10 Tips for living sustainably while studying abroad

Luce Stepankova

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Keeping sustainability in mind while studying abroad

Studying abroad can be a wonderful adventure, which helps you learn more about the world and yourself. However, it’s also important to keep sustainability in mind – whether you’re staying in your accommodation at university or spending semester breaks exploring nearby nature.

To help you live a more sustainable lifestyle during this exciting part of your life, we’ve put together our top 10 tips for living sustainably while studying abroad.

1. Choose accommodation near your school or university

The easiest way to reduce the carbon footprint of your commute is to shorten it as much as possible. Live near the campus of the university you’re studying at, or directly on campus if possible. While it may seem like this option will also be more expensive, you’ll also find yourself saving money on transport.

If you can, choose accommodation that’s within walking distance from anywhere (not just your university) that you’re likely to visit daily.

2. Commute by bike

However, if you’re unable to find accommodation close to your university and other facilities, you can also substantially reduce your carbon footprint by buying a bike and using it to commute whenever you need to travel.

Make sure to first find out how bike-friendly the city in which you’ll be studying is. If you’re going somewhere like Amsterdam, where commuting by bike is daily business for most people, you’re in luck!

3. Avoid buying things you’ll throw away when you move

You’ll likely only be spending one or two semesters abroad – which may seem like a lot at first. However, it’s only a really short period of time when we consider the lifespan of the items we buy. You may be tempted to buy decorations, kitchen equipment or small furniture to make your home away from home more cosy. Try to avoid doing so whenever possible or opt for buying second hand and reselling the items when you move back home.

4. Borrow your books

This will depend largely on where you’re going – but many countries have universities with libraries fully stocked with any books you may need on the course. Save the money and the trees – make use of the library and borrow books rather than buying new ones.

Alternatively, if the library where you’re studying is not that well-stocked, consider buying the books second hand.

5. Sharing is caring

You’ll likely be sharing a flat – or maybe even a room – with someone while living abroad. Make use of these living arrangements and borrow their cooking equipment and other necessities whenever possible – and make sure to share your items as well!

6. Learn how the country recycles

Recycling systems can be very different in varying regions of the world – take the time to learn how to correctly recycle in the country you’re studying in. When is rubbish collected? Which items go into which bin? Which items aren’t accepted by the local recycling?

You’ll most likely find the information just a few clicks away on a local government website.

7. Explore locally

For many of us, travelling is an essential part of studying abroad. When exploring the wonders of the country you’re studying in, one of the best ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle is to choose local destinations instead of far-off ones.

Remember that every mile travelled adds to your carbon footprint – and there may be wonderful places close by that you may not have even thought about visiting!

8. Take longer trips, less often

Rather than splitting a one-week-break into a few shorter trips to different destinations, stay in one place and explore its surroundings thoroughly. Again, this reduces your carbon footprint as you’re not travelling over such vast distances.

9. Leave nothing behind

When exploring nature, boost your sustainable lifestyle by leaving no trash behind. Not just your trash – if you see any litter lying around, pick it up (it may be worth it to keep a pair of reusable gloves on hand) and bin it.

10. Choose the right transportation

Consider the impact of the transport option you’re choosing. While backpacking may seem like a very good option, you’ll also likely travel by additional means of transport in between, so you need to consider their impact as well. A bike, on the other hand, may be a good option for local trips if you have good equipment.

Trains are likely to be most sustainable in countries where the grid is powered by increasing amounts of renewable energy.

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