Last Updated on June 5, 2023 by Emily Merson
by Emily Merson, co-founder of Global Experiences and Executive Director of AIFS Abroad.
The AIFS Abroad Green Initiative is a fundamental commitment to address the critical threat of climate change on our future.
In the last 24 months while our global fragility has been exposed by the impacts of a global pandemic, we have also seen the ever-increasing rise in weather-related events that have disrupted lives, destroyed homes, and caused a range of threats to global security. Building off of the Global Experiences 2019 Green Initiative, AIFS Abroad has expanded this program in 2021 to include all participants in all of our programs. As part of the recent COP 26 summit in Glasgow, and the global commitments to reduce production of carbon into the atmosphere, we are also doing our part with our goal to be carbon neutral by 2025.
While we know that education abroad has the potential to transform the lives of students, the negative environmental impact of overseas travel must be addressed and mitigated in order to create a sustainable future for our field, as well as for the lives of all humans on this planet. Additionally, a recent University World News article highlights growing concerns among prospective students about the impact of climate change and their opinion that universities could do more to reduce their impact on the environment.
The AIFS Green Initiative has a three-pronged approach.
- Carbon Offsetting: One transatlantic return flight produces a third of the CO2 most people use in a year, and flights account for around 2.5% of global carbon dioxide production. We will be offsetting the air travel of all our overseas program participants by purchasing carbon credits, starting with all students enrolled in 2021. In the coming year, we will be expanding to staff travel and other travel components that are included in our programs.
- Student Engagement and Education: While we will be sharing details with students regarding the carbon offset for flights, we want also to engage our participants through both general environmental education and host country specific experiences. Our goal is to contextualize how environmental issues are local and share what local best practices participants can follow in each city. AIFS is also introducing educational tracks and specialized program options — both short and semester — that are focused on sustainability, such as our Sustainable Cities summer program.
- Green Business Practices: AIFS Abroad is auditing its operation through the lens of our commitment to tread lightly on the planet. Our first big success in 2021 is our focus on removing paper promotional materials. In 2019, AIFS printed 55,500 catalogues, with a total count of 9,577,000 pieces of paper. On the low end, a tree grown for this purpose will generate about 20,000 pages. AIFS will now be saving nearly 500 trees per year. Moving forward, we will be using digital marketing and focus on evergreen printed materials.