TEAN’s Choose Earth initiative is our way of building environmental and social responsibility into the ethos and outcomes of education abroad. At TEAN, we believe that studying abroad should include learning about – and finding solutions to – our most challenging societal problems, such as sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity, resource use, habitat preservation, gender inequality and social injustice in a globalized world.

To this end, TEAN is committed to providing experiential learning opportunities abroad that help build the knowledge, skills and attitudes students need to become locally engaged, civically minded and globally responsible. For us at TEAN, our Choose Earth initiative conveys the new imperative of global learning today – making informed choices, personal decisions and collective actions that sustain the planet’s vitality, diversity and longevity because the individual choices students make at a local level have a global impact..

To help students embrace and work towards sustainable living, our programs and practices are designed to foster global thinking and informed local action while various assessments keep students thinking critically about their day-to-day lifestyle choices. TEAN also actively participates and contributes to a number of events and publications to promote sustainability as a priority in the education abroad industry. As our core value of Choose Earth says: “let’s work truly together and choose a sustainable future for our planet.”

TEAN Office

TEAN Office

At TEAN HQ, we have been trying to improve our daily practices to lead more sustainable lives and have made some great strides since the launch of our Choose Earth initiative. Below are a few ways we are incorporating our Choose Earth value into the office:


The office participated in an eco-challenge, using the ​Cupanion app​ to track every time we refused, reduced, or reused plastic by scanning our Cupanion stickers. Ways to participate included: denying straws or using a reusable straw, bringing a reusable bag to the store, bringing a reusable mug or cup for coffee/drinks, reusing containers and/or packaging, denying plasticware with takeout food, using reusable baggies for snacks or lunches, buying loose fruits and veggies instead of packaged items, etc. Over the course of 30 days, we scanned ​273​ times! The goal of this challenge was to start to establish more eco-friendly behaviors.


We aim to create as little food waste as possible. The office is equipped with a compost bucket, which is picked up weekly by a local urban farm, Urban Canopy, operating on the south side of Chicago.


Not only do we recycle the usual items – plastic, paper, and metal – but thanks to our Choose Earth team we now have ​additional bins for plastic bags, batteries, donations and old electronics!


TEAN was proud to add a TerraCycle bin to our zero waste initiative. We use this bin for office items that can’t be recycled but that we do not want to throw away. TerraCycle items are shipped away to a factory to be broken down and found new purposes for. We look forward to adding more TerraCycle bins in the future.

Choose Earth Corner

TEAN has set up a resource center in the office dedicated to sustainability. The corner offers information on recycling, the meaning of sustainability and even boasts a small herb garden for our lunches!



Once students arrive in-country, they are presented with a number of different resources and opportunities to participate in local sustainability issues.

Carbon Offsetting​

​During orientation, as well as throughout the flight booking process, students are walked through the idea of offsetting their carbon usage while abroad; especially the carbon that was used to get them to their study abroad location. Offsetting their carbon usage can be as simple as participating in an eco-challenge, or if they want to do more, they are encouraged to calculate their carbon usage and donate the relevant dollar amount to a company or companies that work with airlines across the world.

Student Excursions

Throughout the semester, TEAN provides students with a variety of activities either orchestrated by TEAN, or happening in the community of their home abroad. These activities include everything from visiting an ethical elephant nature park in Thailand where they learn the rights and wrongs of eco-tourism to a dive at the Great Barrier Reef where they are educated on the many ways in which humans have impacted the ecosystem. When planning these activities, TEAN always considers the impact that it will have on the natural environment and what sustainability and social justice knowledge the students can gain from the activity.

Choose Earth Courses

At TEAN, we like to give students ample opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture while abroad. A huge part of this is encouraging them to take at least one course that falls under the Choose Earth umbrella. These courses can be subjects such as environmental science, human rights, ethics, sociology, etc. Regardless if the students choose to pursue the certificate or not, taking a course relating to one of these subjects will enhance their experience abroad by learning in-depth about the country that they are currently living in. For all semester programs, students can find a list of these suggested courses as part of their course selection instructions.


​TEAN provides a comprehensive list of activities and eco-challenges that students can participate in abroad to each student upon their arrival in-country.

Choose Earth Certificate

Choose Earth Certificate Program

All students participating in TEAN programs have the option to participate in the Choose Earth Certificate program. This program gives students a concrete way to participate in our organization’s Choose Earth goals and give students tools to reflect on that participation. In addition to enrolling in a course at their host university that has a Choose Earth focus, students will also complete the following:

  • Successfully complete one eco-challenge (list of options available or approved activity)
  • Successfully complete subject in sustainability or social justice (subject approval required)
  • Share their experiences on social media (media platform approval required)
  • Write a reflection essay on a personal Choose Earth experience (750+ words)



Our student and partner giveaways have been carefully selected to reflect our eco-friendly lifestyle to reduce waste and encourage new attitudes as consumers.

Reusable Bamboo Straws

These eco-friendly, organic bamboo straws are handmade by Burmese refugees as part of a social enterprise owned by a female refugee based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They receive a fair wage and 100% of the sales go back into supporting the community. After being cut, the bamboo straws are boiled, cured and polished to ensure they are sanitary. These straws are given to all TEAN Asia students as well as being used as giveaway items during study abroad fairs.


Our students in Australia and New Zealand receive longlastingKeepCups for their favorite morning beverage during their TEAN ​Welcome Abroad orientation. We noticed that reusable water bottles were not as prized (and often left behind!) since so many students already have their own/favorite canister. So TEAN decided it was time to change. Based in Melbourne, KeepCup is leading the way on reusable coffee cups, and they estimate saving 5 million disposable cups ​DAILY​. We also love their ​responsible business​ approach. These are great for using at our Coffee Catch Ups and coincide with our recommendations for cafes with discounts for bringing your own cup, and that are also eco-friendly and supportive of the community.

Beeswax Wraps

To encourage the zero-waste lifestyle, TEAN hands out ​SuperBee Wax Wraps ​to our visiting partners. These reusable wraps can be used in place of Saran wrap and aluminum foil to keep food fresh in the fridge. We picked this company because they are based out of Chiang Mai, where our Thailand program is based.

Reusable bags

Students from all of our Asia programs now receive a TEAN reusable bag upon arrival to their program. This bag is produced by a small business in Asia that makes tote bags that are 100% cotton and therefore biodegradable. They are encouraged to carry this compact bag with them each time they venture out to reduce the chance of them needing to use a plastic bag for shopping or groceries. We also have these bags available to visitors of the TEAN Chicago office.

Publications & Conferences

Publications & Conferences

Through formal presentations and publications, TEAN is leading and supporting efforts to encourage educators to view sustainability as the central concept for our age and a critical outcome of comprehensive internationalization. As such, TEAN advocates for building environmental awareness and sustainability literacy into the ethos and outcomes of higher education generally and specifically education abroad.

TEAN staff members have contributed to international education publications and conference programs including:


Scott G. Blair and James M. Lucas. “Assessment and Evaluation” in Learning Across Cultures: Locally and Globally, 3rd edition, NAFSA, June 2017. Book chapter co-author.

Scott G. Blair. “Assessing Intercultural Competence – A Student Centered Experiential Toolbox”, book chapter in Deardorff & Arasaratnam-Smith, (eds.) Internationalization in Higher Education, Routledge, 2017.

Scott G. Blair. “Introduction to Assessment” in Adam Henry and Jennifer Malerich (editors and lead instructors) Study Abroad USA: Building Capacity for US Institutions. edX Online course (GBX 500x) under the aegis of U.S. Department of State and Arizona State University. Curriculum development: Module 6: Orientation and Assessment, 2017.

Scott G. Blair. “The health of nations: Adam Smith, internationalisation and sustainable learning outcomes for the 21st century”. In EAIE Conversation Starter, EAIE Glasgow Conference, September 2015.


AASHE Conference 2019: Spokane, WA
Presentation topic: Pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals in Education Abroad, Poster

GoAbroad.com Innovation in Sustainability 2019, Finalist


AASHE Conference 2018: Pittsburgh, PA
Pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals in Education Abroad, Presentation
Tools, Techniques, and Assessment Strategies

USGBC Expo 2018


EAIE Annual Conference: Seville, Spain
The Mosaic in Shades of Green: Internationalizing Towards Sustainable Development. Session

NAFSA Annual Conference: Los Angeles
Teaching and Assessing Sustainability Literacy in Education Abroad. Poster

Diversity Abroad Conference: Minneapolis, MN
The Role Intercultural Competence Plays in Embracing Diversity Across the Academy. Session

WISE – Workshop on Intercultural Skills Enhancement: Winston-Salem, NC
Intercultural Competence for a Sustainable Planet: Principles, Practice & Outcomes. Session


EAIE Annual Conference: Liverpool, England
Championing Sustainability as a Learning Outcome in Higher Education. Poster

NAFSA Annual Conference: Denver, CO
Climate Change, Sustainability and Global Learning. Poster


2015 TEAN Advisory Roundtable: Chicago, IL
“Assessing Up the Wrong Tree! – Learning Outcomes for the 21st Century”. Session

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