With our travel love, we fly all over the world, but that is not something the world itself benefits much from. We calculated the CO2 impact of a flight for a city trip and investigated the difference in travel time and price. Our conclusion? We are now taking the train!
This is how polluting the plane is
For people who are as in love with the world as we are, we are making a significant contribution to climate change with our flying behavior. To see our diverse planet, to discover other cultures and to explore beautiful nature, we do not take the plane only once, but actually several times a year. And our planet has a lot to suffer from that.
Did you know that flying is one of the biggest polluters? If you fly two or more times a year, your flying behavior is probably the most impactful on the planet of all your use. We’ll give you a calculation example:
Suppose you want to offset the CO2 emissions from a trip and you spend 6.5 hours travelling. Then you already need 143 trees to compensate for a plane trip. Travelling by car for 6.5 hours costs ‘only’ 17 trees and by train 8 trees.
Do you want to read more about this? The Dutch book, De verborgen impact of Babette Porcelijn is a great source to learn more about sustainability (and it’s our source for above calculation example). With a handy online impact tool (in Dutch as well), you can calculate how many planets would be needed if everyone would live like you. Tip: do this test both including and excluding your air travel. That’s a shock, right?
There are more sustainable alternatives
Are you going on a city trip to a city just a few hours by car or train from your hometown? Skip the plane. Are you considering taking a domestic flight to your next destination during a large trip? Then look into the alternatives of a (night) bus or the local train. Then do the impact test again and you will see how drastically your impact drops!
For long journeys, the car and train are often less good options, but even then consider them. By taking the car or train, you’d travel around the world at a slower pace. How amazing would it be to go on a world trip with your own campervan? Guilty, this is one of our big travel dreams. The instagram account @alldayeverydaisy is one of our major sources of inspiration. She and her boyfriend make a huge world trip without taking the plane.
And should your journey actually be that far anyways? We also love to make short or long trips in our own country or by train and car in Europe! A cycling holiday is also a great option. Your journey would then not only be about getting you from A to B, but the journey itself is the destination.
But to be honest: we like to travel far and often. It is our great sin in the field of sustainability. Even though I nowadays eat vegetarian food, we buy as little stuff as possible, we compost our food scraps, etc. Our greatest impact on this planet is in our flying behavior.
Compare the impact of your flight, car or train journey
We wanted to visit Londen for a weekend later this month. That’s a trip we can easily make for a cheap price from our hometown Rotterdam by plane. How easy would it have been for us to just book a plane ticket? But this time we wanted to reflect on the impact of our flying behavior a bif more. We fly so incredibly much to every corner of the globe. Can’t we do it differently for these small distances?
At ecopassenger.org we calculated the impact of our flight and compared it with a journey by train. These were the results:
More than 115 kg CO2 for flying compared to 11.4 kg CO2 for the train? That is a huge difference. Remember that a large tree can only absorb around 7 kg of CO2 per year (although the calculations differ between 2 and 20 kg of CO2 intake, so I learned from the book De Verborgen Impact). So it that makes a difference of 15 trees!
We don’t have to take the plane for a shorter travel time either. In our hometown Rotterdam we can board the train immediately after work at 5.10 pm to arrive in London after a transfer in Brussels at 9.33 pm. That’s not even 5.5 hours! The return journey is even faster with a direct train: it takes us a little more than 3 hours.
So a train journey is actually not less fast or even faster than flying. When taking a flight, you should not only consider the actual time in the air but also that of travelling to the airport outside the city, checking in, waiting and boarding.
And what about the price? We ended up paying exactly 198 euros with the two of us for our train tickets. Yes, that is more expensive than airline tickets. Yet the difference is not that much, especially if you also look at the transportation costs to and from the airport. We bought our tickets via NS International.