HOW CAN YOU REDUCE THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF YOUR EXCHANGE ABROAD?
Everybody's talking about it nowadays, our "ecological footprint", a calculation that measures the quantity of natural resources that we consume through our daily actions, including travel. It's difficult to measure our impact accurately, but methods used to calculate our carbon footprint, can allow us to estimate our greenhouse gas emissions with some precision. According to the Kyoto Protocol, several greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorocarbons, and sulfur hexachloride must be taken into account for calculating this carbon footprint.
In order to help you to reduce your impact on the environment before and during your stay abroad, we have compiled a list of advice to help you during the preparation for and duration of your trip.
Packing light saves fuel. If the weight of your luggage is reduced, it will take less energy to transport it! Did you know that shampoo bars are lighter than shampoo bottles?
Packing reusable items helps to reduce waste. Carrying your own bottles and Tupperware can also be very convenient on the way and during your trip.
Bring light reusable bags. A disposable plastic bag can take up to 500 years to decompose.
Must haves: a water bottle, a lunch box, reusable bags, shampoo bars, ebook reader
Bus, train, plane, car? It is time to decide which means of transportation you will take to go to your destination.
Obviously, sometimes, traveling by plane is your only option. Even if this means of transportation is not sustainable, there are a couple of things that you can do to travel in a more eco-friendly way:
- Take a direct flight if possible. Even if long connection flights are usually very cheap, non-stop flying reduces the amount of carbon emitted by making fewer take-offs and landings.
- Choose economy. It reduces your carbon footprint by 50% because more passengers fit onto the plane
- If possible, opt for budget airlines. They often use newer and more fuel-efficient airplanes and try to fit more passengers into one plane
- Don't print your ticket unless you need to. In the age of the smartphone, printing your boarding cards isn't always necessary, just go digital!
Within Europe, consider using different means of transportation for your mobility, e.g. train or bus. Flights within Europe are usually short-haul flights and are responsible for high CO2 production.
When travelling by train, it is true that you often experience long travel times. If possible, try to book a train with a sleeping carriage. Sleeping on the train is comfortable and will help you turn long travel times into a unique adventure.
Another option is to stay overnight: make a few stops and gain experiences on the way. It also contributes to the local economy by supporting locally-run businesses (try to avoid foreign-run companies like big hotel chains)
If you still are still hesitating between travelling by train or plane, check out these benefits of using the train:
- You will go directly from the platform to your seat and avoid the stressful and long queues at the airport
- You won't have to worry about your luggage being a few grams overweight
- You'll have more space to work, probably a wifi connection and a plug for your computer
- You will be able to admire the landscape as it whizzes by
- You are likely to arrive closer to the city centre and avoid having to take expensive transport
ONCE YOU ARRIVE
Once arrived at your destination, you will be eager to settle down and there are many ways to be environmentally responsible too.
Energy: The smartphone is one of the most used electronic devices by students and sometimes needs to be charged several times a day. Investing in a solar charger for smartphones is one great way to effectively reduce your carbon footprint.
Material: Instead of buying a book, why not borrow it, or choose a used one? Instead of taking notes in a paper notebook, why not use digital tools like Microsoft Onenote? Keep your electronic equipment as long as possible to minimise waste!
Places to buy: Second-hand furniture is the way to go! Vintage works too, but it's usually more expensive, so go second-hand if you can!
Food packaging: It's better to buy products with zero packaging ("en vrac") or choose food that has been packaged with sustainable materials such as glass, paper and cardboard, instead of plastic.
Getting around: Walk, cycle or use public transport as much as possible to get around. These good habits have a positive impact on the environment, your health and the wallet!
Travelling around: Always bring a bag to collect your garbage while visiting places that are off the beaten track!
Buying souvenirs: Try to shop from local artisans. This way, you will help the economy and have a direct positive impact on the local community.
If you wish to share any tips or experiences, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We learn from others every day and we are especially open to receiving new advice and sharing experiences from other students in order to make everyone want to "green their mobility".