I’d like to congratulate Oxford’s environmentalists for another outstanding effort at Christmastime carbon reduction. The between-term travel of Oxford’s huge student body causes an absolute explosion of emissions—a single return flight from Oxford to the US, for example, represents roughly 20% of an average person’s annual emissions—and so the focus that this period receives is well-deserved.
Admittedly, making Oxford students feel more comfortable staying in town over the holidays isn’t nearly as difficult as forcing them to stop eating meat or switching the university to renewable energy. All it takes is a few well-circulated messages to organize get-togethers for the reduced population still in town, to help make them feel less isolated in a deserted university. Links with the various clubs representing overseas students are also easy to build. And of course students forgoing expensive airfares save quite a bit of money, some of which can be put toward one or two really memorable Oxford experiences. Who wouldn’t be a bit tempted by a formal Christmas day feast alongside fellow students in one of Oxford’s grandest halls?
Most importantly, this is one of the rare opportunities when active participation by environmentalists willing to make a small personal sacrifice in service of the cause actually makes a difference—sustaining a community instead of condescending to one. Staying in town to organize (and socialize) instead of heading home for the holidays is a far cry from refusing to take hot showers or tumble dry clothes.
Such organization, planned and promoted well in advance, certainly doesn’t stop every overseas student—or even a large proportion of students—from traveling home for the holidays. A small population, however, is happy to stay in town if there is a community to support them, and the emissions savings from even that small population is enormous when compared with the savings from other environmental initiatives. Kudos to an efficient, practical, and well-considered approach to carbon reduction.
Oh, wait. There is no such effort at Oxford; the environmentalists all hopped on their flights home to eat tofurky with the parents.