Sustainability & Education Abroad

Sustainability & Education Abroad

ISO Sustainability Plan

The ISO is committed to incorporating sustainability into each aspect of its work, from how the office functions, to events, to study abroad programming.

The International Studies Office completed its first Sustainability Plan in February 2020, in cooperation with the UVA Sustainability Office and in alignment with the very exciting and ambitious UVA Sustainability Plan

Learn more about the ISO’s sustainability initiatives.
  • Offsetting all carbon emissions of air travel for education abroad programs administered and managed directly by the ISO 
  • Offsetting all carbon emissions for all ISO/SUMS staff travel 

  • Including flight emissions information on education abroad program budget sheets 

  • Completing UVA’s Green Workplace Program

  • Hosting zero-waste and carbon neutral events 

  • Prioritizing sustainable accommodation options where possible and cost-effective when making lodging arrangements for education abroad programs 

  • Integrating sustainability into every aspect of its operation and programs and expanding its offering of available resources for students, faculty, and staff 

  • Developing and expanding on existing partnerships with UVA’s Office of Sustainability and William & Mary  


The ISO Carbon Offset Program


The International Studies Office purchases carbon offsets for air travel on all ISO administered and operated education abroad programs.

2022-2023 approximate carbon footprint showing 1226 travelers: students, faculty, and staff traveled abroad in '22-'23; 2663.46 metric tons: approximate total carbon emissions due to air travel; 2.1 metric tons: average emissions per traveler; $20.20: average carbon offset cost per traveler

*Data above based on estimated air travel only of students, faculty, and staff who traveled abroad on ISO administered and operated programs in the 2022-23 academic year. Data does not include students who studied abroad on exchanges, McIntire Semester Abroad programs, graduate school programs (McIntire GIE, Darden, Law School, Med School), or outside provider programs (i.e. CIEE, SIT, IES, etc.). Carbon footprint data is approximate and based on air travel required for the program (I.e. return flight, in-country flights as part of a program). Data does not reflect in-country travel (cars, busses, etc.) or any personal travel undertaken before, during, or after the program. This model assumes a cost per metric ton of USD $9.60 

The above data identifies carbon emissions due to air travel. The total carbon footprint for a program abroad is greater than this amount due to daily living. Want to calculate your daily carbon footprint? There are many carbon footprint calculators out there, including one by the EPA, one by TerraPass, and one by Conservation International.

Carbon Offset Partner

The ISO’s carbon offset program partner is the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Morocco. Between January and August 2023, HAF and local community partners planted 30,336 fruit trees (fig, almond, carob, and pomegranate) with 202 farming families across Morocco as part of our carbon offset program. These trees will offset 1,263.58 metric tons of CO2.  

Trees planted between January and August 2023; 10,956 fig, 9,722 almond, 6,246 carob, 3,412 pomegranate, total trees: 30,336

HAF and their local community partners will continue the work of planting, monitoring, and caring for these trees, even as they plant more trees each year as part of our carbon offset program. 

UVA students have a unique opportunity to see our carbon offset program on the ground while studying abroad and interning with HAF as part of the UVA in Morocco: Participatory Development in Practice summer program. HAF President in a recent Carbon Offset report shared, “In the rich tapestry of international collaboration, UVA students serve as conduits of knowledge, compassion, and cross-cultural understanding. Their experiences illuminate the interconnectedness of our world and reaffirm the importance of fostering sustainable practices, promoting community well-being, and nurturing a generation of global citizens poised to shape a more harmonious and equitable future.”  

What are Carbon Offsets?

The choices we make daily impact the environment. When we drive, shop, charge our phones, and use air conditioning, we contribute to the production of greenhouse gases; when we measure this, we call it a carbon footprint. There are many things we can do to decrease our carbon footprint like eating locally sourced food, walking instead of driving, taking a direct flight when traveling, etc. In addition to making lifestyle changes, one way to decrease our carbon footprint is to purchase carbon offsets. Carbon offsets fund projects that help to balance the greenhouse gases we produce. Examples of carbon offsets include renewable energy projects (wind, solar) and tree-planting.

Want to learn more? Check out these articles:

Do I have to do anything to purchase an offset?

The ISO purchases carbon offsets for air travel for all education abroad programs administered and managed directly by the ISO. This means that if you participate in an ISO-administered program abroad, the ISO will automatically calculate the cost of the offset for any flights related to the program and purchase offsets on your behalf!

In fact, you can find the estimated carbon footprint of the flights associated with each UVA program on the program’s budget page. This is provided as an FYI to help us all be more mindful of the environmental impact of our choices and what we can do to mitigate the effects of our actions.

If you are participating in a program administered through an outside provider (i.e. CIEE, IES, SIT, etc.), one of the graduate schools, on an exchange program, McIntire Semester Abroad, or undertaking independent travel abroad, we encourage you to consider purchasing carbon offsets for your air travel. Take a look at the resources linked below to help you get started! Some airlines offer the ability to purchase an offset when you book your ticket. Some outside providers (including FIE) offset student travel for some programs. 

Check out these articles to learn more about how carbon offsets work and how to identify reputable offset providers. There are many carbon offset providers available, and we encourage you to explore on your own to find a carbon offset provider that looks exciting to you! 

Here are two carbon calculators you could use to help you get started (there are more out there, too!):  

  • TerraPass Carbon Calculator – use the Individual Calculator to calculate the total 
  • - enter the number of flights and the amount of time each flight will take to calculate the total 

Study Sustainability Abroad

    You can take advantage of sustainability-focused education abroad programs to deepen your passion for sustainability and enhance your understanding of the complexities of this global issue in another part of the world! Take a look at some programs with a focus on sustainability below, and use our program search to find even more opportunities. 

      There are many things you can do to make your travels more sustainable, from knowing what to pack to choosing what to eat and drink, to knowing how to recycle in your host community. Take a look at our While Abroad page for tips and resources to help you get started with your sustainable travel journey! 

      Interested in learning about sustainability norms, practices, and strategies in different parts of the world? Watch the Sustainability Abroad Earth Week 2021 panel discussion with faculty from UVA and William & Mary. 

      Be a Part of the Global Effort

      All around the world, governments, companies, non-governmental organizations, and individuals like you are making everyday sustainable choices and working toward sustainability goals that will help preserve our world ecosystem for generations to come. Learn about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and join the movement!