Green Regents Park in London

Responsible Study Abroad

International travel provides rewards beyond measure. However, many of us travel somewhat on autopilot (pun intended) and aren’t aware of how our travel might have negative effects--or even cause harm. This page presents some ideas for how we can all become more responsible travelers. A great place to start is to watch the documentary The Last Tourist.

To be a responsible traveler, we recommend that you consider in your travel planning the 3 C’s: Community, Culture, and Climate. 

Responsible Travel: Community

While tourism can be an important component of a community's financial success, responsible travelers should be aware of the negative effects tourists can have on local communities. Sometimes these impacts can be hidden and other times they are the result of thoughtlessness. It's easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of traveling and forget to think about potential consequences. SUU encourages students to travel abroad but to do so in a way that thoughtfully supports and respects the communities that are visited. 

What Risks Are There? How Can I Respect and Protect Communities as I Travel? 

“Be sure you are volunteering with an organization that prioritizes children, with an active Child Protection Policy and code of conduct for all staff and volunteers. Avoid working with children directly. Avoid taking selfies or photographs of them. Always respect their rights and privacy. Learn about the risks children face in your selected country, know how to recognize abuse, and find out how to report dangerous situations.”, “Volunteers,” Tip 4

Responsible Travel: Culture

It's important for travelers to educate themselves about the culture and history of the countries they will be visiting. Students traveling abroad should take the chance to immerse themselves in cultural norms that may be new and seem bizarre or uncomfortable. True growth and open-mindedness develop when students are willing to embrace the uncomfortable and accept ideas outside of what they would consider "typical". 

Respecting Cultures Abroad

  • Respect Religious Practices
  • Respect Expressions of Gender Identity 
  • Respect Authority 
  • Be a “Conscious Travel”
    • Learn a bit about the history of the region you are visiting
    • Speak the language as much as possible
    • Be respectful of others
    • Make friends on campus
    • Be respectful of others when taking pictures 
    • Ask first before doing something (hugs, handshakes, taking pictures, etc.)
    • Look for commonalities
    • Express gratitude and appreciation whenever a service is performed or a gift is given

Learn About Your Destination 

Responsible Travel: Climate

The value of study abroad can’t be denied, but neither can the harm international travel does to the environment. The Office of Learning Abroad acknowledges this problem and is adopting measures to do its part to help. We encourage you to consider the impact your travel has on the environment and, in whatever way you can, to do something to offset the carbon emissions resulting from your travel.

Carbon Offset

Consider this: One tree can offset nearly 0.2 metric tons of CO 2 over its lifetime (that’s roughly 1 ton of CO 2 per 6 trees).* It takes 15 trees, for example, to offset the CO 2 carbon emissions for one traveler on a round-trip flight from Las Vegas to London.**

A supporter of SUU’s study abroad programs has pledged to the Office of Learning Abroad that they will donate to have one tree planted for every SUU student, faculty, and staff member who travels internationally on an SUU-sponsored study abroad program in 2021-2022, provided that the Office of Learning Abroad encourages all SUU travelers to take measures to offset their own carbon emissions in some way.

An organization called One Tree Planted, which works to halt deforestation and restore forests all over the world, plants a tree for every dollar donated. Other organizations planting trees in an effort to restore forests and help offset carbon emissions include Carbon Footprint, CO2 Living, and Eden Reforestation Projects. We encourage you to consider the impact your travel has on the environment and, in whatever way you can, to do something to offset the carbon emissions resulting from your travel.

Planeterra Impact Report 2021: 2021 Impact Report by Planeterra - Issuu

CO2Living calculates that the average tree will sequester, or absorb, 48 lbs of CO 2 per year, so that in 10 years it will have absorbed 480 lbs (roughly ⅕ of a metric ton).

** Carbon Footprint calculates that one round-trip economy passenger flying from Las Vegas (LAS) to London (LHR) is accountable for producing 2.48 metric tons of CO2 when accounting for radiative forcing (carbon emission at high altitude).


Be a Green and Sustainable Traveler

  • Commit to climate-friendly travel practices
  • Calculate your planned travel carbon footprint, then plan how to reduce it
  • Offset your carbon footprint
  • Turn off lights
  • Take short showers
  • Avoid single-use plastics 
  • Don't litter 
  • Don't disturb local wildlife 
  • Take only pictures 
  • Use public transportation when possible 

Climate Action Websites

Find Sustainable Programming

When traveling, conserve the resources of your destination and be respectful of the culture and environment. Learn more from Transitions Abroad and Sustainable Travel websites. 

Learn how to find programs that promote sustainability. Are they environmentally conscious? Do they contribute to the local community?

Green Passport Pledge

The Green Passport Pledge: As a Green Passport member, you acknowledge the interconnectedness of the world's people and the environment. You pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of studying, living, working, traveling, or volunteering abroad and will try to improve these aspects of your international experience. While overseas, and when you return home, you will do your best to: minimize your impact on the environment; act in culturally respectful ways; engage with locals and participate in the local community; give back to your host community(ies).

Take the Green Passport Pledge