Centre’s Air Travel Mitigation Fund was adopted in November 2009 by the International Program Committee. In its essence, the program allows students and faculty to purchase carbon offsets, contributing money toward carbon-reducing initiatives that counterbalance emissions that cannot be reduced or avoided (such as those generated via plane rides to study-abroad locations). Students studying abroad—as 85 percent of them do—contribute to the fund.
For many years, transforming students into global citizens has been a primary focus at Centre. International studies have been a focus in classrooms, convocations and, of course, overseas study opportunities. “Educating students to be citizens of the world, men and women who are globally engaged and prepared to respond to opportunities from all parts of the world,” is part of the College’s Strategic Plan.
Yet it has also become increasingly clear that the economic and social disruptions resulting from climate change may be one of the greatest global challenges. And by making it possible for every Centre student to study abroad—at countries both near the U.S. and far away—the College has increased greenhouse emissions via increased air travel.
“At Centre, we value international study and we value minimizing environmental impact,” says chemistry professor Dr. Preston Miles, chair of the President’s Climate Commitment Advisory Committee. “And those values are absolutely in conflict. But if they can’t be resolved in a college environment, where can they be resolved?”
The funds collected in 2011 were used to purchase 40 light sensors that could turn off lights in residence hall housekeeping closets when unoccupied. The conservatively estimated annual savings from this project were $609 and 95 tons of carbon dioxide.
As the Fund grows, more sustainable initiatives will be proposed and voted on by students, staff, and faculty, keeping Centre’s study abroad program environmentally sustainable.