Carbon impact of flights
Firstly let’s get to grips with the carbon impacts of a flight. Carbon is of course quite an abstract concept to comprehend, as it is not something you can actually see or weigh yourself. This Statista comparison chart, from 2016, gives a flavour of an individual’s annual footprint in different countries in tonnes.
You will find more infographics at Statista.
Here are the carbon footprints’ for one person for an average return flight from London to:
New York is circa 3.5 tonnes
Amsterdam is 250 kgs versus 28kgs on the train
Barcelona is 590 kgs versus 72kgs by train (comparisons from ecopassenger)
Whilst an average for driving a car for a year emits 2 tonnes of carbon (Atmosfair figures)
Answering the overland travel barriers
Often people have not even considered trains as an option or maybe they have written them off as more expensive, inconvenient or taking longer – so let’s unravel some of these assumptions.
When doing cost comparisons between train and plane travel, it is important to include the cost of:
- Airport parking or travel
- Checked-in luggage
- Transfers to the destination city as airports are usually not in the centre
UK train travel can be significantly more than European travel so check out Splitticketing.com or Splitfares.com for discounts, as these websites find the cheapest ticket combinations on a journey.
Some journeys by train to places like France or Amsterdam can be comparable to a flight once the journey to the airport, check-in time, luggage waiting time and transfer to the city are taken into consideration.
Check-in on Eurostar is around thirty minutes and you walk on to the train with all your luggage and walk off with it. What is inconvenient about this is that trains also generally bring you to the city centre, rather than the outskirts of a city where airports are situated.
A holiday or an adventure
Of course this isn’t practical if you’re trying to get away for a beach package holiday, but the other thing about train or overland holidays is to reframe the idea of what a holiday or an adventure is.
This is where the phrase “it’s about the journey, not the destination” comes into play. The joys of train travel should not be underestimated, especially when travelling across Europe. Seeing the diverse landscapes of the continent is in fact part of the holiday experience. Stopping off for two hours in Paris before heading to Barcelona.
Reducing business travel
This movement for slow travel can reach far beyond our personal holidays. If you want to bring slow travel to your work life, there are initiatives out there to help you and your team reach your carbon reduction goals.
Queue Climate Perks! This is a free-to-join campaign that supports employers to give their employees an extra two days paid annual leave if they choose to travel by boat or train versus plane. The benefit for employers who join include:
- A travel policy document
- Use of the Climate Perks logo
- PR opportunities to demonstrate their commitment to tackling the climate crisis.