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Six tips for international students to travel more sustainably

International students inevitably have to travel long distances by plane, but there are some ways in which you can travel a little more sustainbly

    Seeta Bhardwa's avatar

    Seeta Bhardwa

    Editor, THE Student
    November 5 2021
    Six tips for international students to travel more sustainably


    Travelling abroad is a a huge factor in increasing your carbon footprint and unfortunately this is something international students can’t always avoid. 

    While it’s inevitable you will have to take flights while travelling to and from your university there are ways you can mitigate your carbon footprint and contribute to carbon neutrality. 

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    1. Check what your university offers

    Many universities welcoming high numbers of international students have taken matters into their own hands and embedded measures to offset this. For example the University of Oxford Sustainability Fund.

    This schemes are still new and universities are figuring out how to do this in a post-pandemic world so be sure to get in touch with your prospective university to ask what it is doing to offset air travel emissions. 

    2. Find ways to offset your own carbon emissions

    If your university doesn’t offset flight emissions, there may be ways you can do this yourself. From choosing an airline that enables you to offset carbon emissions from your flight to donating to sustainable causes, small things can contribute towards offsetting emissions from a long-haul flight. 

    3. Study at a branch campus

    Many prestigious universities in the UK, US, Canada and Australia have branch campuses across the world, many of which may be closer to your home country. For example the Carnegie Mellon University has a branch campus in Rwanda.

    There are many other international branch campuses that enable students to study at high-ranking universities closer to home, thus reducing the distance they have to travel but still offering a high-quality education. 

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    4. Consider how you are travelling to reach your study destination

    While your flights to and from university are a major contributor to carbon emissions, sometimes this is unavoidable. Instead, consider the transport choices you make when reaching your study abroad destination. Instead of taking taxis or driving your own car, could you use a bus or a train? Or better still you could invest in a bike or walk shorter distances?

    These may seem like small measures, but over time they can all make a difference. 

    5. Look at whether your course embeds sustainability within its curriculum

    Moving away from travel, one way to be more sustainable as an international student is to learn as much as you can about climate change and sustainability. 

    Many universities are now embedding education on sustainability into all their degree programmes so that no matter what you study you can be sure you’ll be learning more about the world and how to live more sustainably. 

    6. Make sustainable choices when travelling

    Something else you can do is try to pack and travel as sustainably as possible. And there are many ways you can do this. 

    If you take any food or drink with you on the plane, try to avoid single-use plastic packaging. While packing it can be tempting to impulse-buy fast fashion items to fill gaps in your wardrobe, but instead try to consider whether you really need to make these purchases. Many sustainable clothing brands can be on the pricier side, so sometimes fast fashion may seem the easiest choice. However, repurposing items you already have or buying second hand can all help to reduce clothing waste. 

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