Action name: Travel Sustainably During Your Semester Abroad
One of the primary reasons for studying abroad in Barcelona is the convenience of being able to travel quickly and inexpensively to nearly all of Europe. This action will provide a link on the IES sustainability webpage with information on how to reduce your environmental impact while traveling. It will include information on what the most sustainable methods of traveling are and what European cities have the cleanest methods of mass transit. Since traveling also encompasses the ways in which people get around Barcelona, the link should list reminders on different services of mass transit Barcelona provides (ie. Aerobus, metro, night bus...all in place of taking taxis). I think this action could also have a place in the sustainability club because the club field trips could utilize the information provided here.
This action is a self-sustaining one because it is based on educating students and trying to change their attitudes toward travel. It is important for more conscious students to realize that you don't have to be limited by a desire to travel in an eco-friendly way and for less conscious students to be made aware of their huge impact every time they take a plane or a cab instead of a train or a bus. If more people become aware of this fact and start utilizing travel options that help to reduce or balance out emissions, companies who promote eco-friendly travel will hopefully notice and expand their influence. This is a reinforcing loop because as long as students are using the information, it will be obvious to airlines and groups like "terrapass" that their opportunities are actually being taken advantage of. The information of the sustainability club webpage is subject to change by any future students who has something to suggest regarding traveling sustainably. I envision the sustainability club facebook page or wiki page as a forum for students to discuss positive experiences they've had with mass transit in other European cities; this will hopefully, provide encouragement to other students to use those same systems. These pages will be subject to anyone in the group, giving them the same sort of advantages as open-source software because they can be constantly improved.
Unfortunately, there is no way for any student in this semester to make sure that students take the information into account while traveling and it is difficult to provide an incentive for an action like paying a carbon offset, when simply staying in Barcelona is technically the least impacting thing you can do on weekends. Hopefully, the field trips through the sustainability club and through IES can implement practices for green traveling when possible (ie. taking the metro around a city as opposed to a charter bus) so every student is at least being made aware of their impact and how they can lessen it.
Fortunately, this action does not require any direct costs on behalf of IES since it is just a source for information, and hopefully in the future will evolve into an on-line forum for exchanging ideas and experiences on the subject. However, if IES or the sustainability club wanted to plan a trip somewhere using only the most sustainable means of travel, it may require added costs for taking a train instead of a plane, paying the carbon offset for every student, purchasing metro tickets in the destination city instead of using a charter bus, and even possibly for bike rentals in place of a bus for a local trip.
There were not very many steps to carrying out this action. I spoke with the administration who thought providing a link to inform students on more sustainable methods of travel was a great idea. Then I researched and compiled what I thought to be the most important information and it was copied onto the sustainability club webpage. While the methodology for this action was relatively simple, it´s difficult to say how it will be implemented because there is no sort of incentive or prize (in the form of ecoeuros)that students will receive for traveling sustainably. I foresee the implementation as the page being viewed by members of the club and edited by those that have additional information or suggestions to add.
Below is the text that will be inserted into the sustainability website for students to have access to:
Being abroad provides the opportunity to travel on weekends both around and outside of Barcelona. Here is some information to take into account when planning trips and when deciding which method of transportation to use around Barcelona to reduce your environmental footprint.
Air travel is now the fastest growing contributor to global warming. By looking for alternatives to flying, you could tremendously cut CO2 emissions while traveling from place to place. For example, flying from Barcelona to London and back emits 277 KG of CO2 per per passenger while taking overnight trains for the same trip emits only 40 KG CO2: that's an 85% reduction per passenger! Since trains are generally longer trips and can be more expensive, they're not always the most convenient or economical option. In this case, there is a more environmentally conscious way to fly. When booking a flight, airlines will often prompt you to pay a small "carbon offset" fee. This makes flying effectively carbon neutral because you are paying for the pollution you produce. This money goes toward projects working to reduce the amount of anthropogenic toxins in the environment. Use this simple carbon footprint calculator provided by terrapass to see your emissions for every trip and try to take that into account when deciding where and how to travel. www.terrapass.com/carbon-footprint-calculator/#air
Once you sustainably arrive at your destination, try to use the local public transportation systems as much as you can as well. A survey was conducted to see which cities in Europe have the best mass transit systems and Munich was rated number one. Other cities which rated well were Helsinki, Vienna, Prague, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Leipzig, Cologne, Rome and Bern. If you have the desire to visit any of these places, take advantage of their highly acclaimed mass transit systems instead of taking taxis and other less efficient means of transportation.
Although we all leave our cars behind when we come abroad, thereby cutting our emissions significantly from what they may be back home, there are still some more energy efficient ways of getting around Barcelona that you should be made aware of. The two methods of transport within the city that have the smallest impact on the environment, and your wallet, are walking and biking. Take advantage of these options whenever you can. Especially if you don't live in such a pedestrian friendly city back home, it will give you a chance to explore while getting from place to place. In a city with so many taxi cabs, the temptation to ride them can be hard to resist. However, Barcelona provides several equally convenient systems of mass transit. For example, metro, metro bus, and night bus. Buying the student priced ticket which gives you access to all of these services is much more economical and environmentally friendly than riding taxis every night when you're out around the city. Here is the link to maps and schedules for Barcelona's mass transit so you can see which routes are the most convenient to your location.
Remember that instead of taking cabs to and from the airport, utilize the very convenient Barcelona "Aerobus" which stops at Catalunya, Universitat, Urgell and Plaza Espanya on it's way to the airport every 5 minutes. It is very cheap and much more energy efficient than taking a cab for just 2 or 3 people.
References & Links:
1. Tourist Guide Barcelona http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/maps/barcelona-metro-map-printable.html visited December 2, 2010
2. About Barcelona http://www.aboutbarcelona.com/barcelona/images/map-barcelona-bus-big.gif visited December 2, 2010
3. Life in Catalonia Blog http://www.lifeincatalonia.com/catalonia/night-buses-nit-bus-barcelona/ Copyright 2008
4. Mahan, Gretchen. Survey: Munich has Europe's best public transportation; Paris, London lag. USA Today February 3, 2010. http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2010-03-02-best-public-transportation-europe_N.htm visited December 3, 2010
Students involved in this action:
Julia Casciotti: (action leader)- Researched and wrote the information that will be available on the webpage and got the proposal approved by an ies administrator
Marissa Gonzalez: Helped draft the information for the website and edited/organized action page.
Katie Dasburg: Added information regarding sustainable travel to the Sustainability Club webpage so it is available for students.
Assignment: Peer review form
Grades for this action report (From the PROFESSOR)