May 11 – Liz & Jason

Our trip abroad began for most of our group in Detroit, and the full group met up in Dallas.  We then flew to Adelaide with stops in Brisbane and Sydney. Adelaide was the first official stop on our venture and was an excellent place to experience some of the best South Australia has to offer.


Our flight on the Australian airline, Qantas, was our first opportunity to experience and consider the sustainability of something Australian. Photo courtesy of

Throughout our travels to Adelaide, we couldn’t help but notice several efforts by the airlines and the airports to be more environmentally friendly.  One thing that grabbed our attention was on the flight from Sydney to Adelaide.  The airline offered each passenger a paper bag where they could place their recyclables and return it to the flight attendant instead of treating it all as rubbish.  The problem that we saw with this effort is that we noticed very few passengers actually utilizing the bags, and instead discarding the bag along with their other rubbish.  A second problem was that the environmental cost of producing those paper bags and distributing them to all of the passengers might not have even been worth the benefit of a few passengers putting a couple plastic wrappers in the bag and saving it from the landfill.  Another thing that we noticed as soon as we got to Australia was a very obvious focus on recycling in the airports.  Just about everywhere you saw a trash bin, you also saw recycling bins for plastics, newspapers, and cardboard (sometimes).  This trend continued as we traveled to our destination at the YHA and really got us thinking in a sustainable manner because you have to take the time to break up your waste into different bins, which the majority of us are not used to in the United States.

Another thing that we really thought about as we were traveling over here is the impact that just our flight is having on the environment and how we could justify jumping on a Boeing 747 that is powered by 4 jet fueled engines to fly halfway around the world, and back.  The first thing we did was jump online and calculate the carbon footprint of our flight.  For a single person, it was 1.497 tons of carbon, and as a group (25 people) that number came to 37.435 tons of carbon.  That’s a lot.  So, in terms of justifying our trip, we came up with a couple things that would help “offset” that carbon cost a little bit.  The first was the knowledge that we would be gaining and then later applying and sharing back home.  This creates a lot of value in terms of being aware of our energy consumption as well as other things that we are studying on this trip such as food sustainability.  The hope is that this knowledge will help each of us reduce our carbon footprint in the future to the point where it will overwhelm the carbon cost of the trip.  A second way that we helped justify our trip is the fact that we will be doing some tree planting during our time here, which will then obviously help offset that carbon footprint of our flight here.  These are just a couple things that we thought about during our trip over that heavily related to sustainability.


Here’s the Adelaide Convention Centre that uses earthworms to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to a landfill. Photo courtesy of Flight Center.

Adelaide is the capital of the state of South Australia.  The city has been voted the most liveable city in Australia and is known as one of Australia’s most sustainable cities. The city has more than 500 bikes available for anyone to use for a day.  Solar power is also harnessed by the city, as solar panels line the roofs of many city buildings. In addition, Adelaide has a solar powered bus that operates in the city for public transportation.  Rather than filling a landfill, the city has a unique way of reducing it’s waste volume.  The innovative Adelaide Convention Centre uses 800,000 earthworms to decompose food waste. All of these examples of sustainable practices show that Adelaide was a great city to kick off our sustainability study abroad program.

Works Cited

Carbon Footprint Ltd. Flight Carbon Footprint Calculator. Retrieved from

Flight Center. (2012). Adelaide Destination Guide.

The South Australian Tourism Commission. About South Australia. Retrieved from

The South Australian Tourism Commission. Adelaide Green City. Retrieved from Quantas Domestic. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “May 11 – Liz & Jason

  1. kramer67

    800,000 earthworms to decompose food waste?? That is just amazing! Where do they keep the earthworms?

    Mary Beth Kramer

    • lizwittenbach

      The earthworms are specifically a part of the Adelaide Convention Centre’s efforts to reuse and recycle at least 90% of its waste. From what I can tell, the worms are kept on a worm farm that is most likely outside of the city. At a three day event at the Convention Centre, 10,800 liters of organic waste was collected and sent to the worm farm rather than going to a landfill. That’s a lot of waste for one event! Just imagine how much waste the worms break down in a year.

      To learn more about the Adelaide Convention Centre’s sustainability efforts, you can visit their website:

      To learn more about the recycling at the three day event case study, check out this PDF:

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