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Sustainability Abroad

Sustainable Travel & Study Abroad

Study abroad exposes students to the world. It also exposes the world to the social, economic, and environmental impacts of international travel. The following are some tips and ideas about how  to take into account the social and environmental consequences of studying, living, working, traveling, or volunteering abroad and how to improve these aspects of your international experience.

Sustainable Travel Tips / Environmental Considerations
  • Green Passport Program: Green Passport holders respect the interconnectedness of the world's people and environment and are taking actions to reduce their ecological and socio-cultural footprint when they study and travel abroad. Take the pledge: http://www.greenpassport.us/   
  • Learn about current environmental issues in the places you are visiting. Different regions will have different situations based on their ecosystems. Learn about the effects of mass tourism on beaches, mountains, wetlands, deserts, etc. and then seek to counter those effects.
  • Use public transport, rent a bike or walk when convenient - its a great way to meet local people on and reduce pollution and carbon emissions
  • Use water sparingly -- water is a precious resource in many countries and tourists tend to use far more than local people
  • Save electricity. Turn off lights, air conditioners, and heaters when you are not in the room.
  • Don't litter! Always try to find a container to dispose of your litter, and recycle if possible.
  • Try not to disturb the wildlife; don't take home natural resources such as shells, plants, animal bones, etc.
  • Use accommodations that have a reputation for being sustainable (they recycle, use alternative forms of energy, are owned by or employ locals, contribute to local causes).
  • Choose your recreational activities wisely. Low impact sports that don't involve a lot of equipment or fossil fuels and that don't disturb the environment or local communities are preferable.
  • Carbon Offsetting. (Check out the following for more information: Sustainable Travel International; Native Energy; Carbon Fund). If it is within your budget contribute money to an organization involved in carbon offsetting every time you fly. They will, in turn, contribute money to organizations that are involved in projects that seek alternative energy sources, plant trees, etc. in order to reduce the amount of ozone-depleting carbon in the atmosphere, largely caused by air traffic.
Socio-Cultural Considerations

  • Research your destination. Learn about its history, political situation, current events, cultural groups and intercultural dynamics, religion, geography, cuisine, transportation, etc.
  • Learn at least a few basic phrases in your host community's language. Learn how people greet each other and practice that greeting.
  • Dress appropriately. Respect the dress code where you are, especially around religious sites.
  • Explore places and opportunities off the beaten path. Look for events going on that are not mentioned in guidebooks and seek places that are not overcrowded with like-minded tourists. Go where the locals go.
  • Be mindful of others by keeping your voice down and practicing your listening skills. Learn to be quiet and conscientious.
  • Leave your preconceptions about the world at home. People worldwide will continually amaze you with their generosity, hospitality and wisdom. Be open to newness, and aware of our common humanity.
Economic Considerations

  • Buy locally produced products and services.
  • Go Local. Stay in locally owned accommodations, eat at locally owned restaurants, purchase locally produced goods. 
  • Contribute something to the place or community you are visiting, beyond just the money you are spending to get what you want.
    Choose destinations based on their demonstrated commitment to sustainable practices such as human rights, environmental conservation, commitment to peace, etc.

    Many thanks to the folks at Green Passport for compiling some the great resources out there about Sustainable Travel and Study Abroad. Please visit Green Passport's Resources page for additional resources.
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