The Benefits of Avoiding Air Travel
With the growing worries around rising fuel prices, concern for carbon footprints and airport chaos, you might be looking for alternative methods of travel to the UK. That’s when we look to the benefits of coach, rail or ferry travel as an alternative.
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Impact of travelling by air
Everything we do, from the food we eat, products we buy to the way we travel, releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and so has an impact on the planet’s climate. But some activities have a far greater impact than others.
Around 2.4% of global CO2 emissions come from aviation. Together with other gases and the water vapour trails produced by aircraft, the industry is responsible for around 5% of global warming. With air travel set to increase, air transport is set to become the world’s largest single contributor to damaging the environment.
Electrofuels such as power-to-liquid are a potential source of zero or lower carbon alternative fuels. They require enormous amounts of renewable energy and their environmental effectiveness depends on the source of the CO2 required to produce the fuels. However, they do provide the potential to significantly reduce emissions from the sector.
Of course, the least-emitting flight is one that doesn’t happen at all.
A number of technologies designed to reduce the environmental impact of flying have been researched, tested and implemented. However, compared with greener cars, where the technologies are proven and the carbon saving is huge, the potential for eco-friendly flying looks rather limited.
There is hope for some further gains in engine efficiency over the coming decades, and larger planes with more seats will allow slightly lower emissions per passenger.
Ferries and buses and trains, oh my!
If you’re travelling to the UK, chances are you’ll either cross the North Sea, Irish Sea or the English Channel. The good news is that there are many ways you can do this and avoid taking a flight.
There are strong rail links between the UK and the rest of Europe. Travelling by rail can be the most efficient and eco-friendly way to get around, especially since some trains operate on electricity.
Travelling by bus or rail is a lot more efficient and environmentally friendly than either driving or flying. Both buses and trains not only use significantly less fuel, but they also release much lower amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Why not take the ferry? Ferry ports often have good links with other public transport so that you can continue your journey back on solid ground. Besides the reduced carbon emissions your journey will produce, you’ll also get a lot more leg room!
Prices among the ferries and the tunnel services are competitive, and both options are good green alternatives to flying.
Benefits of avoiding air travel
- Low Prices
With the rising costs and environmental implications of air travel being highlighted in recent years, fuel surcharges are commonplace for flights these days. Coaches, ferries, and trains are far less polluting and not as affected by rising fuel costs.
- Green Credentials (minimise your carbon footprint)
Air travel and other forms of transportation comprise the largest portion of tourism’s carbon footprint. Did you know that taking just one flight can produce more emissions than some people produce in an entire year?
- Alternative for reluctant fliers
There are more reasons to avoid flying than just reducing your carbon footprint. If you don’t like flying, then there are plenty of alternative methods of getting from A to B. What’s more, you can enjoy a slower pace and enjoy the journey to your destination as much as your holiday itself.
- Knowledgeable drivers
If you’re getting from destination to destination by coach, you may find the driver’s local savvy and in-depth knowledge can bring life to your destination more than driving around in a hire car. You could spend hours scouring the internet for must-visit destinations and not come close to the hidden gems a local can share with you.
- Airport Queues
Skip the flight and avoid the dreaded queues that seem to be all over the news. Experience the beauty of cross-country train travel – no checking in suitcases, just you with a glass of wine chuffing through the incredible countryside that you wouldn’t have experienced 31,000ft in the air.
What can we do?
- Avoid short haul flights
Only fly when the trip is long and non-stop. The bulk of a plane’s carbon emissions are due to take-off and landing.
While some might say the answer is to never fly, we realise that tourism is a key driver of economic growth in many destinations that can only be reached by plane. Eliminating air travel would be devastating for all of the people that depend on tourism for their livelihoods. So we don’t advocate giving up flying altogether, but be sure to contain air travel to those far away destinations.
- Calculate your carbon footprint
You may find that for a longer journey, a flight produces less carbon emissions than an alternative mode of transport. It’s important to weigh up your options depending on your destination.
- Take the train
Skip the flight and avoid the dreaded queues that seem to be all over the news. Experience the beauty of taking the train instead of the plane and this will substantially reduce your carbon emissions – perhaps even by a factor of five to ten on a domestic trip.
According to EcoPassenger, a journey from London to Madrid would emit 43kg of CO2 per passenger by train, but 118kg by plane (or 265kg if the non-CO2 emissions are included).
- Pack light
The more weight an aeroplane has to carry, the more fuel it will use. Pack your luggage as light as possible to reduce the amount of fuel used and thus decrease your CO2 footprint. Research has shown that lightening your luggage by 7kg would decrease your emissions by about 36kg on a ten-hour flight!
- Explore your destination
Getting to your destination is just one part of the equation. Unless you brought your car, you will need a way to get around the destination once you’ve arrived.
Instead of hiring a driver or renting a car, be adventurous and opt for public transportation. Ride the subway. Hop on a bus. Take a streetcar. Just note that the efficiency of public transport can vary from one destination to the next.
If you are up for a more active experience, spend the day exploring by bicycle or on foot! An even greener way of exploring your destination.
- Eat local
From seafoods to curries to pastas to vegetables, every destination offers unique delicacies and tasty bites. When eating abroad, take advantage of the opportunity to try all of the local dishes that you can’t get at home. Learn about the traditional cuisine, shop at local food markets, and dine at restaurants that source their ingredients from local farmers and fishers. Do your best to avoid imported foods which must be transported from far away and require more packaging and refrigeration to preserve them along the way.
By eating local foods instead of imported ones, you’ll reduce the carbon footprint of your meal while also supporting the local economy. Plus, you’ll get to experience the local food culture and enjoy some of the freshest cuisine out there!
It’s Plane to See
There are so many benefits to avoiding air travel for both you as an individual and our planet, and reducing your carbon footprint on top of these is just the cherry on top.
It’s naive to expect everyone to completely stop all activities and habits that affect your carbon footprint, but there are so many ways that you and I can consciously reduce it significantly, like switching our method of travel. What are a few adjustments to your lifestyle here and there in the grand scheme of saving our planet?