Sustainability and climate conscious travel
Consider the environmental impacts of your travel and activities abroad.
Travelling abroad has an inevitable environmental impact. As part of the University’s goal to be carbon zero by 2040, it’s important to reflect on the sustainability of long distance travel.
Sustainable development goals
The University aims, in its operations, research, learning and teaching, to engage with and contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, both locally and globally.
Environmental sustainability commitment
Edinburgh Global is committed to making more efficient use of our resources and finding more sustainable ways of working, travelling and living.
Our Environmental Sustainability Commitment represents our contribution to the University’s sustainability strategy and target of being carbon zero by 2040. We will review our commitment annually and involve all colleagues.
Our top tips for being sustainable while abroad
There are lots of things you can do to manage your carbon footprint, create less waste, and get involved in sustainability projects during your exchange!
Transport is often the biggest part of your carbon footprint and short and long haul flights are major contributors to global carbon emissions. While avoiding plane travel may not be entirely possible, especially for those studying or working further afield, you could consider taking slower, more eco-friendly options to travel to your host destination such as buses, planes and trains. Slow travel also gives you the option to make stops on the way and discover more of the world before reaching your final destination!
- Consider destinations that are closer to the UK
- Take direct flights where possible
- Don't take additional flights when abroad
Experience your host country like a local would and discover hidden gems whilst managing your carbon footprint on exchange: opt to stay local and explore your host country by bus or train instead of country-hopping by plane. Try walking, cycling, or using public transport rather than taking a car or taxi.
Get around town by using active travel where possible. Many universities offer bike schemes, so check to see if your host institution has one! Active travel like walking or cycling promotes good physical and mental health and is great for the environment as well.
If you don't feel confident riding a bike on your own in a new city, look for a local cycling group you can join, and ask if they can recommend any beginner cycling lessons.
In combatting the climate emergency, resource efficiency and waste reduction are more important than ever. Discarding the ‘take-make-dispose’ linear economy is a no brainer –but how do we break the chain?
- It's easy to support a circular economy by purchasing home goods from charity shops, and donating them at the end of your exchange. Some institutions may even have schemes for exchange students where you can buy items donated by previous exchange students. For items you’d like to purchase new, consider buying from local sellers instead of a big retailer.
- Why not exchange recipes and reduce food waste by batch-cooking with your new flatmates, and consider incorporating a few plant-based meals with locally sourced ingredients?
- When you buy something on your exchange, be it clothes, homeware, bedding, think: am I intending to pack this in my suitcase home, or throw it away? Try to reduce collecting items you know will ultimately end up in the bin.
- Say no to fast fashion - before purchasing new clothing, check online to learn more about the brand's ethics and sustainability: Good on You - Check to see if your fashion is sustainable
Learn about local recycling guidelines so you know how to recycle your waste in your host country. Don’t forget to pack your reusable items like a water bottle, coffee cup and shopping bag to use around campus – you’ll help reduce plastic wastage and avoid extra charges for disposable ones.
Try to learn more about the steps your host country is taking to reduce non-recyclable waste. It could leave you inspired to spark change on your return home, or to pick up new eco-friendly habits!
Enhance your academic profile and understanding of complex global issues by enrolling in a short-term or elective course that focuses on sustainably or social responsibility.
Check to see if your host institution has a Sustainability Strategy to learn more about the role of higher education in creating a more sustainable and ethical future.
You can learn more about what the University of Edinburgh is doing by reading the Social and Civic Responsibility Plan
Get to know the local culture by getting involved with the community in a volunteering programme. Many universities have a student volunteering service, so check to see if yours has one.
Think about joining a club or society with a sustainability focus through your host institution's Students' Association. Joining a club or society is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals, make new friends, and make the most of your time abroad.
Let us know your own top tips for including sustainability and social responsibility in your exchange or placement. Whether you took a low-carbon holiday, recreated a traditional meal with local ingredients, got involved with the local community, or something else – we want to hear about it!
Email the European or International Programmes team to share your experience and the chance to be featured on our blog, social media channels or website.
Get in touch with the University's Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability for more information on how to be sustainable during your exchange:
- Twitter - https://twitter.com/edsust
- Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/EdinburghSustainability/
- Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/uoe_sustainability/
- Sign up to their newsletter - https://www.ed.ac.uk/sustainability/news/newsletter
Find out more
The University's Department of Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) has more information and ways you can get involved in supporting sustainability issues:
- Be Sustainable online course
- Sustainability Champions network
Want to know more about the University’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility?