2021 Survey of Sustainability in Education Abroad RESULTS

Bound International and Earth Deeds are pleased to announce the results of the 2021 Survey of Sustainability in Education Abroad. Read the Executive Summary below and/or access the full report here.

Our thanks to all institutions and organizations that filled out the survey and provided critical data to, hopefully, launch a new era in sustainable education abroad.

A “code red for humanity” was recently issued by the U.N. Secretary General along with the warning that Global Warming is dangerously close to spiraling out of control. Every sector of society must respond and adapt to this existential crisis, and this includes academia and education abroad.

While colleges and universities are increasingly embracing sustainable practices and policies, study abroad offices and programs are too often left out of institutional strategies and reporting. This is ironic as the very internationality of education abroad offers ideal opportunities to better understand and respond to these global crises.

So, how is the field of education abroad doing with respect to sustainability? Well, it’s been hard to know since, as Peter Drucker famously said, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” To address this shortcoming, Bound International has recently complete the very first Survey of Sustainability in Education Abroad in order to set a baseline for the field and assess our strengths and weaknesses as well as our threats and opportunities moving forward.

The survey was made available from September 1st to October 25, 2021 and received 77 responses (61 complete). While not a fully representative sample of the approximately 25,000 colleges and universities around the world, it does offer an initial glimpse into current practices and potential next steps.

First, the good news. Over half of respondents actively recycle in their home offices, which isn’t so surprising as it a growing trend among academic institutions. In addition, most offices have started to implement virtual meetings and programs, where appropriate, which vastly reduces travel-related emissions. In general, private institutions incorporate more sustainable practices into their study abroad programs than public entities, likely due to their greater freedom in allocating resources.

And now the bad news… While institutions are more active in implementing such practices internally (i.e. in their home offices) than externally (e.g. in the field), even these efforts are all too rare. Internally, less than a quarter embed sustainability into their policies, mission, goals or objectives. Only about one-third utilize energy efficient utilities and most are not tracking emissions from flights. And less than one-third account for these emissions in any way.

Externally, only about a quarter of respondents include sustainability as a topic of study on any of their programs. Only one-third support environmental efforts in local communities abroad. And even fewer (6%) incentivize students to be eco-friendly in their travel and daily activities while abroad.

Why has it been so difficult to implement sustainability into education abroad? Almost half of respondents point to funding and staff time as primary barriers and, of course, the pandemic didn’t help with either of these.

Stepping back, however, the underlying issue seems to be one of values and priorities. Sustainable practices and policies have generally been seen as “nice to have”, but not “must have” components of our programs and procedures. Of course, as the world wakes up to the impacts of our resource intensive lifestyles, including international travel, it will become increasingly clear that we must all do everything we can to preserve a livable planet.

Fortunately, the “tree” of sustainability is bountiful with many low-hanging fruits that don’t require a lot of staffing or funding. For example, tracking emissions from student and staff travel is relatively easy and builds our understanding and motivation to implement further changes. It is also not difficult to add resources to orientations and programs to support students learning to become more eco-friendly on their programs and in their lives. And while the pandemic has set many institutions and programs back on their heels, it also presents the opportunity to “build back better” and look afresh at our efforts and even the bigger “why” behind them.

If we choose to be proactive rather than reactive in response to these growing challenges, we can help train leaders who are truly effective global citizens. If we recognize and address education abroad’s complicity in warming our planet, we can work to mitigate our impacts and, hopefully, even become a leverage point in humanity’s fight against climate catastrophe.

2021 Survey of Sustainability in Education Abroad

2021 Survey of Sustainability in Education Abroad

Bound International, in partnership with Earth Deeds, is excited to present the first-ever Survey of Sustainability in Education Abroad! This survey is designed to provide vital insights into how the field of education abroad is evolving and how it can address climate change and other environmental and social crises.

The 22 questions within the survey pertain to Office Management, Program Design and Operations, Student Learning and Barriers. We suggest that survey respondents be coordinators or administrators who have knowledge about all of these aspects. The survey should only take 15-20 minutes to complete.

Aggregate results will be made public by the end of the calendar year. The deadline to complete the survey is midnight EST on October 5th. Please share this post with colleagues and/or click on the link below to get started.


Please take a few minutes to advance our understanding and evolution in the field of education abroad! Thank you!

New Earth-Bound Partnership!

We’re excited to announce a new partnership between Earth Deeds and Bound International, a small startup navigating the intersection of international educational mobility, environmental sustainability, and technological innovation.

Together, this Earth-Bound partnership will advocate for sustainability within the field of international education. In particular, we will provide services for colleges and universities to onset their unavoidable carbon emissions through a custom pricing mechanism that offers pedagogical value to students and valuable support to local solutions to global warming.

Empowering Women is a Key Solution to Global Warming

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out Project Drawdown, which purports to “map, measure, model, and describe the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming.”  I am waiting to review the book, but the website is quite comprehensive and will become even more so on May 1 when technical summaries for each solution are made available.

Led by Paul Hawken, Project Drawdown is the culmination of a multi-year effort by scholars and scientists across the globe to evaluate which global warming solutions are currently available and economically viable, have a large potential to reduce GHGs with minimal negative impacts, and can be scaled globally.

Surprisingly (because we don’t hear much about it), the largest proposed intervention is to phase out HFCs as refrigerant coolants.  While HFCs do not harm the ozone layer (as opposed to the CFCs they replaced), they have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere.  Replacing HFCs with propane or ammonium is estimated to reduce a whopping 89.74 Gigatons of CO2 by 2050.  Other top-five solutions include Onshore Wind Turbines (84.6 GT), Reduced Food Waste (70.53 GT), Plant-Rich Diets (66.11 GT), and Tropical Forest Restoration (61.23 GT).

What really excites me, however, are solutions #6 and #7: Educating Girls and Family Planning, which have combined potential emissions reductions of 129.2 GT of CO2 by 2050.  It is clear that educated women with access to family planning are more empowered and have fewer and healthier children.  Globally, this could result in humanity’s population peaking with one billion fewer people, which would have massive implications for our climate.

What’s even cooler about these solutions is that they are thinking systemically and outside the box of carbon offsets.  Of course it is vital that we reduce CO2 emissions as quickly and as fully as humanly possible.  No one argues with that (at least no one that believes in science). What I’m saying is that reducing CO2 is a necessary, but not sufficient response to global warming.

We also need to do so much more! We need to create local and resilient food systems.We need to preserve biodiversity and wildness. We need to fight for climate justice and for those unfairly burdened by the consequences of global warming. And we need to deconstruct and replace the economic and political systems, and even the mindsets and worldviews that got us into this situation in the first place.

Even if humans completely stopped emitting CO2 today there is still enough already in our atmosphere to cause massive sea level rise, increased disease rates and extreme weather events, declining agriculture, and much more. In addition to reducing emissions, it is equally vital that we focus on resilience in the race of certain changes and educating girl and women and providing access to family planning are some of the best ways to do that.

These solutions also demonstrate the limitations of carbon offsetting.  Nobody will ever be able to sell credits on the Voluntary Carbon Market for CO2 reductions associated with educating women and family planning.  The impacts are not discrete and impossible to measure except, perhaps, on the global population level and, even there, I suspect Hawken et al. are using  a lot of unproven assumptions.

In addition to challenges with efficiency, leakage, and additionally, offsetting constrains us to supporting only projects that are measurably mitigating emissions.  This is why Earth Deeds has developed an alternative method called “onsetting”, which drops the concept of carbon neutrality, prices carbon based on the Social Cost of Carbon, and allows funding (or time!) to go to local projects that are building resiliency — such as educating women!

Project Drawdown lays out a road map for how humanity can dramatically reduce global GHG emissions by 2050.  It also encourages us to think beyond emissions and to consider what got into this mess and what systemic solutions will build resiliency and healthy communities in a climate changed world.


Trump’s Executive Order and the Social Cost of Carbon


The pen was certainly mightier than the sword on March 28 when Trump signed an Executive Order to cut the heart out of Obama’s climate legacy.  In addition to eviscerating emissions rules for power plants and lifting limits on methane leaks and federal coal leasing, it also hopes to unravel the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC), which University of Chicago economics professor, Michael Greenstone calls “the most important number you’ve never heard of.”

The SCC is a scientific estimate of the anticipated costs of a wide variety of climate change impacts such as coastal erosion, declining agriculture, increased disease rates, etc.  It boils down a vast amount of scientific and economic research into one number that best represents the future costs of emitting CO2 now.  Today, that number is $45/mT CO2, but it will rise each year due to the fact that delays in responding will likely lead to more severe damages.

In 2009, the Obama Administration created a nonpartisan Interagency Working Group (IWG) including the EPA, DOE and ten other agencies to develop and maintain the SCC. Since then the SCC has been important in the development of over 100 regulations such as vehicle fuel efficiency, pollution from coal-fired power plants, and energy efficiency standards for home appliances.

Although Trump’s EO claims that agencies will continue to use “the best available science and economics”, it is actually a huge step backwards. It will disband the IWG, limiting future updates to the SCC, and it directs agencies to comply with OMB’s 2003 guidance on regulatory impact analysis — back when not much attention was given to carbon emissions.

There are two other ways this administration might try to lower the SCC and, consequently, the value we place on the health of future generations and our environment. First it can change what is called the “discount rate”, which is kind of like a reverse interest rate.  The higher the discount rate, the lower the value we place on the future.  The SCC currently offers a range of discount rates, from 2.5% to 5%, and generally uses a “central” rate of 3%.  Trump’s EO proposes a rate of 7%, which assumes staggering economic growth in coming years.  This is basically saying “Screw the future!”, especially since climate change is making it less and less likely the economy will continue to grow at current rates.

The second tweak involves the geographic extent of the calculation.  While the SCC currently takes into account global costs and benefits to CO2 emissions (because climate change is a global problem!), it is likely that this scope will be narrowed to just the U.S., which would fit well with Trump’s “America first” nationalistic rhetoric.  This would result in further isolation from the global community of climate scientists and further delay in any real U.S. response to global warming.

According to the Rhodium Group, if Trump’s EO were fully implemented, not only would we miss the Paris commitment of reducing CO2 emissions 16-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 (which we would also likely miss even under Obama’s Climate Action Plan), we would also miss the Copenhagen Accord commitment of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.  And, of course, neither of these commitments are even close to what is considered necessary to prevent global warming from shooting past the 2°C threshold that scientists fear will risk even greater catastrophes.

If there is a silver lining to any of this it is that Trump will not be able to eliminate the SCC completely and there will be massive legal resistance to any attempt to roll back EPA climate regulations.  In 2007, the SCOTUS ruled that greenhouse gases qualify as a pollutant that can be regulated by the EPA under the Clean Air Act and in 2009 the EPA announced that CO2 poses real harm to the public.  Abandoning basic climate science will be met with increasing litigation and mobilization, such as the massive climate march planned on April 29th.

Earth Deeds will continue to rely on the SCC determined by Obama’s IWG and we hope it will continue to evolve with the best scientific data available.  More than ever, we can’t wait for government to fix things and need to work together to create a healthy world for future generations and all life.

Earth Deeds Earth Day Update

Dear Earth Deeds Supporters,

Happy Earth Day!  Today, may we renew our commitment to live in harmony with each other and our planet!  Earth Deeds is proud to help users meaningfully account for their unavoidable impacts and support local solutions to global warming.

If you would like to pay forward your carbon footprint — say from the “Earth Month” of April, the year-to-date, or a recent vacation — and support some really cool projects, please check out C3’s Boulder Earth Week Team to measure your emissions and support an organization working for a more sustainable Boulder and a healthy planet!

In other news…

Individual Onsetting: You can now onset your individual emissions from our home page.  Just click “Onset Now” in the menu or the “Onset” button in the middle of the page to be taken to a calculator where you can measure emissions (from your daily commute, flights, etc.) and choose among five projects to support (with more coming!).  Contact us if you would like to track your emissions over time.

Coming Web Updates:  We have a lot of changes in the pipeline including a new Search Page, which will allow users to filter projects within 18 categories, a new calculator, and the ability to contribute time in lieu of money to account for one’s emissions.  Stay tuned!

Team Spotlight – AASHE: We are excited that the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) will invite over 2,000 conference attendees to onset their travel and support Civic Works Baltimore Center for Green Careers.  Feel free to contribute to them as well!

Blog Spotlight: It is clear we need to move beyond “changing lightbulbs” and start changing the systems and policies that created global warming in the first place.  To learn more, check out Clara Fang’s blog post on how higher education can be stronger advocates for climate action.

Enjoy the warmer weather everyone, but let’s keep it livable by supporting sustainability and resiliency projects in communities that matter to us!

In community,
– Daniel

Project and Team Spotlights, AASHE recap, Donating Time, and more…

Happy Solstice and and may your holidays be bright! if you are wondering how you can have a more eco-friendly and less stressful season, read these tips on greening the holidays. And, if you’d like to make a year-end contribution to help Earth Deeds support local solutions to global warming (nudge, nudge ;-), you can do so here. Thanks!
It was an exciting recently to follow the COP21 meetings, which resulted in the adoption of an historic international Paris Agreement, George Monbiot summed up the conference nicely when he said, “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle; by comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”
While governments are reaching new collaborations on climate change, it is more important than ever that citizens act collectively to find solutions both at home and at the societal level. As Bill McKibben has stated, we are “past the point where we’re going to manage to do it one light bulb at a time.” What can you do as an individual to make the most meaningful impact? Please read Clara Fang’s compelling blog post to find out.

And here’s what we’ve been up to lately at Earth Deeds.

Daniel and Clara attended the 10th anniversary Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Minneapolis from Oct. 26-27. In addition to meeting with many sustainability directors interested in Earth Deeds, we are excited to join a Working Group to explore how ACUPCC signatory schools can go beyond offsetting in accounting for their carbon emissions. Sounds like a job for Earth Deeds!

Donating Time
At AASHE, we heard from schools interested in working with Earth Deeds in ways that engage students bodies rather than their wallets. So, we will soon allow users to contribute TIME (through volunteering for a organization or project) rather than money to account for their carbon emissions! We’re using a hoped-for minimum wage of $15/hr to account for one’s emissions so 1 mT of CO2 would equal $40 or 2.67 hrs.  Stay tuned as we’re excited to see where this goes!

Team Spotlight – Individual Onsetting
So far, Earth Deeds has focused on allowing “Teams” to measure and account for their collective emissions.  Now we are creating the ability for individuals to onset their emissions and contribute to a range of organizations. We currently have 10 organizations set up for “parallel” or “split” payments on Paypal (including 350.org) and expect to add many more over time.  Check it out here!

Project Spotlight – Fundacion En Via
Pacific Lutheran University is using Earth Deeds to support En Via, a non-profit organization located in Oaxaca, Mexico. Their microloan program gives women the opportunity to create or expand small businesses; their educational programs help women with their businesses, personal finances, and use of loans; and their ecotourism model directs funds into communities, while connecting people to the ideas, strength and power of women working hard to improve their future.

Happy holidays everyone and have a very blessed new year!


Earth Deeds Update 9/24/15

Happy Fall Equinox! At this time of great change, I am heartened that Pope Francis will call for climate action from political leaders in his Rally in Washington DC on Thursday. Let’s join the Week of Moral Action for Climate Justice by donating, signing the petition, or sharing their page.

Lots of change is happening with Earth Deeds as well!  Jeff Mazur, our part-time CFO, moved to Amherst around the same time my family and I moved to Kingston, Ontario.  I was also at Findhorn in July where I had the honor of being elected President of the Global Ecovillage Network so I have lots to juggle these days.  Here are some past and upcoming highlights at Earth Deeds:

PROJECT Spotlight: Sandele Foundation, Gambia

In March, I had the privilege of helping teach on an Ecovillage Design Education course at the Sandele Eco-Retreat and Learning Center in the Gambia.  In addition to working with local villagers to develop an ecotourism plan for 20 miles of coastline we are excited to use Earth Deeds to enable ecotourists to support local solutions to global warming.  Sandele was also recently announced as a Semi- Finalist for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge!  Let’s hope they win!

TEAM Spotlight: Intercultura

Students travel from all over the world to study Spanish at the Intercultura Language School in Costa Rica. Now they can onset their travel and give back to their host community by supporting La Asociacion CREAR, which offers environmental education programs for local community members. Check out this short video that students watch in their orientations and let others know about this opportunity. Thanks!

Journal Article 

Earth Deeds’ part-time Communications Manager, Clara Fang, and I co-authored an article entitled The Myth of Climate Neutrality: Carbon Onsetting as an Alternative to Carbon Offsetting that was published in the April, 2015 issue of Sustainability: The Journal of Record.  The article explores the controversy of carbon offsetting and proposes onsetting an alternative system that enables institutions to measure, reduce, and price their emissions and support campus and community-based sustainability projects.  Let me know if you’d like me to send you a PDF of the article.

Website Upgrades  

“Parallel payments” are now working on our site so we can set up Projects to directly receive contributions rather than us needing to collect and disburse funds.  Yay!  And our calculator now offers equivalencies of users’ carbon emissions to help them understand their real-world impacts.  For example, a round-trip flight from New York to New Orleans emits ~1 tonne of CO2, which is approximately equivalent to watching ~11,000 hours of TV or the annual emissions of someone living in El Salvador!

I will be speaking about onsetting at the Association for Advancing Sustainability in Higher Education conference on October 27th.  They have expressed interest in onsetting the entire event in 2016, which would engage over 2,000 sustainability professionals to work with Earth Deeds.

Tip Section: Conserve Water

Okay, who remembers the Star Trek – Next Generation scene where an alien describes humans as bags of mostly water?  It’s true!  Our bodies contain over 90% water, which is a strong hint that it is a precious resource we should not squander.  Repairing a leaky toilet can save 200 gallons of water per day! Running your dishwasher with only full loads can save 100 pounds of carbon dioxide and $40 per year. Let’s conserve and protect our water resources both for our own health and the health of our planet!


Take care everyone and please feel free to contact us if you have any thoughts or questions!

127 Months (to transition)

(Spoiler alert!  If you haven’t seen 127 Hours and don’t want to know how it ends – as if? – don’t read this.)

“We are in between stories” observed Thomas Berry in 1978.  Our old Cartesian, reductionist, industrial stories are clearly dysfunctional and destructive, but new ones like those being developed by ecovillages, transition towns and millions of other initiatives and innovators around the world, have not yet gone mainstream.

It is happening, but not always in straightforward ways.  I believe new stories and metaphors are bubbling up through our collective unconscious to help us understand and cope with the coming crises of peak oil and climate change.

One example is the movie 127 Hours, which chronicles the true story of mountain climber, Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) and his incredible efforts to save himself after his arm was pinned by an 800 pound rock while canyoneering.

In many ways, Aron’s story perfectly parallels where we are as a species.  We have become cocky and careless and have forgotten simple tools that have helped in past emergencies.   We’ve fallen from on high and are now truly “caught between a rock and a hard place.”

And like Aron, it’s taking us a while to fully grasp the severity of our predicament.  Our water (i.e. oil) is running out, but there’s still some left, so we think maybe it’s not so bad. But we’re so thirsty!  And, oh shit!  We just spilled some!  This can’t be happening!  Okay, don’t panic.  It’s a big problem, but we’re smart!  We’re strong!  By brains or brawn, we can come through unscathed.… Right?

Wrong.  In the end, it’s too little, too late.  Like Aron muses, our whole life, all of our actions over thousands of generations have led to this moment… to this decision that is almost too horrific to even comprehend.

The thought seems insane!  Cut off our what?!  But this is part of who we are!  We would die!  And the pain!  The pain would be just too much….  No, it’s better to just wait.  Maybe someone will come along to save us.  Maybe if we just keep chipping away at the problem, we’ll be able to pull out of the situation.

It all comes down to this moment.  This generation.  Instead of 127 hours, we have maybe 127 months – around 10 years – to make the ultimate decision.  Are we willing to cut off our lifeblood of oil; break the very bones of our economy; go through some intense pain … in order to survive as a species?  Or will we wait it out and die as cowards?

Our story can still have a happy ending.  Aron Ralston not only survived.  He was transformed.  He healed.  He became a father.  Now, he’s climbing new mountains and inspires others to accept change and take control of their lives.  If we accept our destiny and collectively take this hero’s journey, we will renew the world and our role in it.  Distant generations will sing our praises. This is our mythic moment folks!  Let’s get crackin’!

Web Development Lead Position Available

Job Title: Web Development Lead

Job Description: The Web Development Lead’s role is to assure the successful execution of the Earth Deeds vision and mission through development and deployment of the company’s web presence. This role currently manages one overseas programmer and reports to the company founder. Primary responsibilities include planning, prioritizing and managing web development projects to provide value and ease of use for our customers.

Organization Description:  Earth Deeds online tools enable groups to onset their carbon footprints and support local, meaningful solutions to global warming. Founded in 2012 as an L3C (Low-Profit Limited Liability Company), Earth Deeds currently has a working website and paying customers, but is still early in its development.  Staff are dispersed and include a full-time Founder who manages Sales, Marketing, Web, and Organizational Development, two part-time sales staff, a part-time CFO, and a full-time programmer.  This committed team is creating an innovative organization that has great potential to mobilize millions of people and dollars to support local solutions to global warming.

Time Requirements: 10-40 hours per week. This is a work from home position.

Compensation: Equity and/or deferred compensation until significant revenue and/or investment.


  • Daily direct collaboration with overseas programmer to:
    • Identify and fix bugs within the system.
    • Plan the next generation of the back-end and front-end website experience
  • Identify opportunities and risks for delivering the company’s services (e.g. technologies, competitive services, opportunities for innovation, assessment of market/ technical hurdles).
  • Develop use cases and overall user experience design and flow.
  • Develop specifications and wireframes for review and implementation.
  • Establish a specification conformance, testing, and web analytics regimen.
  • Manage vendors and programmers to implement approved designs.
  • Monitor application performance and review any application failures.
  • Establish and maintain process to respond to customer issues and improve services.
  • Ensure technical problems are resolved in a timely and cost-effective manner.
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge of standards, trends, and emerging technologies.
  • Ensure compliance with laws and regulations for privacy, security, & social responsibility.

Ideal Background and Qualities:

  • Alignment with Earth Deeds’ Cultural Values.
  • Experience with startup companies and social entrepreneurism.
  • Self-motivated and directed; ability to set and manage priorities judiciously.
  • Ability to articulate ideas to both technical and non-technical audiences.
  • Keen attention to detail and superior analytical, evaluative, and problem-solving abilities.
  • Demonstrated ability to envision and implement web-based services.
  • Graphic design web experience and knowledge of web standards.
  • Skill with CSS, XHTML, one or more Javascript frameworks, and AJAX, a plus.
  • Familiarity with information security vulnerabilities and risk management.
  • Familiarity with consumer privacy and payments industry compliance requirements.
  • University degree in computer science, business administration, or other relevant discipline.
  • On-call availability.

Contact us to talk further about this position.