22 Jun Travel the change: sustainable transport
There’s no way getting around it: flying is the single most damaging thing a single person (sans child and car) can do to the planet. Be plant based, recycle/ reduce your waste as much as you want, that single long haul flight will obliterate any improvement you make. They may hardly touch on it in the school textbooks, but “slow travel” is a growing movement that arose off the back of ‘slow food’ movement -possibly the only positive of the McDonaldisation of society?
Living “zero” or low waste is a journey in itself, but the trips I’ve taken since I started to truly contemplate my environmental impact – especially Colombia and Copenhagen – are admittedly a source of guilt. While Colombia would’ve been tricky (that I wouldn’t change for the world, sorry world), I decided to walk the walk on my return to the UK, literally. Well no, not really, but (in theory) contribute a negligible net amount of pollution compared to a flight – read here. But, sustainability aside:
Europe wide alternatives I’ve been experimenting with:
CARSHARE: for often the most environmentally friendly option
- Blablacar: Fill the car and carpooling can be one of the most environmentally friendly options. From frequent commuters to spontaneous tourists, some upload trips just before travelling, so great for some last minute excitement. As in life, flexibility is key! Surprise yourself with where you end up.
- Liftshare also; I happened to have more success with Blablacar.
PLANE VS. TRAIN VS. BUS. Goeuro: the supermarket for sustainable travel options.
BUS: Flixbus: offset your trip for around 70p! Too good to be true? Seems so. Let’s not enquire (see below for some better options). But apparently you can even take a bike, fingers crossed for my return home. Eurolines is another option.
- Interrail: worthwhile for an extended trip with the freedom of unlimited train travel cross country(ies) e.g. on 5 within 15 days from €200.
- Eurostar: book now for next century to get a good priced spot on the supersonic 4 hour London- Amsterdam shuttle. OR via FB groups for a last minute cheap trip across the channel, OR choose your own for €60 from a fb friend’s business. I booked a first class ticket for €80 just a few hours before heading to Brussels. Book vegan meal ahead for first class. Otherwise just avoid all plastic although they use real plates! & pay less with longer notice I’m sure.
SAILING: an obviously eco option; often offset by motor usage, and flying to the place. To crew, Crewseekers is one of the biggest sites.
MOVING: shiply will scan for people going your way anyway to save on emissions.
HITCHHIKE! The true sharing economy! I recently got a lift from a lorry driver from Sweden – featuring some fun & profound discussions with the bus driver as well as some free chia bread in exchange for helping with his supermarket delivery.
ON YOUR BIKE Lucky enough to live in Europe, in close proximity to a plethora of diverse cultures? Cycle across the continent – super simple/ fun map here – with routes from Ireland to Russia, Southern Spain to Athens to mix and match. Sustrans also have tips/ trips from the UK.
“GOT LEGS, use ’em” in my mother’s words. The wonders of walking are truly underrated. Even (especially) when a stubborn hike (where most motorbike) gets you stuck in a hurricane for hours alone in a rainforest to then be stranded sans electricity and contact with the outside world along with a bunch of fun strangers (see below, Minca, Colombia).
HAVE to go by sky? Let’s try fly as little as possible, but if you must, go direct ~25% emissions can be emitted during landing and take off. First class can produce as much as 9 times as much emissions. Until we can fly using sugarcane, (not just a flight of fancy) check fuel efficiency – in the US, for example, low cost Spirit Airlines was amongst the top, with American Airlines at the bottom.
OFFSETTING may be tempting, but avoids (at worst legitimises) the issue in hand, simply passing the burden over to someone else (disproportionately). It may be inefficient, unregulated and a poor substitute for your conscience BUT a good last resort and/or to support great renewable (solar & wind) projects (as opposed to e.g. planting trees, depending on your aims – can do social good and empower local communities). Atmosfair is a big one – see plenty more here, or calculate your emissions here.
Hitching a lift might not be up everyone’s alley. But taking public transport, a shorter flight – or no flight at all, and going on holiday at home instead (also known as meditation, you’re welcome;) or exploring outside your back door more, can make a huge difference alone, let alone accumulatively. One of the best “holidays” I ever had was walking and wild camping the 100 mile West Highland Way with my sister – a short train to Glasgow, followed by a hop up Ben Nevis.
The more we invest ourselves in public transport, the better (and cheaper) it’ll be. And the more we invest in ourselves, by appreciating the environment that allows us to do so. Via slow travel itself and socially, supporting local communities in the process. In our sped-up society where we are so accustomed to efficiency and instant gratification, slowing down can be the most daunting thing in the world. But it’s these moments of challenging ourselves, and finding the beauty in the ‘boring’ that the most magic happens.