CIS Abroad Blog

Cultivating Green Habits: Sustainability Lessons from Around the Globe

From composting in Costa Rica to food composting in London, our study abroad community is buzzing with sustainable efforts. In this post, we’re featuring a collection of inspiring testimonials from CIS Abroad alumni and staff who are walking the talk when it comes to eco-friendly living abroad.

How did your study abroad experience influence your perspective on sustainability?


"Living the Scandinavian way opened my eyes to the practicality and effectiveness of a minimalist lifestyle." - Christina Williams, Assistant Director of Study Abroad & Away - Jacksonville University

"Living in a new country for a period of time allowed me to witness and indulge in different ways of life. Living in Edinburgh, Scotland for a semester gave me a better understanding of the importance of sustainability. They have so much green space and use practices in everyday life that help better the earth. Edinburgh prioritizes sustainability through reducing carbon emissions by reducing/reusing/recycling, prioritizing public transportation, and prioritizing the use of locally grown produce. Coming back to New Jersey I was able to actually feel a difference in the air due to their effective sustainability practices. After living in Edinburgh, my perspective on sustainability shifted. I realized it should be a top priority in our lives to keep our Earth clean and help us live a healthy life. Sustainability is often overlooked by many people, but after experiencing a country that has much stronger sustainability practices than the US, I am able to see how it makes a better difference in our everyday lives." -Amanda Chirico, Marketing major at the College of New Jersey, Semester in Edinburgh alumni

Studying abroad in a tiny village in France influenced my perspective on how we grocery shop in the US. In France, shopping was an every-other, if not every-day activity. We only purchased what we needed immediately, and our fridge wasn't overstocked with food that would eventually go to waste (the fridges were smaller, too!). I have certainly tried to keep that perspective 20 years later, if the kids already have things to snack on, we don't need MORE goldfish, for example, until they've depleted their current stash. - Jess Jones, Vice President of Partnerships

I have an interest in sustainability, so seeing different things during my study abroad like how trash is separated and how much public transportation is used was really neat. I hope that someday, we in America can learn from this and adapt how we treat the world. - Mallory Jones, University Studies major at Texas A&M University, Summer in Florence alumni


Can you share examples of sustainable practices or habits you adopted while studying abroad?


I definitely started separating my trash and recycling more once I got back from studying abroad. I also try to take the local bus to school when I can. - Margaret Schwab, Biology Major at Texas A&M, Summer in Barcelona alumni

Living in Costa Rica taught me a lot about their biodiversity and the environmental policy surrounding it. I studied it in my master's program too as a direct result of living there. I lived in a small space in Spain and had to be good about not accumulating too much and be mindful of recycling and waste practices there. Australia is also big on sustainability - one of the habits that was very common there was bringing your own mug to coffee shops. And they charge for plastic bags in most other countries and that has made me really good about bringing my own bags to the grocery store. - Amanda Murphy, Program Enrollment Coordinator - Australia, Costa Rica, Greece, and Thailand

While staying with a host family in Costa Rica I was about to empty my half-empty water bottle down the drain. My host mama took the bottle from my hand and watered her houseplants. To this day, when I have a water bottle that has "old" water, I use it to water my houseplants or outdoor plants. My kiddos do the same. - Ginny Garzon, Assistant Vice President of Partner Success

Were there any particular cultural practices that inspired you to live more sustainably?


In Japan everyone has handkerchiefs they bring with them everywhere and use that to dry their hands. No bathrooms have paper towels. This cultural practice inspired me to live more sustainably - Ava Kaveh, Human Communication major at the University of Central Florida, Semester in Tokyo alumni

Food Composting is something I have since continued doing once I came back to the States. - Alexis Nagy, Criminal Justice major at the University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa, Summer in London alumni


What were the most significant challenges you faced in your efforts to live sustainably abroad?


Adjusting to a more sustainable lifestyle was very hard. I had to adjust to not wasting food and walking to the grocery store a few times a week. I also realized that the laundry situation is much different and navigating outdoor drying was a big adjustment. - Alana Bergin, Political Science major at the University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa, Summer on the Italian Coast alumni

I think the challenge that I faced was constantly having to look at my food and see if it was still good or if I needed to go to the grocery store and buy new food. This was a challenge to me because originally I had no idea how often I would have to go to the store because of how organic the food is. - Angie Cogburn, Elementary Education major at the University of Oregon, Summer in Florence alumni


In what ways did your experience abroad change your perspective on sustainability and environmental responsibility?

It made me feel that it's much easier and more attainable than I thought. I wish there was more of a push for sustainability in my community. - Gladiz De la Rosa, International Studies major at the Unversity of North Carolina, Summer in Tokyo alumni

Americans need to become more aware of how much we consume and make efforts to reduce waste in order for our way of life to be sustainable. We need to invest in renewable energy, share transportation, and cut back on food waste. We owe it to our planet, and we can live better lives in the process of being more green. - Joe Debiec, Vice President of International Operations

There are so many small and impactful actions we can make on a daily basis. Using reusable bags, walking more when I can, and shopping locally are all habits that I still use from my time abroad. - Mary Alice Haas, University Relations Director