The irony is not lost on me that I am currently teaching an environmental and community health study abroad program in New Zealand while leaving a large carbon footprint. I am even participating in Doom Tourism by driving the students across the Southern Alps to view the Franz Joseph Glacier before global warming melts it away.
In order to depress (and enlighten) myself further, I calculated our combined carbon footprint for the program using the excellent CarboNZero site’s travel and tourism calculator. There are 18 of us who all had to fly here (and back again) from Seattle. We’ve flown from Auckland to Christchurch, then rented vans to drive all over both islands (crossing on the Cook Straight Ferry). Not surprisingly, transport accounts for the largest share of our carbon footprint. Accommodation comes in second, although by staying in these frugal and Eco-conscious youth hostels, we’ve lessened our impact considerably. Then there’s recreation, what with all the museums and parks we’ve visited–not to mention the random bungy-jumping and extreme sport activities students have done during their ‘off times.’
Using the CarboNZero calculator, our study abroad group is collectively leaving a 90 metric ton ‘carbon dioxide equivalents’ footprint through our trip. This translates into us needing to plant 20 acres of trees to enable us to be carbon neutral on our ‘environmental’ study abroad program.
Yes, I could start planting trees like crazy, but perhaps the better ‘answer’ is to start factoring in the carbon footprint costs in future study abroad programs.
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