Written by: 
Guillaume Minot Friday, 12 April, 2019 - 00:03

The Environmental Drive of the Erasmus Generation

For our generation, climate change is one of the most pressing concerns we’re facing. The good news is, we can take action fighting it. Even when on an exchange!

Last September, Higher Education students of prestigious universities in France signed a petition claiming they refuse to work for companies deemed to be polluting our planet or not committed enough to mitigate their environmental impact.And how could you miss Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN Climate Change COP 24 summit, which sparked high schoolers to strike and protest against climate change globally.

All over the world, young people are mobilising themselves and coming together to offer solutions regarding the environmental challenges of today. How do we, Erasmus students of a generation who is more than willing to tackle the issue of climate change, fit into this big picture?

It would appear contradictory to say that Erasmus students, who usually travel a lot, can have a positive impact on the environment. Travelling and changing home usually means changing your habits completely. Yet, it also gives a good opportunity to adopt new habits. So why wouldn’t developing an environmental consciousness be one of them?

In ESN, we believe you can take advantage of the particularities of the Erasmus experience to both enjoy yourself and become an environmentally active citizen. And this is how you can achieve it.

First, discuss…

Even though talking about the environment is not enough to protect it, there’s never enough talking done about the environment, after all.

Being an Erasmus student means being part of one of the largest, most diverse communities, wherever you’ll land. On an exchange, we have the privilege to meet people from all around the world, and the very real chance to discuss and learn from each other. Amidst that melting pot of cultures, ideas and opinions travel too.

Just by a force of circumstances, when on Erasmus, you’ll get the chance to meet numerous people who are committed to the environment, one way or another, and talk with them. Even better, for some people, the very reason for their exchange is to increase their sustainability skills. As we move forward, environmental awareness and sustainable design are becoming ever more prominent skills companies wish to possess, and the number of students who make sustainability a part of, or the whole reason of their cursus grows larger. Maybe you’re one of these students, or maybe you’ll be working alongside one of them - either way, your own skills will grow as a result!

Of course, on a personal level, you may still think that being environmentally conscious is a luxury when there’s so little time and so much to do, but as it is usually the case, choosing the environmentally friendly option not only benefits the planet, it also benefits you directly.

When arriving in a new place, you probably ask yourself: “What’s the best way to travel in this new city?”. And maybe one of your friends can tell you about this place that rents bikes to exchange students for the duration of their stay? Or your ESN buddy could help you get a good deal for the very nice, reliable local public transportation (granted, this scenario doesn’t apply to every city!). Maybe you’re wondering what to put in your new home - wouldn't you then wish to know about this local shop that sells refurbished furniture for a very cheap price?

All of the actions above and many more are little steps towards making our society a more sustainable one, and at the same time making your exchange experience a better one.

…Then, act!

There’s no little steps when it comes to helping the environment!

If a sustainable lifestyle can be a good thing for you, why not return the favour and see if you can do some good for sustainability! After all, an exchange isn’t lacking of opportunities to spread environmental love wherever you happen to be.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the famous “plogging”, this very popular Scandinavian activity that mixes jogging and litter picking as you run along. Why not try it? Or maybe spending that exchange in the Netherlands made you grow an extra pair of wheels where your legs used to be? Or have you seen this curious Re-use exposition in France, which displays artistically arranged waste to sensibilise recycling and the end-of-life of everyday objects?

Being on an exchange is mainly about trying new things, and whether you are a hardcore environmentalist or still finding your way there, there are plenty of environmentally conscious activities for you to try! And who knows, you might have fun doing it.

Finally, in accordance with what is always one of the best parts of the exchange, environmentalism can be a way for you to connect with people as well. As we said, our generation doesn't lack people who are committed to the environment, and there’s more than one way to enjoy their company and possibly enlarge your circle of friends during your stay abroad!

If we act together, our generation can achieve a well needed leap towards a greener world. There is still time to make things right, and we, the exchange students of the new generation, of the Erasmus generation, can all do our bit towards it. What will your contribution be?

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