The 2021 to 2027 Erasmus+ programme places strong focus on social inclusion, promoting young people’s participation in democratic life and green and digital transitions. The new edition of the programme aims to be a key instrument for building knowledge, skills, and attitudes on climate change as well as sustainable development in the European Union and beyond.
The above aligns with the European Green Deal goals, aiming to make the European Union carbon neutral by 2050. The green strand in Erasmus+ reflects the importance of education and skills in facilitating and enabling the transition over to a greener environment. At the same time, the programme itself strives for carbon-neutrality by promoting sustainable means of transport and environmentally responsible behaviour.
Of course, that’s not enough. It’s time to think about the environmental impact of the Erasmus+
programme, particularly the area relating to higher education. Young people who’ve protested about harnessing a greener environment will soon be higher education students. Many of them will take part in an Erasmus+ exchange, within the new programme. Therefore, priority has to be given to projects that foster behavioural change through individual preferences, cultural values and awareness for sustainable consumption habits and lifestyles. It is important to make sure that the programme is as environmentally friendly as possible.
When travelling, perhaps there could be tick-list relating to the environment, such as finding out about new ways to respect the planet, witnessing the ocean and the beaches full of plastic, or paying more attention to those people working in less than satisfactory conditions. While travellers can't control the amount of carbon emissions from planes, the chemical products used in hotels or the plastic used in souvenirs that are sold at holiday destinations, they can choose different means of transport, hotels and accommodation. Even choosing to shop “green” with less damage to the environment and therefore has advantages for the local populations is a better choice.
Going green is a horizontal priority for the selection of Erasmus+ projects. Priority will be given to those aimed at developing competences in fields that help with strategizing for a green transition and focus on the contribution of education and culture for more sustainable development.
Organisations and participants will be encouraged to incorporate green practices in all projects through an environmental-friendly approach when designing each activity. This will encourage them to discuss and learn about environmental issues, reflect on local actions and to come up with alternative, greener ways of implementing their activities.
The aim going forwards is to improve the environmental sustainability of the Erasmus+ programme by raising awareness across the European Higher Education sector and empowering student organisations to be the agents of change. Therefore the keys to this complex challenge of aligning internationalisation with sustainability are:
An analysis of the potential environmental impacts of individual Erasmus+ mobilities.
An educational framework for sustainable internationalisation.
Toolkits and activities for sustainable practices.