In spring 2022, four DIS Copenhagen students had the opportunity to pioneer the DIS Slow Traveler initiative; intentionally slowing down, meeting locals, and engaging in Danish life. Laura (she/they), Cal Poly Pomona, reflects on the group’s journey to Bornholm and what they gained along the way. Read more, in their own words, below.
My name is Laura, and this semester I slow-traveled across Denmark (using bike, bus, train, ferry — but no airplanes!) as part of a DIS initiative to share more sustainable travel options while abroad.
I think most college students have a general interest in sustainability — they might recycle, celebrate Earth Day, or have a vague sense of impending climate doom, if only in sardonic comments on particularly hot or rainy days. Similarly, I think I have always been interested in sustainability, but I didn’t know what that meant practically for my choices as a consumer.
This semester at DIS, I am taking Sustainable by Design and Environmental Impact of Humans. In class, we mostly learned about the larger systems like capitalism and the growth economy that contribute to climate change. Simultaneously this semester, my professors, friends, and the experiences of slow traveling have opened my eyes to ways in which I can live a little more sustainably. Although my semester abroad is coming to a close, below are some resources I will definitely take with me as I return home.
• WWF Footprint Calculator: My Sustainable By Design professor, Charlotte, showed us this quick quiz that gives you a general sense of the footprint of your lifestyle in comparison to the average UK consumer. In general, it made me more conscientious of shopping secondhand or locally, and only when needed. When grocery shopping, buying items in the sale-section (or using the app Too Good to Go) not only is cheaper, but also helps to minimize food waste at the store.
• Ecopassenger Calculator: This site was recommended to me by a Danish student who is an avid conscientious traveler. If you choose to travel within Europe during your time at DIS, you can set your departure and arrival destinations in the calculator and weigh the travel duration, resource consumption, and carbon footprint of different options.
• Biking: This one isn’t a digital resource, but if you study abroad in Copenhagen, I highly recommend renting a bike during your time here. It can be a bit cold in the wintertime, but overall it is a much cheaper, fun, and efficient way to get around the city. I always assumed biking was only really feasible somewhere flat and bicycle-friendly like Copenhagen, but after “turbo-ing” up the hills of Bornholm on e-bikes, I feel like this is something that I can continue more seriously at home! NPR’s Life Kit episode “How to start bike commuting” was a nice resource about bike commuting in an American context.
• This last recommendation is courtesy fellow slow traveler Ennosen Yen, who encouraged me to watch an episode of Netflix show “Chef’s Table” with Jeong Kwan, a Korean monk whose relationship to food is one of nourishment, simplicity, and connection. In general, I think surrounding yourself with resources that promote a deeper grounded connection to nature and food is an important mindset shift towards being a more sustainable consumer.
Beyond these practical resources, I think my biggest takeaway from DIS Slow Travel is to “slow down” and really appreciate each moment. In my day-to-day college life, I feel like I spend a lot of time bouncing from classroom to club to social activity, with each hour filled with something to do or somewhere to be. Using my free time to unwind and soak in the mundane as much as to see new sights made my time in Bornholm that much more enjoyable.
Of course, there are a variety of factors that play into why sustainability is not equally accessible to everyone — for instance, buying organic or locally sourced food and goods is often more expensive and harder to acquire than their mass-produced equivalents. That being said, I am thankful to DIS for giving me the opportunity to take part in this trip, and I hope to continue to try my best to live and travel with sustainability in mind.
Learn more about Slow Travel and Sustainability at DIS