University Park, Pennsylvania – A new program at the Pennsylvania College of Agricultural Sciences helps students reduce their carbon footprint while studying abroad.
The accessible and sustainable Study Abroad initiative began last year to encourage students to incorporate sustainable practices into their study abroad experiences by supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The program also provides alternative global programming such as virtual courses or internships with a global focus or internationally hosted. In addition, the initiative aims to make global learning more accessible to students, which may include providing funding to study abroad or offering virtual options at lower costs.
“For students and faculty who participate in or lead a course or program with international travel, we are working on concrete options to provide them with ways to think about their carbon footprint and how to reduce their environmental impact when traveling,” said Ketja Lingenfelter. Assistant Director of Global Student Engagement.
Lingenfelter explained that most students studying abroad should travel by plane, which is an important source of greenhouse gases. Students can positively offset the carbon generated by international air travel and transportation by being aware of waste and pollution and looking for ways to reduce it at home and abroad.
Among those who adopt the initiative are students in the included course, “Environmental Resource Management 499: Costa Rica Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources.” Bio-analyzer construction, renewable energy generation, climate change mitigation, and sustainable agriculture are among the service projects that students participate in while in Costa Rica.
Although their trip was postponed in the spring of 2022 due to COVID-19, the students hope to make the trip in the spring of 2023. In anticipation of their trip, they have been working on projects in the State College community that support sustainability, noted Tami Shannon, director of risk management. Counselor and course instructor.
“Most of the students enrolled in study abroad courses for Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) are interested in conservation, sustainability and natural resources,” she said. “Balancing the benefits of personal travel to another country—global competencies, partnerships with international organizations, first-hand experience while immersed in another culture—with the carbon emissions that travel abroad requires is more complex than simple at first glance.”
Shannon said that although specific carbon calculations have not been part of programming in the past, students have been very receptive to better understanding this balance and participating in service projects with State College Borough, Clearwater Conservancy and the Central District Council of Governments. Work included maintaining rain gardens and river breaks, planting trees, and volunteering for solar initiatives.
Ianna Moultrie, an environmental resource management expert with a minor in sustainability leadership, was among the students who helped remove invasive species, clear debris from screening dams, and prune excess vegetative growth in the Easterly Parkway rainforest.
“The most beneficial aspect was knowing that my actions were positively impacting the environment to help control runoff and benefit the nearby community by protecting waterways from harmful pollutants,” She said. “Being aware of my actions and how I affect the Earth is the least I can do to do my part in the fight against climate change, even if it’s just an individual action.”
Although she won’t be traveling to Costa Rica in the spring, Moultrie, of Detroit, Michigan, plans to travel abroad after graduation. said Moultrie, whose career plans include helping urban communities manage/reduce waste and address environmental grievances.
Dana Sanchez, a junior expert in environmental resource management with minors in Watershed, Water Resources and Marine Sciences, has also been inspired to participate in service projects, particularly those that involve improving water quality.
“I learned a lot about how agricultural runoff and nutrients affect our waterways and water quality,” said Sanchez, who plans to attend graduate school to study water resources management. “I am passionate about protecting water resources, especially in developing countries, so participating in these kinds of hands-on projects enhances my knowledge.”
Besides community service projects for the ERM category, Sanchez, of Reading, has worked on other sustainability projects in Pennsylvania, including solar energy and nutrient management in agricultural systems. She said she appreciates the college and university’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve a better future for all.
“I feel proud to be a part of Penn State and it drives me to excel in my environmental science education,” Sanchez said. “It is important to me that I try to work towards preserving the environment and reducing carbon emissions as much as possible. I am grateful that the State of Pennsylvania has provided us with opportunities to do so.”
More information can be found online at https://agsci.psu.edu/global/study-abroad/sasa.