2011 GoAbroad Innovation Awards Finalists: Innovation in Sustainability

GoAbroad Innovation in SustainabilityWe’re pleased to announce the 2011 GoAbroad Innovation Awards finalists in the category of Innovation in Sustainability. We received many wonderful nominations and the selection committee has chosen five finalists, listed here in alphabetical order.


Augsburg College Center for Global Education Sustainability Initiatives

In working towards a just and sustainable world, the Center for Global Education (CGE) strives to follow socially and environmentally responsible practices. The key is a focus on both the earth and the local community; you cannot sustain one without sustaining the other. Here’s how they contribute:

  • Minimize the environmental footprint: Ecological dry toilets are used in the Mexico study center. The Mexico and Central America sites invest in water purification systems. Theye buy sustainable, local, and fair trade items; compost and recycle. Cooks are trained in vegan and vegetarian cooking and use herbs grown in their own garden.
  • A long-term commitment to each of the communities in which they work: An honorarium is paid to speakers and field trip hosts; host families are fairly compensated. The Central America team has subsidized the purchase of water purification systems for communities that host participants. They keep the salary differential in the organization to less than an 8:1 ratio because fair wages contribute to staff longevity and community commitment.
  • Social responsibility at the heart of programming and reflecting community interests and issues. Participants reflect on their impact on the environment and community. Courses explore environmental footprints. In Mexico and Central America, they partner with socially responsible language schools. Also in Central America, they partner with rural communities working on sustainable agriculture. These communities often host CGE travel seminars.
  • Green America Business Network members.


Center for Ecological Living and Learning (CELL)

The Center for Ecological Living and Learning (CELL) offers life-changing sustainability education programs for students who believe that they can make a difference in the world and who want to play an active role in creating long-term solutions to problems facing local and global communities and environment. CELL offers study abroad programs focusing on a theme of sustainability through community in four locations: Central America, East Africa, Iceland and the Middle East. The Middle East Program has a more specific theme of sustainability and peace through community. The purpose of any CELL experience is to ignite a life-long commitment to living sustainably and to giving and receiving support for this commitment through community. During the course of a semester program, students learn about the concepts of sustainability while living in eco-villages and learning from internationally recognized partners who are modeling how a “small group of committed people” can make a big difference in achieving local and global sustainability. At the end of a CELL program, students develop action plans that empower them to return home and employ what they have learned in their own lives by implementing sustainability initiatives in their own communities. This individual and collective action is at the heart of CELL.


International Studies Abroad (ISA) Think Green Initiative

International Studies Abroad’s Think Green Initiative led to ISA recently being named a City of Austin WasteSmart Partner. ISA utilizes plethora of activities to reduce the environmental impact on their community and to work toward a more sustainable business practices. These efforts include a thorough recycling initiative, educational programming, carbon offsetting for student flights, a commitment to offering academic and volunteer opportunities centered on sustainability, office-wide composting, and making a conscious effort to bring ISA to the forefront of a greener study abroad experience. The results of ISA’s initiatives have both visible and intangible results, including office cohesion, awareness and the often audible “Can I recycle this?”. Tangible results are seen with the smaller amount of paper used, lower utility bills(motion sensing light switches, LED bulbs in building exterior signs, energy star appliances, etc.), and the dumpster behind the ISA building getting less full each month. ISA also has Green Team budget that runs solely off the funds earned from recycling, which are then “recycled” as incentives for ISA’s Carpooling Initiative and the ISA garden using ISA’s own composted soil.


Living Routes Sustainability Initiatives

Living Routes‘ mission is to support future leaders to build just and sustainable lifestyles for themselves, their communities and the planet. Sustainability infuses the programs — all based in ecovillages. The founder of Living Routes has chaired NAFSA’s Sustainability Task Force, started a “Sustainability in Study Abroad” listserv in 2007, spearheaded NAFSA’s Sustainability MIG and chaired the Forum on Education Abroads’s Task Forces on Sustainability Standards and Student Ethics. Current initiatives include:

  • Pioneering Virtual Tabling at study abroad fairs in lieu of sending someone in person.
  • Working with host communities to find giveaway items (e.g., tsunamika dolls) that are made from natural materials and support projects modeling environmental and social responsibility.
  • Starting a Sustainability Education blog with a focus on study abroad.
  • Developing a Carbon Commitment Calculator and advocating for “carbon consciousness” within the field.


University of Georgia (UGA) Costa Rica Sustainable Program

Thoughtfully sited within the verdant and biodiverse Monteverde region of Costa Rica, the University of Georgia’s Costa Rica campus is planned, designed, constructed, operated and maintained in pursuit of ecological, social and economic sustainability. Visitors to the campus enjoy opportunities for observation and interaction through formal academic offerings and hands-on learning. Whether researching the myriad flora and fauna endemic to the area, harvesting foods to contribute to daily meals, meeting the local farmers who produce the shade-grown coffee served on campus and abroad, or simply observing the daily work habits of campus staff, UGA Costa Rica broadens understanding of the complex and interwoven natural and cultural systems in which they live. The underlying and tangible commitment to sustainability at UGA Costa Rica is accentuated by its pursuit of third-party verification and transparent self-reporting. The program has repeatedly undergone the process of third-party review and maintains certification with high marks from the rigorous Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program. Completion of the UGA Costa Rica 2010 Sustainability Report further demonstrates a commitment to self-evaluation and continuous improvement toward integrated sustainability. This report provides an example for others in the community and beyond to actively conserve resources and thoughtfully consider the impact of our actions on the environments and communities in which we live.


Congratulations to the finalists! The winner of this category will be announced at the GoAbroad invitation-only reception during the upcoming NAFSA: Association of International Educators Annual Conference and will be posted to the GoAbroad blog. Other category finalists are being announced this week. Next week, we will announce the finalists in the Student Abroad Video contest and voting for best video will commence shortly after all the finalists have been announced.

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