UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania – A new program at Penn State’s Agricultural College helps students reduce their carbon footprint while studying abroad.

the Initiative for sustainable and barrier-free study abroad started last year to encourage students to incorporate sustainable practices into their study abroad experience by supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The program also offers alternative global programs such as virtual courses or internships with a global focus or hosted internationally. In addition, the initiative aims to make global learning more accessible to students, which can include funding for study abroad or virtual offers at lower costs.

“For students and teachers who take part in or lead a course or program with international travel, we are working on specific options to offer them opportunities to think about their carbon footprint and minimize their environmental impact from travel,” said Ketja Lingenfelter , assistant director for global student engagement.

Lingenfelter stated that most students studying abroad have to travel by air, which is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Students can positively offset the carbon caused by international air travel and transport by being aware of waste and pollution and looking for ways to minimize them at home and abroad.

Among those taking the initiative are students of the embedded course, Environmental Resource Management 499: Costa Rica Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources. Biogas plant construction, renewable energy generation, climate protection and sustainable agriculture are among the service projects that students take part in during their stay in Costa Rica.

Although their trip has been postponed in the spring of 2022 due to COVID-19, the students hope to be able to start the trip in the spring of 2023. In anticipation of their trip, they have worked on projects in the state college community that support sustainability, noted Tammy Shannon, ERM consultant and instructor.

“Most of the students enrolled in ERM study abroad programs are interested in conservation, sustainability and natural resources,” she said. Balancing the benefits of personal travel to another country – global skills, partnerships with international organizations, and firsthand experience of immersing yourself in another culture – with the carbon emissions required for international travel is on the more complicated than simple at first sight. “

Although specific carbon calculations have not been part of the program in the past, Shannon said, the students were very receptive to better understanding this balance and participating in service projects with the State College Borough, Clearwater Conservancy, and the Center Region Council of Governments. The work included maintaining rain gardens and bank buffers, planting trees, and volunteering for solar initiatives.

Iyanna Moultrie, a senior major Environmental resource management with a little in Sustainability leadership, was among the students who helped remove invasive species, clear debris from dams, and trim vegetative overgrowth in the Easterly Parkway rain garden.

“The most rewarding aspect was knowing that my actions were positive for the environment, controlling runoff and helping the nearby community by protecting their waterways from harmful pollutants.” She said. “Being aware of my actions and my impact on the earth is the least I can do to make my contribution to combating climate change, even if it is only a one-off measure.”

Though she won’t be traveling to Costa Rica this spring, Moultrie, of Detroit, Michigan, plans to travel overseas after graduation. “I hope to travel to Nigeria, Costa Rica and other countries to fight for environmental justice for low-income communities and provide sustainable methods of waste management and reduction,” said Moultrie, whose career plans are to manage / reduce urbanized communities to help fight waste and combat environmental injustices.

Dana Sanchez, Junior majoring in Environmental Resource Management with Minors in Water catchment areas and water resources and in the marine sciences, was also inspired to participate in service projects, particularly those that involved improving water quality.

“I learned a lot about how agricultural and nutrient runoff affects our streams and our water quality,” said Sanchez, who plans to attend graduate school to study water resource management. “The protection of water resources, especially in developing countries, is very important to me. Therefore, participating in such practical projects improves my knowledge. “

In addition to the charitable projects for the ERM class, Reading-based Sanchez has worked on other sustainability projects at Penn State, including solar energy and nutrient management in agricultural systems. She said she appreciated the college and university’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to create a better future for all.

“It makes me proud to be part of Penn State and it drives me to excel in my environmental science education,” said Sanchez. “It is important to me to try to be environmentally friendly and to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible. I am grateful that Penn State gives us the opportunity to do so. “

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