Going Green! Saving Energy While Teaching Abroad

On a trip to Amsterdam I was somewhat surprised to find that the large majority of sinks—including in the apartment where I was staying—only had cold water.  At first I had some concerns about sanitation; I thought warm water was crucial to killing germs while washing your hands.  A little research led me to an article from the New York Times that claims there is no proof of hot water removing germs better than cold water.  While I did have cold fingers, I was warm inside knowing I was washing my hands in a more energy-efficient way.

As a new English teacher in Ukraine, I lived with a host family, so my mind was constantly thinking of ways to “go green” in an effort to keep their favor.  Host families are a critical component of living in a foreign country, and for many teachers or students, the interactions they have and the extent of their involvement with their host family greatly impacts their growth with the foreign language and also determines if they have a positive experience overall.  But let’s face it—nobody likes it when a foreigner comes into their house and the energy and water bills significantly climb.  Here are four ways you can make sure you’re not a wasteful guest:

Wear your clothes multiple times before washing them. Before living abroad, I was one of those people that washed my jeans after one wear.  The pants I’m wearing today at work?  Let’s just say it’s been awhile.

Layer, layer, layer. Many domiciles abroad may have centralized heating, especially if you are in an apartment.  This could lead to varying temperatures in each room, and the best way to control your personal thermostat is to layer yourself with clothing that you can add or remove as necessary.

Emulate your host family. Pay attention to the subtleties of domestic life in your new country.  If they have a drier but all household members hang dry their laundry, you probably should too.

Walk. Just by being abroad you are destined to walk more or take public transportation so you can’t help but cut down on fuel emissions.  Your overall health will benefit from this as well.

Trying to be environmentally friendly while teaching abroad? You can "go green" in the TEFL classroom, too! 


This post was written by Matthew Clark.