How can expats reduce their carbon footprint?

  • Per Grunditz /
Published 2019-10-03 08:01

The United Nations Climate Summit took place this September in New-York and the summit itself was largely overshadowed by the presence of young climate activist, Greta Thunberg. The young Swedish woman advocates for more efforts to reduce climate change. She even refused to take the plane to the United States in an attempt to encourage people to cut down their flying and therefore, help reduce carbon emissions. What can expats do to follow in the steps of young Greta Thunberg?

Who is Greta Thunberg?

Greta Thunberg is a young girl who at the age of 15 decided to boycott school and start advocating for the environment. Her movement is so strong and shocking that she is mobilizing young people around the world to follow her example, giving importance to life and the climate over the industrial and business. Greta is known for her direct speeches and rebuking world leaders four times her age. She shows her modesty and asks for responsibility in every action. 

The appeal of Greta Thunberg to minimize or completely eliminate actions that cause carbon emissions is certainly a difficult. But one of the ways to do that is to understand the impact of travelling. Statistics show that air travel has a great cost on the environment and ecologists suggest limiting it. And this is why Greta decided to travel by boat to New York where she attended the UN Climate Summit.

What can you do as an expat?

Living ecologically for expats can seem even more difficult, as opportunities to create waste creep at every corner, and transportation companies are not helping. For expats who are keen to cut down on their carbon footprint, it is good to understand what kind of transport can allow that. How can expats keep travelling while being mindful of the environment? Trains are the best options, but can be more expensive. Busses are a good alternative and even though not completely environmentally friendly, they are used by a large number of people at once and therefore, reduce carbon emissions.

Of course, moving abroad in a train or a bus is not the most comfortable option- and it also depends where in the world you are moving to. It might be doable if you are moving in the same continent, but if you have to travel with your belongings across the globe… tricky. For those who are committed, and who have time to spare- there is the boat option- it is not entirely carbon emission free although it is better than flying and you can find a few eco-friendly boats around too. If you are not ready, or do not have the time to travel by boat- then you can do your research on eco-friendly airlines.

Living an eco-friendly lifestyle means also being ready to share. There are companies for example, that allow sharing a ride, and by that cutting the emission that one car per person would mean. Most of the large cities offer electric vehicles, bikes, or electric scooters that reduce the unnecessary usage of vehicles and limit carbon emission and noise pollution. Responsibility when travelling means also limiting the usage of plastic bags and bottles, and instead using reusable options made from natural materials like ecological bamboo. It also means organizing travel with companies that care about the environment.

An expat who has decided to dedicate to building a better tomorrow can consider these steps when moving. Keeping in mind that living in a new place means adapting to the local culture can also be a wake up call from all the moving fuss and often unnecessary truck hiring for bringing the objects from the other side of the world. Afterall, do you really need your car shipped from your home country? But this also means going for local food and drinks instead of seeking imported goods.

But the first contribution of the expat towards a greener planet is often the choice of their expat destination. Iceland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Sweden, and Norway are some of the greenest countries on the planet, so if you are looking to move abroad and would like to do so without being a burden on the ecology, you should totally look for an expat destination that has the environment at heart. These countries, are not only pleasant for a visit or for an Instagram picture, but are locations that with their policies advocating for clean life, air, food, and environment.

1 Comment
2 weeks ago

Guys, thanks for the nice article on reducing ones ecologic footprint - however, for most of the humanitarian expats this is just not feasible. I am stationed in Cairo. Trains are only available to Alexandria. Within the city, public transport is almost non-existing; I am happy that my employer provides minibuses which lets at least 15 persons share the CO2 emission of the vehicle. Most problematic, however, is travelling on official mission. Too bad, that the cheapest (or, how it is often called by mistake: the most economical) options (which for budget reasons most humanitarian workers are supposed to chose) are often the least environment-friendly.... During my last home visit, my employer was already about to by me a ticket with two stopovers flying me half around the globe... just because it was a couple of USD cheaper than the direct 4-hour-flight. Convincing big players such as the EU or the UN to prefer ecologically reasonable travel options over the 'cheapest' ones would be a game changer....