IP 2020: Between Changing Europe and Collecting Miles

This article is part of the IP 2020 series, in which we publish abridged, general-public versions of the academic papers presented in the Euroculture Intensive Programme. This year’s topic was Sustainability.

Lea Marie Quilitz graduated from Euroculture in 2021 after spending semesters in Strasbourg, Uppsala and Göttingen. Since the IP 2020 sparked her interest in the topic of sustainability, she not only wrote her master’s thesis in this area, but also intends to dedicate her professional life to sustainable development.

By Lea Marie Quilitz

Between changing Europe and collecting miles: Students’ CO2 emissions resulting from air travel as an indicator for the environmental sustainability of the Euroculture program

Climate change is one of the world’s major concerns in the twenty-first century. Sustainability, or more precisely, environmental sustainability (ES), as a concept is widely considered as the solution to fight the dramatic effects of global warming that result from emission of greenhouse gases (GHG). The most prominent of these gases is probably carbon dioxide (CO2) which results inter alia from the use of internal combustion engines. Consequently, large amounts of CO2 can be associated with air travel which represents one of the means of transport most frequently used by students who participate in international mobility. The Master’s degree Euroculture is a program that offers an international study experience by allowing students to be enrolled in at least two European universities and to get into contact with students and staff from all over the world. However, the grand mobility of the program results in frequent relocation of students who often travel by plane to reach their next destination. As aviation is mostly considered an unsustainable way of traveling, the present study evaluates the ES of the Euroculture program measured by the calculated CO2 emissions caused by students’ study related air travel. Having said this, this study and its findings do not claim to be representative but present a case study to provide impulses for further examination on the subject. To give further insights on students’ travel habits and their opinions on the climate change debate, a survey additionally asked about the level of awareness and self-reflection regarding their mobile lifestyle.

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