The travel industry is responsible for a staggering 8-11% of the world's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the majority of these emissions come from transportation, with air travel alone accounting for 2.5%. It's clear that urgent action is needed to minimise these harmful emissions and reduce pollution and waste generation.
But it's not just up to the travel industry to make a change—individuals and businesses can also play a vital role in supporting responsible tourism and choosing more sustainable modes of transport.
Imagine the collective impact if every traveller made one small sustainable change. For example, if everyone travelling from London to Paris opted to take the train instead of the plane, the collective carbon savings would be enormous. One flight emits 37.8kg CO2e, which is equivalent to 14 Eurostar journeys emitting only 4kg CO2e each.
Yet, the sustainable road tends to be the road less travelled.
According to research, 70% feel overwhelmed by starting the process of travelling more sustainably, despite 4 in 5 stating they believe sustainable travel is important. It appears there is an ‘intention-action’ gap, where people’s behaviour doesn’t match their values. This gap is caused by several factors, like low carbon literacy, ingrained habits, etc. There is also a common belief that sustainable travel is more time-consuming, inconvenient and expensive.
In this blog, we will debunk some of these myths, share how Cogo helps our team make the sustainable option the obvious option, and some stories of our team walking the talk when it comes to sustainable travel.
The following sustainable travel hierarchy is a useful tool to help you think about improving the impact of your journeys. The higher up the hierarchy, the more sustainable the travel option is.
But it's not always easy to know how to make the right choice. That's where Cogo's Personal Carbon Manager app comes in, it can help you measure the impact of your journey and empower you with the information you need to make more sustainable choices.
At Cogo, we recognise that time is one of the biggest barriers to travelling more sustainably. If you want to travel to Germany via train but you don’t want to take a whole day off work for travel, then you are more likely to opt for flying. That is why we Cogoers get an extra two and a half days per year for sustainable travel. It is one of our most popular policies and is widely used across the company. But don't just take our word for it, below our team members share stories from their recent travels, as well as some top tips for making a difference.
Journey: London > Paris > Aime le Plagne > Barcelona > Malaga > El Chorro > Alicante > Barcelona > Paris > London
Mode of transport: Train
Time taken: During the 3 weeks of holiday, I spent almost 37 hours total travelling by train, which got me from London to the bottom of Spain and back.
Carbon emissions saved: It’s about 1600 km to fly from London to Malaga, vs 2200 km to drive. Based on this chart, I’d say I saved around 300 kg CO2e—it would’ve been easier to estimate if I’d bought my train tickets via the bank account I’ve got connected to the Cogo app!
Money saved: I saved a good amount by getting an Interrail pass.
I’m trying to be flight free for any travel within the UK/Europe, so I lined up three trips back to back to make the most of some long train journeys. I initially planned one week in France to try snowboarding for the first time. It was super easy to book the Eurostar and TGV on Trainline to take me to Aime la Plagne. Soon after I was planning a climbing trip to El Chorro (near Malaga) in Spain with friends, and decided to go there from Aime la Plagne instead of travelling back to London in between. For the rest of the trip, I got an Interrail pass so I could easily switch trains if needed. With some amazing luck, it worked out that we could join more friends near Alicante for a second week of climbing, making it a mega adventure holiday!
To break up the journeys, I stopped in Barcelona for two nights on both the way down and up (as well as hopping off trains during the day to check out a couple of smaller cities/towns). I spent a lot of time on the train working, which saved me from using annual leave, and it made the time pass quickly (plus with the beautiful views out of the window). It was a fantastic trip, made all the better by fully appreciating the distance I was travelling and watching the landscapes change.
Top sustainable travel tips:
Journey: Munich > Graz
Mode of transport: Bike
Journey time: 3 days
Carbon emissions saved: 70 kg of carbon
I wanted to join my family in Austria this summer and had the choice of driving there, taking the train or…cycling!
Top sustainable travel tip:
Make the journey part of your holiday! You will discover beautiful places that you didn’t have on your radar, and it’s a great way to get to know your region.
Journey: Kent > Morzine
Mode of transport: Train
Journey time: 7 hours
Carbon emissions saved: The train emits 70% fewer emissions than flights
Money saved: £36
I arrived at St Pancras at 7:15 am to catch the 8 am Eurostar to Paris. Passport control only took 15 minutes, and there was no rush to get on the train as seats were allocated ahead of time (except to find a spot for my enormous suitcase—note, there’s no luggage weight limit on the train!). Two hours later, we arrived in Paris, where we didn’t have to wait for luggage or passport control.
I hopped on the metro for two stops to Gare Du Lyon and arrived with 30 minutes to spare before the connection to Geneva. Then on the train to Geneva, I chose an upper deck window seat to enjoy the view of the Alps. It was super comfortable, with wifi, plug sockets, plenty of space for luggage, and a buffet car…
3 and a half hours later, the train pulled into Geneva. We arrived at 3:30 pm local time, so the journey from London to Geneva (including check-in) took roughly 7 hours. If I’d flown from Gatwick, it would have taken me an hour on the train, 2 hours to check in and board, 1 hour (cramped) to fly, plus a notoriously long time to queue at Geneva passport control and wait for the bags. So, I might have saved around 2 hours—not a major difference in the scheme of things—but the ability to work, read, and sleep for 3 and a half hours uninterrupted means the experience on the train wins for me.
Check out Jane’s blog for a lowdown of the trip and some sustainable travel tips too.
Journey: Barcelona > Geneva > Zurich > Geneva > Barcelona
Mode of transport: BlaBlaCar, Trains, Bike
Time taken: 12 days
We took a BlaBlaCar from Barcelona to Geneva and a train from Geneva to Zurich with our bikes. We then cycled from Zurich to Geneva, stopping in beautiful areas near Lucerne. We cycled about 50 km daily, taking 6-8 hours. We would stop for two hours for lunch, rest and swim in rivers and lakes, then stay the night with friends or when that wasn’t an option, we camped in the wild. At the end of the trip, we took a bus from Geneva, back to Barcelona.
At Cogo, we're committed to supporting our employees on their sustainability journey and hope that these snapshots will inspire others to join us in making a positive impact. We’d love to hear more about how you travel more sustainably—share your ideas in this LinkedIn post.