This summer, I was lucky enough to partake in a ‘Sustainable Global Experience’ in the beautiful and vibrant city of Amsterdam with the organisation Pagoda Projects. The study tour lasted 6 days and the principal aim of the programme was to become ‘Carbon Literate.’ Pagoda’s other main aim was to strengthen professional skills. The trip involved taking the Eurostar from London to Amsterdam (considered one of ‘Eco Capital’s’ in Europe) with other students from my university (Aberystwyth) and Cardiff Metropolitan University, tours and meetings with sustainable businesses within the city, interactive learning and exhibitions, a group project, and a final presentation to an audience and an expert panel. The programme also incorporated compulsory e-learning, remote online sessions/courses, and a final written piece as part of the Carbon Literacy Training.
Pagoda Projects SGE Amsterdam Study Tour – Worth it?
And so… what’s the verdict? Was it helpful?? (Or did you just fancy a trip to Amsterdam)?
Absolutely, yes, you betcha your last bottom dime, no ifs and no buts, my carbon conscious study tour was a worthwhile and useful experience! One of the reasons for this, is that it gave me an added insight into my current capabilities. For instance, I know that I am someone who likes to do everything, particularly when it comes to projects. (The perfectionist in me can’t help it)! With my language’s degree, I don’t tend to do many joint assignments, but I know that in the past, I’ve always done more than my fair share of group tasks, (I often offered to do bits for others, because I want the project to come across the way that I have it in ‘my head’). However, this was not the case with the group project from the study tour experience… I really enjoyed working in a group and appreciated the benefit of working as a team.
How did that make you feel about completing the teamwork?
I was put in a group with people I’d only briefly met during the last couple of days; I knew that teamwork was important to the task, and is a crucial skill within the workplace, so I purposely stopped myself taking control, and was flexible to go with other people’s ideas. I further realised that it was great to utilise one another to bounce of ideas, distribute the workload (I felt like this was the key to our success – effective delegation is key!) And thus, have a unity and sense of reassurance when it came to presenting.
As a result, this part of the experience surprised me; I realised that I do have the ability, to suppress my perfectionist controlling side of me, ahem, aka, to allow others to take responsibility and do their fair share of the project, adding their own style and twist, and so, creating a joint piece of work to be proud of! Overall, this experience further demonstrated to me that I can work effectively with a group of people that I have never met before.
How has the Pagoda experience helped you?
My perfectionist side is both my strength and my weakness, but again, Pagoda’s study tour experience programme allowed me to hone in on this quality and utilise it in the right way. For example, the project was proposed to us on the Tuesday, and we had to give our presentation on the Thursday… usually my perfectionism brain would be screaming inside for MORE TIME and would be in a fit of nerves about having to present something in front of a live audience with so little practice time.
However, this programme reinforced to me that not everything can be a masterpiece all the time; that in circumstances where there is a short deadline, I need to work with my initial ideas so that I can develop a breadth of work to showcase as a ‘work in progress.’ This is something that I usually really struggle with, but having this experience in the programme, showcased to me that I can come up with innovative ideas in a short space of time (with the help of peers) and give/produce a clear and concise presentation.
This skill and experience is something that I’ll definitely take with me for future deadlines at university, and further afield. Moreover, although nerve-wracking, I found the public presentations to be extremely useful. I kept composure by realising that everybody was in the same boat as me. I also found being an audience member beneficial, as it allowed me to take tips and pointers from others on what makes an engaging presentation; and this is something, I’ll use going forward in my academic practices and professional career.
What would you say is your biggest takeaway from Pagoda SGE?
Overall, I would say one of the biggest takeaways is that I have a real passion for sustainability; the learning part (online or through visiting sustainable business) of my internship has really inspired me to make more changes within my lifestyle and encourage others to follow suit (a domino effect which Pagoda had hoped to achieve through their Carbon Conscious Study Tours).
With my undergraduate degree, my career prospects are relatively open, and I am not entirely sure what career path I would like to take; however, sustainability is something that definitely sparks my interest in terms of a future job. I am extremely grateful to have had this study tour experience this summer; I know that I have yet to reap all the benefits from it!
About the Author
The author was a student who undertook this programme in 2022. They have chosen to stay anonymous.
- Carbon Emissions: Also known as greenhouse gas emissions, carbon emissions are the result of human activity from industries such as transportation and agriculture, among others.
- Carbon Offsetting: Carbon offsetting is the act of reducing carbon emissions, often by increasing carbon storage through tree planting.
- Carbon Negative: Carbon negative refers to an activity that withdraws more carbon emissions from the environment than it puts in.
How to Minimize Your CO2 Footprint While Traveling
Firstly, we must understand that by reducing our CO2 emissions, we do not automatically become carbon neutral. The job is far from being done, but it is a good start. Any type of human activity that directly or indirectly involves burning hydrocarbon fuels will cause emissions of greenhouse gases which are harmful to the environment and to our health. Even simple activities such as shopping, using our phones, or simply switching on the lights will indirectly release carbon dioxide in the air, but some activities are far more harmful than others.
The latest 2022 study of the IEA (International Energy Agency) demonstrates that transportation itself contributed one-quarter of the total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions on the globe, with 1.04 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted only from aviation. Since 2000, commercial passenger flight activity has grown by 5% per year, while CO2 emissions have doubled since then.
Sure, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, CO2 emissions have dropped a little and had unexpected effects on the atmosphere, but with the rising demand of global air travel, emission forecasts for 2022 aren’t looking so great.
Mile for mile, flying is the most damaging travel option for the climate, and it begs the question, is there a sustainable way to fly, and what can we do to reduce our carbon footprint when travelling abroad?
6 Tips to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint While Flying
Consider alternative ways to travel
Although it might be difficult when planning an overseas trip, travelling by train or bus is a lot more environmentally friendly option than flying. This is because both trains and buses use less fuel and can release up to 75% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Choose an eco-friendly airline to travel with
More and more airlines are investing in greener ways to operate their businesses by running sustainable programmes and investing in technologies to make flying less harmful to the environment.
Next time you’re planning a trip, why not consider a carrier that uses renewable biofuels which can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%. Some eco-friendly airlines operating in the UK include companies such as:
- Virgin Atlantic
- British Airways
Be sure to do your own research before booking because things may change.
Take a direct flight
Avoiding flights with stopovers is also a good way to reduce your carbon footprint when travelling. This is because connecting flights often make diversions, adding up extra air miles, and during multiple take-offs, planes release a larger amount of CO2 into the air.
Pack lighter and opt for carry-on
It’s no brainer that lighter baggage will reduce your carbon footprint, but it doesn’t end there. Even if they weigh the same, a carry-on will always be a more sustainable option versus checked-in luggage. It makes sense if you think about all the extra processes of getting your bags into the plane.
Avoid business class
Apart from being more cost-effective, flying on economy is also more sustainable compared to flying on business class. It’s simple maths. Since economy class carries more people in less space, each and every individual’s carbon footprint will be reduced.
Carbon offsetting is one of the best ways to reduce our carbon footprint, however, it should not be used as a license to pollute the environment. It’s important to acknowledge that carbon offsetting cannot act quickly enough to resolve climate issues – only reductions can.
Carbon offsetting is a process of compensating for CO2 emissions arising from human activities, such as flying. The goal is to bring our carbon footprint down to zero by investing in programs that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or increase the world’s carbon dioxide storage. Examples of carbon offsetting projects are renewable energy sourcing, energy-efficiency improvements, tree planting activities, or the destruction of greenhouse gases.
How To Carbon Offset:
Step 1 – Measure.
Find out your impact on the climate using simple tools such as WWF’s free carbon footprint calculator. It takes less than 5 minutes to complete and it will give you an estimated sum of your yearly CO2 emissions.
Step 2 – Reduce.
We’ve already mentioned some of our best tips to reduce your carbon footprint when travelling abroad, but cutting down your emissions extends into different dimensions of daily living. You can lower your emissions with simple practicalities at home, when shopping, and even with your diet.
Step 3 – Choose a trusted offset project
When buying a plane ticket, you’ve probably come across various prompts to carbon offset your journey, but instead of using airlines’ schemes, which they often use as a mitigation deterrence instead of urgent innovation, those who want to offset their carbon emissions should turn to non-profit organisations. Our favourite ones are Atmosfair, the Gold Standard, and Verra, but there are plenty of other NGOs who are dedicated to reducing carbon emissions effectively.
Start Travelling More Sustainably Today
As transport is one of the main sources of air pollution, its effects on our health and environment are concerning. Increasing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, higher rates of premature adult deaths, damage to the planet’s biodiversity, and rapid climate change are just some examples of the impacts of air pollution. By shifting our mindset and taking simple, daily actions to reduce our carbon emissions, we can improve air quality and bestow a cleaner, prosperous place upon future generations. Remember, change begins with you.