Senior EcoRep, Lara Henderson shares her experience with sustainability abroad.
“Last spring, I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, a city often touted as the greenest city in the world. My core course there was called Sustainable Development in Northern Europe, an inter-disciplinary course that aimed to integrate environmental, social, and economic objectives in addressing key issues and themes of sustainable development. This course took me on a week long study tour of Norway, where I learned about urban development strategies in Oslo and visited several large renewable energy operations. I took four other classes in Copenhagen: Conservation Biology, Designing Communications Campaigns, Sustainable Urban Planning, and my personal favorite, Sustainable Business Strategy.
The business class was especially interesting because it was so different from the kinds of environmental classes offered at Lafayette, and engaged me on numerous relatable issues such as fast fashion, green construction, and the current push for all large businesses to promote sustainability into their everyday operations and disclose them in increasingly transparent CRS reports. Many of my professors were also professionals in their fields, and it was amazing to work with experts who were so excited about their work.
While there, I lived with 3 other Danish students in apartment style housing. It was fascinating to see the extensive nature of their recycling, as I noticed elaborate shelving for sorting recycling in most homes and apartments I visited. Sustainability was a strong part of their mentality there, and I was impressed with how little food they wasted and the way they unplugged all devices before ever leaving home. The Danes I lived with showed me cool sustainability-oriented apps, for example one called Too Good To Go, which notifies you if you are near a imminently closing bakery, restaurant, or grocery store that is willing to sell their leftovers at a very cheap price. My favorite aspect of the city however was the cyclist culture, as I quickly realized how smart and fun biking is in an urban environment.
A great majority of Danes commute to work and school by bike (even through the rain and snow!), and I quickly rented my own bike for the semester and took part in this unique culture. I got to know the city exceptionally well, got great daily exercise, and contributed no green house gasses to the environment. There was dramatically less traffic and pollution than American cities, and exceptional biking infrastructure like fun bridges and tunnels that made the city super well connected and bike friendly. I even got a bike tattoo to commemorate the experience! Overall, I had an amazing experience there, and while most of the cultural differences were minimal, the sustainable mindset I noticed inherent in almost all Danes was fascinating and eye-opening. It reminded me that countries like the U.S. have a long way to go, but with the right attitude I feel confident that real progress can be made towards a greener American society. ”
Lara B. Henderson
B.A. Environmental Studies & minor in Government/Law, Class of 2019
EcoRep, Office of Admissions Senior Interviewer, Writing Associate