodate bicycles).
- Reflect on the sustainable practices you adopt from your host culture both while you are abroad and after you have returned.
Do you have a great sustainable travel tip? Let us know!