There are a multitude of ways you can travel while helping the planet.
It can often be hard to admit that changing the way we travel has a big impact on reducing the effects of climate change. While students taking a trip abroad once a year are much less to blame than the high-flying celebrity private jets, there are many ways we can reduce our carbon footprint and travel in a more eco-friendly way.
Plane travel from the UK can be difficult to get around, due to the fact that it’s usually the cheapest option given we’re surrounded by sea. This explains why flying takes up around 6.3% of carbon emissions in the UK (however, The Guardian expects this is a gross underestimate in favour of British travellers), compared to a global average of 1.5%-2%. Individually reducing the amount of air travel each year is an obvious start, however, with often rare offers on ferry crossings to France and The Netherlands, it can lead us to wonder if we need to give up on our dreams of backpacking across Europe and Asia in our twenties. However, if you do opt to fly, consider travelling with budget airlines (I’m sure most students do, anyway). As uncomfortable as it can be to be squished on a tiny, uncomfortable plane for a few hours, budget airlines are actually much better for the environment as they pack more people on each flight, reducing our individual impact. The extortionate baggage costs on budget flights can also be a blessing in disguise, meaning you reduce how much luggage you bring, reducing the weight of the plane, and therefore reducing the emissions it produces. Saving money on flying can also mean you can put your money into something more eco-friendly back home.
I, like many others, assumed that taking long-haul trains such as travelling across Europe through interrailing, would be much better for the environment. Sadly, however, this isn’t actually the case. Since you can sleep on most long-haul trains, there aren’t actually as many passengers on the train as you would think. As well as this, most trains are running on diesel, so long journeys can produce just as many CO2 emissions as a plane would. It’s always helpful to do your research before you travel, but make sure you look into the transport companies you’re travelling with and search whether you could travel more consciously. For example, if you do decide to travel across Europe via the extensive railway system, some companies are much better for the environment than others. For example, all electric trains in The Netherlands are powered by wind energy.
When abroad, the appeal of the accessibility of Uber can be more than enticing. There’s no need to struggle with trying to pronounce Spanish street names to the driver and turning up in a different town. However, in large cities such as New York, Uber has contributed 94,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Uber has only added to the amount of cars on the road, leading up to a build-up of traffic and fuel burned. Of course Uber is always there if you’ve overslept and are about to miss your flight, but try to enjoy strolling between each place. You’ll discover so much more on foot and really feel like a local. Living like a local is something we all can admit we have tried to do whilst abroad. But, why not eat and drink like a local too? Buying imported beer and food only increases the amount of air miles the industry racks up each year. Buying local increases the profits of local businesses and means that your beer doesn’t have as far to travel.