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ABCs of Sustainability – AIFS Study Abroad Blog

ABCs of Sustainability – AIFS Study Abroad Blog


Last Updated on December 15, 2021 by AIFS Abroad

As global warming and climate change continue to have a larger impact on our everyday lives, the topic of sustainability is becoming increasingly more prevalent in our government’s legislation, in our newsfeeds, and in the general public discourse. There is an understanding that in order to combat climate change, society needs to become more sustainable. But what does that actually mean?

When talking about sustainability, scientists, journalists, politicians, and climate enthusiasts use a variety of terms to describe the impact that we have on the environment and potential solutions that may help to mitigate those impacts. As these terms can be really hard to understand if you are not already entrenched in the climate change conversation, we created a list of definitions and resources around the key sustainability terms to help you engage more successfully.

Sustainability Key Terms

Carbon Footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide caused by an individual, event, organization, service, place or product. Calculate your carbon footprint HERE! 

Carbon Neutrality is the balancing of greenhouse gas emissions with an equivalent amount of independently verified carbon offsets to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. To learn more about carbon neutrality on a global scale check out Carbon neutrality by 2050: the world’s most urgent mission.  

Carbon Offsetting is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. AIFS Abroad has partnered with The Gold Standard to offset our carbon emissions! 

Climate Action is activities that are designed to combat climate change and its impacts. Visit the UN Website to learn more about Climate Actions that are taking place around the world! 

Climate Change is the long-term change in global weather patterns and average temperatures. Rising temperatures can lead to extreme weather such as droughts, sea-level rise, and retreating glaciers. Click HERE to learn more about what climate change is, what causes it, and why you should care about it. 

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Learn about Environmental Justice in the US HERE! 

Fair Trade is trade agreements between companies in developed countries and producers in developing countries to achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships in which fair prices are paid to the producers. Visit the World Fair Trade Organization website to learn more about fair trade companies and the importance of fair trade products. 

Global Warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning which increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which, in turn, trap more heat. To get the most recent information about global warming, check out the UN’s IPCC  Report. 

Greenhouse Gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. Check out this video to learn more about Greenhouse Gases! 

The Paris Climate Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was created to address the issue of climate change on a global scale. The treaty’s express goal is to limit global warming to below 2℃ (This is about 3.6℉), ideally 1.5℃ (about 2.7℉) compared to pre-industrial levels. Check out The Paris Agreement. 

Recycling is processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away and turning them into reusable material. In closed-loop recycling, materials from a product are recycled to make the same, or a similar, product without significant degradation or waste. This can be done repeatedly. In open-loop recycling, materials from a product are used to make a different type of product. Learn more about recycling HERE. 

Renewable energy is energy that comes from natural sources that are not depleted when used like wind and solar power. Check out this link to learn more about renewable energy sources! 

Sustainability is a term with no agreed-upon definition. One of the most widely used definitions for sustainability is meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. For more information on sustainability and its components, check out the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals




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