The Annual EAIE Conference & Exhibition may be the largest of its kind in Europe, but that also means that it makes a huge impact on the environment. The sheer amount of international higher education professionals flying to a different European country each year to take part in the EAIE Conference emits an extraordinary amount of CO2 into our atmosphere. The EAIE recognises the significant implications of this and is proud to take the first steps toward offsetting our carbon footprint.
Addressing the EAIE’s environmental impact
The EAIE has been increasing its sustainability efforts for a number of years. We started using fair trade conference bags from a company called Townshipsupports women entrepreneurship in township communities in Cape Town, South Africa. We’ve also been taking measures for sustainable consumption and waste reduction. Now we’re addressing our significant CO2 emission as a result of 6000 people flying in to the Annual EAIE Conference & Exhibition from all over Europe and the world – approximately 4500 tonnes of CO2 each year.
The EAIE Education Forest
One of the best ways to offset the effects of flying is to replant trees, and this year we’re partnering with a non-profit organisation in the Netherlands called Trees for All to do just that. Critical to our existence, forests absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and produce the oxygen we breathe, among other things. This year, we’ve contributed €10 of each participant’s 2017 conference registration fee to plant trees through two of their programmes.
Through the Bolivia Smart Forest project in the outskirts of the Andes, we’re planting 13,500 trees which will offset 4500 tonnes of CO2. Not only will the project focus on reforestation, it will help to improve the socioeconomic circumstances of the farmers and community in the region. As part of the 1-2-Tree programme, 1125 trees will be planted in the Netherlands as an EAIE forest, and yet another 1125 trees in the Philippines on the island of Mindanao.
The EAIE is thrilled to be able to contribute to something that will continue to grow and last. We look forward to being able to add to these forests each year. Representatives from the EAIE are joining a local tree planting ceremony on 1 December and taking part in planting the first trees of the EAIE Education Forest.
We’re happy to say that as a result of our efforts, this year’s Annual EAIE Conference & Exhibition in Seville was effectively climate neutral. That doesn’t mean though that there still isn’t much to be done. The 2016–2018 EAIE Strategy is focused on driving responsible international higher education, one that is not only accessible and equitable, but also socially responsible. This also means that we have a responsibility to take a leading role when it comes to offsetting the carbon footprint of our field.
EAIE Board member, Arnold Persoon, the driving force behind the EAIE Education Forest initiative acknowledges the field’s responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint and encourages international higher education professionals to do their part. “The carbon footprint of professionals working in international higher education is very significant due to the international travel required for our work. The EAIE calls on all higher education institutions to follow our example and create a policy to compensate the CO2 emissions of their international travel, either by joining the EAIE forest project, or starting their own compensation initiative.”
How does your flying behaviour contribute to climate change? If you can’t fly less, what can you and your institution do to offset your air travel and that of the thousands of students who travel to study abroad each year? To quote an old Chinese proverb (and Trees for All), “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
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