Sustainability & Education Abroad

Sustainability & Education Abroad

Study abroad not only impacts students but also host cities, families, communities, and the environment. From carbon emissions due to air travel to single-use plastics to what we buy, the choices we make can have positive or negative short and long-term consequences for our home and host communities. 

What can you do to support your host country, host community, and planet while you are studying abroad? How can you begin or continue your commitment to sustainability while studying abroad? We hope these resources are a helpful starting point to help you explore these questions.  

ISO Launches First Sustainability Plan

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

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

Click here for a list of 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 

  • Making flight emissions information accessible on education abroad program budget sheets 

  • Working towards completing UVA’s Green Workplace Program

  • Committing to 100% 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  

  • Exploring partnerships with and support for local forestry or sustainability projects 


ISO to Offset Education Abroad Program Air Travel


When international programs resume, the International Studies Office will begin purchasing carbon offsets for air travel on all ISO administered and operated education abroad programs.

Infographic of Approximate Carbon Footprint for 2019 UVA Study Abroad Programs

*Data for ISO-administered programs in the 2019 calendar year. Data does not include students who studied abroad on exchanges, McIntire Third Year Core 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 approximated 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 $7.85

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.

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, etc. 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 will purchase 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 soon 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 Third Year Core, or undertaking independent travel abroad, we encourage you to consider purchasing carbon offsets for your air travel. Take a look at the resources linked above 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.

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!

      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.

      Click here for resources to help you get started.

      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!