Every Day is Earth Day at IES Abroad!

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IES Abroad

Every day is Earth Day at IES Abroad – from our students to our faculty to our efforts across the organization, we understand the importance of embracing sustainable practices. We know that our actions are interconnected and have impact, and we know that this is a continuous journey towards change. We too are continuing to learn, adapt, and assess to ensure we are an informed participant in doing more good than harm.   

As an ode to Earth Day, here are four key ways IES Abroad honors this great, giving planet we all call home, and is focusing on global good to preserve it now and in the future.

1. Our Global Good Commitment is Wrapped into Everything we Do! 

As part of our goal to be an active participant in bettering the world, IES Abroad launched the Global Good Commitment. Drawn from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Good Commitment is intended to be a multifaceted approach to creating a more sustainable and just world. This grounds who we are and what we do within four key categories:

  1. People & Equity
  2. Education, Academics, Curriculum, & Career-Readiness
  3. Engagement & Resources
  4. Sustainable Operations & Services

Simply put, anyone interested in exploring this planet should also have a vested interest in caring for it, too. That’s why we’re invested in ensuring our study abroad programs promote global good.  

2. We Utilize Study Abroad to Discover and Promote Sustainability

We know what you’re thinking, “but studying abroad, getting on a plane, and the movement of people can seriously impact carbon emissions.” As a study abroad provider, we’re highly conscious of that. One way we can make sure even more people understand sustainability is through our students. Our students are constantly gaining insight around sustainability and best practices, and thus, their newfound perspectives and behaviors help support global good. Take it from some of our alums, who are a testament to exactly that: 

“I took short showers, turned off the sink water when I wasn't using it, brought my reusable water bottle wherever I went and tried to fill it up at home or at filling stations, recycled things through my residence's program, and opted to walk when possible. ”
Emma R. • University of Vermont • Barcelona

Sara Jacques, one of our Santiago IES Abroad alum’s, was even a 2019 finalist for the Global Citizen of the Year Award! Our international jury of IES Abroad staff were impressed by Sara’s commitment to making a positive impact on our environment by initiating a recycling program at the IES Abroad Santiago Center and ensuring the program’s sustainability.

Through Sara’s development of this program, she became more aware of the disproportionate effects of climate change on countries such as Chile that produce such a small amount of the world’s greenhouse gases. It’s students like Sara who support our mission to better the world through global good. 

Sara Jacques, IES Abroad Student
“I literally sat with a government official talking about environmental concerns, in Spanish, for an hour. We looked through community plans and talked about programs. I felt so empowered. None of that was in my original plan when I came to Santiago. ”
Sara J. • Penn State University • Santiago – Politics, Social Justice & Language

3. Our Programs Get Students Involved and Create Lasting Impact

Student picking up trash on beach in Positano

Here at IES Abroad, there are a range of programs to choose from if you're looking to study the environment and sustainability. Environmental Studies & Sustainability in Freiburg, Germany; Summer - Environmental Studies in Quito, Ecuador; Business, Sustainability & Immigration in Nice, France, to name a few.  We also have some of the best places to study abroad for the environmentalist.

Our Designing the Sustainable City Course

Stemming from our Global Good Commitment, we launched the Designing the Sustainable City course ES/SO360. This course is designed to:

  • Provide students the opportunity to engage in a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural learning community that addresses a global issue
  • Engage with award-winning faculty who are leaders and experts in their respective fields
  • Develop projects that directly impact the well-being of their local host communities and which challenged them to hone their skills in team building, negotiation, data collection and analysis, and presentation in an international setting 
  • Experience substantive field visits and connections with local community offers real-life examples and valuable data
  • Apply their learning by working in small teams to design a project that can offer solutions to the issues they have identified at the local level, taking into account the environmental, historical and social characteristics of their host city.  

But don’t take it from us, hear it directly from our students. When asked “how will this course impact your future,” these were some responses:  

“I’m going into government, and I will be keeping in mind that it’s not just about one group of people but all people when thinking about sustainability. And it’s not just about recycling but mobility and other factors as well.” 

“This course really solidified my interest in ecological design and sustainability.” 

Student Participation in Action

There are many ways that our students get involved with environmental efforts of the local communities in which they study abroad. Recently, 2023 Spring students in Freiburg got involved in the "Green City". 

Freiburg is known throughout Germany and even the world as the “Green City” and recently, the IES Abroad Freiburg Center invited its students to become involved in the community as new citizens of the “Green City” by participating in a stream clean-up event with the local non-profit “Bachpaten Freiburg” (“stream sponsors”). This year, 11 students from the IES Abroad European Union program and the entire staff of the IES Freiburg Center joined with the “Bachpaten Freiburg” to clear wood from a local stream, making space for new growth and helping the natural species that live there to thrive.

“Bachpaten Freiburg” relies on the help of over 2,000 local volunteers, who are committed to looking after nearly 70 streams in Freiburg. In addition to maintaining local streams by weeding out invasive species and protecting the local habitat, “Bachpaten Freiburg” also aims to raise awareness for environmental issues and educate citizens about how they can make positive contributions to their community. 

4. Sustainability is Embedded in our Operations

On the Berlin Wall is spray painted "Save Our Earth."

As an organization, we are dedicated to reducing our consumption and production, both in our Chicago Headquarters and at our [34] Centers abroad. Here's just a few ways we're reducing our carbon footprint: 

  • Carbon Offsets: Purchasing carbon offsets for all Staff travel over the past fiscal year, and also purchasing them for the larger events we hold at Conferences, including our own Annual Conference. We also host events at LEED Certified buildings whenever possible.  
  • Paper and Office Materials: We have reduced our use of paper to almost nothing, with a switch to distributing PDFs instead of hard copies for editing. In 2022, we invested in updating our catalogs to a smaller size and printed them on 100% post-consumer waste paper using soy-based ink. To further reduce waste, we printed 40% less catalogs than we have in the past.
  • Our Centers: We've developed a framework that will be distributed to our Centers, Chicago Headquarters, and Remote Workers to adopt. Our Vienna Center has already piloted a template for this. This framework includes practices aimed at reducing paper consumption, implementing recycling, using renewable energy at facilities where possible, conserving energy, reducing waste, and conserving water.  
A birds sits on a telescope used for bird watching in Ecuador.

Since the first IES Abroad students arrived in Vienna in 1950, our philosophy has been that study abroad is a catalyst for peace and change. Given the current state of the world, as we face climate issues, systemic racism and inequities within our communities, we see the critical need to elevate our mission and promote global good. As we continue to learn, adapt, and assess our role in combatting these issues, we will drive our mission forward with the Global Good Commitment at our forefront. Happy Earth Day! 

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