ErAsmus SustainablE Mobility

Call “Seed Programe”, ECIU University. 
1/6/2022  –  1/6/2023

The Erasmus program is one of the most successful European initiatives granting students with valuable learning and life experiences. However, these students will have significantly larger carbon footprints during their stay abroad than when studying back at home. This is mainly due to the prevalence of air travel to access their new destinations and their intensive leisure/tourism trip during their stays. Together with that, most students receive at least one visit from their relatives during their stay. On the other hand, while their long-distance travel and tourism-related might be highly carbon-intensive, their everyday mobility during their stay might be highly sustainable, with limited access to private modes of transport and increased use of public transport, or active modes. To date, not much is known on the overall carbon balance of Erasmus students, either during their Erasmus stay or the years right after it.

 

Among the factors that contribute to Erasmus increasing their carbon footprint, we can find:  the amount of long-distance travel that moving Erasmus participants every year to their new destinations is a significant source of emissions on a European level, as most of these trips are taken in the least sustainable of transportation modes, namely aviation. The amount of total long-distance travel is often multiplied by an intense period of tourism and regional travel around their host city, which often takes Erasmus students to travel and visit nearby places to their destination in further long and mid-distance travel. The amount of long-distance travel is even increased by frequent visits to the new destination by both family and friends of the student and finally the visit of friends after the end of the Erasmus period. All these factors put pressure on the sustainability measures being currently implemented in Europe as it structurally increases the demand for the least sustainable forms of transport and creates long-distance relationships that generate further traveled kilometres.

On the other hand, there are also a few factors that might be contributing to Erasmus decreasing their carbon footprint when compared with a similar non-Erasmus population. For once, Erasmus usually have limited access to private modes of transport during their stay. It is highly infrequent that an Erasmus student planning for 6 months to a year stay chooses to own a car or makes intensive use of the taxi system. Rather, Erasmus are usually regular users of public transportation options, active modes of transport such as walking and cycling, or even micro-mobility vehicles such as e-scooters or shared bike systems. Because of that, Erasmus students might have an everyday transportation-related carbon footprint that is lower than other local students or their own travel behavior in their native countries. Finally, the fact that Erasmus students are more likely to be female (Böttcher et al., 2016), makes it possible that traditional gender gap found in transportation with women opting for more frequent shorter trips done in more sustainable modes of transport might also apply among Erasmus students. This fact adds a gender component to the analysis that will prove highly interesting when comparing attitudes towards emissions and transport options.

 

While some recent research initiatives have tried to assess the carbon footprint of long-distance travel derived from Erasmus students, to date there are no studies assessing how the balance between unsustainable long-travel patterns of Erasmus are offset by more sustainable daily travel options.

The current project has three goals:
– Estimate and visualize Erasmus student’s carbon footprint considering both daily and leisure travel
– Understand the balance and interaction between transport domains: sustainable short-distance everyday travel and leisure-related, long distance occasional travel.
– Test specifical information interventions at the beginning of the Erasmus stay as effective tools to lower the carbon footprint of participants.