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Sustainability Tips & Resources

It is the responsibility of all Davidson students, faculty, and staff going abroad to do their part and practice respectful and sustainable travel. Review the information on this page for links to useful resources, handy tips for packing and planning your experience, and information about the UN Sustainable Development Goals to help you be a thoughtful and responsible traveler.  Don't forget to check out insights from Davidson's Office of Sustainability and past student participants!

Responsible & Eco-Friendly Travel

Click the links to check out useful resources for sustainability-minded scholars.  Everyone can do their part both at home and abroad.


Tips & Best Practices

Review these different topics for some helpful tips as you plan your sustainable experience abroad!



Take the time to pack carefully. Refer to the Pre-Departure Planning & Packing page for general tips, but also consider how you keep your packing more sustainable.
  • Pack light. This not only allows students to be more flexible if travel arrangements suddenly change, but also, extra weight in the airplane requires more fuel and produces more carbon emissions.

    • Reduce paper weight by downloading books, maps, and other reading materials to a laptop, e-reader, or tablet. If only certain pages from a travel guide are needed, tear those out or take a picture and leave the rest at home.

    • Leave the hairdryer and other electronic appliances at home and buy them once upon arrival if needed. This is also more convenient since they will not require converters or plug adapters.

    • Take fewer items of clothing than you think you will need. Clothes can be purchased after arrival, allowing you to blend in more easily and support the local economy.

  • Think in terms of versatility. Bring multipurpose items which can be used in a variety of settings.

    • Sandals which you can wear in the shower, hiking, and at the beach

    • Shoes which are comfortable for walking but also look nice

    • Pants with zip-off or roll-up legs

    • Jackets with removable layers and waterproof shells

    • Tunics or wraps which can function as a shirt, dress, and swimsuit cover up

    • Scarves which can also be used as belts or shoulder wraps

    • All-in-one shampoo-conditioner-body soap

  • Avoid disposable items. Consider bringing your own basic reusable items for travel

    • A water bottle

    • Packable shopping bags

  • For individuals who menstruate.

    • Some host communities might have different waste management procedures and cultural norms that could make disposing of traditional feminine products more difficult. More reusable feminine products have been arriving on the market that may reduce the need to pack large amounts of disposable products that will end up as waste in the host country. Consider exploring some options, such as the Diva Cup, Thinx Period Underwear, and Rael Reusables, to make the switch to zero-waste menstruation products.



Students can make environmentally-conscious decisions in many aspects of their study abroad experience, but one thing that is unavoidable is the international flight. The carbon emissions from the overseas flight can be more than a person’s carbon footprint in an entire year. There are a couple of ways that students can help address this problem.
  • Purchase carbon offsets for your flights and other transportation. Carbon offset programs allow individual flyers to invest in projects which help counterbalance the emissions from their particular flight. The amount paid correlates to the distance of the flight. Many airlines give the option of purchasing offsets when booking a flight, but there are also many organizations which offer carbon offsets such as Carbon Fund (non-profit) and ClimateCare (“profit for purpose”). These organizations can also purchase offsets for other forms of transportation and electricity consumption.

  • Look for airlines with sustainable practices. Many airlines have chosen to focus their efforts on decreasing their fuel consumption and building more efficient aircraft. Research which airlines are the “greenest” before booking your overseas flight.

  • Consider your daily commute. Students’ daily commutes to and from class will likely be longer than they are at Davidson. While many major metro areas have very efficient mass transit options, students may consider buying or renting a bike or even walking to class. In addition to the lower environmental impact, these options allow students to see much much more of their host city.

  • Use alternative forms of transport for regional travel. Many students also choose to travel to neighboring countries during their semester abroad. When planning these shorter trips, students should take into account the environmental impact of their travels. Rather than taking a flight from Paris to Rome, consider taking a train. For shorter trips, think about hiring a shared taxi or taking a bus.



When planning overnight trips to other destinations, students should look for hotels that participate in sustainable practices or have a green certification. This may mean different things in different parts of the world. There are many different “green certification” programs which rate hotels on a variety of criteria, including LEED, Energy Star, Green Key Global, and Green Globe International. When booking a hotel room, students should ask them about any environmental certifications and sustainable practices in which they participate. 


Every country has its own unique culture. As a visitor and student, participants have a responsibility to respect the local culture and seek our opportunities to become engaged in their host community.
  • Learn and use the local language, even if it is just basic phrases.

  • Try local foods

  • Dress in a culturally-appropriate way

  • Ask for permission before taking pictures of locals

  • Seek out locations and activities which are recommended by locals - avoid overly-touristy spots

  • Engage in conversation with locals - this is easier when you travel in a small group

  • Abide by local laws and customs

  • Travel with an open mind and listen more than you talk



Supporting the local economy is important, particularly if traveling in area whose income relies heavily on tourist dollars.
  • Hire local guides – they know the lay of the land better than anyone else!

  • Stay in locally-run hotels and hostels.

  • Get to know vendors at nearby markets and independently-owned stores.

  • In many locations, especially in Latin America and Southeast Asia, bargaining culture can be a fun new challenge to practice language and local custom. Try to consider the bigger picture of haggling – understand the balance of respecting the vendor, their economic position compared to yours, and the importance of contributing to the local economy.

  • Depending on where you travel, you may be approached by beggars. You should simply say “no” and continue walking. Although you will probably feel compelled to help, it is actually more responsible and safer for you to donate to a charitable organization or NGO in that particular country rather than opening your wallet in public.


United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The OEAA encourages all students going abroad to think about their experience in relation to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  Looking at the goals, these topics may seem overwhelmingly huge, but the truth is that change starts at the individual level. By considering these objectives and identifying areas in which you can make a difference both at home and abroad, we will help the world make progress towards achieving these important SDGs.