A greener culture


Creative minds are shrinking research’s big carbon footprint.

In July 2015, Stephanie and Fraser Januchowski-Hartley left their home in Totnes, UK, and headed for the International Congress for Conservation Biology in Montpellier, France. Instead of catching a flight, they boarded a boat and then made their way across France by bicycle and train, pedalling more than 600 kilometres over 5 days. After the conference, they took a train home.

By eschewing air travel, the pair prevented carbon dioxide emissions of roughly one-half of a metric tonne, and received the Swarovski Optik Green Travel Award from the Society for Conservation Biology, which hosted the meeting. The European branch of the organization is encouraging scientists to shrink their carbon footprints, and Stephanie, now a postdoc studying freshwater conservation at Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France, took the challenge to heart. “I feel contradictory if I’m not making some effort in my own life,” she says.

She is not alone. Although most researchers say that tackling climate change will require large-scale action from nations and corporations, many individuals are trying to do their own parts. “I think it’s important for me as a global citizen,” says Erich Osterberg, a climatologist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He and his family have taken personal steps such as reducing meat consumption and upgrading to high-efficiency appliances at home. He notes that such actions also help climate scientists such as him to ward off accusations of hypocrisy — that researchers talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

Read the full story in Nature.