The expat family guide to reducing your carbon footprint

March 19, 2019
Living as an expat family can bring with it a host of challenges that non-expat families don’t have to consider. One thing we all need to be more concerned about, regardless of where we live, is the impact we are having on the earth. Expat families often travel extensively, so you maybe more conscious than most about the size of your carbon footprint.

If your expat family is becoming increasingly concerned about its impact, and would like to contribute to improving the environment, there are a number of ways you can help:
As an expat family, there is no doubt you will have amassed many air miles. Chances are your third culture kid was on a long haul flight long before they could walk. It is believed long haul and luxury tourism accounts for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions and expat air traffic is also likely to contribute to that figure.
When you are flying, try to fly direct from one destination to another. Planes burn most fuel taking off and landing so connecting flights do more harm to the environment.
The more space your seat takes up the fewer people can fly on your plane. By taking flights without business or first class, you and your family reduce your carbon footprint a little.
If you are taking a domestic or short flight, is there another way you could travel? Is a train or bus an option? Or maybe a ferry? Although they take longer, travelling by alternative means is easier on the planet and may be a family adventure.
If you use your car a lot in your expat destination think about the number of people you carry to reduce the carbon footprint. If it is usually just you and your child, can you car pool with a neighbour or family friend?
There are lots of simple steps your family can take at home to reduce your impact on the environment:
The first step to reducing your carbon footprint is to make the transition to LED lightbulbs. It’s best to wait until the existing lightbulbs blow before replacing them, so you are not wasting them too. LED bulbs use anywhere from 25%-80% less energy than a traditional lightbulb, saving power and money in the longer term.
Try to choose an energy provider that gets its power from renewable sources. This may not always be possible, depending on where you are based but research providers and choose one that has the least environmental impact.

Over the last few years the global reliance on single use plastics and the damage that they do has been highlighted. Governments all over the world and economic unions like the EU are moving towards banning them. In the meantime, expat families can help by using products that can be reused or recycled instead of going to landfill. Some examples include:

  • Reusable wrap for lunches and leftovers
  • Stainless steel straws
  • Reusable coffee cups

In some cafés and restaurants, you will receive a discount for bringing your own container.

Food waste is both morally wrong and damaging to the environment. It is estimated we waste approximately one third of the food we produce either during production or after we buy it. Food that is wasted also creates methane which is more damaging to the environment than Co2. Reduce the amount of food your family wastes by:
Instead of buying food that is likely to be wrapped in single use plastic, bring your own lunch to school and work. The whole family can get involved in preparing some tasty lunches at the weekend that can be used during the week. pasta salads, soups or burritos can be made in advance and frozen for use during the week.
The first step to reducing food waste is only buying the food you need or are sure you will use. A good way to do this is plan your meals and snacks for a week and only buy the fresh ingredients needed. If you find you end up throwing out fresh ingredients because your family are too tired to cook during the week, try batch cooking at the weekend or on a day off.
Try to buy food that is in season locally rather than imports from other parts of the world that are usually expensive and damaging to the environment. Fresh, seasonal foods that haven’t travelled far often taste much better too.
Did you know the global livestock sector creates as much greenhouse emissions as all automobiles in the world combined? To reduce these impacts consider reducing the amount of meat you eat. If your family eat meat every day, consider making one day a week meat free. There are a huge number of meat free, family friendly recipes online.
Finally, it goes without saying but if something can’t be reused, try to recycle as much as possible. Be especially conscious of items that are very damaging to the environment like electronics and battery’s, both of which can be recycled in specialist centres.
These are only a few of the things you can do to help neutralise your carbon footprint. Let us know on Facebook if there are other things your expat family do to improve the environment?
It is also important to look after your family’s health while you are living and working abroad. If you have any questions about international health insurance for your family, we would be happy to answer them.