Air pollution is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, but it is preventable.
As we celebrate World Environment Day on 5 June, we look at three things Erasmus+ participants can do to travel and live abroad the green way and help #BeatAirPollution, which is the theme for this year. Air pollution causes an estimated seven million premature deaths every year. It also harms our natural environment, decreasing the oxygen supply in our oceans, making it harder for plants to grow and contributes to climate change.
Here are our three top tips to help you combat environmental challenges and make a positive impact in your host country whilst you are on your exchange:
1. Travel smarter
An Erasmus+ exchange will often involve travelling abroad and provides a great launch pad for further travel. Undoubtedly travelling has a major impact on air pollution, but you can balance your backpack with your green conscience!
If you can, take the train or ferry to your Erasmus+ destination – your carbon footprint will be much smaller than other forms of transport. If this isn’t an option, then find out from your organisation or institution if anyone else is driving to the same area so you can car-share. This way, you’ll see more of Europe and be able to take more luggage.
Once you’ve arrived, you can then get around your new town by walking, using public transport or – if there are good cycle lanes – by bike. As well as helping to reduce emissions, it’s a great way to save money, get fit and really get to know your new town.
2. Help your new community
Look at ways of doing something to help at a local level, like a street clean, joining a local environmental group or getting involved in a beach clean. Not only will this put something back into your host community, but it will help you meet different people and improve your language skills!
Find out if your host university, school or workplace carries out any organised green activities or events and join up.
3. Be green in your new home
As well as considering your own travel, think about how your food travels too. If you want to find out about your food impact, the BBC has a good diet carbon calculator.
If you need a few household items when you arrive, check out the Freecycle Network™ to see if they have any (free) items which you could then give back when you leave. If you need to buy new electrical equipment, remember to look for the ENERGY STAR label. And don’t forget charity shops and flea markets are great sources for individual and eco-friendly items.
Just because you’re abroad, don’t forget the basics - turn off lights and electric appliances; use energy efficient light bulbs; and only run washing machines when full. Separate your rubbish to help reduce the amount of waste that is burned or landfilled.
You can check out some of the British Council resources for green projects, such as Zero Waste or Responsible Production and Consumption.
By following these suggestions, Erasmus+ participants can help combat air pollution, help the environment and make a positive difference while still enjoying one of the best experiences of their life!