Rama Bedri ’24 is an Environmental Science and Policy major and Peer Advisor in the Center for Global Education.
Why It Matters
Before jumping into the specifics of how to be a sustainable traveler, it is important to address the significance of the topic. So, why does it matter to travel sustainably? While studying abroad in another country, you are a guest in that country. Your actions and activities should not result in harming the ecology, economy, or overall environmental wellbeing of the country. In fact, being a global citizen means you strive to leave a country better than you found it. Furthermore, when you step foot into another country, you become a representation of your home country. Likewise, while studying abroad, you are representing Chapman University. Chapman upholds sustainability practices and aims to have an eco-conscious campus. Therefore, Chapman students studying abroad should have similar considerations as well. There are a few ways in which you can travel and live sustainably while abroad, from using sustainable transportation methods, making simple swaps, and buying local.
You will most likely be taking an airplane to get to your destination. Long flights emit a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Although this is inevitable to initially get your country of study, there are alternative transportation methods for shorter travel distances. For weekend excursions to other cities or neighboring countries, consider traveling by train or bus. These methods are often cheaper, and significantly better for the environment because it utilizes public transportation. For exploring the city you are in, consider biking or walking tours rather than cars. Biking and walking emit zero carbon into the atmosphere! In the scenario that you must travel by car or airplane, you can offset those carbon emissions. Booking non-stop flights when possible is better for the environment because you are traveling fewer miles and reducing emissions from takeoff and landing. Some airlines offer carbon offsets, or you can do it through external sites.
There are numerous sustainable practices you can implement in your day-to-day life. Here are some easy swaps you can make while packing:
- bamboo toothbrush for a plastic one
- shampoo and conditioner bars for travel-size bottles
- reusable straws for disposable straws
- bamboo utensils for plastic utensils
- reusable tote bags for plastic bags
- reef friendly sunscreen for harmful, chemical ones
On that note, if you plan to take a plastic toothbrush you already have, do not buy a new, bamboo one just for the sake of sustainability. Using what you already have is the most sustainable way to live. Implement these sustainable alternatives if you are planning to buy new products.
Local, Local, Local
When shopping for souvenirs for yourself, family, friends, and more, choose to shop local. Find a nearby farmers market or flea market, where handmade items are sold by craftsmen or small businesses. This way, you are supporting the native community rather than large retailers. Additionally, local restaurants offer authentic cultural cuisine. Try a vegan or vegetarian dish (if offered) while you are there! A vegan/vegetarian diet has a low carbon footprint, as it reduces methane emissions from cows, cuts transportation of meat and dairy products, and saves water by reducing corn production for animal feed. Local businesses make more local purchases, which translates to decreased transportation of goods. The money circulates within the local economy, promoting economic growth in the region.