AEF: A Rising Leader in Sustainability in International Education

A Rising Leader in Sustainability in International Education


At Accademia Europea di Firenze (AEF), we believe that sustainability is not only a moral duty, but also a source of inspiration and innovation. We are committed to educating our students, staff, and faculty on the importance of environmental, social, and economic responsibility, and to integrating sustainability into every aspect of our work. In this blog post, we share with you some of the achievements and accomplishments that demonstrate our commitment to our core value of sustainability.

We are just getting started on promoting sustainability.


We have made several improvements in the last 12 months to our facilities to reduce our environmental impact and to promote a culture of sustainability among our community. Some of these improvements include:

We live in a world that always wants us to be hyper-productive, we have been programmed so that in our day there is never a free moment; society always wants us to be energetic, it is impossible to be lazy, we must always find a way to entertain ourselves.

  • Recycling Bins on each floor. We have installed recycling bins on each floor of our building, where students and staff can dispose of paper, plastic, and glass separately.
  • Filtered water system for refilling water bottles. We have installed a filtered water system throughout our facility, where students and staff can refill their reusable water bottles for free. This helps us to avoid plastic waste and to save water and energy.
  • Switching to sustainable products for bathrooms and facilities. We have replaced conventional cleaning products with eco-friendly ones, which are biodegradable and non-toxic. We have also switched to recycled paper towels and toilet paper, and to organic soap and shampoo in our bathrooms.
  • Light switch and A/C turn off labels throughout our facility. We have placed labels near every light switch and A/C unit in our building, reminding students and staff to turn them off when not in use. This helps us to save energy and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


We have invested in training our students, staff, and faculty on sustainability topics, both in the classroom and outside. Some of the training activities we have organized or participated in are:

- Sustainable travel workshop for students. In February of 2023 we have offered a workshop on sustainable travel to our students, to discuss the environmental and social impacts of tourism, and how to minimize them. We will continue this initiative through a carbon literacy certification program starting Fall of 2023. We will gave tips on how to travel responsibly, such as choosing low-carbon transportation options, supporting local communities and cultures, and avoiding waste and pollution.

Two of our senior leaders attended the 'Climate Action: Education Abroad for a Healthy Planet Workshop' at the Forum for Education Abroad conference in Milan, Italy in October of 2022. They learned about best practices and strategies for incorporating climate action into education abroad programs, such as carbon offsetting, curriculum integration, student engagement and advocacy.

- John Pearson completed Carbon Literacy Certification training through www.zeroverse.org achieving carbon literacy certification recognized by the Carbon Literacy Project. Alan Earhart and Emily Woodroof are currently taking the same certification training. Carbon Literacy is a training program that aims to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to take action on climate change in their personal and professional lives. The training covers topics such as the science of climate change, the impacts of carbon emissions, the solutions available, and the actions that can be taken. Alan and Emily will use this information to create a Carbon Literacy Certification course for all AEF students starting in Fall 2023.

- On November 18th, 2022 all staff and faculty attended a workshop on Sustainability with Daniel Ponce-Taylor, with an emphasis on how to incorporate sustainability into our curriculum and our work. Daniel Ponce-Taylor is an expert on sustainability education and director of operations and international development at Intercultural Outreach Initiative (IOI). He shared with us his insights and experience on how to design and deliver sustainability education programs that are relevant, engaging and impactful.

- On March 17th, 2023 Kate Winfield of www.zeroverse.org delivered a virtual training to all staff and faculty called 'Sustainability for All'. Kate founded Zeroverse to promote sustainability through training and workshops in accademia.

When American students leave to come to Italy, they know for sure that when they return home they will remember that they will not have to wait for society, family, friends, work to allow them to take a break, but that - if they want to - they can take it on their own.

After all, Oscar Wilde said it too: “Doing nothing is the hardest thing in the world; the most difficult and the most intellectual”.


We have made some organizational changes to reflect our commitment to sustainability and to align our actions with our values. Some of these changes include:

- Creation of sustainability logo for AEF and tagline. We have created a new logo for AEF that incorporates a green leaf symbolizing our connection to nature and our respect for life. We have also added a tagline that summarizes our identity: "Learning Sustainably".

- AEF drafted a Sustainability pledge which was signed by the president of AEF, Gustavo Gesteira. The pledge is a statement of our principles and goals regarding sustainability, which guides our decisions and actions as an organization.

On September 8, 2022 AEF became a signatory organization of the CANIE Accord which is designed to bolster the international higher education sector’s commitment to taking climate action.