12 ways to make your study abroad trip more sustainable
As humans living on this planet, it’s up to all of us to help keep our home in good shape. Dealing with climate change on a global scale is a job for governments and scientists, but there are ways that we, everyday people, can help. There are an increasing number of choices that we can make to minimize our own impact on the earth, including things that you can do whilst traveling and studying abroad. The key? Thinking local, even when we’re far from home.
Here are our top tips for making your international study experience better for the planet.
1. Choose how you get around
Make the most of your new city’s public transport while you’re studying, or see how far you can get on foot or by bike. Choosing a place to live that’s close to your study campus will cut down your journeys.
2. Green up your suitcase
You can also pack cleverly, so that you’re ready to live more sustainably when you arrive. From choosing the right plastic-free items to finding environmental toiletries, check out our eco-friendly packing guide.
Donating some of your time to a volunteering project can be as good for the planet as it is for the local community and your CV. See what opportunities are nearby or offered by the school you’re studying at: Join a beach clean to stop plastic pollution reaching the sea, or plant carbon-absorbing trees with a local nature project. Plus, taking part in local initiatives gives you the chance to meet native speakers, which will only improve your language learning.
4. Find the farmers’ market
What we put into our bodies is a big decider in how sustainable our lifestyle is. The trick is to try to eat organic, seasonal and local food that won’t have had an energy-intensive journey to your plate. A great way to do this is to buy your fresh produce at farmers’ markets instead of supermarkets. You’ll also end up trying lots of new (and totally delicious) things this way.
5. Try going veggie
When it comes to the climate, veggies win the ‘what has the lowest carbon footprint?’ competition. Why not try going vegetarian for a while? Producing meat uses more land and creates more greenhouse gas emissions than growing vegetables, and meat is often flown around the world before reaching shops. So, experts say that we can live more sustainably by eating less meat, or making sure that it has come from a local farm.
6. Enjoy local restaurants
Coveting local restaurants when you eat out is great for many reasons. For one, you’ll support a local business rather than a bigger restaurant chain that likely causes more pollution. You’re also more likely to have an authentic culinary and cultural experience. Friends and host families might have some great recommendations for where to dine, so ask around to find hidden gems.
7. Choose cities with green credentials
As far as the planet is concerned, not all destinations are created equal. Some places try harder to be eco-friendly and, yes, we have a list of those, too.
8. Explore locally
Studying abroad for a while is a great chance to explore a new country — or even a new continent! When planning weekend adventures between classes, see what attractions or other cities are nearby. Choosing destinations that you can reach by train or by bus rather than by plane can slash the carbon footprint of your trip. Europe has great rail links between major cities, and more and more of the train networks are being run on renewable energy. It’s often a much more scenic journey, too.
9. Pay attention to the small things
Don’t forget all the little things. Don’t litter or take things from nature reserves or historical sites, don’t buy things made from endangered animals, remember to bring a reusable bottle, and take short showers to save on water and energy use — these all add up.
10. Support local businesses
Art or crafts from local merchants and makers make the best trip souvenirs. Not only are they often beautiful and unique, the money you spend goes directly into the community, helping creative individuals and businesses grow sustainably.
11. Talk to your friends
One of the biggest ways you can have a positive impact is to start conversations about the planet. It can be relatively easy to control what you choose to do, but if you inspire somebody else to do the same you might start a ripple effect that leads to lots of people choosing more sustainable actions. Perhaps cook your classmates a veggie meal or invite them to join you at the local farmer’s market — every little helps!
12. Continue the work at home
Use returning from your trip as an opportunity to see which of the sustainable choices you made will also work at home. Taking public transport, supporting local businesses and eating locally-produced, seasonal food can become habits anywhere you are.