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Sustainability Abroad: Best Practices

by Alina Zárate
5 Best Practices for Incorporating Sustainability into your Study Abroad Experience

Last Updated on December 15, 2021 by Alina Zárate

AIFS has recently made a commitment to ensuring that our internship and study abroad programs are sustainable and environmentally friendly. To do this, AIFS is taking steps to offset carbon emissions from all student and staff flights and is actively reducing our water, paper, and electricity usage in all of our offices. However, in order to reach our goal of carbon neutrality by 2025 and minimize AIFS’s impact on the environment, we will need all participants to make a conscious and concerted effort to practice sustainability abroad and incorporate sustainable practices into your life overseas.  

To give you some ideas on how to do this, we have put together a list of five easy ways that you can reduce your environmental impact and practice sustainability no matter where you are studying abroad. 

1. Reduce Your Use of Plastics 

Plastic waste is one of the most significant environmental issues that we are currently facing. Plastic never goes away and you have likely encountered images and videos of plastic clogged oceans, overflowing landfills, and the horrific impacts that this has on our wildlife, not to mention the massive amounts of plastic waste that we are confronted with every day in our homes, communities, and cities. Therefore, reducing your use of plastics is an easy but incredibly impactful change that you can make to help the environment and chances are that you have already implemented some of these practices. For example, owning a reusable water bottle and shopping bag can completely eliminate your use of single-use plastic water bottles and plastic bags. Some other steps that you can take to reduce your plastic footprint include refusing to use plastic straws, purchasing unpackaged fruits and vegetables, and shopping locally. 

2. Conserve Water 

Changing your water habits can seem like a daunting task but it is actually fairly simple, not to mention that it helps reduce the pressure that we are putting on our water resources and can help diminish the negative effects of drought. The best way to reduce your water usage is to ensure that you are not leaving water running when you are not actively using it such as when you are brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or taking a shower. Taking shorter showers is another great way to conserve water. A fun way to do this is to time your shower by making a 5 minute playlist with one or two of your favorite songs and ending your shower when the song ends.  

3. Power Down to Save Energy 

Saving energy is another easy way to help the environment. Simple acts such as switching off lights when you leave a room, using natural light rather than artificial light when possible, and unplugging electronic devices when you are not using them can significantly reduce your energy usage. Having trouble remembering to shut off the lights; try putting little notes next to your light switches!  

4. Transportation 

In the United States, we are very dependent on personal transportation to get us around. While abroad you may realize that access to greener transportation alternatives is more readily available. Walking, biking, or using public transportation can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Take advantage of these opportunities by walking or biking in your neighborhood and using public transportation to reach more distant parts of your study abroad location. Additionally, when looking to travel, consider more environmentally friendly options such as buses or trains rather than relying solely on flights. 

5. Shop Responsibly 

Shopping plays a significant role in all of our lives whether it involves buying groceries for the week, selecting souvenirs for our loved ones back home, or simply browsing the local shopping district. In all of these situations, we can make sustainable choices that are not only good for the environment but also good for ourselves. Meal planning and buying organic, fair trade products can not only help you reduce waste but also support more sustainable agricultural practices. Shopping locally or at thrift stores is another way to reduce your environmental impact as locally sourced products and second-hand goods are more sustainable and use less natural resources.   

If you have any questions about these practices for sustainability abroad or want more information on how you can have a positive impact on your host community, contact your program’s Resident Director.  

Thank you for helping us make AIFS more sustainable! 

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